Sunday, March 22, 2020

COVID patients are DYING ALONE!

I'm sure that this time has brought to the forefront of your minds the topic of death. Lent is the perfect time to reflect on our own mortality and the fact that death is at hand as we as Christians reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that the Lord made for us, dying on the Cross.

However, one thing I have thought of often these days in the midst of this coronavirus crisis is of the countless persons in the hundreds of hospitals around the world who lay dying in isolation without loved ones at their side.

My heart breaks.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking thought I have had since this all began is of the lonely deaths so many are suffering.

What a tragic way to die and YET we are reminded that as children of God, we are NEVER alone. 

However, the reality of this current crisis does remind us of the raw and unfortunate circumstances of those who do contract the virus and end up in critical care and on the brink of death: 

If they die, they DIE ALONE!

I think of the many harried doctors and nurses, exhausted from their endless workday. I imagine them bogged down by their own awareness of their constant vulnerability of contracting the virus each moment of each day and bringing it home to their own families. How could they possibly take the time to sit by each dying patient and care for them in their last moments? There are hundreds upon hundreds of more patients spilling out into the hallways and corridors of thousands of hospitals on the brink of collapse? 

Here is an opportunity for each of us. An opportunity to live out a spiritual work of mercy. 

Today I read, from a Facebook post, a simple project started by a certain Catholic priest in Ireland. Fr. Philip read the following article and was inspired by the Holy Spirit to set up a prayer chain across the entire globe to pray for those who are dying. Read the article here: Everyone Dies Alone.

He remembered St. Faustina who was given a gift by the Lord to help a man on his death bed.

"St. Faustina was spiritually transported by the Lord in order to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the bedside of a dying man she did not know."

Let us, each day, pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet with our families and ask the Lord to "transport us" in spirit to the bedside of a dying person who is all alone.

Let us adopt them spiritually and ask the Lord to have mercy on their soul; especially for those who are not prepared to die or who have no faith in Jesus Christ!

If you do not know how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, it is quite simple. You can follow the prayer here or you can sing/follow along here.

It just takes about 10 minutes and the Lord can save a soul through this very powerful prayer and your intercession. 

Let us not allow any more souls to die alone!

Let us accompany them and in particular, let us say a prayer for their families who are unable to be at their side or even pay their last respects once they have died. 

Let us be united in prayer for all dying souls.

Photo by Marco Ceschi on Unsplash

Monday, January 27, 2020

Yelling, motherhood and prayer.

I originally wrote this for Aleteia online back in 2017 and lately, it's been on my heart to re-read my own words.

Motherhood comes in phases and some phases are easier than others. We all get angry. We all lose our patience and yell at our children. Don't beat yourself up for this mamas. Know that you are not alone and that, with a little bit of prayer and God's strength and grace, you will love them as they need to be loved.

"I soon learned that simple moments of prayer would be the best source of grace and much-needed strength that would get me through the toughest moments that lay ahead."

Becoming a new mom was probably one of the most magnificent experiences of my life. It was a time filled with wonder and worries, anxiety and excitement. Yet, in the midst of all these mixed emotions, I could only envision moments of tenderness and pure love with my soon-to-be newborn. Sure, motherhood would be difficult and there would be great challenges, but I was certain love would conquer all. I soon learned that simple moments of prayer would be the best source of grace and much-needed strength that would get me through the toughest moments that lay ahead.

The day finally arrived. Our first son was born. Then, less than two years later, we were blessed with another baby boy. We had our share of sleepless nights and “napping while baby napped” simply didn’t suffice. Even so, my heart was brimming with love. I reached out to friends who were veteran moms and they helped me through the rough spots. But indeed, it was prayer that always gave me a sense of peace and reassurance. During quiet nap times or while our youngest son nursed, I spoke to God. Those were my moments of great grace, and they saw me through.

Soon, my oldest son was on the threshold of toddlerhood. I was ready; I had read every book I could get my hands on about the “terrible twos.” Although I was up for the challenge, nothing could prepare me for the reality that was before me. Overnight our son morphed into a mini-tyrant. What had gone wrong? Our toddler got up “on the wrong side of the bed.” Every. Single. Morning. There was nothing we could do to please him. Nothing!

Day-to-day life continued just the same. I refused to allow my son’s tantrums to rule my life and rob me of my peace. I was in control as I ran my errands as usual. I acted as if all was well despite carrying a flailing, screaming toddler under one arm and an awkward car seat in the other. Don’t get me wrong, it was onerous. At times, it felt like I had been coerced into signing up for a full-on military boot camp; only, the drill sergeant happened to be a snot-nosed, three-foot toddler that I had birthed just two years earlier. My days of quiet conversations with God were long gone.

It was during one of these harried afternoons that it happened. We had just gotten home after a chaotic day. I was trying to pin my son down for the umpteenth time so that I could strip him of his winter garb. Then, it was as if time stood still. I entered another dimension. I was transported straight into a scene from the old Incredible Hulk series. I began to mutate. My eyes started bulging; my body began to tremor and my voice lowered an entire octave as strange sounds arose from my throat. It was like an out-of-body experience.

Soon I had turned into a roaring, screaming, lunatic. I became unhinged as I started yelling “Stop! Stop! Stop!” With each “stop” I progressively yelled louder. I finally pinned my son down with one hand and angrily yanked off his jacket, hat, and gloves with the other. I was exasperated! I continued on, and yelled again, “Would! You! Stay! Still! That is enough already!” My son was transfixed as he watched my face contort in anger. Then, I was done. I let him flee as I slumped over, exhausted, defeated and ashamed.

Patience was never my virtue. Somehow, I had assured myself that the sweet, tender moments would surely tame the hulk inside. I was dead wrong. I had gone so far as to give up my precious grace-filled moments of prayer when I needed them most. Everyone knows the toddler years are some of the toughest. If nothing else, I should have made time to pray precisely because it was rough. Yet, now I found myself yelling often and I was hurting my children in my anger.

I had convinced myself that there just wasn’t enough time to pray. Of course, there is never enough time. Some days, just brushing my teeth was like a small miracle. I knew in my heart I had to recommit to prayer once again; for my children’s sake and for my sanity. I decided to get up 15 minutes early every day. I arose every morning in the midst of the silence, while the darkness still blanketed the early morning sky. I was exhausted and sometimes fought to stay awake but soon it became something I looked forward to. I needed the quiet time to recharge for the new day. I turned back to my simple conversations with God.

Every morning I began by praising God for being, well, God. I thanked Him for being present in my life and for loving me. Next, I asked Him for forgiveness for what I struggled with; essentially, my sins. Then, I thanked God for all of my blessings. I would, one by one, count all the blessings I could think of and simply thank Him. I would then pull out my long laundry list of needs (for myself and for others in my life), especially for my children. I specifically asked Him to be patient for me and to be tender and loving in the most turbulent moments, for me. It assured me that He would be my strength. I knew I didn’t have it myself. Finally, I would end my prayer by offering up my entire day to Him. In essence, I surrendered; I recognized that I could not do it without Him. 

Praying doesn’t come naturally to all of us. It wasn’t always easy for me. For some of us, it may not even be something we have attempted before. Yet, the great thing about prayer is that it’s just like a conversation with a friend. It can start with a simple exclamation in your most desperate mommy moment: “I need your help, God!” Or it can be a simple thank you for getting through yet another day with your little ones: “Thank you for seeing me through, Lord.” It can be audible or kept internally, between you and God. No matter what you say or how you say it, what is most important is that you begin that dialogue. Soon, enough you will find yourself in a continuous exchange with God. Oh. And, yes. He will reply. Just take the time to listen.

As the weeks flew by I began to notice an internal peace that I hadn’t sensed in a long time. I began to take time to really listen to my children. I paused before reacting and I heavily relied on that quick prayer in moments of distress. However, it was on one particular occasion that I realized that God had achieved a significant change in me. As my screaming, thrashing, hysterical 2-year-old went into one of his typical fits, I met him not with my anger or frustration, but with a long, comforting hug. I held him tight as I shushed in his ear. I gently rocked him back and forth as his screaming slowly subdued into whimpering. I lovingly whispered again and again, “It’s okay. I love you. I love you.” At long last, the fruit of my prayer was tangible. I was able to meet this storm with calm; with love and patience.

Yes, I still yell on occasion. Yes, I still let my little ones get the best of me every now and again. Yet, in my simple moments of prayer, I have realized something important: It is precisely in the ugliest, messiest part of my life that God wants to give me His grace. I came across a Scripture passage that I have memorized since and often repeat to myself in the most challenging moments: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Prayer begins like a tiny little flame and the more we pray, the more that flame grows. Soon the fire turns into a burning desire to give God your all. This fire will change us from within if we allow it. Heck, it can even transform this hulk into a loving, tender mommy. Give it a try. You won’t regret it.

Originally published by Aleteia online on 12/12/2017. Original article here.
Photos from

Friday, January 17, 2020

Not enough time!

How is it that the older you get, the less time you have. Boredom is a luxury over here. Time seems to go by faster and faster and your "things to do list" just gets longer and longer. It's like some cruel joke. Notwithstanding, perhaps this is God's way of telling us to slow down! 

I find myself making so many lists throughout my week that I lose some of them. Although organization is an obsession of mine, I don't think I have quite mastered the skill, just yet. With three small children, 7 and under, a massive project in the works and a house to keep, well, organized, it seems like the tasks and to do's never end.

But here are a few suggestions that I have found have kept me sane and not curling up like a baby on my bed and forgetting it all:

1. Block schedule it! Yes, that is right, exactly what you did in high school and college, do the same for yourself and your sanity. During your 2 or 3-hour block schedule you assign different tasks to do and you stick to them. Once your time is up, you move on to your next set of tasks. Just like in high school when you focused on Science in the morning and then went to Math after lunch, your time is dedicated to what you set it for. Not finished? No problem! Take care of it tomorrow. I discovered this system through an amazing blogger Jordan Page. Click here to see her concept of block scheduling your life. Try it out yourself and let me know what you think. Just a bit of a warning about her: she's like an organization and frugal living guru on steroids. She's funny and she's got some of the most practical ideas for moms. Check her out.

2. Speed clean. I have to say that I have always been one to time myself doing certain tasks so that I can then say to myself, "you see, cleaning the floor is not so bad, it only takes me all but 5 minutes." Literally, I know how long it takes me to clean a toilet! Well, seems like Mrs. Jordan Page runs on the same wavelength as me. We are both type A's! She has some tips for speed cleaning. It's what keeps my house tidy on most days. So if someone stops by unannounced, I don't pretend I am not home.

3. Don't do laundry every single day. Assign days to do your laundry, that way you are not constantly seeing a flow of dirty and clean clothes in and out of your laundry area. I personally hate, I mean hate to fold laundry! My kids would have told me right now, "you're not supposed to say hate!" So because I loathe folding laundry so, my husband and I have come to an agreement. I wash and dry the clothes and he folds! Ta-da! He's happy. I'm happy. We are all happy and the clothes look good in the drawers.

4. Assign chores. Let's face it, no mother on this green earth can do it all. Even those who seem like supermoms. Not only that, but your children need to realize that being a part of a family means pitching in and helping to keep the house clean and tidy. Assign chores to each child. What has worked best for us is giving each child a daily checklist. Each day they have to mark off all of their chores and to do's from "making their bed" to "set the table" and so on. The older they are, the more difficult the chore. Oh and do not go behind them and fix what they have done wrong or what is not to your liking. Teach them and they will get better at it.  We do not pay for regular chores. Their "payment" so to speak are their privileges. Once they finish their chores they get their privileges of game night, movie night and other things we plan for the weekend. Above and beyond regular chores, they can ask to do "paid chores". These are extra chores like raking leaves, cleaning the car, etc. Chores help children to learn responsibility and the fact that living in a community requires work and cooperation.

5. Go to bed early. I know this seems like it doesn't make sense, given that we always feel like there are not enough hours in the day, but trust me on this. The better and more regularly you sleep, the more productive you are. Someone once told me, "rest is a part of work" and nothing can be truer. If we are not well-rested, we either do not want to do what we must do and therefore will not have time for the things we want to do and, we are cranky-pants. We go to bed around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. on most nights. I really feel that I don't even have to push myself. I am so exhausted at that point that it's all I want. Of course, our day begins at 5:30 a.m. so it's a no brainer. I need at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Sleep is not only important but it's essential to dealing with small children. Remember the newborn days? Enough said!

Well, I hope you enjoyed these very simple but practical tips to keeping your sanity and getting things done in what seems like shorter and shorter days.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

So long 2019!

This year was a tough year for us. I would say, it was probably one of the most difficult years of our marriage. Funny enough they say the 7th year is always the toughest. However, ours was a struggle for reasons that are not listed in all online polls. Ours was a spiritual and emotional struggle with things beyond our control, a sort of spiritual warfare seeping through our family life.

We survived.
We learned.
We've grown in our trust for God and His providence.

Suffering can be in vain or it can be a life lesson spurring us to grow and stretch our hearts in ways we never thought possible.

Our experience was the latter.

What we learned from 2019:

  • Family life has challenges that are meant to make us stronger and grow towards holiness.
  • Family life should push you towards selflessness.
  • Sometimes God asks us to do things we never dreamed of doing; You do them and He always provides.
  • Marriage is the heart of our family and not the other way around.
  • Simply family all together is probably the best gift you can give your children.
  • Technology steals from the intimacy of family life.
  • Prayer is not only essential but required in marriage.
  • When there is no prayer life, there is no peace.
  • We can only handle one big project at a time.
  • The desires of our hearts, no matter how good they may seem, are not always what is best for our family.
  • A faith community can fill in the gaps in your faith life at home.

Now it's time to turn the page and start a new chapter in our lives. As usual, standing on the threshold of a new year has its promise and hope for 12 months' opportunities.

It's 365 days of possibilities
52 weeks of starting fresh.

We've gone through many unfinished resolutions year after year and one thing we have learned is that being reasonable and practical in our goal setting is probably the wisest thing we can do. Being specific rather than vague also makes for achievable resolutions. 

Our hopes for 2020 are:

  • Spend more time sharing as a family; one outing a month. 
  • Pick up our nightly rosary again.
  • Pray a family rosary on Sundays.
  • Introduce boys to night prayer (liturgy of the hours).
  • Take time for a monthly holy hour (with or without the family).
  • Take on Hail 15 a Catholic fasting program for mind, body, and soul. 
  • Pray for one person every day, all year and watch God do His marvels in that person's life. 
  • Finish one unfinished project in the house every three months (being realistic here).
  • Finally, make our wedding photo album.
  • Exercise 3-4 days a week for 30 minutes a day.
  • Serve more fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Plan a family camping/hiking trip.
  • Learn to ski.

What are your lessons learned in 2019 and what do you hope for in 2020? Have a blessed and happy new year and may 2020 be filled with Christ's blessings through our Blessed Mother.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Our hearts, a dwelling place for the Lord tonight!

The Lord of the universe was born in a manger. Do you know what a manger really is? It comes from the old French word mangeure, which stems from the Latin word manducat- or "chewed". It is literally a trough where animals feed. It most likely was not made of wood as most of us imagine it. Wood was quite scarce in those parts of Judea. “The manger would have been hewn of stone."
Jesus would have been laid in a trough that already foreshadowed the tomb he would lay in three days before His resurrection. It even foreshadows his becoming food for the Salvation of the all mankind.

The child Jesus is to be born tonight. Again? No! His birth was and is for all eternity. Just as his death, the Lord's birth is outside of time and in aeternum.  His birth tonight is for each of us and yet, for the Salvation of the world.

But the real question to ask ourselves today is, where will He be born this evening? In a cold and uncomfortable manger? or in the space, we make for him in our hearts? Jesus desires to come into our hearts this evening! He wants you to make room for Him.

Is there room? What state is your heart in? Is it ready to receive the King of the World? Is it cold, uncomfortable and full of grime? You can clean up your heart, prepare it for the Savior. It's not too late. Go and receive the beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation. Make room for Him. Remove all sin and grime. He wants to come and take possession of your heart. He wants to dwell there, stay there, transform your life there!

One of my most favorite Christmas stories is probably one of the simplest. The Lord can take our sinfulness and even our old habits and transform them in one instant. Are you ready?

St. Therese of Lisieux, the great saint we know today was not such a saint all her life.

"She was a stubborn and childish little girl. Her mother was terribly worried about her. 'One cannot tell how she will turn out, her stubbornness is almost unconquerable...nothing will make her change.”

Therese writes in the "Story of a Soul" (some paraphrasing).

When I got home from Midnight Mass, I knew that I should find my shoes standing at the fireplace, filled with presents, as I had always done since I was little, so you can see I was still treated as a baby.

Father used to love to see how happy I was and hear my cries of delight as I took each surprise packet from my magic shoes, and his pleasure made me happier still. But the time had come for Jesus to cure me of my childishness; even the innocent joys of childhood were to go. He allowed Father to feel cross this year, instead of spoiling me, and as I was going upstairs, I heard him saying: “Therese ought to have outgrown all this sort of thing, and I hope this will be the last time.” This cut me to the quick, and Céline, who knew how very sensitive I was, whispered to me: “Don’t come down again just yet; you’ll only go and cry if you open your presents now in front of Father.”

But I was not the same Thérèse any more; Jesus had changed me completely. I held back my tears, and trying to stop my heart from beating so fast, I ran down into the dining room. I picked up the shoes and unwrapped my presents joyfully, looking all the while as happy as a queen. Father did not look cross anymore now and entered into the fun of it, while Céline thought she must have been dreaming. But this was no dream. Thérèse had gotten back forever the strength of mind she had lost at four and a half.

You can read the full article from Aleteia "St. Therese of Lisiuex was never the same after the Christmas of 1886." here. 

Let us ask the Lord for a Christmas miracle in our own lives. Let us clean up this dwelling place for the Lord, our hearts. Let us, through the intercession of Mary, the first dwelling place of Christ, ask that he repair our hearts. Let him transform our hearts. Transform our lives so that we may become a dwelling place for Him always.

A very happy and blessed Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Boyhood is not a disease!

When you are faced with a child who is inattentive and extra energetic, you can't help but think that perhaps he has ADHD. I have done my fair share of reading on this topic. I have been reading about it from all angles, from what the symptoms are to does it really exist? Being a teacher myself I have seen what ADHD can look like. I've also seen the ramifications of what medication does to a child and even older adolescent children. The bottom line, it is not pretty. But when it hits home, everything changes.

I am not going to write about what ADHD is. I am not going to write whether it is a real diagnosis or not. What I will write about is what we, as a family, are going through as we are being bombarded by comments, suggestions, and recommendations to have our son evaluated. I have my fair share of opinions on how ADHD can sometimes simply be immaturity and how ADHD is overdiagnosed.

For starters, our son is very energetic. Does energetic necessarily mean hyper? Outside the classroom he is high energy, inside the classroom, it means hyper and mental illness. ADHD is classified as a mental illness. Whatever happened to just good old-fashioned high energy and since when is it so wrong to be full of energy? I see the difference between one son and the other and one is definitely in more need of movement. Why does that have to be a mental illness? Fifty years ago we accepted all different personalities in our classroom and dealt with behavioral problems. Now we diagnose, label and medicate. Some teachers and administrators do not want to be bothered.

Then there is the boy crisis. Boys "are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls." However sexist this may sound, it is a fact, in all my years of teaching, that boys tend to be more distracted than girls. It is also true that the educational system we have set up is more geared towards a girls way of learning than boys. Ask any mother of both boys and girls and they will tell you, a grand majority, that the boys have a much harder time sitting still for long periods of time than a girl. Of course, it goes without saying, that this is not always the case, but it can be typical. Boys need more movement. Heck, children need more movement!

Then there is plain old immaturity. In speaking to our pediatrician, we were pleasantly relieved that she was on our side. She said that it was completely ludicrous to diagnose a child under 9 with ADHD. There are so many levels of development and maturation that there is no way to draw the line between an immature child, who is easily distracted, and a true ADHD diagnosis. What happened to kids being kids and not wanting to sit down for hours on end doing math drills and reading comprehension? What kid would not rather play than do "work"? What adult wouldn't rather relax than do work they do not enjoy?

Finally medication. In all my years of teaching, I was never so saddened than when I witnessed a child on stimulants. Currently "12% of school-age children and as many as 20% of teenage boys, are diagnosed with ADHD." This is staggering. Stimulants are given to children for ADHD. Ritalin (Methylphenidate) and cocaine are classified as a central nervous system stimulant drug. Yes, you read that correctly, they are both in the same category. I realize that for some children it would be almost impossible to function if they did not take these drugs on occasion or often. I am not here to judge anyone's parenting choices. I am here to simply write about our family's experiences and thoughts on this very dividing topic. Medication should not be the first option. In fact, it should be the very last option!

The fact of the matter is that apart from our son being easily distracted and high energy, he understands all concepts and is able to get some of the highest grades. Yes, albeit probably to the detriment of his teachers. But is teaching supposed to be easy? I never found it easy? You are dealing with a lot of personalities and learning styles at once, not to mention personal issues and family problems that they bring with them every day. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. The human person is complex. We cannot expect, as teachers or as parents, to have all the same little robotic children who will do what we say when we say. It should be no different in the classroom.

Perhaps I am rationalizing our situation. Perhaps I am finding reasons to avoid evaluation. Whatever may be happening, I am firm in my belief that although ADHD may be a very real mental illness, we have to certainly take a look at all the variables in a child's life and consider that some children are just different. Some children are just more high strung. Some children are more easily distracted. Some children are lazy. Some children are more laid back. Some children are more focused. Shall I go on?

If you have a child that you are being told may have ADHD, I strongly advise you to talk to many professionals both in and outside the psychological field and really do your research before you get your diagnosis. "Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest- and most immature- in their kindergarten class." And an even higher percentage of this misdiagnosis are boys! Fight for your boys, fight for your children and do not let them be labeled just because they are more energetic and easily distracted. Childhood is all about distractions and energy. Let us not make childhood a disease! Let us not make boyhood a disease.

A highly recommend this extensive article for anyone who is considering an ADHD evaluation for their son: "The Drugging of the American Boy" by

Photo by

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Advent traditions

Advent is a time of preparation. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and means venire which is "to come to," in Latin. For Christians it is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ in His birth at Christmas, however, it also symbolizes Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.

In today's world, everything comes to us in an instant. We can binge on Netflix or with one click and in just one day, have anything we want on Amazon. It's almost as if instant gratification cannot be avoided. Advent, is a reminder that "the best things come to those who wait". Literally! We wait for Jesus.

As a family, we have decided that Christmas would be all about, well, what it is: Jesus' birth! The gifts are wonderful, the tree beautiful and the feeling in the air, splendid but there is more to it. The focus has to be turned towards the one that is the reason for all this celebration. 

If it weren't for the birth of Christ, our stores would not be jam-packed with Christmas decor and sales for all sorts of gifts. It is amazing how so many have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and how some do not even know who Jesus is.  

Here are some beautiful Catholic traditions you can bring into your family and celebrate with your children. One you may know already, it is the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath (circle) is used to symbolize God the Father and eternal life. It holds four candles which are lit over the four weeks of Advent. There are three violet (purple) candles and one rose (pink) candle, each representing 1,000 years a total of 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Savior.

The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope of our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
Traditionally, each of the four candles has its own meaning:
  • The 3 violet candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during Advent. 

  • The 1 rose candle is lit on the third Sunday which is known as "Gaudete Sunday" it is the Sunday of rejoicing because it is the midpoint of Advent and it's close to Christmas.

But another tradition you are probably not familiar with, that we've been doing for a couple of years now, is the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. You may even find a Jesse Tree design in stained glass windows in old cathedrals.

The Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. The Jesse Tree is decorated with handmade ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse Tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.

One way I (we) can learn that instant gratification is not normal and is actually not good for us, especially children, is to spend Advent preparing for the coming of Christ.

Here are some of the ornaments I have made out of felt. You can also have your children make them out of paper. 

Day 1: Symbolizes the World Created by God– Globe – Genesis 1:24-28

Day 2: Symbolizes the First sin by Adam and Eve – Snake and Apple– Genesis 3:1-24

Day 3: Symbolizes the promise of God to Noah after the Flood – Rainbow & Ark – Genesis 6:11-22; 86-12; 9:11-17

Day 4: Symbolizes the promise of God to Abraham – Camel & Tent– Genesis 12:1-7:13:2-18; 18:1

Day 5: Symbolizes the Ram sacrificed instead of Isaac – Ram – Genesis 22:1-14

Day 6: Symbolizes Jacob – Ladder – Genesis 27:41-28:22

Day 7: symbolizes Joseph – Multicolored Coat – Genesis 37:1-36

Day 8: symbolizes Moses – two tablets --Deuteronomy 5:1-22

The great thing is you learn so much! You learn how all these events and Biblical figures foreshadowed Jesus & led to His birth. It makes the time leading up to Christmas all about what it should be. You read the appropriate Bible verse each night and the child(ren) places the specific ornament on the tree.

This tradition does not interfere with a Christmas tree, as it is not a Christmas tree in and of itself. There are literally hundreds of ways to do this. I have seen some creative things on-line. There are also tons of recourse books...Catholic and non-Catholic alike as this is not strictly a Catholic tradition.

I used this one:

The remaining days are as follows but there are dozens of variations on symbols and passages.

Day 9: Symbolizes the promise land-Numbers - Grapes - Numbers 13:1-2, 17-18, 20, 23, 27
Day 10: Symbolizes Ruth - Sheaf of wheat - Ruth 1:15-2:3
Day 11: Symbolizes Miriam – Tambourine – Exodus 15:19-21
Day 12: SymbolizesSamuel – Lamp – 1 Samuel 3:1-21
Day 13: Symbolizes Jesse – Branch – Isaiah 11:1
Day 14: Symbolizes King David – Harp – 1 Samuel 16:14-23
Day 15: Symbolizes King Solomon – Crown – 1 Kings 3:3-28
Day 16: Symbolizes Isaiah – Throne – Isaiah 6:1-8
Day 17: Symbolizes Jeremiah -Heart - Jeremiah 31:31-33, Hebrews 9:13-15
Day 18: Symbolizes the Angels – Angel – Hebrews 1:1-14
Day 19: Symbolizes Malachi – Trumpet – Malachi 3:1-4
Day 20: Symbolizes Zechariah and Elizabeth – man and wife - Luke 1:39-45
Day 21: Symbolizes Mary – Mary– Luke 1:29-35
Day 22: Symbolizes John the Baptist – River – Matthew 3:1-6
Day 23: Symbolizes Joseph of Nazareth – Hammer/Saw – Matthew 1:18-25
Day 24: Symbolizes Bethlehem – Star over town– Matthew 2:1-12
Day 25: Birth of Christ – Crib – Luke 2:1-7

A happy and blessed Advent to you all. May this time teach each one of us that the best things in life take time and bring us joy and hope. Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Our beauty and flaws

Like an old wooden table, we have beauty and flaws. Our beauty shines through in our gifts and talents; in who we are and how we love. Our beauty is especially cherished by those who are dearest to us. Yet, at the same time, like an old wooden table, our flaws intermingle with our beauty.

This is how our Creator sees us, the beautiful and the flawed.  God sees a beauty that encompasses all: the sturdiness, the durability, the reliance, the authenticity, of this beautiful piece of work. Yet, at the same time, He takes notice of the scratches, the stains, the knots, the wormholes; all the flaws that are there on the surface for all to see. And He loves it. He loves it all.

Like that table, it is difficult to hide our flaws.  They are there, out in the open.  Some of us might do a better job of hiding the flaws. However, in the end, they are there. They are a part of us that we cannot deny. We cannot ignore our defects and yet, we can use them to become even more beautiful.

What flaws are you ashamed of? What character defect do you try and hide? What weaknesses surface at the most inopportune times, despite your best efforts to cover them up. Do you try to buff them out? Sand them down with your sense of humor or your silence? Your intelligence and wit? Still, you see them surface time and time again. How to remove them forever, you ask? But that would take the character away from that old beautiful table. The flaws are a part of its beauty.

Although our weaknesses can be a cross, a burden if you will, they also present us with an opportunity to grow. Our defects help us to remember that we are not perfect and that there is only One that is perfect. God. God alone is perfect. Our weaknesses remind us that we cannot make it on our own. Yet, they help us strive for that perfection we do seek. We seek perfection because ultimately we strive to "be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:48)

We become who we are meant to be by acknowledging our flaws. We become more of who we were created to be when we carry our vulnerability, our debilities, with dignity. They keep us humble. They keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.

At the end of the day, they are a part of who we are. And just like that old wooden table that we feast on, share coffee with close friends upon, we are beautiful.  That old reliable table we polish and clean, sand and down and reseal, whose every blemish tells a story, is sturdy and reliable. We are rich with beauty because our imperfections make us a work, always in progress. Although our flaws make us imperfect, they should make us reliable human beings that ultimately understand our neighbors imperfections, precisely because we share that same cross of weakness.

I encourage you to take a look at your weaknesses, your flaws, your blemishes. Take a look at them with eyes of mercy. Accept them. Strive to improve upon them, while also recognizing that they make up who you are. And remember that it is there, in that very part that you sometimes try so very hard to cover up, that God does some of His greatest work: He shows His Mercy!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Who are you meant to be?

"Be who you are meant to be and you will set the world on fire!" What I love about this quote is the truth that lies within these simple words, but also that if you examine it further, you will find a journey for your life. Who are you meant to be really? Most of us spend our entire life trying to figure this question out.

One of the best parts of this quote is that it talks about fire and not just a small flame, mind you. A fire! Setting the world on fire. The image that comes to my mind when I read this is that of my own heart being set on fire and enkindling other fires all around me.

When I do the things that I love, and I'm not talking about shopping or watching a good movie...meaningful things. When I do things with a purpose; fulfilling things. When I engage in what truly makes me come alive, well, I feel like I'm on fire. Fully alive. I am set ablaze. It's like a fire that burns within me. It's a fire that does not consume but burns continuously. This happens when I use my gifts and talents.

And when this happens, when I feel that burning within me, I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am becoming who God meant me to be. Of course, it's not all about doing. The quote does say "meant to be." But if we examine this, essentially who we are meant to be, is part and parcel with using the talents we have been given. When we use these gifts, when we share them, we are most fulfilled. When we are fulfilled we become more of who we are meant to be. We are fully alive!

What are the things that make you feel alive? That set you on fire? Have you not found the fire? What are your talents? What gives you joy but also pushes you towards giving to others?  Look for the fire! Those very things that bring you most joy and set your heart ablaze, are the very things that will "set the world on fire".

My husband and I started a project two years ago to set up a Classical High School here in Metro Detroit. I will say that this project lied well outside of our comfort zones but we had this strong intuition that we needed to move forward with it, no matter how uncomfortable we felt. In the process, both David and I have discovered new talents that we did not know we had. But perhaps the most beautiful thing that has set our hearts ablaze has been the people that we have met and are journeying with as well as the faith and trust we have had to place in God.

Setting the world on fire, discovering who you really are is not an easy process. It can be quite uncomfortable and even, I will admit, painful. But there is nothing that is completely worth it that does not require pain and growth. The Lord has instilled in us an assurance that not only He is in charge but that "He's got this!"

I encourage you, dear reader, to allow the Lord to help you discover who you are and who you are meant to be. In the process, along the journey, the flame in your heart will turn into a raging fire. He will show you that those gifts and talents that He has given you are not only for your own joy and fulfillment but for the world. He will set you ablaze if you let him, and in turn, you will light fires of love and hope all around you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Halloween, a teaching opportunity on Christ's victory!

Halloween is right around the corner, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts and some great insight on the 31st of October:

What is the way to go about participating innocently in the childish notions of Halloween without necessarily touching upon the very debased traditions of this night that precedes "All Saints and All Souls"?  It's a real question that we ask ourselves as Catholic parents. We want to be able to use every opportunity to teach our children about the difference between what is good and bad; what is right and wrong.

I cannot say that the following thoughts flow solely from my own reflection but rather from an excellent article I read a while back. This article was sent by a friend who has encouraged us to raise our child "in the world but not of the world".

The truth is that Halloween, within its basic foundation was seen as a moment to remember the truth and grim reality of hell. "Hence all the devil, goblins and references originally were meant to teach others of the horrors and consequences of sin and evil."

"Thus, Halloween can depict a vital element in the re-enactment of [our] salvation history. Although it is not an official holy day...linked to All Saints and All Souls, Halloween imagery presents an integral illustration of the human passage and the consequence of Christ. Without death, there would be no saints in heaven or souls in purgatory. Without Christ, man would have no right to ridicule the devil. (paraphrased from Crisis Magazine article, my emphasis added).

"Halloween offers a comic, cultural expression of the truths that comprise man’s participation in Christ’s Resurrection. Halloween celebrates Christ’s triumph through parody—or exultant mockery—subjecting the symbols of the grave to satirical derision. Witches, devils, ghouls, skeletons, and such spooks become caricatures of an impotent evil...."

"...O death, where is your sting?"

In essence, we can mock hell and all that is evil because Christ has been victorious over these.

But, unfortunately, in today's reality of Halloween, there is so much occult and satanic worship involved that we do have to be wary. We have to take steps to be cautious particularly when it involves children. We must set boundaries and offer alternatives to the overtly commercialized culture of violence, ugliness and what is blatantly occult.

Many schools, neighborhoods and religious communities offer alternatives such as dress up as your favorite story character, or your favorite saint. These are good teaching opportunities as well. This way we are able to help children see the reality of evil without actually "dressing" in it or praising it.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to take Halloween and other pagan festivities and redeem them by using them to teach about the realities of life and faith and of the truth of Christ. Halloween shows us the consequences of dying without Christ. Halloween helps us to stare evil in the face and laugh!

We must pass through death into new life. It is no mere coincidence that Halloween precedes the great feast of All Saints, where we pray for those who have died and have been victorious with Christ in reaching Heaven. And yet, we have another opportunity, the following day to pray for the dead who are in Purgatory. During the feast of All Souls, we become aware of the cleansing reality of God's mercy that helps to wipe away the consequences of sin.

If you would like to read the whole article found in Crisis Magazine, please go here.

May your Halloween be safe and pleasant. May it offer you an opportunity to teach your children of the mysteries of life and death and the great truth that Christ is victorious!

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash