Best of Amazon Prime for Catholic Families

Our family has had a subscription to Amazon Prime for almost two years now and have loved it for so many reasons. It's been an investment that, in our opinion, is worthwhile because of how often we utilize it. For the longest time, I took advantage of the free 2-day shipping without realizing how many benefits are actually included in our Prime subscription. I actually cancelled it once and then signed up again a few months later once I learned about Amazon Video (which is a worthy opponent if Netflix is concerned).  Since then, I've discovered so many resources to enrich our lives in a positive and faith-affirming way! 

 


If you already have Amazon prime, make the most of your subscription with these recommendations…
(And if you don't have Prime yet, here's a handy link for an Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial!)

Amazon Music

The Amazon Music app has quickly become a favorite and one that I use daily. To download it on your device, visit the App Store or Google Play and search "Amazon Music" (also find "Amazon Video" while you're there).

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More from Amazon Music... 

THE ROSARY

I love listening to these recordings of the Rosary, whether I am able to participate fully in the prayers or listen along while driving or cleaning or caring for my children. It brings so much focus and perspective to my day whenever I listen to the Rosary, and I love having it playing for Lily and Augustine as yet another way to bring prayer into our everyday lives.

CHILDREN’S PRAISE AND WORSHIP

Sometimes I’ll turn on one of these albums when we are playing or cleaning at home and it always seems to bring so much joy into whatever we’re doing.

CATHOLIC HYMNS & CHANTS


Amazon Video

The Amazon Video app is also available in the app store and in the Google Play store android tablets. Add these titles to your watchlist - some are entertaining and others are great resources for understanding our faith! I was especially excited when I found the series by Fulton J. Sheen on love! 

Catholic Amazon Video

Amazon Prime also has many other benefits, including Prime Reading - books, magazines, and more FREE through the Kindle or Kindle app! Do you use this benefit? Let me know what your favorites are! I did notice that The Fellowship of the Ring is available, though!  :) 


What would you add to the list? Let me know & I'll happily update it! 

Tuesdays with Tolkien: Why Middle-Earth Matters

Today is a special date, being the first Tuesdays with Tolkien of the new year as well as the birthday of the professor himself. To celebrate and honor his memory, I’m quite pleased to share an essay I’ve written on why Middle-Earth matters - why you should be reading it, and why you should read it to your children, too.

It's a cold and rainy morning but the library is calm and warm, and so we visit. I hold Augustine’s hand in mine as he tries to pull each book from its home, and we slowly pass rows and shelves of books. We turn down “Fantasy”, and wander down the row to the “T’s”.

T is for Tolkien.

I pick up an illustrated copy of The Hobbit and flip through the pages as Augustine points at sketches of dwarves and mountains. 

I like to say that Tolkien is my patron saint. An awkward and perhaps unorthodox joke, of course, because he hasn't been canonized and most people don't realize he was even Catholic, but still, I make it. My patron saint.

His writings have meant more to me than those of any other, with the exception of course of God (The Bible) and perhaps some of the Popes. And for a good many reasons.

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Why Middle-Earth Matters:
10 Reasons You Should Be Reading Tolkien

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are widely regarded as two of the greatest works of fiction of modern time. Over 150 million copies of The Lord of the Rings, and 100 million copies of The Hobbit have been sold worldwide. Tolkien's Middle-Earth is epic in every sense. He breathes life into Middle-Earth, writing as if he were recounting both history and legend, and draws us into a world that feels more real than our own. Millions have fallen in love with Tolkien's work and with good reason.

The Lord of the Rings is a profound, classic example of well-written fiction. Whether you are an aspiring author yourself or someone who simply enjoys literature for its beauty, The Lord of the Rings is both a joy and a standard. In libraries filled with sparkling vampires and multiple shades of grey, Tolkien reminds us what literature -- or more specifically, fantasy -- ought to be.

Walk the gardens of the Shire, sleep under wooded stars, climb the slopes of Doom. Through these pages, you will grow - alongside characters that begin to feel more real than the people standing beside you. You will mourn their deaths, you will glory in their triumphs.

 

“He may have lost the neighbour’s respect, but he gained--well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.” - The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party

 

This journey will feel real, because it is. “Fantasy is a flight to reality,” we say. 

As Tolkien was himself a devout Catholic, his Christian worldview spilled into nearly page of his work. In the creation account of The Silmarillion, we see shadows of our own creation in Genesis. In the One Ring, we feel the allure and corrupting power of sin. In his characters, we meet echoes of Christ, of his Apostles, even of Our Lady. Yet his work is not an allegory -- he was insistent of that. Rather, it is an outpouring out of his understandings of God, of the world, of the natures of sin and goodness, into the fibers of Middle-Earth -- perhaps even unintentional -- into a story that begins to feel as real as our own. Without being explicitly Catholic or purposefully theological, He explained the Lord of the Rings as “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” Tolkien realizes philosophical and religious truths, bringing them to life for even those who might otherwise have rejected them; we might even say that his work could serve as an introduction to Christian philosophy.

“But as a fruit of the imagination, The Lord of the Rings is infused with the same light that illuminated the man who wrote it. And that light is true, for it reveals the reality of the world and life. And it is also good, because it heals our blindness.” - Peter Kreeft, Philosophy of Tolkien

Through the storyline of the Ring, we come to a new understanding of the natures of goodness and evil. We feel the slow-rising tide of temptation, of power, of the Ring. We wrestle with the complexities of pride and humility. We witness the heroic virtue of self-sacrifice. We cherish friendship. We walk alongside hobbits and with them, we find our courage.

Through his famously descriptive depictions of forests, of hill country, of water, or mountains, we begin to see our own Earth in a new light.

“Tolkien’s forests do not remind us of ours; our remind us of his.” - Kreeft, Philosophy of Tolkien

We grow to gain a deep appreciation, and perhaps devotion, to nature. We realize the importance of our relationship to the Earth; Tolkien’s protagonists live in harmony with the Earth, while his antagonists seek to destroy, overcome, or manipulate her.

As we journey through Middle-Earth alongside hobbits, elves, dwarves, and men, we experience many battles and come to understand war in a new light.

We begin to recognize the hand of God in both the extraordinary and the ordinary. Fate, or what we might understand as Providence, is arguably the most important character at work in Middle-Earth.

“God is in The Silmarillion explicitly, right from sentence one, as the single Creator, Iluvatar (All-Father). But how is He in the Lord of the Rings? Not as a named character, but as the sun is in the sunlight. Those with eyes to see can detect His presence everywhere.” - Peter Kreeft, Philosophy of Tolkien

By reading his works, we can grow to love and appreciate medieval and ancient cultures. As Tolkien himself was quite fond of  mythology, specifically Norse, Finnish, Greek, Celtic, and English. A professor of Old English/Anglo-Saxon and Middle English studies at Oxford University, he was passionate about ancient life and culture. In an often self-obsessed Western culture, Tolkien reminds us of times long ago.

Hobbits teach us to value simplicity and goodness. They are excellent and admirable in their ordinary goodness and we have much to learn from them. They cherish time spent with good food and good company and they think little of other things.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” - JRR Tolkien

 

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But above all,
This is why Middle-Earth matters.

Because you were created for truth. You were created for beauty.
The Lord of the Rings, through its philosophy and its characters and its world, reveals to us such an expanse of beauty and truth. Here, we encounter a story so deeply rooted in the divine truth that it begins to feel as real as our very own, and this is a good thing.  Its great mythologies echo the great history of our world, one which we are a small but important part of.

In the many races of Middle-Earth, men, dwarves, elves, hobbits, wizards, orcs even - we find pieces or echoes of ourselves. We are unified as one people through a multitude of characters. We are reminded of our strengths and our weaknesses. We are pointed to a redeemer.

The Lord of the Rings holds up a mirror - a fantastical mirror - and in it, we see ourselves.  

And in it, we are pointed to our own divine author - God Himself.


*And note, the titles briefly discussed are merely three of his many published works - view his full bibliography here


Ready to fall in love with Middle-Earth? Here are some of my favorites. 

Favorites from Lily & Mama in 2016

As we come to the last moments of 2016, I've been looking back and reflecting on this year. There have been many blessings, many trials - as all years have and will hold. And through it all, my heart still seems to overflow onto these pages. So here we are, at the end of this year and at the turn of a fresh one. We've survived and are thankful, but with our blessings we mourn the deaths and tragedies across the world. I don't know what to do. I don't have any grand master plan. All we can do is love.

Here are some of your favorites (and coincidentally, mine, too) from Lily and Mama in 2016. :)

 

From January


BECAUSE SHE HAS MY HAIR.

 
Lessons on learning to love myself as I love my daughter, and as she loves me.


From April

MOTHERING LIKE MARY 

Reflecting on the motherhood of Mary and imagining what it might be like to spend a morning in her home. 

 


From May

"JUST" A MAMA 

Thoughts after deciding to step back from Lily and Mama Market and be "just" a mama.

 

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From June

WALKING INTO HIS ENDLESS LOVE

| Our journey into a beautiful, holy Church made up of broken people and the endless love of Christ. 


From July

I CARRY THEM 

"But they don’t balance. Great joy does not outweigh great loss. I carry it all. I carry them all with me, though two may be in my arms and one may be in the arms of my Lord..."  Reflecting on miscarriage and how Christ carries us and our lost little ones. 

MARTHA & MARY 

Learning the balance between being like Mary and Martha and finding the purpose of Christian life in their midst. 

 


From September

A WALK TO REMEMBER & A NAME FOR OUR BABY IN HEAVEN 

Mourning our loss, giving our sweet baby and name, and a reflection on the communion of saints. 


MOMENTS FROM OUR HOBBIT PARTY | 2016 

Photo gallery and planning details from our fifth annual Hobbit party! Always one of my favorites every year. 


From October

MAKING OUR HOMES STRONGHOLDS OF GOODNESS 

Reflecting on Tolkien's Rivendell and making our homes into save havens. 



I'm found so much joy in writing and sharing my heart with all of you this year, friends. I hope you've found encouragement or a sense of community through these pages. It means so much to me that we can walk together! 

Wishing you a blessed new year full of grace and love,

Lily and Mama

Photo Journal: Our First Snowdays & Christmas Lights

One of my favorite parts about our town is that the community seems to truly love being here. There are so many festivals, parades, and events throughout the year and they always seem to have so much heart put into them. It's such a blessing! Our favorite par was decorated with maybe twenty really intricate and detailed light displays - we've visited twice so far and Lily loves it so much! 

I always love looking back at memories like these so I thought I'd share another entry from our photo journal this week. We had our first snow a few days ago and right now I'm stuck at home with two sick babies (Lily is almost four but I really don't ever want to stop calling her my baby), icy roads, and two big trips to pack for! Everything feels a little crazy in December but sitting down to look at these memories and take time to document them really helps me to slow down and cherish the season. My heart is so full! 

Indiana... or Narnia? Hard to tell.  

Indiana... or Narnia? Hard to tell.  

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Still can't stop with the iced coffee.  

Still can't stop with the iced coffee.  

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And while my children nap safely in their warm beds, I am constantly reminded of the sharp contrast between their lives and those of the children in Syria right now. It breaks my heart and it should break yours too. Regardless of politics or policy or whatever you may like to think about, humans are suffering and are terribly afraid. May we flood Heaven with our prayers and seek out ways to help them. I started praying a Christmas Novena for the protection and safe passage of Syrian refugees and those in Aleppo. If you'd like to join me in this, let me know and I can send you information on it. 

 

Advent blessings,

Lily and Mama

A (Catholic) Elf on the Shelf

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This year, after seeing elves on shelves all around the shops and in her friends' homes and even on YouTube, Lily was dying to get her own Elf on the Shelf. She was so sweet about asking and we even got the okay from daddy (which is rare)... and so here we are. And, of course, Lily named her... Lily (but she also calls her Fred). 

Right away, we decided we didn't like the rule about not touching the Elf because 1) I don't want to spend $30 on a toy she can't play with, and 2) We only follow important rules in this house and I don't like to overburden our family with rules that don't actually have any impact on their well-being (but that's a whole other subject...).

In our home, the Elf on the Shelf is more about getting up to mischief and being silly instead of tattle-telling to Santa or being magical and not for touching (mostly because we don't push the belief in Santa although after meeting him in the mall, she most definitely believes... but we still try to emphasize Saint Nicholas and the spirit of Christmas, etc).

Lily always runs around looking for her when she first wakes up and it always melts my heart. She usually gasps and starts cracking up laughing wherever she finds her - it's the sweetest thing! At first, her Elf could be found in the morning playing with Lily's other toys - like one morning she was riding around in the Christmas train with Lily's critters and the other day she was chillin' in the freezer with Elsa.

But lately, Lily's Elf has been embracing the true spirit of Christmas and really encouraging Lily to do the same. This morning, we found her out in the living room learning how to pray the rosary with Mary!

And tonight, I caught her wearing one of the Miraculous Medals we were planning to give away! She even wrote Lily a little note about how proud her and Saint Nicholas were of her. The sweetest! ;)

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I can't wait to see what other Catholic antics Lily's sweet little Elf will be up to in the last few weeks of Advent!

I've also seen other people find their Elves at the nativity scene, either praying in front of it or holding baby Jesus in the manger.

Catherine Boucher also wrote this splendid article on Bernie, their Catholic elf on the Shelf

"To help our children learn more about what Christmas is all about, Bernie the elf will deliver the ornaments for our Jesse Tree, the star for the top of our Christmas tree, and the Christ Child from the nativity scene.  Bernie will join us to light the Advent Wreath, read Scripture, and pray at the dinner table.  He will sit with us as we gather around the Nativity scene to sing Christmas carols.  He will bring us invitations to go to special Christmas events such as a local parish’s living Nativity scene (complete with live animals).  He will put out the ingredients to make the Christ Child a birthday cake to eat on Christmas Eve.  (Maybe he’ll even make a snow angel in the flour on the countertop!)" - read the whole article here. 

I'm so new to this tradition, but I'm loving it already and really enjoying making it our own. If you're annoyed by the Elf on the Shelf or feel overwhelmed by the insane(ly awesome) shenanigans other elves seem to be getting themselves into, I really encourage you to embrace the "magic" of it all to have fun with your kids and just soak in the joy of this season while it's here. We can use everyday ordinary things like silly little Elves to point our children to Christ, and we can have so much fun while doing it! 

Does your home have an Elf on the Shelf?
What is your favorite aspect of this Advent + Christmas tradition? I'd love to hear! 

PS I'm not really sure what's going to happen to our Elf after Christmas comes. I've told Lily that on Christmas Eve, she'll fly back to the North Pole - and so Lily has decided that she's going to hold onto her feet real tight and fly there with her, but she has to have a cell phone so that she can call me once she gets to the North Pole... Where do your Elves go after Christmas? And how do your kids deal with them leaving? 

Letters from Father Christmas

A few weeks ago, I ordered a copy of Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas. I'm on a quest to build a library out of Tolkien's writings and I was so happy to have found this beautiful edition. It's such a sweet collection of letters Tolkien wrote for his children every Christmas, signed by Father Christmas himself!

I've been reading the letters here and there with Lily and she is delighted to hear what Father Christmas has to say - I usually substitute "Lily and Augustine" whenever he mentions the names of Tolkien's children. Augustine, who has recently discovered the joy of books, will bring this book to me and point at all of the illustrations as we flip through the pages.

It's such a joy to incorporate this little book into our Christmas traditions. Perhaps Lily will begin to find her own letters from Father Christmas (...maybe next year). 

 

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Roses for Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Today (December 12th) was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a feast I'm growing to love more and more with each year. Last year, I spent this day learning all about the story behind today's celebration (you can read about it here: Getting to Know Our Lady of Guadalupe) so I was ready to spend the day talking to Lily about what it meant and trying to find meaningful ways to celebrate.

I drove past three different Taco Bells today and was trying to convince myself that I should definitely stop because it would be very liturgical of me, but I eventually listened to the voice of reason that reminded me eating garbage (no offence, Taco Bell, but I mean...) wasn't a very good way to celebrate Our Lady, so I kept driving. 

When I was picking up Lily from school, I thought it would be nice if we picked up a few roses to celebrate instead. We got a dozen red & a dozen pink, not really sure what to do with them but I had a feeling we'd figure it out.

Once we got home, I wrapped them up with a little note about Our Lady and today's feast and then we decided to sneak them over to a few of our neighbors' houses. I shortened the summary from Franciscan Media a little bit so it would fit better on the page - you can see what I ended up making here.

Lily was really excited to deliver them & it felt like a really nice way to show love to some of the people we live close to but don't see every day. I probably would've given individual roses to all of my mama friends at the preschool pick-up line, but I didn't think of it until after school - next year, next year. ;)

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Lily and Augustine drove up and down the street in their little red Mustang and Lily tip-toed up the steps to leave the roses at the door. I could tell she was having so much fun, despite it being so cold outside! 

So while we didn't end up having a Mexican fiesta or doing any cool coloring pages, I felt like we embraced the spirit of the Marian feast really well & I'm giving myself a gold star for feeling like an overachiever today.

Lily also watched a video about Juan Diego & Our Lady of Guadalupe on YouTube and it was really helpful for explaining the story. I had originally tried to put it into a preschooler's vocabulary and I sounded insane... "So today we are celebrating a feast where Mary came from Heaven and appeared to a man named Juan Diego. She put roses in his shirt and when they fell out, there was a beautiful painting... but it wasn't a painting, nobody painted it, it was a miracle... of Mary!"

Here are the two videos we watched: Juan Diego Messenger of Guadalupe Part One & Part Two

 For the rest of the afternoon, she was running around wearing a piece of fabric like a veil and asking me if I would be "San Diego" and she could be "The Virgin". It was so fun! Also, she requested a cheese crisp for dinner so I guess we really did eat Mexican food after all... 

What ways do you like to celebrate this feast in your family? I'd love to hear! 

Our Lady of Guadalupe - pray for us!

The Great Peg Doll Saint Exchange of 2016

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Last week, the moms group at my parish hosted our first ever peg doll exchange and it went so well, I wanted to share the photos & some tips with all of you. If you've ever wanted to make peg dolls or do an exchange like this, I really recommend it! 

Hosting Your Own Peg Doll Exchange...

If you're planning your own peg doll exchange, I thought I'd share how our group organized & pulled off our exchange! It went so well and I was so happy about it! It was a really nice way to get to know the other moms in my parish and it is seriously so fun to have these little peg dolls now! 

Our group used a Facebook Event to organize the event. Everyone commented with which saint they'd like to paint (or some chose to make two saints) and it made it a lot easier to keep track of everything.  Once the group reached 19 people, we "closed" the event so that people wouldn't be making too many pegs. After that, one mom placed a bulk order for the pegs and we each paid her for our set. Once we got them, we painted 19 of the same saint or saints. I chose to paint two: Augustine of Hippo and Ignatius of Antioch, so I ended up painting 38. Although painting 19 of each saint did feel a little ambitious while I was doing it (it might be better to keep the group smaller), it was pretty awesome to come home with 31 pegs!

We gave ourselves about two months until the exchange, and we also had two painting mom's night outs which were so much fun! Lily is so excited to finally have all of these little pegs to play with and I've been coming up with ideas for how to display them. It's such a fun way to bring the communion of saints to life for our children and to weave Catholicism into their everyday play. 

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Tips

  • One of the moms printed all of the saints' names along with their feast days onto small round stickers. We put the stickers on the bottom of each peg and then sealed over them with the Triple Thick sealer. She also printed off a paragraph about each saint and included them in the exchange so we could make little booklets or keep them as notecards/flashcards. 
  • Some of us used Printable Peg Dolls from Catholic Icing - purchase, print, and decoupage them onto the saints! They ended up looking really cute and the process was much easier than painting the whole peg. 
  • When sealing the pegs, do the tops first - let it dry - and then do the bottoms! :) 

Thank you so much to all of the moms who put together and participated in this exchange! It was so fun to get to know all of you and I'm so excited to have so many handmade friends for Lily and Augustine to play with. :) 


Click through the gallery below for all of the photos! Which saint is your favorite?

Bringing the Little Children to Christ & Saying Yes To God (on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception)

 
 "In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose
of the One who accomplishes all things
according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ."

 from today's readings on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  

We actually went to Mass twice today. The first time we had a disheartening experience with a woman and a rude comment she made about my noisy baby, and which lead to me walking out to nurse him and cry a little downstairs, so I ended up missing communion. (Although, I came back up after Mass had ended to find my knight-in-shining-armor husband talking to her about how that was pretty rude and that sort of talk drives people out of the church... #marriagegoals #hesakeeper)

But instead of letting it ruin my day I decided to go to Mass again after Lily got out of school. It started snowing and we visited a new church with a friend and, though it was also noisy, it was beautiful.

He calls us to bring our children to Him, He asks us to open ourselves up to the pain the world might bring but to shine His light anyway.

Say yes anyway.

On this feast when we celebrate our Mama Mary, it felt so fitting to be criticized by someone I didn't even know and who didn't know me either. Being close to my noisy toddler was unbearable for her and she felt the need to disrupt the Holy Mass to make sure I knew it. And that hurt. But in this pain, I'm not alone. Mary undoubtedly faced criticism during her unexpected and unexplainable pregnancy and I'm sure it only got worse as her son grew and began to preform miracles and became such a radical figure that people felt the need to crucify him. 

He was the unruliest one of all. And for that, they put him to death.  

Mary faced more than just one rude comment from one person.
She faced an entire community rising up against her son.  

Yet she still said yes, and she said it everyday.  

She learned to navigate her daily life with a squirmy and loud baby boy. She held Him in her arms just like I did today with Augustine. Though I am imperfect, I think about these things and suddenly she doesn't feel so far away from me.

She chose to say "yes" to God regardless of what anyone else might have said or thought or done. She understood that the call from God meant infinitely more than the opinions or comfort or whatever of others. 

So today, I said yes to the call of my Lord to the feast of His Eucharist, and I led my little children - however silly or noisy they were being - to His love.

They are loved by Love Himself.

they are the littlest of Catholics but still Catholics nonetheless and this is their church as much as anyone's.

They have been created with a great purpose and their value in God's eyes has nothing to do with how still they sit or how quiet they can be. I think of how Mary's parents must have known how special her role in God's plan was, and while my children won't have to follow the same path as Mary, their lives and the way I raise them are important. 

I will do my part to teach them to attend Mass quietly and reverently, but children are not born perfect and manageable. At least mine aren't. (*Also this is what I get for naming him Augustine but he just might end up a bishop after all of this...) 

And so I bring them to the Mass and I teach them throughout each part of the liturgy.

Watch what he's doing, Lily, he's getting communion ready for us. It's almost time for your blessing, I whisper and her eyes are so wide and her smile is so big. "My blessing," she radiates such innocent anticipation.  

The way children are treated at church will largely determine their attitude when they are older. I thank God that Lily wasn't there this morning to hear such a hurtful and insensitive comment right in the middle of the sweetest sacrifice of the Mass, and I pray she will never have to. If we tell our children to sit down and shut up because Mass is just for grown-ups, they are going to disengage and give up and guess what? They are going to leave the church.  

That is the opposite of my goal. 

And so we are here, struggling to stay in our pews and praying desperately to make it through the Mass and feeling incredibly grateful for these precious little children our Lord has given us. We are grateful that He has given us the choice to say yes. We are grateful that we have such a beautiful example of obedience to The Father in Christ and in Mary.  

And if, even after all of this, you are still annoyed by my kids (whom strangers at grocery stores apparently adore but members of my own parish apparently can't stand) then I'll leave it to you to offer it up.  ;)

Pray for us, and I'll pray for you, too. 

Wisdom from a the Patron Saints of Beekeepers & Brewers

If I end up with several sons, it is likely that one of them will be named after Saint Ambrose. Today is his feast day and I've been learning about his life for the first time and it is the sort of story that fills my heart with hope and joy. You can read a little bit about his life here.  It's a good one. 

It was Saint Ambrose that counseled Saint Monica over the heartache of her wayward son Augustine - famously quoted, "the child of those tears shall never perish".  And it was Saint Ambrose who challenged Augustine to change his life and accept Christ as Lord. 

He, along with Augustine, are two of the four original doctors of the Church.(Pause for a minute to take in how cool that is.) Saint Ambrose is the sort of saint that feels larger than life, and his devotion to Christ can feel out of reach for a normal person like me. 

But one thing pulled me back into a realistic type of perspective: he is, among other things, the patron saint of beekeepers. And Saint Augustine, the patron saint of brewers. 

Those are totally normal things! And suddenly they don't feel quite so intimidating anymore. 

This morning, despite my best attempt to come up with an excuse not to go, I brought Augustine (my son, not the saint) to our parish daily mass. During the homily, father Dan said something along the lines of this: Whatever it is that we do, do it for the glory of God.  

A very welcome lesson from the keeper of the bees & the brewer of beers. 

If you keep bees, may you keep them well - for the glory of God.

If you brew beer, may you brew it with love and quality - for the glory of God. 

If you change diapers, if you wash dishes, if you fold laundry, if you sweep floors, may you do so with great kindness and dedication - for the glory of God.

This is why we're here, friends. This is what we were made for.

We are free to choose our own paths in life. We are born with likes and dislikes, dreams and aspirations, favorites and passions and ideas of what might bring us joy. Let us pursue these things with fervor and zeal - and let us do it all for the glory of God. 

Saints Ambrose and Augustine, pray for us!

 

Augustine and ambrose looking very cool and scholarly

Augustine and ambrose looking very cool and scholarly

Sts Gervase and Protase Appearing to St Ambrose

Sts Gervase and Protase Appearing to St Ambrose

  Saint Ambrose barring Theodosius I from Milan Cathedral

 

Saint Ambrose barring Theodosius I from Milan Cathedral

A Humbling Sort of Advent

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I had goals of Lenten proportion for Advent this year. I have been feeling just way off and far from the person I wanted to be - spiritually, emotionally, and physically really - and like a brand new liturgical year would be the type of thing to bring myself back in a big sort of way.  I had big dreams and even wrote down my "rules" and felt sure that on that first Sunday afternoon I would experience a wonderful change of heart and this would be so incredibly easy. 

But then Saturday night & Sunday morning rolled around and life kept happening. Business as usual. My husband kept working 80 hour weeks (also, 80 is a low estimate), my kids continued to exhibit their own free will and human nature, Sonic and Wendy's continued to be conveniently located and taste moderately good, and Starbucks continued to get me through the day.  My days were still chaotic and I didn't magically feel like praying the rosary all of the sudden. 

After planning all year for a quiet Christmas at home, last minute changes in plans meant our calendar is instead filled with travel (6 flights this month) - including two weddings! This month is full of joy and family and so many good things, but full nonetheless.  And the change I had been hoping for seemed to be slipping away into the continual mess of my life. 

Yet God calls me to rest. Rest? How can I rest? I have 40 peg dolls to paint, 4 dozen cookies to bake, 5 baskets of laundry to put away, and more. I have shoes for Saint Nicholas to fill and a paper Advent village to build and devotionals to try to remember to read.  How can I rest? It's midnight and the peg dolls are drying. 

This year, Advent will be humbling for me. But not in the ways I planned. Because I just can't build that Advent village. I tried, but this season of life is the kind that stretches me thin & I am learning my limits. "Know thyself," they say. I can barely find non-wrinkly clothes for my family to wear. 

God is calling me to quiet my heart and my home, not by overwhelming myself with too many new traditions or restrictions (although if you're up for it, those are great, but I'm not). But with a gentle softening of my heart. 

He reminds me that He loves me just as I am, but He also calls me to turn from my sins and towards His perfect will. 

He takes my hand in this Advent season and he asks me to walk with Him towards the Father with him. He shows me his mother and he asks her to care for me as my spiritual mother. In this season of life, when I am exhausted and overwhelmed and prone to anxiety, He calls me his daughter and welcomes me into warmth and light. He reminds me of the love I have for my children - the unconditional love, regardless of how many times they may mess up - and He shows me that His love for me is even more than I can comprehend. 

He welcomes me into this season of expectant joy. He lifts my burdens from my shoulders and reminds me that I don't need to do everything or try to be perfect. His love is sufficient, and his grace is saving. If I forget to show them the video about Saint Nicholas or don't get organized enough to make any cool crafts, but I spend this season sharing Christ's love with my children and husband and family (and you!) - then it will have been a good Advent. 

Wishing you a blessed and restful Advent season, friends. Only 18 days until Christmas! 

 

PS I'll be sharing more of our liturgical living type of things on instagram at @liturgyofhome. I'd love to journey with you!  

 

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Happy Catholic New Year + Resolutions

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This morning, the First Sunday of Advent, marked the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church so everything has been feeling so shiny and new, like the first day of a new year should - and I'm writing to tell you Happy Catholic New Year!
It's like a blank canvas, or a starting page, and with that comes such a great deal of hope. It is so fitting that Advent begins our liturgical year because it is so specifically about hope - we walk alongside the expectant virgin mother and her spouse as we await the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! There is so much joy in all of it, but we experience it a more quiet way than the joy of Christmas. During Advent, we try to simplify our lives, to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and to prepare our hearts for Christ's arrival.

With a new year comes resolutions. And while some resolutions may be silly or superficial, setting goals or at least being mindful about our faith life at the start of each new year can truly enrich and deepen our walk with Christ in so many ways.

If we take this day (or this week) to reflect on our lives in the past year, we can begin to see what spiritual, emotional, physical, etc. habits we've developed and what sort of impact it's had on our life in general and especially our faith life.

Here are a few resources to help us reflect & discern which areas we might need to make a change:
 

In this new liturgical year, I've felt that I really need to make more time for intentional & disciplined daily prayer and Scripture study. For me, this is the biggest change I see myself needing to make. I'm going to try to pray the Rosary once a week, to figure out which part of my day I can consistently set aside for prayer and Bible reading, and also try to visit our parish perpetual adoration chapel once a week. I'd also like to grow closer to and better understand Mary and the Saints - I'd particularly like to try to understand what role they play in my life (new Catholic problem). I thought this episode of Coffee & Pearls was inspiring (as always) - Find Your Saint BFF.

Moving into Advent, here are a few of my favorite articles written by fellow Catholic mamas on living liturgically, simplifying, and finding joy (plus a few Christmas gift ideas):

 I'm so thankful for you and I hope you are walking into Advent with a feeling of joyful renewal and hope as we prepare our hearts for Christmas!

What are your Catholic New Year's resolutions? Share them in the comments - I'd love to hear what your prayers and goals are for this new year, and I'd be so blessed to be able to pray for you in any way!