Friday, February 19, 2021

Hello, Lent

The thought occurred to me as I slumped down the hall on Ash Wednesday evening: I forgot to do my chosen Lenten practice today. baby didn't get down to bed easily, thus presenting me with the perfect opportunity to say my extra prayers. And yesterday, I think I may have forgotten altogether (baby girl recently acquired her first two teeth and is working hard to get I'm drinking at least one cup of coffee every day now and have no memory). Basically, Kelly's post about how "You can do Lent" REALLY resonated with me today. 

We don't have a Lenten calendar, spiral (although I may do one next year, because they look awesome and seem like a great, simple visual for kids), or anything like that. We rang in Ash Wednesday with a cartoon about Lent and livestreamed Mass, because we've been living under piles of snow (praying for all of you in Texas!) and could not safely drive down our street. However, I'm finding that even putting a simple picture on our table has been a huge way to make Lent present in the life of our kids (my two-year-old, in particular, keeps talking about it). 

Yes, our now-withered Christmas poinsettia is still
in the house, because I am SO on top of life right now ;) 

I had been eagerly anticipating Lent, and was excited that this year, we would be able to walk through the whole season with our parish family AT MASS. No livestreams like in Lent 2020! So, starting off the season at home, following along with Mass on the computer, was not my ideal-but I guess it's a good way to jump right into the penitential aspect of the season. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Is there really no such thing as bad weather?

 There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing--so claim people who write from or about Scandinavian culture. If it's cold, just dress appropriately and go outside! Enjoy the beauty of nature in all weather and seasons!  

I have preached this message to friends and family, and I've often send my kids out into chilly weather for a quick run-around in the backyard before they come running back to the warmth inside. I personally enjoy a nice walk in brisk weather, as a slight chill nips my face and wakes me up. 

And yet. 

I huddle inside and watch the fluttering snow drift and sway above the ice-encrusted blades of grass. I dash outside only long enough to toss a bag of trash into the bin. I relish the crunch crunch of the ground under my boots, but I need to get inside. Yes, I am wearing "bad clothing" for this weather-shorts and a hooded sweatshirt do not lend themselves to tromping around in freezing temperatures-however, I also just want to be in the house. In the warmth, in the comfort. There's no such thing as bad weather, they say. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The hundred languages of homeschooling

When I finally climbed out of bed yesterday morning and trudged into the living room, my four-year-old happily greeted me: "Look, Mom! It's the Master Sword!" As he gestured towards his Magna Tile creation, I couldn't help but think of our recent homeschooling adventures.

On several mornings, we curled up on the couch with one of Akira Himekawa's Legend of Zelda mangas. Sandwiched between my preschooler and my two-year-old, I'd hold the baby and read for nearly an hour straight. The baby would watch excitedly before nursing or falling asleep (or both), as the boys would point to the pictures and ask questions about the story. When my voice grew weary, I'd leave to work on chores so the boys could entertain themselves. Inevitably, Link, Ganondorf, and Zelda would drift in and out of their imaginative play. 

Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio-Emilia approach to education, once wrote that "The child has a hundred languages." I find myself draw to these words as I see my children engage with the world in their own unique ways. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

To be healed and to serve (some Sunday thoughts)

"On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them." (Mk 1:29-31)

During this ongoing pandemic, and with one of my boys struck with a bad cold (which he lovingly shared with his baby sister as he breathed in her face and smothered her in cuddles and kisses), the section of Mark's Gospel from today's Mass is timely. Not only is Simon's mother-in-law healed from her fever, but the chapter goes on to describe the many healings that Jesus conducted, both physical and spiritual. 

As I stood in my pew and listened to the deacon proclaim these words, I wasn't struck by the healings and exorcisms, as marvelous as they are. Instead, the response of this one woman looped in my mind. 

"...and she waited on them."

Simon's mother-in-law, once healed, seeks to serve. I cringe to think about all the moments when my response is the opposite. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Open Book January 2021 Books

 Another month has begun, so it's time to chat books! 

While I enjoyed reading a tremendous amount of books last year, I am hoping to read fewer new books this year. I want to dive into some hefty books that I keep neglecting, and I want to re-read some of my favorites from the past couple years. It feels strange to intentionally read fewer books, but I'm excited for my present TBR list. Today, I'm joining in with Carolyn Astfalk's Open Book linkup to chat about literature. Let's dive in!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Old family photos

I looked at my son and shook my head in wonder. Last year at this time, you were scooting on your bottom, I thought, as he charged across the room. His feet were flying, and it was amazing to remember that in the not-so-distant past, he couldn't even crawl. 

One year can make all the difference. 

Have you ever sat down and sifted through old family photos and videos? Within a period of just a couple years, small children change and develop in dramatic ways. A newborn baby will look, sound, and act differently at one year old. A year later, that child will continue to alter in appearance and, in most cases, be more mobile and verbal. Many people are quick to hold babies as they mournfully reflect that "it goes by so quickly." 

It is normal and expected that children will undergo these--and other--changes. However, at some point in time, we can relegate this business of change and development to children. Subconsciously, without even being aware of it, we can find ourselves looking at older teenagers or adults and thinking they will never change. 

We see another person at a certain point in time and lock that image in our minds. That mental snapshot becomes our point of reference for that person's identity. Our thoughts spiral downward as our fixed mindset grasps control. They will never get better. Things will probably get worse. As we look at other people through this narrow lens, we can begin to hold the same view of ourselves. I will never get better. I can't change. I'm a lost cause.

Look again at those old family photos. 

Throwback to that one time in high school when I dressed
up as Larry Boy for "Superhero Day."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hope in a broken world: a newsletter project

I am not an adventurous person, and there are certain things I would rather not try anytime soon (entering a submarine, skiing downhill, and climbing a mountain are on that list), but even I must recognize that it is good to try new things. We don't have to love whatever new thing we try, and we don't have to do a good job. We probably won't do a good job. Still, utilizing a growth mindset and simply trying--and learning from failure--is good for us. It helps us stretch, grow, and develop. 

Well, it's important to "practice what you preach," so here we go...

A few years ago, I thought it would be fun to create a newsletter for this blog. No huge vision or ambitions, but it would be fun, right? So, I looked into it, and discovered that it wouldn't be feasible at that time. There were lots of elements involved and I didn't feel like shelling out money for a newsletter on a blog that makes no money. I shelved that idea, and didn't think of it again...until 2020. 

I can't even remember what caused me to think of a newsletter, but in Fall of 2020, I decided to look into it more. I researched marketing companies, obsessed over the pros and cons, and an unexpected vision for a newsletter began to form in my mind. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Beauty Will Rise

Watch out for the broken glass, I cautioned, moving my sons away from the piles of shards that lay in our path. 

I hate broken glass! my four-year-old declared. Why couldn't we just drive to the library?  

I lifted my face, caught in thought for a split second. Then, I heard it: a melody lilting among the trees. 

Because, I responded. If we drove in the minivan, we wouldn't be able to hear the birds sing. Listen-do you hear that?

Our view may have been full of trash and glass pieces, gray snowy slush and the mechanical hum of the busy street, but beauty blasted through any ugliness; a lone bird sang praises on this dreary winter morning. 

How often do we miss the glimmers of God's beauty that dance on the fringes of our days? In that conversation with my firstborn, I simply spewed out the first response that popped into my mouth--but it has continued to gnaw at me. Because we chose to walk, and inconvenience ourselves with navigating through the mire of littered streets, we could experience the beauty of a bird singing. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

An Open Book: December 2020 Reads

 Happy New Year! Last year was rough for so many people in many ways, but something good that came out of it was my reading stack! I managed to read 126 books in 2020, and a lot of them were fantastic. Let's link up with Carolyn Astfalk's An Open Book to chat about the books that took me through the end of 2020. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

A Blank Calendar: Musings on the New Year

I wasn't planning to stay up until midnight to ring in 2021, but my teething, sleep-regressing baby had other plans. While I do like getting to enjoy our Christmas tree in the quiet hours of the late night and early morning, the abundant touch from an infant and the lack of sleep is not my favorite. But, I bought a bunch of coffee beans today, I'm thoroughly sugared-up on Christmas chocolate, and God is merciful. Thanks to the sleep deprivation and a lack of motivation brought on by Christmas vacation, here's a peek into my scattered thoughts as the new year begins. 

After we returned from a short trip out of state 
to see family, one of our neighbors showed up with this beautiful
poinsettia. I am so grateful for our wonderful neighbors!

A steady drip drip drip of water is plunging off the roof to fall onto the snow-covered ground. Our tiny Christmas tree brings holiday cheer into a living room that is cluttered with the aftermath of unpacking and presents. Across the room, I see the fresh calendar that hangs on our wall. A month of (mostly) blank boxes offers hope, promise. After the [insert adjective of your choosing] year that was 2020, I'm sure we are all more than ready for a fresh start. Yes, we're still in a pandemic, and yes, we're still suffering from a deeply divided political climate, but there is always hope

We are still fully in the Christmas season over here, and as I contemplate the Baby Jesus figurine in our nativity--and as I see the Wise Men that my children have pulled out in anticipation of the Epiphany tomorrow--I am filled hope. I am sure that challenges will come this year, but God is with us. I don't know what this year will look like, and I am very hesitant to make concrete plans, but I am excited about the possibilities! 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Weary World Rejoices

If there's one word I can think of that encapsulates a general feeling among people at this point in 2020, it's weary. Months of isolation, division, and frustration have built, leaving many of us exhausted. We are tired, but life keeps happening--bringing with it unpredictable curveballs and heartaches. 

Into this weary world, Christ enters. 

Over the past several weeks, I've been pondering the prophets as they prepared the world for the Messiah. Rather than their work being confined to a few weeks each winter, it was a process that took place over generations. It was long, slow work. Into a land that was filled with division and bloodshed, hope was proclaimed. 

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel." (Is 7:14)

We may not experience feelings of delight of happiness as we prepare for celebrations full of restrictions and masks, but we can still grasp onto the hope and joy that go beyond a mere emotional lift. We can gaze upon the Christ-child with wonder and awe as we contemplate just how incredible and deep God's love for us is. 

We may be worn out by the events of this year (I know I am!) but we cannot let our fatigue keep us from celebrating the tremendous gift of the Incarnation. Just a week ago, we lit a pink-colored candle on our dining room table. That rose-colored hue reminded us to rejoice, for the Lord is near! The Light is shining forth into the darkness of the world. 

Geertgen tot Sint Jans, The Nativity at Night (1490). Public domain.

We have just a few days left in this season of preparation, so let's persevere. The final days of Advent often slip by quickly, and are filled with many physical preparations as shopping is finished, food is purchased, and presents are wrapped. In this busy time, let's all try to remember to make space for prayer. It may be only a few minutes here or there, but setting aside small moments for silent reflection is a wonderful way to prepare our minds and hearts for Christ's birth. When we enter into the great feast of Christmas in just a few days, may we truly rejoice from the depths of our beings. 

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.