Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Child Is Born!

How blessed we are to celebrate the Saviors birth with family and friends and a seemingly endless supply of delicious food. One of my favorite parts is watching others reactions to gifts they receive. It makes me realize what our reaction to the best gift of all ought to be. The pomp and circumstance and celebration and decorating and gift giving....all a reaction to God's gift of his son to us as humans.

I pray you had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by those you love with many reminders of Christ's love for us!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent Unplugged Wrap-Up

This Advent I linked up with other bloggers and took intentional steps to "unplug" from social media as well as make this season a time of reflection as we prepared for Christmas. You can read about my goals for Advent here and how it was going about half way through here.

After mass this afternoon, we will officially begin celebrating the birth of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ! It seems Christmas is sweeter this year because of the steps I took to make it reflective. Below are a few updates on how this Advent went for me:

I really appreciated not having the Facebook app on my phone. I found I wasn't as distracted from what was going on in my own house and conversations with my husband and I was using the time when I was nursing to read things that were enhancing my life in some way. I'm really not convinced that I'll download it again. In full disclosure, there have been a few times where I did use safari to go on FB for one reason or another, but it definitely wasn't the norm. As I said last week, I think there was more addiction to this form of social media than I originally thought; so glad that it became more apparent to me so that I can avoid being that "into" it again. 

The Relevant Radio app was actually only used a handful of times, but I found it fruitful when I did tune in. I'm excited to keep using this as a way to learn more and grow in my faith and am grateful that it was part of this Advent season for me.

Being aware of the daily readings allowed me to follow along with the Advent season and gave me something to reflect on each day. This is something I have done intermittently in the past, but I really hope to keep this as a part of my day from now on. 

Setting aside time for Brandon and I to reflect upon quotes from Padre Pio and a corresponding bible verse was also helpful. We talked about things we wouldn't have otherwise and it was a good reminder each morning and evening that Advent is a time for reflection and preparation and prayer. 

Last week in a meeting someone asked, "Are you all ready for Christmas?" 

"I still have presents to buy and wrapping to do. But I'm really not feeling stressed. Advent was a time of preparing my heart for Christmas and remembering the true reason for the season, and I'm just really looking forward to Christmas."

Thanks to Haley for providing the inspiration to unplug and be intentional this Advent, and for hosting this link-up.

Have a very, very Merry Christmas. I wish you and your family many blessings as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 10)

Winter is upon us here in Iowa which means I'm cold. Let's be real, though, I'm cold in July. Below are my five favorite ways to warm up!

We put a Keurig on our wedding registry--and received it from my generous aunt and uncle. I am so glad we have this thing because I have to be honest and tell you that I hardly ever brew coffee in our normal coffee maker. I drink the coffee when the hubs makes it on the weekends and otherwise go the lazy quick route and brew up a cup o'joe this way. yum-O.

This isn't the exact one I have, but heating blankets are super swell. Especially when my husband is walking around in shorts and a tee and doesn't think it's freakin' freezing in the house like I know it is!

Have you heard of arm knitting? My SIL turned me onto it--get thee to youtube to learn how! It's seriously the fastest project and you get a beautiful, chunky scarf to keep you warm (or just accessorize your outfit!) If you have knit scarves before, here are two warnings: 1) You will be amazed at how fast this goes and 2) you will feel like you cheated because it's so instant gratification.

Love me some glittens. I love that you're wearing nice, warm mittens but have the capability to quickly utilize those digits for things like texting, strapping in your small child in the carseat, or finding something at the bottom of your bag. Bought a pair two years ago, lost one. Bought a pair last year, lost one. You see a trend? I'd love a pair like the ones above in black and white! 

5. Cuddling. You knew it was coming. Having a husband who puts off heat like a radiator is pretty economical. Sometimes I have to ask him if he needs more space before I fall asleep because I pretty much claim the middle of the bed. A few inches over is just too cold!

Catch more quick takes and their lovely authors over at Hallie's!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Balancing Act

Recently I was catching up with a friend who had her second baby about 8 weeks ago now. She was looking forward to returning to work the following week because she's been coming down with a case of cabin fever lately.

"I know what you mean," was my reply. And I feel like I really do. I'm an extrovert who stays (mostly) at home with my almost 8-month-old son. I really believe in the choice I've made, consider it a blessing, and know that it's what I'm called to do at this point in my life. But it's hard!

As we continued to chat, we ended up deciding that although being at home with little ones is not anywhere near boring, it really takes a lot of balance. She was wondering what I was doing to find that balance. At the time, I was confidently able to rattle off quite a few things that I do in search of it:

I'm someone who needs to be doing things with my brain. I read dozens of journal articles and blog posts and editorials from all over the internet. I'm always in the middle of a few books and will frequently listen to podcasts as well. I also write in this blog, though more seldom than I wish.
I also need interaction with people: I have more energy and am a happier person after a coffee date with a friend, meeting with coworkers, or a weekend at home with family. So I still have a very part-time job where I get to facilitate a class on the college level and coordinate the logistics for said class. I'm the chair of the young adult ministry for our parish. There's a group of 8 or so lovely women and their babies, all less than 2 years old, who I get together with each week for lunch and conversation. I attend bi-weekly breastfeeding support group. And then there's the daily chat with my mom on the phone.

And that's how I stay perfectly balanced.

Not. I'm totally still on the journey to finding balance and since having this conversation my lack thereof has become glaringly obvious. I get pretty antsy by he middle of day, especially if it happens to also be the middle of the week. Even if I had a coffee date that morning. If I haven't left the house all day, my husband is greeted by somewhat of a cold shoulder, because I almost feel like I'm out of practice having conversations when I haven't had one yet.

Lately I'm left wondering: I'm able to do exactly what I wanted and be my son's main caregiver--why aren't I over the moon with gratitude and feeling really refreshed everyday in this job?

Oh, right. Because it's still hard. And while many days I do feel like I'm in a really good place, some days are just harder than others. Putting his needs before my own means I have to die to myself a little bit. I have to plan my days around his nap times and eating times. Sitting down and writing or reading often needs to wait until he's content playing on the floor or sleeping, and often it's interrupted. The busy-body in me really misses days of hustle-and-bustle until I drop but babies just don't hustle.

Although I don't when (or if) I'll ever feel like I really have this mom thing all balanced out, I do know that God is using this role as momma to make me a better person. To draw me closer to Him, because you'd better believe it takes quite a few Hail Marys to garner up the patience needed to stay awake with a fussy baby at 3:30 in the morning. I'm being shown what virtues I'm lacking through this form of suffering. And each day, if I accept the grace God constantly extends, he reveals to me the beauty of motherhood. It's all truly a balancing act.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a baby boy who would like to be held.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Unplugged: Week 2


I intended on publishing a post or two this past week. I even started one and saved a few other ideas. But, what can I say? This season of life is one that is filled with caring for a little boy during the day who happens to be a bit needy...he's such a baby! My nights have been spent knocking things off my to-do list which seems so long this time of year and spending some quality time with the hubs. There's something about the cold, dark nights that make me just want to curl up on the couch. And so my writing has been neglected and I just have to be A-OK with it.

But how is my Advent going? Have I stayed true to my goals of being "unplugged"?

Delete facebook from my phone. I have remained true to this promise and have not even logged into facebook via safari! This is a big deal and the longest I have stayed away from FB via the iPhone since it's been in my possession. I have to say, there is a peace that has come with this decision. When I have a moment to actually use the computer, such as during nap time, in the evening, or when baby is happily playing on the floor, I'll log in quickly to check notifications and peruse my news feed for a few minutes. Then I close the browser and am done. A stark dichotomy from reading every post until I come to the last one I recognize. Perhaps I was more addicted to this form of social media than I realized, but I'm glad to be taking strides to walk out of that fog.

Download the Relevant Radio app. I haven't used this app as much as I originally thought that I would, but what I have been able to listen to has been really fruitful and on my mind for days! If you have this app and are looking for great insight on what it means to be humble, you may want to listen to Fr. Boniface Hicks podcast on Humility. It can be found under "The Inner Life" in "Podcasts."

Read/listen to daily readings each day. Over the last week I can only think of one day where I never went into Laudate (which is a fabulous Catholic app if you've never heard of it!) to read or listen to the daily reading, psalm, and Gospel. This simple, intentional step allows me to make the connection of the day to the greater liturgical season of Advent. God constantly extends huge amounts of grace to us through the readings and I believe I'm taking a small step this Advent to accept these graces, something I've been praying for lately. What a great reminder of the somberness of Advent as we wait for the celebration of Christmas.

Reflection as a family. Brandon and I continue to use our little "Advent Reflections with Saint Pio of Pietrelicina" booklet every morning and evening and have really enjoyed them! They are super-duper short, though, and I'm yearning for a little more depth and braininess this Advent, so I'm also borrowing The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI as something I'd like to read over the next two weeks! I'm only about 6 pages in but already have learned something! (Did you know that exegesis means a critical interpretation of a text?)

Advent is nearing it's halfway point. While I'm making progress on my "goals," I'm hoping that as this somber season continues I'll feel a little less anxious and a little more at peace. Hope you get the opportunity for some intentional reflection as we await the coming of our King!

Check out Haley's page to see how others "Advent Unplugged" are going!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Unplugged: Week 1

Advent is upon us and this year I'd really like to honor this part of the liturgical year for what it should be: a time of intentional preparation, anticipation, and reflection as we wait for the celebration of the birth of Christ!

I'm linking up with Haley over at Carrots for Michaelmas for "Advent Unplugged" and have come up with my own plan for unplugging, primarily from Facebook, during this season as well as making an intentional effort to infuse my daily life with opportunities for reflection.

My Advent Plan:

Delete facebook from my phone. If you're keeping up with my posts, you'd be confused right now because didn't I just delete it about a month ago? Yes, yes I did. But it found it's way back to my phone when I wanted to easily upload a few photos to facebook. The app makes it about 33 times easier than trying to do it using Safari. Soo...the plan is to allow myself to upload photos to facebook using the app on Sundays, if I wish. Otherwise I just automatically scroll through the news feed while I'm nursing and I'm positive there are better uses of my time.

Download the Relevant Radio app. So...maybe this seems counter-intuitive to the whole "unplugged" thing. But my father-in-law had been telling me how much he likes the programming on Relevant Radio and it seems like an easy way to infuse some intentional programming into my life. I'm someone who really needs to be taking in information throughout the day, which is why I default to Facebook so often. With just me and a 7 month old at home, I know that I can still fully meet his needs and be present to him while listening to a radio show or two. And it's surely better than looking at my phone screen.

Read/listen to the daily readings each day. This liturgical season is full of readings that should fill us with anticipation, reminding us that our entire lives are actually "Advents" for the promise of heaven! In his homily on Sunday, the priest pointed out that the daily readings really don't talk about the first coming of Christ in Christmas until around December 18th! Instead, they point towards the second coming of Christ, that which we're all still waiting for. Reading these each day (or listening to them via the Laudate app...I know...more "plugged" but I can do it while holding Silas or getting ready in the morning!) will allow me to remain focused on Advent, the season at hand, instead of getting swept away in all things Christmas too soon!

Reflection as a family. Brandon and I are going through a little reflection booklet together. And it's an actual book--not something online for once! It's actually quotes from the writings of Saint Padre Pio coupled with a bible verse. We each read the page for the day separately when we eat breakfast in the morning (Brandon's up and ready early and I sleep as long as little man will let me!) Then at dinner we read it aloud and talk about if it struck us in anyway.

As Advent continues I'll update on how well my adherence to the plan is going!

Hope your Advent is off to a reflective, intentional start!

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