Sunday, December 31, 2006

Settling in

Quick update from my in-laws' house :)
We did the big move in about 12 hours yesterday. We had wonderful help from our friends and family to get out of our duplex, unload stuff at our future home, and unload the rest at our temporary home. We're enjoying a somewhat quiet New Year's Eve (besides whining toddlers) and are looking forward to a few weeks here with family. Mary Clare turns 4 this week and we'll have her party next weekend. It should be a fun month of January and I'm filled with hope about our new year! May you each be blessed immensely in 2007! Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A New Year Begins

Merry Christmas to all! We have spent the past two weeks staying with family, enjoying a peaceful Christmas, getting adjusted to Steven's new job, and visiting with old friends. A big event tomorrow will cap it all off, and then Saturday we will move our belongings here (please pray for a peaceful move; I'm a little stressed about going back, packing, loading, cleaning, and unloading in 2 locations in one day!).

Then we will get to share a few weeks living in the neighborhood with many of Steven's family members, which will be a special treat. And it will also be a special retreat for me as we will not have continuous internet or TV (well, we don't have TV at home either, but I'm a bit addicted to HGTV and TLC here at my parents'!). So I won't be around much, but will hopefully still pop in and sometime soon post some of our Christmas pictures and videos.

We are filled with hope as we enter in to this new year. We are finally at the place we had so hoped for many years ago...with Steven finished with school, buying our first home, and our two beautiful daughters giving us new joys each day. This post on another blog described just how I feel in thinking back over the last 5.5 years. Five years ago we were on our belated honeymooon pilgrimage to Rome, also filled with hope (and somewhat naive) at what our life had in store. It would change drastically just after we came home as Steven started a new job in pro-life ministry and we found out Mary Clare was on the way.

On New Year's Eve looking out from that convent balcony where we stayed, in awe of the fireworks and the landscape of the Holy City, I could never have thought up what the next 5 years would bring. I remember talking to our friends on that trip, 3 other newlywed couples, about our futures. We are now all blessed with 3 children, though a few of our children wait for us in Heaven. It was a true gift for us to spend that first New Year's night in Rome, celebrating the Christmas season with the Universal Church, and receiving the blessing of our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II the Great.

And here I am 5 years later filled with that same hope. It's a different hope, a less naive hope, but a hope that is better grounded in that it rests only in the One who gives life. The Lord has given and has taken away, but blessed be His name! I pray that that little Babe in Bethlehem will touch our hearts on a much deeper level this year. That his love would pierce all the dark areas where we need him most. That he would reveal himself to our family and friends who we most want to be a part of this life of grace.

In these last few minutes of the Feast of the Holy Innocents, little martyrs during the massacre of baby boys in Bethlehem, I think on the sufferings of humanity, on the trials that have faced our friends and family over the past months. But I also read the Psalm response today that sums it up so beautifully. May I trust in its words. Here is the entire reading:

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 124:2-3, 4-5, 7cd-8

R. (7) Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
Had not the LORD been with us—
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler’s snare.
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Merry Christmas to our virtual friends from Steven, Blair, Mary Clare and Elizabeth!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Baking

Ellie enjoys eating icing off a spoon

Can you spot Mary Clare's cookie under all those sprinkles? Can anyone guess the shape?

Godmommy Veronica got Mary Clare an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas! She woke up and had to bake first thing the next morning! Thank you Veronica; what a great gift for my little sweet tooth! Here's her first cake:

At least none of these baking adventures were done at home :) Thanks Melissa, Leah, and Mom for hosting our baking activities!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Humble St. Joseph

Yesterday's Daily Mass gospel reading (Matt 1:18-25) was a beautiful one which described the account of the angel Gabriel's visit to Joseph. I read a reflection I got from my Daily Prayer with Regnum Christi emails that beautifully explained this Gospel and how we can live it out. I'll summarize these ways that touched my heart.

One, we can live out the Gospel by following St. Joseph's example of thinking the best of others. Instead of denouncing Mary publicly, he was prepared to let it drop quietly. Do I look down on others and criticize them in mind or in speech, or do I give them the benefit of the doubt? Two, by recognizing the importance of responding to a crisis in charity. Many times God waits to reveal his will, just as he waited to send the angel Gabriel, until our hearts are ready to follow him completely. Do I choose charity and wait in patience? And thirdly, realizing that Christ is counting on me to cooperate with him. St. Joseph's "yes" reminds us of Mary's "yes" and is almost like a second Annunciation which now allows Christ to have an earthly father and reputable lineage. Am I ready to say "yes" in the good times and the bad?

Eeesh, these are three things I really struggle with and need to take to prayer!

During this final week before Christmas, I also think on Joseph as a husband. On how he might have felt on those days leading up to the birth of the Lord and the physical circumstances surrounding the Nativity. I am reminded of my own "Joseph" who has worked so hard these past few years in work and school, so that he might provide for our own family. I think on the humble beginnings of our marriage, on the times we were left with hardly a penny, on our family who has helped support us these years, on my husband who has always been insistent that we be open to new life even during these times, and on the faith he has had that God will always provide for us. Coincidentally, yesterday was Steven's first day of work at his new job. In the timespan of two weeks he has graduated, helped get a cattle property going, started this new job, and will buy a house. A true example of St. Joseph to me! And a reminder of how God always provides.

This week I need to remember the importance of prayer as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Our Lord. Since we are staying with family, it is much more difficult to have my morning quiet time, my Gospel reading, our family Advent wreath prayers, our Jesse Tree readings, and all our beautiful children's Christmas books that help us to remember Christ's love throughout the day. But we do have some very important opportunities with our family and friends to follow humble St. Joseph and find the best in others, act in charity, and say "yes" in all the little decisions for good throughout the day.

Humble St. Joseph, pray for us!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Heard from the backyard

"I'm making dirt cookies."
MC is outside in only underwear in the middle of December! That's when you know you're in Texas. I'm about to go throw them into the bath and attempt to put us all together for a dinner outing. Hubby bought some cattle today. And I thought I'd be seeing him more now that he doesn't work weekends, ha!

Also...a reminder to self: My house will not be clean again until the boxes and furniture are moved out. Don't even try!

New Blog Name

I decided to change my blog name once again! This scripture has always been the motto for our family and played a big part in our wedding Mass and reception. This year I feel especially called to imitate Mary more in my motherhood and learn to know her more in prayer. It is the motto in our family mission statement and was in the Gospel reading at our wedding Mass. I wish I could remember all the beautiful words Fr. Mike used in his homily that day.

The one part I remember was when he was describing the way that we are like those servants, bringing Christ mere water, all we have to offer. But he miraculously changes them into wine. In our marriage, we must do the him our meager offerings and allowing him to transform them into something beautiful. I have seen this already so much in the way he has continued to provide for our family's physical and spiritual needs. I know he will continue to provide throughout our life.

This is truly a time when I can see God's immense blessings in the physical aspect of our family. In our own little family as we enter into the "real world" and buy a home (we have a contract on Lillian's house!) and Steven starts his new job on Monday. In my family as several of my family members have been blessed with new employment including my brother who prepares to serve our nation in the Navy. In Steven's family with the gift of our new triplet nephews, his parents' new home, sister's new home, and a Christmas we will celebrate with the entire family present (his 6 siblings and children) .

God is very, very good. May we always seek to follow him as Our Lady requests.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why I'm excited about buying our first house:

We will have a coat closet, not this:

And we will have a garage for these (which are in our master bedroom and closet):

Anxiously awaiting the day!

More Jesse Tree fun

My Jesse Tree fun continues! On quiet nights like these, with the girls and Steven fast asleep...a big bowl of popcorn, a tall glass of pink lemonade, live EWTN TV on the internet, some paintbrushes and a fun project make Blair very happy! But the boxes are still sitting by the front door :-/ Only one has been filled by Mary Clare with some books! Much to do over the next few days. Here are my latest Jesse Tree ornaments, my little "eggs"...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Busy Bees!

Thought I'd steal Lillian's post title. We're keeping busy with house details (hoping to buy our first home this month, yes Lillian's house! So neat!), packing up our home (still needing to start that, but we do have boxes as of this morning), Steven's studying for finals, getting ready to start his new job, and we're getting ready for Christmas too!

I thought I'd share some highlights from this week! First of all, Steven completed his last weekend at the workplace where he's been the past (nearly) 3 years! No more freezer warehouse work at 3am! That was a huge relief and we're so excited to be entering back to "normal" family life with a regular workweek and weekends free! Friday evening mass (for the Immaculate Conception) was really special. One of the first Fridays he hasn't had to worry about getting up for work in the middle of the night. And a realization that we'll finally be able to attend Sunday morning Mass together without the stress of work before or after! Very exciting!

On Wednesday we celebrated St. Nicholas' feast day by filling the girls' stockings with some treats and little toys. They were very excited to get to have some candy after our pancake breakfast! Then we attended the area Catholic homeschool group's St. Nicholas party. Here are some pictures:

The girls with a St. Nicholas gift of animals:

The big kids at the St. Nick party, doing a read-aloud. You can see one of the kids dressed as St. Nick!

And the little kids hearing a story about St. Nicholas. Afterwards they did lots of fun crafts, had yummy snacks, then went to Mass!

Later in the week we spent some time with Lillian's family doing house stuff. Nearby I'd found a wonderful deal...FREE tables! Here's the pic of them. Great quality tables to fill up our new home. I love finding great deals!

We also celebrated my dad's big "Over the Hill" birthday. I won't give you the number, but he does look great for his age. We went to one of the best Mexican restaurants with some friends. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!

Then I attended the memorial service for a friend's mother. She passed away last weekend after a 7 year battle with lung cancer. It was a beautiful service. I was inspired by stories of this woman's wonderful virtues of kindness, care, joy, and concern for others when she was suffering so much herself. Being the anxious complainer that I am, Bernice will be a model to me on how to deal with trials and illness in a positive way. May her soul rest in peace and may her family and friends be comforted by God in this time of sorrow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Silent Night

Mary Clare danced to "Silent Night" at her 2nd dance recital this weekend. It was so sweet! My parents came up to watch, but Steven had to work :( And near the end of the dance I realized I hadn't pressed record on the camera, so I only recorded the last 10 seconds of her dance :( I was pretty upset. But I'm sure there will be many dance recitals to come!

We are so thankful to have found her sweet little teacher, a homeschooled high schooler who taught the little girls at her house free of charge. It has given me the motivation to try to plan to teach Mary Clare and her little friends when we move back home. I took many years of dance, so I know I could do it and it would be fun for me and for the girls! I'm still hoping to take an adult class somewhere though. I really miss dancing!

Home Sweet Home!

Steven accepted a job offer today back in our hometown! We're very excited; he'll actually start the week before Christmas so there's lots to do to get ready for a move and buy a house, not to mention Advent and Christmas activities. We're just so excited that he's graduating and we'll be entering the next stage in our family life! I'll try to blog when possible, but if you see me on here too much, tell me I better go pack!!!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

How lovely are your branches! After several days of lighting issues and traveling, the tree was finally completed yesterday! My only worry is that Ellie will pull it over on top of herself. Here she is, my fun Texas-style tree!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Joyous Advent!

Blessings to you and yours this Advent Season! From today's Gospel:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from...the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap...Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Lk 21:34-36

Unfortunately, my heart has become drowsy from those anxieties, and the days have been surprising me like traps. I pray that I will have the strength to trust more and more each day, even in the trying times, so that I can stand before Christ one day and know that my salvation lies in him. May I not be trapped in the next trial, Lord, but rely in you alone.

We have had a very exciting week! One of the wonderful things that happened was that our triplet nephews were born on Friday! They were only 29 weeks gestation, so they have a long way to grow before coming home, but we are praying they do well and beat all the odds. They were all around 3 lbs, so that's a great start! Last night I attended a beautiful Advent Evening for women where a mom of 10 boys spoke, and Mary Clare had a Christmas dance recital today. We're having another nice weekend with family and making plans for the next step in our family life.

We've gotten some of the Christmas decorations down, including the tree. I love gazing at my tree each day! But so far we have yet to finish it with lights or ornaments so this is how it looks:

Recently I've felt unfinished, like my Christmas tree. My "lights" have not all been shining, in fact most of them have been broken. The past few weeks I've allowed different anxieties to trap me, and have failed to let Christ's light shine through me. I've failed to spend time speaking with him and failed to trust in his plan for our family.

But what's beautiful is that he will give me new strands of lights. He will decorate my tree with colorful ornaments, beautiful ribbon, and memories and stories that will brighten my spirit. He has graced our family with blessings that we couldn't acquire on our own. He is SUCH a faithful God. I pray that next time in these situations I will remember his faithfulness and love, rather than doubt his ability to fashion my life according to his plan. He is always faithful, so why do I always fail to trust???

One way I will remember his faithfulness through Advent is through our Jesse Tree. It's in the very beginning stages, but I hope it is a rich tradition for our family. The other night I painted the first three ornaments on simple thin wooden ovals with acryllic craft paint. I had so much fun with my midnight painting project! These represent the Creation story (Earth), the Fall of man (apple), and God's promise to Noah (rainbow). They still need holes and ribbon to hang on the tree, and actually I still need a tree. I think I'll get a tabletop Christmas tree for the Jesse Tree this year, if I can't find an appropriate branch.

I hope to make a few more this year, with stories that will be meaningful to our family, particularly to Mary Clare. It should be fun! I'm also hoping to finally create an Advent wreath as well, and include some Advent prayers as part of our family activities in the coming weeks.
Well, it is now really Advent (12:02 am), so I'd better go spend some time reflecting with the Lord, instead of with strangers in cyperspace...
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