Posts tagged faith
Learning from Autumn

Not everyone needs them, but I do. The change of the seasons, the turn of one cycle of nature to another.

It's a spiritual revolving for me. My faith has not been a direct, upward climb, but it has been and is a daily cleanse and a foundation of hope and a loud call to love more. With the arrival of autumn, the addition of color, the fall of the leaves, the crisp scent in the air, I am reminded of a deeper change within each of us.

The act of leaves moving from green to yellow or red to fallen forms of themselves, leaving behind a blank tree that must now weather the winter on its own, encourages me to strip away all that is unnecessary and unhelpful. And to remind myself of what I truly need to live the life I hope to.

From Peter Schineller, SJ:

It means a letting go, as the trees let go of their leaves. What are you called to let go of this season? Possessions? Grudges? Status? Can you shed them gently? When I was growing up there was a large tree on the corner of one of the streets in our neighborhood, which always turned red before the others--from the top down. There were other trees whose fallen leaves blanketed the grass with reds, oranges, and yellows. As with a tree that sheds its leaves, perhaps your letting go might make things more beautiful for the world.

How can the season invite you closer to God?

I have plenty that I want to shed this season - some of which I'll be sharing here on Pars Caeli. I'm taking a call from nature to dig into my roots and let go of what has served its time, and to grow stronger for all that is to come.

What will you let fall away? Can you shed it gently?

xoxo, MJ

Hope in the waiting

My dear friend, Beth, and I were chatting a few days ago, catching up on one another's life. She, ever the encourager, said that she looked forward to Advent here on Pars Caeli, interested to see what I have going on. Advent, this time of preparation leading up to Christmas, is such a special time of joy and family celebration. And after a little pleading, Beth shared with me a special something she tries to do during the Advent season.

She sends a note to all of her pregnant friends.

I remember being one of those pregnant friends receiving her note.

And I remember it changing my perspective on pregnancy.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, 9 Advents ago, I was more than ready to give birth long before my Dec. 30th due date came around. I am not known for my patience nor my ability to put off what I long for today. I'd had a healthy pregnancy, but as a first-time mom, I desired the end of the story - the end of labor, the happy and healthy baby, the recovering body.

Pregnancy tested these limits beyond my expectations.

And yet, experiencing late pregnancy (I didn't deliver until Jan. 9) during the Advent season was such a blessing. I saw the journey of Mary in a whole new way. I pondered how she felt, discriminated as a pregnant woman in her state, managing the travel by animal to a distant land, setting out to experience the unknown, with the faith in What grew within her own womb.

Advent is a time of waiting, counting down the weeks until the delivery of Christ... and Christmas. And we have an opportunity to see it as a time of hope and joy and peace for all of the gifts we have been given and the ones we are yet to uncover. Or we can wish the time away with events, tasks, to do's, and all around busyness to get us up to the day.

Whether it be in my professional life, my family life, or my prayer life, I too often want to skip to the end of the book. I want to get to the conclusion of this "stage" or this season of life.

And, well, Advent, and good people like Beth with their helpful messages, remind us that the journey or time in-between is what prepares us to be the mothers, the people that we want to be.

The time of Advent is our pregnancy, and we have much new life to celebrate.

Either way, Christmas/Christ is coming. May God allow us to have the patience to embrace the waiting and the preparation.

And maybe we could each send a special message to a pregnant friend...

xoxo, MJ

 

Holding Your Hand

I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand while we waited, and she gave me a slow, almost unnoticeable nod - the kind that only I might notice as the woman who has watched her so carefully these last eight years. I was grateful for that slight gesture, realizing that I might just need her reassurance as much, dare I say more, than she needed mine.

We stood together in the line inside our church. One line of many lines. She and I as equals in a way I had not yet considered as her mother.

Nearly one hundred eight- and nine-year olds were present, with families of all shapes and sizes, to this celebration of a Sacrament. As Catholics, we learn it as Reconciliation, the gift of God's forgiveness.

Though my heart knows that Reconciliation is overflowing with grace and goodness, my mind is absolutely terrified of the experience. The act of saying out loud to another human being my failings, mistakes, and sins is enough to cause me to break out into a cold sweat on a very hot day.

My daughter, M, woke up on Saturday, the day of her first Reconciliation, with excitement and anticipation. She wanted to go right to church to experience forgiveness.

I asked her repeatedly (I tried to space my questions to once an hour, but really...) if she was nervous to confess her sins. A simple "no" came back every time.

I just couldn't imagine it. Really?

The service was unlike any I'd experienced. Instead of the children and adults heading one by one into the smaller rooms, confessionals, to have a private experience, most of the priests were located right out in the open space of our church, with a chair set opposite theirs.

Thinking about this possibility of being seen during a very difficult conversation made me clammy. And, I had that moment where I wondered, can I get out of this?

But I pulled up my momma boots, and remembered just how important it is to be the example rather than talk about the example of what we want our children to be.

M didn't care which priest she went to or how out-in-the-open her experience would be. She took my hand and led me to the shortest line, right in the front of the church.

We stood there together, hand in hand, as children and dads and moms and older sisters and brothers came up one by one to experience the Sacrament. With calming piano hymns playing to drown out voices, I was able to watch forgiveness happen.

Have you ever seen it?

It looks like the jittery little boy who works up the courage to say that he's stolen something from his dad. It looks like this little boy's hands being held by a compassionate, smiling listener who reminds him that God's love is always there, even when we fail.

It looks like the father who comes with his head down, reluctant, who leans over to whisper his indescretions right into the ear of his confessor. It looks like that father then leaning back in his chair with a renewed understanding that he is good, he is always good in God's eyes.

I watched my little girl experience the gift of Reconciliation. She sat right on the edge of her chair and listened attentively to all the words the priest had to share. She smiled through her new set of braces and shook his hand in thanksgiving for the absolution.

She ran over to tell me it was my turn.

And then she perched herself in the pew and watched her mother experience forgiveness. She watched me muster up my courage and gesture nervously through hushed tones all the ways that I had failed.

When I stood to leave, feeling overwhelmed by grace, I saw her beaming blue eyes try to catch mine. She took my hand and told me she was proud of me.

She and I are equals. We offer our God-given gifts to the world freely. And we sin. We sin differently, but we both sin. We are human and make mistakes.

And we both experience the load-bearing release of forgiveness.

She's just braver to hold my hand.

xoxo, MJ

 

A DIY for Lent
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Amidst the super cute, heart-shaped posts and the irresistably pinnable pink and red vignettes floating around the interwebs, I'd like to offer a DIY to break you into... Lent. For those of you who may be confused, this year Lent (the season leading up to Easter) began yesterday with Ash Wednesday and will continue for the next forty days. It's a time of reflection and growth, where we reserve our Alleluias and songs of praise, and focus inward on the change within ourselves. So why not have a DIY to accompany it?

Tell me you've seen this technique on Pinterest... The one where you use a canvas painting and adhere text, like vinyl lettering over top of it, paint over the entire surface to then remove the vinyl letters and reveal the great quote constructed from the colors and strokes of the painting underneath? Yes? No?

So that one got me thinking... how about a little Lenten project?

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Here's what you need (or what we used): 8 x 10 canvas, assortment of your favorite paint colors plus black, brushes, vinyl letters.

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My daughters were d-lighted to be involved with this one. I asked each girl to paint one half (diagonally for interest) in five of their favorite colors. As we brushed on the brilliant and quiet tones, we talked about our blessings, many of which the girls represented in their pictures. After the paint was definitely (ack, so much patience required) dry, we added the vinyl lettering, careful to place each one squarely in place.

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Before adding a black layer over the entire top surface, I used a pen to press down the letter edges to be sure no sneaky paint would leak underneath. Here's our creation, full of color and blessings.

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Time to cover up the Alleluias and keep them in waiting until Easter. Check out the cool texture that's revealed.

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And then it's all covered.

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So.. in another 39 days, I can give you the grand reveal.

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Wait, wha? Seriously? A DIY cliffhanger. Here's what we'll have on our table throughout Lent, reminding us of all that we've been given and reminding us to let our goodness shine through the darkness.

The final product will be reposted here on Easter. Happy Lent!

xoxo, MJ

A Summer of Happiness: Contemplate the Heavens

                        

Hi friends! We're switching it up and moving bookclub featuring the lovely read, The Happiness Project, to today. I'll be back tomorrow with some thoughts on Mommy & Daddy School.

This week, we're thinking deep, profound thoughts as Gretchen takes on the topic of spirituality. Her resolutions for this chapter:

  • Read memoirs of a catastrophe.
  • Keep a gratitude notebook.
  • Imitate a spiritual master.

As my subtitle up in the header of this blog suggests, I love my faith, and I rely upon it, too, so this chapter was a particular treat to read and digest.

Here are some keeper ideas for you to take with you this week:

1. From William Edward Hartpole Lecky, "There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed." Oof. Yes.

2. Start a one-sentence daily journal. I love, love this idea. I've done lots of different, commitment-heavy journals, and I am intrigued by the idea of capturing a moment from the day through one simple sentence.

3. Gratitude is an important element in our happiness. Try simple ways to incorporate it like focusing on something for which you're thankful while you wait for your computer to wake up in the morning or while waiting for the coffee to brew or at the bus stop.

4. "Knowing what you admire in others is a wonderful mirror into your deepest, as yet unborn, self." Aha.

5. As a Catholic, I relished Gretchen's depiction of the life of St. Therese. I hadn't looked at her life in quite the same way. And I find it so important what Gretchen pulled out for her own path to happiness. "I set out to imitate Therese by doing a better job of acting happy when I knew that my happiness would make someone else happy."

I have so much work to do in my prayer life and spiritual journey. My focus for this week echoes Gretchen's...I will seek to show my happiness and in turn to be happy for the goodness of all those around me.

Here's a pinnable for you...and me.

What thoughts resonated with you? Do you reflect upon any spiritual masters or heroes for your daily living?

XOXO, MJ

Where did my voice go? I must find it.

Happy Friday! We did it.

I'm shifting into high gears next week with lots of time in the office, and while I'm preoccupied there will be some superheroes over here, sitting behind the keyboard at Pars Caeli. They hail from Ireland, Italy, as well as the Northeast and deep South of the beautiful USA (what a lovely melting pot) and these ladies have come armed with dazzling photos, DIYs, calls to action, and even a fancy pants Vlog (first one here ever!!) to keep you coming back for more. Yes, I am cool by association.

I will be popping in to relieve my stress and to say hey so please, please be sure to continue your happy commenting trend. And when I do return, I'm coming back with fireworks ablazin' with a great giveaway and a pool party for the 4th on this here blog (I hope my Mac can handle all that chlorine).

Before we head into the weekend, let me leave you with some great ideas I glistened from my new friend, Jennifer Cooper. Jen is a super talented lady, founder/designer behind Ellie Bellie Kids, editor of Classic Play, and a generous teacher over at the Alt Channel. I was a fortunate student in her class, Writing and Finding Your Voice, and I want to share some great takeaways for you and your writing (whether it be blog, papers, emails, books, or tweets!).

One thing before I give you these 5 golden rings...true confession: before starting a blog, I never really thought about the fact that I'd have to WRITE it. My mom said to me, "The blog will be a great way for you to write and share your ideas." I say, "Well, I don't always have to write. Sometimes I'll just share pictures or things I love or, you know, other stuff." My eloquence started early. And so, here I am, baby blogger, totally in the tornado of writing an ample amount, every day.

Who knew?

Oh, wait, you all did, didn't you? Well, why didn't you tell me?

So, get our those handbags, here's what we've got.

1. Less is more.


I can be a total stream of consciousness kind of girl, and I need to fight that tendency because...you people are precious and your time is the best. So this is a good reminder. Less is fresh.

2. You want to have a certain level of intimacy with your audience.


While shirking away from challenging topics and leaving out the gory details might make for happier posts, the writer needs to establish an intimacy with the reader. I think this is why the "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" blogging series really hits it out of the park. It feels like we're all up late together eating Suzy Qs in our PJs. 


3. Remind your readers who you are – recap your best posts or your philospophy.


Sometimes I forget that you're not in my head. And so reiterating why I started a series of posts or explaining why my family decided to do something in particular would be helpful to move the story along and connect the dots (I always enjoyed the alphabetical connect the dots as much as the numbered ones, how about you?).

4.  Carry a notebook.

 
I started doing this when I started blogging, and I find it really helpful to catch thought bubbles that burst way too quickly. And I have to prohibit any to do lists in such notebook otherwise it brings stress instead of inspiration. 
 **this one is my fave: 

5.  A great idea poorly written is better than a bad idea written brilliantly.


Jen has oodles of other ideas and great recommendations on folks who do this well.  Pop over tomorrow night when she's at it again. Check it here. Grab yourself a glass of red wine and get ready to learn. I think you might just find your voice.

Happy weekend, friends. I hope it's a bright one. Meetcha here on Monday where we'll be living La Bella Vita. Do not miss it. :)

XOXO, MJ

P.S. For those of you interested, I'm starting a new weekly series focusing on faith and family. Once I graduate out of the baby blogger phase, and understand feeds and menus more, you'll be able to subscribe to this feature in particular. Until then I'll just try to remind you. "Ready to Pray" will link to the readings of the week and offer an activity and/or questions you can use with your kiddos (or yourself) to help them understand and engage in Mass. I haven't quite decided what's the best day to post these so I welcome your feedback there. This first installment will be coming at you on Saturday!! Happy inspires.

Pentecost Pinwheels

Happy Friday! We made it to the holiday weekend. Can you believe it?

We celebrate Memorial Day, and in my faith tradition, we'll be celebrating Pentecost (50 days after Easter), too. It's the birthday of the Church...so we're going to party!

We're making Pentecost Pinwheels. Ever since I was a little girl, shopping with my mother, I have been fascinated with pinwheels. When I used to whine and fuss, she'd treat me to a simple pinwheel and my world would be made.

This is very much a Macgyver craft. All you need is a square piece of paper, scissors, a pin, and a straw (or pencil with eraser top). For our craft we crafted with our unused Chick-Fil-A straws (from dinner last night) and sparkly pipe cleaners, too.

I was inspired when I saw Jennifer's use of the pinwheel to explain the work of the Holy Spirit, and I also wanted to include the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit since both of my little ladies have been learning about them in school lately.

So, to all pinwheel newbies, no worries. Here's what you do: