Posts tagged prayer
Celebrate the Normal: The contagious

Week 16 and now 310 pictures have been submitted in the Celebrate the Normal series. You all are unbelievable in your keen sense of capturing moments and emotions. I love that this continuum has allowed creators and artists the space to share what could be put in the box of the everyday but is instead elevated to the beautiful.

I'm going to hold you captive for just a moment before I show off this week's captures.

And it's been a recent (though not new) epidemic going around our house.

You may have heard of it; likely you've experienced in extensive ways in your years walking the earth.

It's fear. And it's a strange connection, that place where fear and celebration comingle.

Let me take you through two quick scenarios that happened in my house this week...

Scenario #1: My eldest is fearful of bike riding. The prospect of having to balance on her bicycle and not fall brings her quickly to tears and a whole bunch of anxiety. In fact she's been so terrified that she been talking and talking to her little sister about how dangerous riding a bike is, and she's mentioned and shown off all the bumps and scrapes she's received (and attaching the label - From biking - in her head).

The confidante, her younger sister who last summer was breezing by us all on her two-wheeler with training wheels has developed a new fear of falling from her bike. Her imagination from too-careful listening has made her unable to enjoy riding and now we have two fearful bike riders.

Scenario #2: When my younger daughter gets sick, she most likely suffers from a bad cough or sore throat. During a winter doctor's appointment for an acute case of symptoms, she got to experience the strep swab. The fear that this procedure may happen again has brought a new found concern into our house.

And so when her little brother was sick with a bad cough, and she warned him and warned him about how scary the doctor's office is, and how he'll have to get something down his throat, he began crying at the announcement that he was going to the doctor. He asked amidst his sobs if he'd have to get something in his throat. And a new fear is born.

Fear can be contagious.

When we generalize from our own helplessness and project that others will also develop the same fears we have, we make the transmittal route from one young mind to another a slick and easy pathway.

And yet what is more normal than fear? To think that we will never fear or inadvertently pass along our fear is naive at best.

As someone who has had fear sitting next to me for many years, I have 2 thoughts to share on using fear well.

1. Own it. Stop yourself before you make the blanket statement that snakes are absolutely terrifying, that needles produce the deepest pains, that giant hairy monsters live under your bed in the dark. And turn that fear into a personal story rather than a generalized truth.

I have no psychology in my background, so this is just speaking from my mom life - when fear becomes a personal story that you share and a vulnerability to open, it takes the sting and even the shock away from those around you. And the anxiety has a space to be released. Bonuses all around.

2. I recently heard a mentor talk about stumbling blocks in our lives: disappointment, rejection, fear, etc. Often these roadblocks keep us from becoming and being the people that we want to be. They can also intrude on our sense of the divine and our connection with God.

Plenty of times, I've been too distracted to pray. Sometimes I feel fearful or ashamed that God thinks less of/loves me less. Sometimes I'm angry and convinced that my way would have turned out better.

My mentor suggested, as his mentor had suggested to him... in these times of struggle with silence and with prayer... make it simple.

Are you angry today? Make that your first line of prayer (eg: "God, I am angry today, and I don't understand how to let it go)

Are you scared or ashamed? (eg; "God, I'm scared today. I'm afraid...")

And I have found that beginning with the placement of the fear right in the beginning of my prayer conversation takes away the power that fear sometimes possesses. I dare you to try it.

So let's celebrate fear this week. When we normalize it and celebrate it, the horror is released, and you and I can, in fact, relate on a deeper, more meaningful level.

It's a family affair! ~ Lidy

First cuddle with her granddaughter ~ erin_lily

July 27 ~ roglows

The sun was setting on my way home and lighting the sky on fire. ~ Mere

Farmer's market love ~ Paige

Big fragrance, saturated color ~ M.J.

Received all these wonderful cards within the past week or so. ~ Brittani

Enjoying fresh air ~ Julia

Love it when packages come with a Thank You ~ Eden

And via Twitter, Dani: Just had a delicious dinner by my favorite chef, . Now watching jr w/my smalls.

Let's have week of bravery, friends!

xoxo, MJ

Chat It Up: Empty

Hey friends, good to be back with you. I took the Monday after Easter off to hang out with my kiddos and plan some birthday celebrations for the hubby. He's an April fool baby, but we left the pranks behind for some endearing homemade cards and cake. If you follow Pars Caeli on Instagram, you saw our Easter egg hunt prep. I'm happy to report that all of our nearly 100 eggs were found in the backyard, and we had a fun, child-friendly Easter with good friends.

Despite a ton of work and blog projects-in-waiting, I kept away from my computer for four days straight. I had to be intentional about it, resisting urges to finish this or check in on that. Much like the Christian example of Christ's empty tomb after the Resurrection, I needed some time not to be filled - with ideas, updates, posts, and content. Time to be still.

I live in Indiana. I was not born here, nor did I grow up here, but one aspect of this great state, like many in the Midwest and West, is that it overflows with emptiness. As a student here, I was often bored and disappointed by the flat, wide expanse of soybeans and corn farms. As a professional and occupied mom, I now find this openness a great relief from the buzz and clutter of the rest of my life. My eyes long for the stretches of natural sameness that provides peace to my soul.

I read this article posted over on 99U entitled, What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space, and I resonated with both the needs and the very practical ideas for adding more emptiness to your life. When during your day or even your week are you, "completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption?"

My heart sunk just a little with this excerpt:

Our insatiable need to tune into information – at the expense of savoring our downtime – is a form of “work” (something I call “insecurity work”) that we do to reassure ourselves.

I am guilty of clicking on blog stats and comments to boost my temporal feelings of insecurity as a friend, as a mom, as a designer. Perhaps just sitting with the emptiness is what is really called for.

As a younger person, I excelled at silence, taking the time to lay on the grass and watch cloud formations, spending time in a silent retreat, practicing the mindset and exercise of yoga. Somewhere between marriage, children, and social media, the quiet has been lost, and I'm hoping to find it.

Karen over at Chookooloonks offered this thought that I want to pass along.

Pay attention to things that connect you with joy.


Go over and read what Karen's got to say, because girlfriend has got it together. And I think this idea of connecting to your joy and finding the empty are intergrally intertwined.

So here's what I'd like to hear from you, lovelies, do you need quiet in your life to create, to move forward? If so, how do you find it or return to it?

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


Prepping for Advent: Make a Jesse Tree

Friends, have you noticed? Christmas is just around the corner. This Sunday marks the first Sunday in Advent. It's the first of four Sundays that lead us right into Christ's birth.

I've seen so many adorable Advent calendars (that begin on Dec. 1) like this one, and I want to share a different kind of countdown we use in our house. I made these for my parish with about 100 other families last year, and it's a super fun family craft to make and keep for years to come.

Have you heard of a Jesse Tree? It's a way to get the kids involved in the countdown to Christmas while learning more about the family tree of Jesus. Through each ornament, from creation through the Old Testament. Usually a Jesse Tree would be made from branches with ornaments hung from the branches. We made ours in the form of a banner that can be easily stored from year to year.

We used our family hands to create the tree. With our family of five, we had each person trace their right and left forearm and hand. We became the branches from which the (velcroed) ornaments hang. I adore that I will have those little hands forever captured as the tiniest of branches.


Wanna make one? Here's what you need:

  • 1 yard of purple felt (it's a traditional Advent color)
  • 1 yard of brown felt for the limbs and trunk
  • Printed or drawn symbol ornaments
  • Velcro to attach
  • Dowel and ribbon/twine to hang.
  • Fabric glue or hot glue

Lay out your felt and trace forearms and hands. Cut out and arrange limbs on purple felt. Cut out a rectangular trunk to fill out the bottom of the tree. Glue down. Print and cut symbols. Laminate and add adhesive velcro (only one side is needed to stick to the felt) to the backs. Wrap the top two inches of the purple felt around the wooden dowel and glue down the edge. Knot off twine or ribbon from the dowel to hang. Viola! Keep your waiting ornaments in an envelope near your prayer booklet until they're ready to be used.

Currently our ornaments are paper. My oldest daughter has expressed a desire to recreate the images so I'm looking forward to capturing her artwork this year or next and making these circles a little bit more time-resistant.


All of these supplies are incredibly easy and affordable for bulk buying if you want to make a lot of Jesse trees at once with your Church or school group.

The Diocese of Erie has a lot of helpful Advent resources, and our ornaments and the booklet I created came from their writings. Find the complete set of reflections plus small and large versions of the ornaments here. All of the illustrations by Carolyn Pikoulas and text by Anne-Marie Welsh for Faith magazine, published by the Diocese of Erie.

Ann Voskcamp and Nancy Rodden also have a great free printable book that includes full color illustrations of each symbol and examples of very cute felt ornaments can be found over at a Shower of Roses.

Here's the copy of the booklet I created for our Church and our home. We keep it on the dinner table and add an ornament every evening (when we also add a piece to the Nativity scene and light the Advent wreath - we're all about evening traditions). The booklet takes you through what symbol to add for the day and even bring the Scripture in so that you only have to go to one place for the reading and reflection. I promise the this ritual won't add more than 2 minutes to your dinner time, and you might be surprised by how quickly this activity helps (you and) your children get a handle on the major stories of the Bible.


How do you count down the days? Do you have a special calendar or tradition to take you through Advent?


Ready to Pray

Hi friends,

I'm hoping to find a better way to get myself and my kiddos ready for Sundays. Our pastor made the suggestion a few weeks ago that we should all take the time to digest the readings before we come into Church. I've done this here and there, but I thought it would be so much more worthwhile to do it as a family.

This week we pulled out the Ipad and went to this website to find what we would hear at Sunday's liturgy. M was able to read the psalm and C and L waited patiently to see what we'd be doing after we were done with all this listening. :)

This week we celebrate the Nativity of John the Baptist, 6.24.12

Here are some questions and thoughts to discuss as a family:

1. What is a Nativity? Who was John the Baptist?

2. Why is his birth/his life an important one?

Our activity involved the psalm for this week which is one of my very favorites.

Feel welcome to download our idea sheet here.  I had one sheet for each child and we spent 15 minutes brainstorming, writing, and drawing everything good that God made about each of us.

I found it a really powerful exercise to do with each of them. I offered ideas of wonderfulness they had not thought of, and I was reminded of other great talents that had not shown themselves lately. We also spent time talking about how we should appreciate what God has given us, even when we want our hair to be more curly like our friend's or we want to be taller like another friend. God has made us wonderful.

Happy Sunday, friends. Hope to post more of these each week as we challenge ourselves to dig deeper into God's word.