Posts tagged reflection
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

In consideration of silence

I'm an ENFJ. For those of you that follow personality tests and self-reflection exercises, those initials come from the Myers-Briggs. That E in the front reflects Extroversion, and I am just barely (by one tiny point) an extrovert. Depending on the setting and mood I'm in (smile), I can gain a lot of energy from being with people. And on other occasions, I become quickly tired by groups and crowds.

In the big, loud culture of the United States, I find myself longing for silence.

I once spent three days in complete silence - by choice. A friend and I drove down to the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky. We had decided to stay with the monks as guests for three days and follow along their daily rhythms. By that I mean, no speaking, sunrise/noonday/sunset/evening prayers, and simple community meals.

For the first 24 hours I thought I was going mad. The need to say something - anything - seemed bigger than I could squelch.

This time away predated the rise of the smart phone, but I still felt the urge to fill the silence with the radio, my own hummings, even noises from my simple guest room furniture.

As the monks informed us upon entrance, it usually takes at least 24 hours to quiet your mind. My first day was much less peaceful and relaxing than I had imagined.

But by day two I felt my body accepting the softness of silence. The quiet was healing. Giving myself the time to be in my own skin.

What are your thoughts on silence?

What role does silence play these days? If our hearing is not already filled up with TV ads and shows, new albums from the latest bands, phones that beep/buzz, where can the silence come in.

I am slowly teaching my children to appreciate the quiet ouside of themselves in order to find the quiet inside.

Could you do it? Remain silent and quiet for an afternoon? A day? A week? Perhaps it's what you've always wanted or your worst nightmare.

xoxo, MJ

Itty Bitty Lovelies: Wisdom Words

Hello to you, lovelies. It was a great four-day break for me with some adventures in Chicago and playtime all around. I feel refreshed and grateful for all that has been. My laptop sat lonely for four whole days (almost a personal record), and I received an encouraging message from my boss on my smartphone, instructing me to stop checking messages. So, so... just what I needed.

Time away has prompted me to want to share some words of wisdom I've found floating around in recent days. I've gathered a little something for the bloggers, for the parents, and for the human beings. Tee hee.

1. Practical ways to juggle job and blogging

Many of my favorite blogs are authored and designed by talented folks who blog full-time. Many others are hosted by folks like myself trying to squeeze in and maximally organize life so that there is time for blogging and commenting thoughtfully. Sometimes it just seems like too much.

I found this post by Jessica from MomCreative really helpful for moms and non-moms who are trying to balance all the other areas in addition to blogging. Check out her ideas for the "fringe hours."

2. The freedom to just be

You all know that Jennifer of Classic Play is a rockstar, right? Well, if you need more proof, check out this ode to parents she posted last week. Let me lead you on with a yummy morsel:

“Parents, just do your thing and be happy. You don’t have to rationalize why you do or don’t: craft, have your kids play sports, design your kids’ room, feed your kids whatever, do after school activities, etc. Life’s too short. Some people like to do those sorts of things, some don’t. It’s okay. We shouldn’t all be doing the same thing anyway. Diversity is good.”

And a sigh of relief passed over. Be sure to check out the great comments she had to her post, too.

3. Rest is called for.

Anne of Anne the Adventurer has been writing all sorts of posts that I've loved. This is one that she crafted on rest, and it is for all of us to heed. She also designed up one of my favorite scripture passages. Go check it out and promise that you'll listen to what you need.

My little lovely for you:

Learn from great nail stylists, and offer hand massages. My kiddos have been suffering from too much hand sanitizer and very dry hands so I massaged some great smelling, mandarin orange scented lotion into their hands and forearms for about five minutes each. This small (but relatively long for a 5-year old) act was met with tender appreciation and gave to me a chance to sit and chat with the people I love best.

Wishing you loads of joy this week and heaps of cleansing rest.

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?


Happy Kiddos: Where we are

That's my little one, or I should say my oldest daughter, M. She's really into trying new styles with her longer hair, and this is her beautifully designed and executed side bun. She accomplished this smooth styling on her first try.

She has since tried it five, six, ten, maybe even twenty-five times with no success. Sometimes the ponytail bubbles or she can't hold all the layers tight as she wraps the holder around the mound of hair. Other times she thinks she has it all wound just as she wants it, only to step down from the stool and have it all fall out.

And as much as I get frustrated with her for spending so much time on something I consider an unnecessary concern for a seven year old, I had the opportunity to be in her shoes these last 24 hours.

I'm writing this with my Z pack of antibiotics next to me as I battle through a third round of strep throat in three months. I have never had strep prior to this year! M is upstairs sleeping off a bad bout with a gastrointestinal bug that dehydrated her and kept her out of school for a couple of days.

I like my challenges to be neat and tidy. I like it when there's a clear solution to a problem. I like to move quickly to resolution.

Illnesses, your own and more poignantly your children's or loved one's, remind me that life is not about everything fitting neatly into the bun. Life is messy and complicated and tragic and annoying and beautiful and unbelievably amazing all mashed up together in a great big bowl.

As M was struggling to calm her nerves and stomach pains last night, she asked me to rub her feet. As a baby she'd always loved having her feet massaged, and I have many rosy mental pictures of her smiling baby face, enjoying the snuggles.

But she's a big second grader now, and she's independent and already letting me know where she does and does not want my help.

But for one night I was allowed to sit on her bed and rub her feet again. I got to watch her perfect face fall asleep and peek over as her little sister, all curled up under her covers, slept soundly unaware that anything was amiss.

I knew it was one of those moments I'd treasure because it felt so fragile, so fleeting, and so precious.

I had plans and I had lists of things to do that just didn't happen, and instead I now have a warm memory of my slumbering little girls and an unexpected moment of grace.

And I have an appreciation for all those happenings that don't fit in my neat and proper bun.

And I'm grateful.


Grown-Up Goodness: Allowing Space for the New

Hi friends! I'd like to share a little something that's been on my mind. It's called:



Are you ready for something new? A breath of crisp, cool air to offer a new vibrancy to your life?

The start of the school year and the beginning of Fall have always been a time of renewal for me. The cycle begins again, and we have a myriad of opportunities for a fresh start.

One of my coworkers and friends, Ricky, shared this reflection with me last week (thank you!) that has had me thinking ever since. The theme was beginnings.The idea (from the book of Revelation) for each of us to take to heart is that God promised to make all things new again–no matter where we are, what we're fighting right now, or what's holding us back.

Whether I recognized it or not, I've typically imagined recharging and regrowth as these first two:

And, therefore, I've sometimes felt renewed one moment and totally frustrated the next.

What if I can't just start fresh??

Life and relationships are complex and just because I try to begin something with new perspectives, does not mean I can always set out a blank canvas. Challenges and trials leave their brush strokes.

Perhaps these other two ways of seeing a new might evoke a different response:

Perhaps, with grace, our ugly, tired experiences help shape the new life we are meant to live.

Perhaps it's not so much about striving to create the nearly impossible, bright shiny and new.

Perhaps we are to refashion and reforge the almost hidden goodness, disguised as the big, fat problems that we've been offered.

What are you starting new? Do you have enough space in your life, mind, and heart to try something? If not, how will you make that space?

Here are two that I'm thinking of today:

1. Living a creative life with structure and finding ways to form habits so that new life and ideas might grow.

2. Ending a few good involvements to make way for the life-giving, amazing ones on the way.

Are you ready for something new?