Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peace on Earth

With Christmas in our midst, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the joy of the reason for this season of light and love: the birth of Jesus. In His miraculous birth, there are so many things to learn from, to take away. One of the things that has resonated within my heart this year is, quite simply, peace. In the gospel of the St. Luke it is written:

"And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
--Luke 2:11, 13-14

This is one of those passages that's so well known, it's almost easy to skip over, as we turn our thoughts to more prominent aspects of the birth story. Yet this single statement is so incredibly important; the Lord comes to Earth to bring peace. I realize I'm certainly not the first one to reflect on the importance of peace during the Christmas season. It's a key component to say the least, one that Christians and non-Christians alike can agree on and desire. Knowing this is one thing, but what can we do to help cultivate Christmas peace in our lives? And how might we hope to leave a lasting impact on the world in our own unique way? What exactly does this mean?

One of the resources I've been reading throughout Advent is Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas. In this little book Morneau sheds some light quite beautifully on the subject of peace as he states:

Peace is not just the absence of strife but the presence of compassion and forgiveness. Peace is not fearful passivity but loving perseverance to reconcile and heal. Peace is not enforced by one's power but celebrated in mutual respect and generosity. Peace is not the province of the powerful but the responsibility of all "men and women of goodwill." Peace exalts humility, poverty, simplicity, service. The economy of peace is built on justice for all and the dignity of the most vulnerable.

I just loved the application of peace in this passage. In these few sentences we have a road map of things we can actually do as "men and women of goodwill." We can live out peace through acts of service. We can be peacemakers through our respect, our generosity, through simple and humble living. By living life with a spirit of forgiveness and compassion we are committing acts of peace.

Morneau also points out that peace is not passive, but rather quite proactive. Sometimes we might think of peace-makers as being somewhat...wimpy or soft. But embodying peace is not cowering in fear or bowing down. It requires inner strength and perseverance. To be an effective peace-maker we must endure as we strive for justice and raise up the vulnerable. Indeed, peace-making is not for the faint of heart. Morneau points out something else very important--being a peace-maker is not only reserved for people in positions of power, but is the responsibility of us all. Each and every one of us is called to strive for peace. It's what God requires of us as Christians. It's what we're called to do on earth.

So as we light our candles, sing songs of joy and partake in the festivities of this beautiful season, let's all do our part to be peacemakers. Live out generosity and kindness. Let your heart swell with forgiveness and gratitude. Serve others in need. Fight for justice. And pray to Jesus, The Prince of Peace, that He may ignite your heart and kindle a real and present desire for peace on Earth.

shared with:

Raising Homemakers

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Heaven is Like...

{Luke's drawing of the gates of heaven}

I overheard the boys talking to each other the other day. They were discussing what heaven must be like. I got the biggest kick out of their little conversation, and just had to share it:

Adam: We're gonna play FOREVER and EVER up in heaven when we die.

Luke: Well, there aren't any toys up in heaven, but that's ok 'cause we'll be grown-ups and grown-ups don't really play with toys all that much.

Well, there you have it! In heaven heaven you apparently get to play all the time. But just not with toys. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

When Your Christmas Season Doesn't Quite Go as Planned...

I feel defeated, like a failure. We've all been sick--10 days of us coughing, sneezing, wheezing over mugs of hot tea and chicken broth. One day running into another, endless blur of just. getting. through. And though I've been sick along with the rest of them, my three sick kids and husband, still this mother's guilt creeps in, setting up camp in my tired and weary soul. Did I do enough? Could I have been more fun? Could I have been...more? There's been T.V. viewing. Lots of it. One hour running into the next just trying to steal a moment's rest. They've eaten horribly. Pop Tarts for breakfast, frozen food dinners, home cooked meal scattered in between whenever I could muster the strength. And I wonder, "Could I have tried harder?" Might I have soothed brows better, cuddled more? Do these three children of mine feel nurtured enough? The claws of perfection dig deep and I'm left reeling. A mother is supposed to give, be selfless, but what happens when the well of giving runs dry, too parched and weary to flow? Will these children feel less loved?

Oh the plans I had-such grand plans! Plans of baking, spying Christmas lights on winding streets, wreath-lit evening devotions, books read cuddled on couch, carol sings. 10 Days gone from this short Advent season of light, love and preparation. But reality falls short of my expectations and I am left deflated from the disappointment of it all.

I can't get this lost time back, so I try to make the most of it. The boys regain more strength and I pull out a Christmas book of activities to do. Voice still gone, I can't yet read or do much of anything, but this, this we can do. We can draw together, color, create.

Light returns to the boy's eyes as antibiotics run their course. They seem excited to be at the table again, focused on the task at hand. Markers poised they excitedly dive in, creating pictures of Christmas cookies and toy shop windows.

Adam, my four year old, runs over to me, so proud of his completed work. "Mommy, I've made mine glow! Come look in the dark with me to see my picture light up!"

We close the door, room gone all black. We look. Out of the dark appears luminous strokes of light. Beautiful simple child's strokes aglow. We stand together, admiring the light of his creation. "Isn't it beautiful Mommy? Don't you love it?" The streaks of light all run together as eyes leak water at this moment of realization, this beautiful simple lesson.

We are not the perfection, we are not the light. We grasp and flail in the dark, trying to find our way, trying so hard to get things just right. And when we feel like we've failed, He illuminates. Grace, this light that shines through the darkness, illuminating the night, renewing and giving us the strength to begin again. And I know, then and there, it is enough. I have done enough. I let this sink in, drinking up this light in the dark. This season of wonder can be enough all on its own, so long as we let Him illuminate. Cookies and carols and packages of gold are just the extras, the icing. But all that we truly need is to feel His love. To be still and wonder at this miracle birth.

We embrace together in the dark, this beautiful boy of mine and me, basking in The Light. Etching this moment in my memory, I've never felt more filled with the light of Christmas than here and now in this moment of simple joy. And in this moment I am made whole again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

10 Ways to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day!

Did you know that St. Nicholas day is almost here? It's December 6th which is less than a week away! St. Nicholas Day is a big deal around our house. I love the example he sets of selfless giving to those in need as we prepare for Christmas. If you don't usually participate in any St. Nicholas traditions, you might want to include him in your Advent season! If you're not familiar with who St. Nicholas was or any of the traditions surrounding him, you should take a look at: There is a whole slew of information about him and suggested ways to celebrate his feast day. I just wanted to share a few ways our family celebrates:

1) Read books together!
We have a couple of wonderful books about the life of St. Nicholas and the famous stories about him. I highly recommend this one:

St Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend

2)Discuss the history and symbols of St. Nicholas:

There are several rich traditions and symbols that originate with St. Nicholas (or at least his story had something to do with them!). It's wonderful to celebrate these symbols and discuss their meanings together. Just to name a few: leaving stockings by the fireplace (evolved from the gold coin story of St. Nick), placing an orange in stockings (represents bag of gold), giving chocolate gold coins (symbol of the bag of gold St. Nicholas gave to the 3 daughters), candy canes (symbol of St. Nicholas' crozier.).

image source

3) Make Candy Cane Treats!
Ads I just mentioned, candy canes are a symbol of St. Nicholas' crozier. They're a fun (and yummy!) way to spread a little cheer in the spirit of St. Nick. There are literally hundreds of things to do with candy canes from sugar cookies, to peppermint bark to simply popping one in a mug of hot cocoa. One of my new fave recipes using candy canes is this deliciousness:

White Chocolate Peppermint Crunch

4. Leave out Your Shoes!
One of my personal favorite traditions is having the kids leave their shoes outside their bedroom door to see what treats await the next morning! It's such a fun way to spread a little Christmas cheer before the actual day rolls around We always put chocolate gold coins in their shoes as well as few other little goodies. The kids love it!

6. Make a St. Nicholas Bank

In the spirit of giving, which is at the heart of celebrating St. Nicholas, we put all of our spare change into our St. Nicholas bank throughout Advent. At the end of the season we make a donation to a charity in the amount we've collected. I'm so sad I don't have a picture of our St. Nicholas bank to show you--it seems to have gotten lost! :( Sadly I wasn't able to locate it in our Christmas bins this year. It was really cute and had several decoupaged images of St. Nicholas on it. We're just using a plain box for now but if I get a chance to make another one I promise to post it! (A decoupaged jar would be a fun, too!)

7. Give your Chocolate Coins some Flair!
As I mentioned before we like to give chocolate coins to the kids each year on St. Nicholas Day to symbolize the gold he gave the 3 daughters. This year I found the cutest St. Nicholas circular print-outs to affix to the coins on Pinterest, which I am definitely going to use! How cute! Get yours here.

Aren't they great?!
(image source)

8) Watch a Movie!

There are some great movies about St. Nicholas out there. One of my personal favorites for kids is:

Veggie Tales: St. Nicholas

9) Make some Crafts!
Crafts are always a wonderful way to celebrate any holiday! If you do some googling you will find several cute St. Nicholas crafts around. A couple of my favorites (found at Catholic Icing-a wonderful site for Christian craft ideas!) are:

Chocolate St. Nicholas

Paper St. Nicholas Miters:

10) Pray!
And last but certainly not least say a prayer to St. Nicholas as a family. Pray to become more like him--to live out his spirit of giving and generosity. Pray to remain focused on the true meaning of Christmas--of loving the Lord and serving one another.

image source

I hope this helped give you a few ideas on how to celebrate St. Nicholas Day this year!

shared with:

Top Ten {Tuesday}

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