Monday, December 26, 2011

Busy Hands

I love my Book Club.  I think everyone needs a book club. 

Our activity for December was a celebration- we watched the long version of Pride and Prejudice (the only way to go if you are watching a film version of P & P) and we all worked on various projects- wrapping, Christmas card making, finishing gifts, etc.  It was such a nice way to spend an evening.

We tend to keep busy during book club- with us it is ok to crochet a scarf while discussing plot line, or to craft some personalized magnets while talking about character development.  Our hands are at work while we are talking and enjoying each others' company, much like would have been true for the women of our past.  Why doesn't everyone do this anymore?  I suppose that part of the reason is that our work has changed.  Typing on a laptop is not as conducive to conversation as mending a hem. 

My friend Betsy reflected on our busy hands towards the end of this post.  I appreciated her ideas about handiwork, face to face communication, and how we can bring back a bit of the personal touches that our world has seem to lost.

I, for one, am all for bring back sewing circles, quilting bees, canning parties (or the modern version thereof).  Let's make our work a celebration of life and friendship and family.  Let's cherish the people surrounding us and invest ourselves in them more.  Let's make sure that even when our hands are busy that we are focused not on the object of our work but the recipient of the work.  Busy hands, and full hearts.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." ~Colossians 3:23

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #5

Last night, I was coerced into sleeping at my parents' house, even though I hadn't packed for an overnight stay.  Because I had to lector at Christmas morning Mass at my church, this morning found me waking up way too early and driving home.  It was still dark as I made the trip, with just a tinge of light on the horizon.

Knowing that the rest of the day would be crazy, I took those quiet moments to steal a little bit of prayer.  The dark of early day made me think about Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  Christ had been born, and I wonder how long St. Joseph and Mary got to share in the quiet moments of being a Family of three.  I imagine it wasn't long before the innkeeper came around to check on the couple he hastily found a place for during the night, or maybe the stableboy came to care for the animals at the break of day.  We know of course that the Holy Family was later visited by shepherds and magi. But what was it like for the Blessed Mother and her husband, gathered around the manger, adoring their God come to earth during that Bethlehem dawn?

At Mass, my pastor Fr. Tom reflected on why the Messiah would come as a helpless baby.  Instead of citing Old Testament prophecies, or quoting the intelligence of Church fathers, he kept it very simple.  He said that babies love and are meant to be loved.  Our Christ was no different.  He came as an infant so that the very first impression we would have of Emmanuel would be that of a helpless babe, who desires our love and doesn't judge.

So, I imagine that as the sun rose over that new baby, his mom and foster dad we looking in awe, and adoration, at Love.  Pure Love.  Light came into the stable, and into their hearts, and the same can happen for all of mankind.

Merry Christmas!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." ~John 1:1-5

How We Celebrate Christmas Eve- Part 3

So after attempting to take some nice Christmas pictures, me, Emily, and the future Mr. & Mrs. Zimmerman and I finally got the green light to head home again.

Nothing super exciting happened in the next few hours.

There was cleaning.
And decorating.
And cooking.
And napping.

Your best guesses on which members of the family did what.

Anyways, then my dad's side of the family came over, and we shared an overabundance of
hors de oeuvres and delicious soups.

candid on the couch
We ate too much food.
We opened gifts.
And then photographer Stephanie decided that we need another "nice picture" of the fam.

This was the attempt.

Little R reached a meltdown at this point of the evening.  Steph made a valiant attempt to coerce her cooperation. But, to no avail.

We started packing up and the family that was not crashing here for the night began to leave.

Then, I looked over and had time to explore the gifts my family received.  And realized that my dad got a sweater vest. And he was wearing it. A. Sweater. Vest.

To be clear, my dad wears nothing of the kind.  No sweaters, no vests, no scarves, and only coats when it is -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

This moment needed pictures.
We convinced him that the sweater vest would look good with a man scarf.

He decided that he was done with picture taking, warm clothes, and daughters who wanted to play dress up.
Then he decided to play along.

And Emily got her first nice picture of the day.
Then more of us decided to join in on the nice picture phenomenon.
Steph and Steve.  Proving that plaids and stripes do go together.
Me and my mama.
A "Nice Picture" isn't it?

 We then all got to open one Christmas present before bed, a tradition we have had for as long as I can remember.  We always get a cute new pair of warm pajamas to wear to bed on Christmas Eve.  (except for the Robe Incident of '07, but we don't talk about that anymore).

Then, around midnight, we put baby Jesus in the manger.  (Before which, my mom yelled to us, "Can baby Jesus come out and play?"  It was hysterical.)

We all got comfy and ready to end a long and eventful day.

Just so you get one more picture, I wanted to share Steve's new "pajamas."  Apparently he has been wanting a robe for a long time, and this is the one he got.  He walked around in it all night, lamenting that he didn't have a bubble pipe and house slippers.

 I promised to get him some for his birthday.

More fun to come tomorrow, I am sure.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

How We Celebrate Christmas Eve- Part 2

You just met my sister Emily.  Let me tell you more about Stephanie.

This is Stephanie.  Many people call her Ginger.  Her man (that's him there) calls her Red.

So, we picked up Emily at the train station and then my mom called to tell us that we weren't allowed to come home yet because she was working on a Christmas surprise.  So we killed some time in Henry.  (Sidenote- We first ran into my green puffy parka wearing friend at the gas station an hour after we last saw him at the train depot.  Oh, small towns.  We also were all able to wish my upstairs neighbor from this post a very Merry Christmas.)

We went back to my apartment and decided to take some pictures. This is Emily trying to get Steph and Steve to kiss in the picture.

 Her forcible interaction did not end well.  It resulted in hair pulling and her getting pushed off the couch.
 She then decided that Steph should take a picture of us.  She wanted a nice picture.

This is us talking about the nice picture.
 This is us demonstrating our mad ninja skills after I poked her in the ribs while trying to take a "nice picture."
 This is her growling at me, "Why can't we just take a nice picture!!!"  Look at her face!
 This is the best attempt at a nice picture.  We will try again later.
 Then we went back to trying to take a "nice picture" of Steph and Steve.  This happened instead.
Do you understand what is happening?  That is Stephanie showing off something new and shiny on her left hand.  And Steven giving a thumbs up.  He asked her to grow old with him last week and we are already knee deep in September wedding plans.   Yay Steph and Steve!

Just so you know, I have already named their first four children:

Stevin (rhymes with heaven)
Stephan (like Steve Urkle's alternate ego from Family Matters)
Stefani (as in Gwen)
and Steven Jr.

More Christmas Joy to come.

How We Celebrate Christmas Eve- Part 1

I have two sisters. 

This is Emily. You will meet Stephanie in a forthcoming post.

Why is she holding a sign with her name on it, you ask?

Please allow me to tell you.

This is the Princeton Amtrak station.  Emily spent the past couple of days in Chicago-Land with her boyfriend and his family.  She decided to ride the train back home to save some gas.  She texted me last night to let me know that she needed picked up at the station at 9:20 a.m.  Ewww.  Now, normally that is not early, but since my sisters have been home, we have been staying up very late. Very. Late.  So, being up and driving 45 minutes at that time of the morning did not sound appealing. Stephanie and Steve (her man) and I decided that someone else (meaning my dad) could go and pick up the littlest B.

But then we got an idea.

Why not use this opportunity to play a prank?  After making a plan that involved a prank with this sign, we all (Katie, Steph, and Steve) decided that we were in, even if it meant that we were only going to get a few hours of sleep.
So what did we do?  We made a sign, similar to the kind people hold when they are picking up someone they don't know at the airport.  We drove to the Amtrak station early.  And we planned to find a friendly looking stranger, introduce ourselves, and ask them to hold this sign while standing on the platform when the train pulled in.  During which time, Steph, Steve, and I would stand inside the depot.  And look through the windows. And laugh at Emily's confusion.

However, apparently when it is cold, people wait in their cars, not on the platform. There were no friendly strangers to ask.

Plan #2- Steve happened to buy a welding mask yesterday.  This is the welding mask:

We wanted Steve to put on his mask, hold the sign, and stand on the platform while waiting for Emily.
He refused.  I am not sure why.

So we just decided to wait and pick her up in the normal old boring way.

But the Christmas angels smiled upon us, and in walked a nice older couple and a young man.  Then we realized that we knew them- I went to grade school with the guy.  They were there to pick up his sister, also coming in from Chicago.  We chatted and caught up and eventually he asked, "So, you are picking up your sister...what's with the sign?"  Being the dorks that we are, we explained the original idea.  Without even a pause he said, "I'm in! I'll totally hold it for you!" Just then, we heard the train whistle.

I should also tell you that my friend from grade school has grown very tall, was wearing a lime green puffy parka, and has a long, full, dark beard.

So he stood on the platform with the sign, as we crowded around the windows inside the lobby to watch.  Steve had the camera, and we hoped to catch it all on film (or actually an SD card).

It was awesome.

Emily departed the train.  She told us later that she saw the sign, thought it said her name, and decided to ignore it, because the guy holding it was freaky looking.  She kept walking, looking for her family, and after not finding us and deciding that the sign did indeed say her name, slowly walked up the the strange man.

He promptly said, "You must be Emily.  We are your ride.  Your family didn't have time to pick you up."  Her face looked something like the photo above.

At this point, we were all laughing so hard, and we didn't want her to think that she was about to be kidnapped, so we came out on the platform.  Hilarious.

However, the live action movie that we tried to film through the glass lobby windows did not turn out.  Epic fail.  Don't worry though, the moment is forever etched into our hearts.

More Christmas stories to come.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #4

1. A Song
Favorite Christmas Song Ever.

2. A Verse
“Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.” ~Romans 16:25-27

3. A Quote
“Let us follow the star of inspiration and divine attraction which calls us to the crib, and let us go thither to adore and love the Child Jesus and offer ourselves to Him.” ~St. Jane Frances de Chantal

4. An Image
Is it ok if I admit that I am dreaming of a White Christmas?

5. A Blessing
My Family.  It rocks.  And it is getting better, like a good wine does with age… or maybe more like a random collection of strange knick-knacks that is multiplying in a little old lady’s curio cabinet.  But, more on later…

6. An Intention
I’ll be praying for those whose lives do not slow down for the holidays- those who work in travel, retail, health care, etc., as well as our priests and pastors who work so hard to help provide beautiful, prayerful times of worship to celebrate Christ’s birth.

7. A Challenge
To not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas during this last week of Advent.  I will not get irritable.  I will not be impatient.  I will not slack on prayer.  I will be kind, generous, and joyful.  And I will pray now that my effort is blessed, because I am going to need all the help that I can get. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: The World’s First Love

I finally did it. After a couple of tries in the past four years, I finally finished The World’s First Love: Mary, the Mother of God.  I enjoyed reading Fulton Sheen, and I learned a lot, not only about Mary, but about the Bible, the role of the Church, and the changes in the “modern” world taking place in 1952 when the book was originally published (which apply quite accurately to 2011, too).

There was also some great info on St. Joseph, the complementary roles of men and women, and faith in relation to modern wars, politics, and technology.  I could ramble more about the highlights, but I think that you should just read it yourself.  Catholic or Protestant, I highly recommend it.  The book really centers around Christ (because let’s be honest, you can’t learn anything about Mary without learning about Him).  Her only job is to lead us into a deeper relationship with her Son.  If He is the sun, pouring out power and light on the universe, she is the moon, not creating any light of her own, but reflecting His light into a dark world.  Don’t we all desire to reflect His light in the world, to be radiant in His eyes?  I am grateful to have Mary as a model.

"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.' " ~Luke 1:46-49

“The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman.” ~Leon Bloy

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Study in Awkward

So today, I decided to inject myself with a healthy dose of humility.

And share these with you.

We'll call it "A Study in Awkward."

The Ag teacher at my old high school was cleaning things out, found these, and gave them to my mom. (thanks)

There are three things that I learned from flipping through these old photos:
1. The 2000-2002 era was not a good look for me.
2. Big bangs were a bad choice.
3. FFA award pictures are a poor representation of the organization.

What do I mean by #3?  Let's pretend you don't know anything about FFA.  Maybe we don't have to pretend.  And then you stumble across these beauties.  Awkward kids.  Wearing weird blue corduroy jackets.  Holding up ribbons.  In strange locations.  What would you think about this group called FFA?

Let's look at some test subjects: (Note: This is for my own humility, not any of the other poor victims of these pictures.  I will not reveal any of their identities...even if one or two might be blog readers...)

Subject #1:
Just look at our faces!  Do we really look like some kids who just won a really important agricultural sales contest? Nope.  And SALES?  Would you buy anything from us?  Nope.
This is actually us winning the District Ag Sales contest.  whut whut.

Subject #2:
Similarly awkward kids.  This time in front of a Christmas tree.  What are the ribbons for?  Did we just win something for decorating the tree?  Are we putting the ribbons on the tree?  Are we really elves in blue corduroy?  (those are all wrong answers, by the way)

This is actually us getting first place at the Section Crops Contest.

Subject #3:
Wait! Are you thinking same picture?  You would be wrong.  Same location.  Same contest.  Some of the same kids.  Totally different year.

This is us winning the same contest the following year.  We were on a winning streak.
Subject #4:
Here is where we start with the really weird backgrounds.  I call this one "Awkward Kids in a Parking Lot"

This is actually us getting second place at the Section Ag Mechanics Contest.  This topped the list of my personal "least favorite FFA experiences".
Subject #5:
I call this one "Awkward Kids in a Hole."  Really?  Again, if you have no idea what is going on, what does a picture of five kids standing in a big hole (wearing blue corduroy) relate to in real life? 

This is actually us after the Section Land Use Contest.  I don't know what place we got, because we are not holding any ugly plaques or ribbons.  But we probably won.  Because despite how it looks, we were awesome.
Subject #6:
And we come to my favorite.  I call this one "Awkward Kids in a Meat Locker."  Yes, a meat locker.  If you would like me to email you the original file, there is still time to make 24" x 36" prints to give as Christmas presents.  Let me know. 

This is actually us getting first place at the Section Meats Contest.  Have I mentioned that I was a vegetarian while I served on the Meats Judging Team?  Go figure.

And we come to the end.  I am feeling humble.  And like FFA needs to do some Ad campaigns.  Go visit this site if you are curious what meat lockers, Christmas trees, parking lots, and holes have to do with Agricultural Education.  And maybe sometime, I will do a little better job of filling you in.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #3

1. A Song
Make Us Ready by Harvest Bashta.  Found her courtesy of Noise Trade.  Thankyouverymuch.

2. A Verse
Sorry, it’s actually more than a verse…I kept trying to pick one line that stood out above the rest in this reading, but I couldn’t.  So you get the whole thing. I heart Isaiah.

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.
I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” ~Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11

3. A Quote
 “We must be living witnesses of the beauty and grandeur of Christianity.  To make truth visible in one’s own person, to render truth pleasing, offering oneself as a significant and, if possible, heroic example.” ~St. Gianna Beretta Molla

4. An Image

 Latte + Scripture = A Nice Sunday Afternoon

5. A Blessing
My church family comes through.  They are so supportive, and it is so nice to be taken care of, provided for, prayed over.  All I have to do is ask, and our needs are met for programs at church.  It is so great, and such a blessing that I am very, very thankful for.

6. An Intention
I'll be praying in a special way for highschoolers and college students who are preparing for or taking finals this week and next.  I don't miss those times.
On that note, congrats to my dear friends L & K who have officially finished their masters' programs! Yay, ladies!

7. A Challenge
This week, I am going to continue a recently started run of praying a scriptural Rosary every day.  Quiet time, meditating on snippets of the life of Christ is a very good thing for me to be doing right now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Heart of Christmas

Anybody get a chance to watch The Heart of Christmas on GAC this weekend?

I haven't seen it yet, but I hope to sometime soon.  Its pretty cool that Dax Locke from right here in Central Illinois is reaching so many people.

You also can get Matthew West's song "The Heart of Christmas" free on itunes this week!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our Youth Group Rocks

I challenged my youth group kids last night to think about what it would be like if Jesus was going to be born THIS Christmas.  How would the story look different?  How would the communication between the characters change?  I gave them a few scenes that we are all familiar with, and this is what they came up with:

They are quite creative.  I love their attention to detail- like the St. Patrick's stamp on the Annunciation letter (because this would have happened 9 months before Christmas-even if they got the date wrong :)) and that Mary's phone number is made up of "holy" numbers from scripture (7, 40, 3, 12, 1, 70).  I personally enjoyed St. Elizabeth's phone number.  The Facebook "like" from the shepherds got the biggest laugh.

I love my job.

Here is a shot of the "idea" cards the kids used with Scripture references to help them research:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #2

1. A Song

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Christy Nockels

2. A Verse
“Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.” ~2 Peter 3:8-10

3. A Quote
“The torch of faith has been given to us not to delight our eyes but to enkindle the torches of our fellow men.  Unless we burn and are on fire for the Divine Cause, a glacial invasion will sweep the earth which will be the end, for ‘The Son of Man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?’” ~ Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

4. An Image
Beautiful, huh? I was there this fall.  It is even prettier on the inside, and I love the JP2 statue that they have in honor of World Youth Day in Denver.

Happy Patronal Feast Day on Thursday!  It's also my parish's feast day and the feast day for the United States.

5. A Blessing
Christmas parties:  Good food, good drink, good people.  The lights, the decorations, the hospitality. Sharing joy, love, and fellowship.  Gotta love ‘em.

6. An Intention
As we are celebrating a season of Mary’s expectation, I will be praying specifically for all of my expectant friends, L, B, R, & S, especially.

7. A Challenge
This week I plan to work on opportunities to speak the truth whenever possible.  If I am singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and believe that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” and agree that we should work to “enkindle the torches of our fellow men” as if we “are on fire for the Divine Cause”, what am I doing to prove it?

Thursday, December 1, 2011