Posts filed under Advent

Our Family's Jesse Tree: A Beautiful Advent Resource for Busy Families

It's an open secret in my household that I'm a wannabe Catholic Pinterest mama who occasionally manages to pull off a cool feast day or seasonal celebration. I'm crafty... but also overwhelmed by all the liturgical awesome when it requires me to be hands-on. So when Advent approaches, I feel equal parts Tin Man and She-Ra; ready for the challenge (bring it!) but really wishing I had someone to keep me put together.

This tendency of mine rankles. I am head over heels in love with the beauty and depth of our Catholic faith and the liturgical rhythm. It hurts when my mess gets in the way of the joy I want to pass on to my kids. The Jesse Tree has been a stumbling block for me in the past as I struggle with the desire to follow through and the reality that I have limits. In spite of all of that, I'm excited to tackle our Jesse Tree adventure this year thanks to a new printable ebook called Our Family's Jesse Tree. I loved what I saw in the preview and jumped at the chance to receive a review copy.

Our Family's Jesse Tree is perfect for me because it rolls with the punches in such a beautiful way... and that's an essential when we hit Advent. It's the season of expectant joy... but also of celebrations, obligations, and the not infrequent aggressive intestinal virus. So... I love this book...

Do you feel like hand embroidering beautiful Jesse Tree ornaments for your handmade Jesse Tree? Our  Family's Jesse Tree has got you covered.

Has your family of 9 fallen victim to the flu from Mount Doom smack in the middle of Advent and you've got almost nothing left in your go tank? This book still has you covered. 

You choose the amount of time to invest... and you still end up with a Jesse Tree. Win.

The book was born of Jen Frost's desire to bring a little more faith and a little less "commercial" to Advent. She applied her mad skills to the task of designing a fantastic printable eBook that contains the following:

  • 25 detailed ornament templates with SIX different options for creating: 1) Mod Podge or laminate the full color images 2) Color your own 3) Construct from paper using templates 4) Construct using craft foam 5) Make felt ornaments with fabric glue 6) Stitch felt ornaments with embroidery floss
  • Instructions 
  • Daily Scripture readings with links to full text
  • Daily devotions
  • Family-friendly activities inspired by the Scripture
  • Instructions on how to create an adorable felt tree for hanging your ornaments

I love the template aspect of these Jesse Tree ornaments. Since I'm pregnant and pretty low energy right now, I'm going to hand over the templates to the kids and let them choose what they'd like to do this year. I'd love to eventually sew reusable ornaments but for now, I expect a sweet mix of colored, cut, and sewn. That's their job.

For my part, I've decided to laminate the template pieces so that they can be reused year after year. They'll also be easy for the littlest fingers to trace. Then when we're ready to hang the ornament each day, I'll be all set with devotions and Scriptures (and maybe something extra if I have the time and energy)... because Jen's already done the work for me.

This book provides me with a beautiful and liturgically rich way to roll with the busy season and still keep our days rooted in Christ. I love the flexibility. I love the possibility. I'll be sharing more pictures via social media as our tree comes together.

After you purchase your copy of Our Family's Jesse Tree, definitely head over to Jen's blog, Faith and Fabric: Crafting and Quilting Through the Liturgical year. She's adorable, faithful, and wildly talented. 

Posted on November 17, 2015 and filed under Advent, Christmas, Liturgical Year.

How to Recover a Runaway Christmas...

A glittery Christmas without a proper spiritual framework is like bad liturgy. We can add all the lights, elves, guitars and electronics we want but at the end of that hour, we're left feeling like somehow the season (or the Mass) has failed us. We have decorated and hustled to please ourselves and not God. We have thrown ourselves into the wrong things and forgotten what we insisted last year we would never forget again: Jesus.

So here I sit on the threshold of Christmas with that familiar feeling of combined adrenaline, fatigue and dread. The excitement and mystery are gone for the moment... because I know all the details of the elaborate preparations. I am immersed in them. No magic elves come in to cook the food and wrap the gifts. That's on me. I made the plans and now I have to get it done. And when it is over, will I breathe a heavy sigh of relief? Or will I fall asleep with the scent of incense in my hair and a prayer on my lips? Or both.

I don't know that it is possible to take the ego completely out of the human condition. But I have one more day to get this a little closer to right. Although there was no blog post scheduled for today and I really don't have time... I needed to write. Because I need the accountability. It's going to be a busy, challenging 48 hours or so and I just want to make it perfectly clear...

Christmas is not about me. It's about Him.

It's not my job to push and force the feeling of joy. I am only called to come to the manger with my best... and adore. He has something to give me and I want to be available to receive it. If I fail to feel any particular emotions of excitement or happiness, it is not a failure of Christmas... it is simply the emotion of the moment. Neither here nor there. Christ comes as He will and not always on a flurry of twinkles. 

His birth room was a cold and stark place. And there was joy. It is proof that the busyness we burden our families with is not necessarily appropriate at all. The feast is for Him. The celebrations are for Him. I've forgotten... again... and I have one more chance to prepare my heart beautifully to receive Him. There are some things that are going to go undone today. I must decide that my time with Jesus isn't going to be one of them.

So I'm adding one more thing to my preparation list even though it doesn't really fit anywhere in the original plan. I'm going to adoration. To sit quietly and do nothing except be with Jesus. 

May your preparations be a time of authentic joy. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts this Christmas season and forever! 



Posted on December 23, 2014 and filed under Advent, Christmas, Liturgical Year, Spiritual Life.

My Advent {Sorrow and Joy}

My heart is so full of sorrows and joys that all I really want for Christmas is a 25-year long nap. This incredibly beautiful and intense Advent has been soul-stretching. While I appreciate that and have been blessed with much consolation and truly lovely season... I'm just wondering how I'm going to survive the next few decades. The answer is just... Jesus... and a thousand little yes's and and failings and daily showers of grace and mercy. I just cannot tell you how sad I am. And I have no words for how extraordinarily happy I am. I'm not sure how a soul can remain intact long through that kind of movement. And the depth of my fatigue combined with a strangely renewed energy... a contradiction. But proof that my soul is really alive.

I remember when I was younger and I would just take a break when I needed one. Now, there is no break. There are brief periods of nourishment but not at all timed to my personal preference. Motherhood is a continual dying to self until, presumably, the only thing left is Christ Himself. I don't resent it. I am grateful. But there are certainly days when I am completely in the dark as to how the strength will come in the morning. The marathon of the holy day seasons are beyond my strength and I'm really just learning to hang on and embrace the imperfect with peace.

With those thoughts in mind, I'm dumping 7 Quick Takes using whatever is on my ipad camera.  Each one a post of it's own (and some will be). But the posts that my heart writes all day, everyday in the midst of engaged motherhood... those posts just can't be written yet. I wouldn't even know how to begin. Joy and sorrow. Bigger than a keyboard.

Christmas Love Letter

This is the post-in-waiting about how the surprise early Christmas gift I gave to my husband completely changed my heart. I think he liked it and I'm grateful for that. I am astonished that I was able to pull off the surprise. But the biggest surprise for me was how a dormant part of my heart blossomed as I transformed our sanctuary. This post is definitely coming. With lots of pictures.


If we're connected on Facebook or Instagram, then you may have already seen this. But I'm going to say it again. Thankfully, no one can see my tears... again...

No words. Other than... The great joy of seeing my children love each other will certainly be challenged by the sorrow of eventually seeing them leave each other.

More Than Music

Nothing illuminates the great problem of bad liturgical music like hearing well done sacred polyphony. When this group starts to sing, it is as if my soul has no choice but to pray. Like getting knocked down and then raised up by a strong and gentle holy wind. It is incredible how this little group of 13 managed to fill the entire church with... what? Not just music. More than music. And my girl, whose voice I always try to single out, but never can.

Vestibule With a View

It has been a very long time since I have been able to sit in church, with my family, for more than 15 minutes. My 18-month old is a stinker. Most of them are. But this one is the uniquely stinker-ish. Consequently, this is often my view at church. Between getting ready, out the door, and wrestling my girl through Mass, Sunday mornings are a physical marathon. I'm not really complaining. Because teenagers are much harder to wrestle. Yes, they are.

He Must Become Greater; I Must Become Less

One of the many beautiful little nooks hiding in at our parish. This is one of my favorites and also happens to depict my saint for 2014. St. John the Baptist. I don't always know why my saint picks me. This year I do know. And that is one of the posts my heart sings but my hands cannot write. Yet.

A Good Priest Brings Christ

Good priests. Joyful priests. Fervent priests. Priests who get what we do as parents. And live their lives as if what they do, say, wear, and live matters to the rest of us. Because it does. Perhaps more than they can know on earth. Priests who live for Jesus first and clear the way so that we can see Him more clearly. Priests who challenge you to live a life of holiness... and then let you buy them a bacon burger so the conversation can continue. 


The isolation of the young trying to live a Christ-focused life. The sitting in the back of the family bus even though the wings are ready to fly on their own. The dreaming of the future. The stretching of mind and soul. Joy and sadness. The post that can never really be written by me at all. 

And that's all I've got for now. Well, not really. It's just all that I can manage to communicate. And I'm pretty sure you understand. Because holy seasons are not for staying in neutral but for great movement of mind and soul. I trust that you have your share of joy and sorrow this Advent. I am keeping your intentions in prayer.

Joining up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

Posted on December 14, 2014 and filed under Advent, Family Life, Miscellaneous.