Monday of First Week of Advent Gratitude Challenge

6. Carrie Underwood’s witness. Have you heard this song???

Yes, thank you Carrie for sharing with all of us!

7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Because, well, it is a pile of laughs every week and the characters are awesome. It is by far one of my favorite half hours of my week.

8. Leftovers

When one meal becomes three, well, that’s a beautiful money-saving and time-saving thing. They are delicious time and time again.

9. My husband’s handiness

He has fixed our refrigerator twice in the last year. AND our dishwasher. And he’s removed all our wall paper and re-painted the entire interior of the house. Up in the new year…we replace floors. Yes, he also cooks and cleans. I am truly blessed.

10. My kids’ teachers

They have each been blessed with teacher who are dedicated to their success and who are perfectly matched personality wise. I could not have hand picked better teachers.

11. The few minutes in the morning I lie in bed before I hear all my kids are awake and waiting for me to get up first

I don’t know why but it is something I am incredibly grateful for.

12. That Jeff and I are happy each having our own comforters

There are a lot of things we are great with sharing. Like our bed. But our bedding? Totally different story!

13. An awesome boss who looks out for her employees

Her generosity is amazing as is her compassion. She is a total stickler for policy but can do it in the best way.

14. Satellite radio in my car

Which I inherited from my father-in-law who had the car before I did. Currently tuned into The Highway on Sirius XM channel 56 but I have some kind of awesome alternatives to listen to if I need/want them

15. that each of my boys is a perfect mix of their parents

William looks just like me but is just like his Dad. Joseph looks like Jeff spit him out but is crazy, scary like me.

What are you grateful for today?

Bringing Some Thankful to this Party

Okay, I realize that my last post may have come off kinda “bah humbug” or just plain downer.

Not my intent.

But conceding to some of my readers who may feel that way, I will give you this: let’s be thankful this Advent too.

Wait, what?! Thanksgiving was Thursday. Okie dokie, those who remember this rant post are going to be all, “but Kristen, we know you already said we need/have to be thankful always.” But you know what, if you want a truly contemplative Advent, you are going to HAVE TO contemplate your blessings, most of which none of us deserve. And that should lead us to praise and thanksgiving.

I know a lot of people are not fans of Ann Voskamp or her book One Thousand Gifts, but that book was pivotal in my life as far as helping me to acknowledge the thanks I must give daily and regardless is still a poor excuse for true gratitude but moves me closer toward sainthood.

So anyway, it got me thinking, should I do here what people spend the month of November doing on facebook listing things they are thankful for daily? Like for all of Advent and Christmas? The answer, yes, let’s do it, shall we. Let me share with you some of the beautiful blessings God has bestowed me with in spite of my sinful nature and my inability to properly give thanks in the first place. So, you know, here goes:

First Sunday of Advent Gratitude Challenge.

1. For his little smiles and absolutely adorable self.

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I took this this past Tuesday at his class holiday celebration. The kids were all dressed as braves in t-shirts their teacher dyed and drew designs each child selected. They also decorated their own head-dresses and wampum bags.

2. That sensory needs make her look like she’s related to Randy from A Christmas Story.

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She’s not fat, there’s eight shirts and a jacket on underneath that winter coat. I’m not even kidding. No, she couldn’t really put her arms down more than that.

3. How much this kid loves to take advantage of great weather when we get it.

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Yes, that’s our backyard and it was an unseasonably warm day today.

4. I’m not gonna have pics for all of these and this is one that I don’t have one for: the sleep I got Thanksgiving night. I worked on Black Friday, but working grocery is not the same at all as working retail. I have never and will never shop Thanksgiving Day and/or Black Friday for many reasons but one is: I cannot get a better deal than the sleep I get aided by tryptophan on Thanksgiving night.

5. Pie. because PIE!!!! But seriously, I am definitely going to visit this place before I kick and eat my weight in pie.

So, there you go…and five is not a fast and hard number, I might have only one somedays, and it’s possibly I have 100…we’ll see.

So, what are you giving up this Advent?

No, seriously, what are you giving up?

Father Robert Barron’s first Advent reflection that came out today reminds us that Advent is a penitential season as Lent is. That we need our Savior because we indeed need to be saved from something, mostly ourselves, but from lots of things.

Every Lent I am reminded either by a priest’s homily or a blog post or reflection that Lent should be a time of joyful anticipation, I’m pretty sure this the first time I’ve heard a priest tell me we need to reflect on our sinfulness as we await the birth of our Lord and Savior.

And yet, it’s so refreshing. It’s a reminder to me to do Advent right. To prepare my heart and mind, to help my children prepare theirs. It’s also fitting as we partook of spiritual Communion this morning as a certain child was at my bedside at 5 AM telling me he was going to throw up (thankfully, he didn’t but it was a tense next four hours of sipping ginger ale and burping) and when I woke up I woke up to the shock of a migraine the likes of which I haven’t had in some time. The kid didn’t throw up, but guess who did…

Anyway, I’m giving some stuff up this Advent. It’s kind of between me and God but I think this fasting will be awesome for me to grow in my faith and dependence on Him. Don’t get me wrong, it will suck royally at times, but it will be awesome too.

And, depending on how it goes this year, I may make everyone else give up something next year (I’m pretty sure that will be loads of fun). Actually, we have done well so far, despite pressure from neighbors and friends, we’ve stayed strong on not getting bogged down in decorating and while I did listen to some Christmas music for about an hour last week in an attempt to break out of a funk, we haven’t tuned into the all Christmas all the time station. And we aren’t as concerned, in general, with the material aspects of the holiday season and are talking openly and happily about the birth of Jesus.

So, yeah, who is going to join me and give up something for Advent? It doesn’t have to be something major. Maybe you’re not going to go all judgy on the neighbors who have a light spectacular already going. Maybe you’re going to read one chapter of a book of the Bible daily. Maybe you’re going to make it to Confession twice this month. Or not put sugar in your tea or coffee. Lots of options for penance and growing closer to our Lord and Savior this Advent season, let’s embrace them!

In which I offend pretty much everyone…

So, I wrote this facebook status based on a friend’s status. The friend said everyone’s homes looked beautiful decorated but can we please say thanks and remember the reason for the “season” and every day BEFORE we get lost in the commercialization of the season, or risk getting lost.

What she got in response, was heated defenses of why people’s homes were already decorated and trees were up. Oh, AND to point out how they were thankful everyday and didn’t need some holiday to prove it SO THERE! Oh and in case she didn’t know CHRISTMAS TRIUMPHS (sic) THANKSGIVING!!!! (I’m pretty sure that person meant trumps but it’s someone I didn’t know, so who knows.)

I posted in my status was that the point was not to offend or call anyone in particular out but to just remind everyone to not let commercialism take over the real meaning of Christmas. Predictably, I got a lot of explanations as to why people have already decorated. Only one of the decorators bothered to mention Jesus in her response. And she more was commenting on why her work place was decorated, not her home so much.

Sigh.

People. I don’t give a rat’s butt when you decorate your home or why that “works better” for you. What I want people to understand is that if you are a Christian, you need to make sure the reason you’re celebrating is Jesus. And you’re not going to get caught up in being the first one on the block decorating for Christmas nor making sure your child has every single hot gift.

The only way you can be offended by the idea of guarding your heart and/or mind is if you know you are guilty of giving into mindless consumerism. I’m not going to name names because it isn’t directed toward any one person. It’s directed to EVERY person. All of us. Should we all feel convicted? Yes. Should we all be defensive, not necessarily. And I’m not saying don’t decorate, don’t listen to Christmas carols or don’t watch those movies. I’m saying don’t let it lead down a road to being caught up in what the fallen world says Christmas is, keep your eyes on the real prize, the birth of Christ.

Deal With It…well, maybe we should start trying to

This week’s episode of Reign deals with French and Vatican treatment of Protestants under Catholic rule. The episode depicts Francis II ratifying and edict that each citizen must declare his faith publicly. Terrible penalties are exacted for the sins of being a Protestant or lying about being one. While the show is ficitonal, history has recorded the terrible things done in the name of God and the Catholic church.

Not long ago a friend complained about Protestant friends of hers and atheists bringing up the Church’s sins. Her response struck me, “Those things happened. Sure. So they should just…deal with it.”

It struck me because, we need to start dealing with it too. We can’t just say, “those things happened, let’s not talk about it.” That shows a lack of compassion for everything from being drawn and quartered to the sex abuse scandals of the 20th century. We need to start talking. And more importantly, we need to listen. We need to hear the sadness, the confusion, the betrayal. No, we may not have directly perpetrated the crimes, but we confess to being part of the Body of Christ that not only perpetrated them but endorsed them. For the glory of God. It’s not enough to say we’re enlightened now and we know better, more compassionate ways to win hearts and minds. Because if we don’t endure some of the pain with the victims, if we don’t listen to what they have to say, we cannot offer real comfort. Our compassion will not feel genuine no matter how we feel in our hearts.

We need to start dealing with the not-so-nice parts of our collective past. We need to stop being defensive and start being the loving believers we were created to be. If we want to change hearts and mind and irrational prejudice, we have to step up and

Survival Mode

That’s what I’m calling life around here. I’m battling a cold, my boys both woke up sick at 1 AM on Friday, one ended up with a double ear infection, the other strep throat. By some miracle, everyone is taking their antibiotics (well, the boys) and I’m hopefully on the mend.

We made it through Halloween. I ended up closing the house up and trick-or-treating with all three kids by myself. Jeff called me around 6 to let me know, he was just over an hour away from our house. That was no bueno. So I took 3 kids out at 7 and we hit about three streets. The kids had plenty, the temperature was dropping and William was getting whiny. So we struck out for home.

It was Shelby’s first Halloween trick-or-treating. She did great. She loved getting candy, of course. Thankfully we only got close enough to one jack-o-lantern where she could blow it out. She didn’t, but she tried. It was, of course this jack-o-lantern. Thankfully, these are wonderful neighbors we know well and who know and love Shelby who were totally sweet about it.

I also managed a field trip with Shelby’s class, it was for Special Olympics Bowling. On Halloween. Her class did great. Shelby won her team’s game and bowled 2 spares. She scored a 90! That same day I raced back to the school for William’s Letterland Parade. Letterland is a phonics and reading program first adopted by our school and now used county-wide. Last year Joseph was Oscar Orange, but since William saw that performance he would talk about only one character he wanted to be: Clever Cat.

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And by some miracle, every other child’s face in that pic is blurry. He was adorable. The other two Clever Cats were girls, but that was fine with him!

Last Tuesday was election day but Thank God for early voting. I voted the week before because the kids were off school for election day and yeah, them coming with me? Not gonna happen. I literally held my nose when I voted for Senate. My state gets what it deserves for allowing the political parties to choose our candidates.God help us.

With my cold, it’s been a rough couple of weeks, but with lots of tea, rest, soup, neti pot treatments, country music, and snuggle time, it’s been manageable. It’s not the break-neck speed we’re used to, but it’s been okay.