Easter, feasts and seasons

Happy Easter! {new playlist}

Happy Easter, everyone! We survived Lent! Hooray! I know several of you have been having a rough time during Lent this year, and I hope that Easter and the promise of better weather will help brighten your days and lift your spirits. I know I’m feeling better about most things just because there is abundant sunshine and warmer temperatures here. We actually went to Mass yesterday without coats, and it felt like everything was easier simply because we didn’t have to figure out where to put all those coats in our pew.

Yay! No coats! And baby legs on display!

Nora keeps walking into the kitchen, throwing her hands into the air, and proclaiming, “It’s STILL Easter!” I’ve learned that Nora is the kind of girl who just wants things to continue. Whatever’s happening is fine, as long as it doesn’t stop. So yes, Nora (who is still wearing her Easter dress, by the way), it’s still Easter. 1 day down, 49 more to go!

Headbands come off, but Easter dresses are forever. 

I’m so glad Easter is a season and not just a day. It makes me feel less guilty about not finding time to dye our eggs on Saturday. I did boil them, and they’re waiting in the refrigerator for that magical moment when we find time to do them and I have enough patience to supervise the process.

The process. That’s the thing, isn’t it? I know process art is the way to do things with little people. The point of making art is to enjoy the act of making art, not to reach some predetermined standard of rightness and make a perfect product. Crafts are fun and fine and well, but art…well, that’s different stuff. Art is for its own sake. It is all about the process.

Somehow, though, when I think of the process of being around the kitchen table with my three walking children, balancing the baby on one hip and trying to manage six grabby, snatchy hands that are all trying to get as many eggs as possible for themselves and throw them into all the egg dye before anyone else can get the best colors, I feel a little panicky. If I could dye eggs with each one of them individually, it would be fun. Even two of them at once would be great. But all three of them at the same time makes me tired in advance.

It was easy then, except it wasn’t, because he was still 3.

Maybe we’ll just wait for an evening when George is home. Or for my oldest kid to turn 8. Or something.

I saw someplace that you can use a whisk to help toddlers avoid dropping the eggs- has anyone done that? You put the egg inside the whisk and dip it in the dye. It seems like it would work better than those little wire spoon things that come with the egg dyeing kit.

OK. Enough about the eggs. We might do it. I’ll post some pictures if we do. And if you try the whisk thing before I do, let me know how it goes, okay?

Does it feel like a real challenge to you to keep the Easter celebration up for fifty whole days? That’s a long time…even longer than Lent, which always feels long by the end. I feel like I don’t usually do a great job after the first week or so. This year, I’m trying two things to help continue the celebration.

First, I’m going to keep fresh flowers on the table and on our little prayer table all Easter season. We had a blend of silk and fresh flowers for our Easter feast on Sunday. I’m planning to change out the live flowers each week and replace them with ones we pick on our walks or buy at the grocery store. I think this will help things feel special and remind me that we’re still celebrating. (Let’s be honest- the physical reminders are mostly for me, so I can keep everyone else going.)

Second, I made an Alleluia playlist for Easter. We don’t listen to it all the time, but it’s nice to start the day out remembering that Christ is risen. (Alleluia!) It’s a collaborative playlist, which means other people can add songs. I want to invite you to add your own alleluias to it. If you have a favorite Easter-y song that isn’t on the list, feel free to go on and add it. It will be fun to see how the list changes with your additions. If you add something, I’d love to know! If you want to contribute but don’t have time to add your song yourself, leave me a note in the comments, and I’ll be sure it gets added.

Do you do anything special to keep up the celebration of Easter until Pentecost? I could use some more ideas!

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feasts and seasons, liturgical year

Feasting on new traditions…{book giveaway}

Things just smell better this time of year- have you noticed that? It isn’t just at home, either…the whole world smells like snow and cinnamon and tinsel. As we travel back and forth, traversing interstates and country roads to visit family, even gas station bathrooms are nicer, somehow. Some combination of music and lights and cookies and hot chocolate (with or without the special grownup additions) seems to put almost everyone in a good mood.

I suspect that a big part of the reason we love this time of year is because of its traditions. We are designed for shared ritual, and during the “holiday season,” our culture experiences that like no other time of year. I’ve written before about my friend’s family, who says that if you do something once and really like it, it’s a tradition (and if you do it twice, you’re stuck with it whether you like it or not). During the Thanksgiving-Advent-Christmas season, there are so many special foods and activities that we do every year. Rituals and shared meals abound.

Choosing to live by the rhythm of the liturgical calendar gives us the opportunity to live with special traditions and foods all year long. There are feasts to be celebrated during each month of the year, not just in November and December. We get to expand our shared rituals and feasts to the rest of the months of the year, and there is always something to anticipate.

But how do we do that? How do we begin to explore all the feasts and traditions?

Haley and Daniel Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas have created another resource to help us embrace the feasts of the liturgical year in a manageable way that is easy to implement. Their first book, Feast!, is a great introduction to observing the feasts and seasons of the church year. In their new book, More Feasts!, they expand this idea to include the whys and hows of celebrating the feasts of saints. The Stewarts write beautifully about how living liturgically can enrich both your spiritual and your family life. With 10 new delicious-looking (gluten-free) recipes, reflections and activities for families, More Feasts! makes me feel excited about the chance to create some new traditions with my family in the coming year.

I love that these books come from a home that is truly living out this rhythm in a creative, vibrant way. This is not a hypothetical guide. This is a real-life, tried and tested experience of one family who has found a way to make the rhythms of the church year an integral part of how they live out their faith as a domestic church.

You can get More Feasts! exclusively at Carrots for Michaelmas for $3.99 right now (plus an extra 25% off through December 15 with the code HAPPYFEAST). The original book, Feast!, is on sale for $4.99 during Advent (it’s usually $7.99).


Do I have to be Catholic? Aren’t these feast days a Catholic thing?

No way. The church year belongs to all Christians. The saints included in the book are saints in the  Catholic understanding, but their stories are worth reading no matter your faith background. Haley does a wonderful job of explaining this in the book. And besides, everyone needs a good sushi recipe.

I’m so overwhelmed by all of this. How will I be able to do it all?

You won’t. Don’t try. Just pick one or two feasts that appeal to you and try them out. As you develop traditions, your celebrations will grow and maybe increase in number. The important thing is to do what works best for you and your family.

Is there a print copy of the book? I don’t have an e-reader.

The first volume, Feast!, is available here in print for $21.99. Right now, More Feasts! is in e-book form only, but it’s a pdf file. You can download it right to your computer. No e-reader is needed.

The Stewarts have generously offered a copy of the new e-book to one of my readers. If you’d like to win, tell me about your family’s favorite tradition (any tradition!) in the comment box below. I’ll choose one winner randomly on Saturday.

Check out the other stops on the More Feasts! blog tour this week- everyone is excited about this book!

Fine print: the giveaway is open through 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time on Friday, December 12. Winner will be chosen randomly by a drawing. This giveaway is open to all – no geographic restrictions, since we don’t have to mail anything!

#HolyLens, Advent, feasts and seasons

Welcome to #HolyLens for Advent 2014

Welcome to the home of #HolyLens. We are focused on seeing the sacred in the everyday by taking a photo every day during Advent. This is where the weekly photo prompts will be posted. I’ll be posting the photo prompts daily on our HolyLens facebook page starting the first Sunday of Advent.

This project is about more than just taking photos. It’s a spiritual discipline, designed to help us notice the places in our ordinary lives that God is already at work. It’s inviting Christ’s presence with intention. It’s building a moment of reflection each day into an otherwise busy time of year. It is holy work.

If this sounds like something you need this year, please join us on our journey. You can share your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #HolyLens or our facebook pageour Facebook page.. Be sure to like the facebook page so you won’t miss any updates. 

Thanks for being part of our community of photo-taking pilgrims on our way to Bethlehem. Our shared experience is richer because you are a part of it.

(Prompts from previous weeks are below.)

#HolyLens, Advent, feasts and seasons, giveaway

3 ways to get ready for Advent (so you can get ready for Christmas)

Advent is coming. 

It is. It’s coming.

I always start out the Advent season feeling panicky, like I’m falling behind before I’ve even started.  Time to find the wreath and the prayer book. Time to make all the lists…gifts, cookies, cards, events. Time to start getting everything ready. I’m not even ready to think about getting ready. Part of me wants to run away down the street and not look back, squeezing my eyes tightly shut so I won’t see all the giant Christmas inflatables that are already popping up on my neighbors’ lawns.

Maybe it’s okay that I feel apprehensive. Jesus is going to be born. We’re not ready…how could we be? Having recently welcomed a baby who is not the Son of God, I’m more than aware that there’s a lot to do. We need time to make preparations, to quiet our souls, to sink into the knowledge that in the midst of all the chaos and confusion of our world, God is entering. God is going to sit down with us right in the middle of our mess, because that’s what God does.

Emmanuel. God with us. Ready, or not.

But that’s why we have Advent. We don’t have to be ready yet. This season exists to help us become ready, to bring us into a space where we can prepare.

We have a choice. We can spend the next four weeks running around and wringing our hands about the crazy that surrounds us, or we can take a deep breath, accept that it’s coming, and decide to prepare.

I’m going with the deep breath option.

If you are also starting out this Advent feeling a bit behind, these three things might help:

BISjournalcover

First, there’s the new Advent journal from Blessed Is She. This slim booklet is so lovely. It’s filled with scripture verses, prompting questions and space for your thoughts and reflections each day from the first day of Advent through Christmas. A lot of love and care went into creating it especially for you, the busy reader who wants to take time to ponder and reflect but doesn’t have a lot of time to spare. I am really looking forward to using my copy, and guess what? I have one to give away to one of you!

If you’d like to win, just leave a comment here on this post or on our facebook page with either a challenge you are facing this Advent or something you’re especially anticipating this season.

If you don’t want to wait, you can purchase a copy of the journal here or by clicking on the ad in the sidebar. Your purchase helps support the ministry of Blessed Is She (an entirely volunteer effort).

Second, I’m sharing my favorite Advent music in a playlist on Spotify. You can find the playlist here. (If you don’t have a free Spotify account, you’ll need to set one up and download the software, which is easy to do.) I love Christmas music, but in this season of preparation, I’m not ready to listen to it yet. I fill the gap by listening to Advent music (yes, that’s really a thing!) If you have favorites that would be good additions, drop me a line- I’d love to expand the list some more this year.

Finally, how about joining me in a photo challenge? I’m focusing on finding holy moments and treasuring them in my heart by doing #HolyLens again. #HolyLens started during Lent 2014 as a way to notice and share the sacred moments we find each day. I will be posting a list of daily photo prompts for you each week. Just take a picture related to the day’s prompt, post it on Instagram- don’t forget the hashtag- and share your everyday holy with our little photo-happy community. Your eyes and your photos create our shared experience, and we all get to reflect on the little bits of grace that surround us. You can follow me on Instagram here…I’m dere_abbey.

If you are not on Instagram, you can post your photos on our brand-new HolyLens Facebook page.

I need to prepare my heart and mind for the arrival of Christ. If you do, too, please join me in any or all of these things. Together, we’ll be a little community of works in progress, headed down the road to Bethlehem just as we are, getting more and more ready to receive Jesus all the time.

That’s what Advent is all about.

The fine print: The Blessed Is She journal giveaway closes at 11:59 pm on Wednesday night, 11/27/14 (so I can mail you your journal in time for the first Sunday of Advent). This giveaway is open to US residents only. 

feasts and seasons

Our first Michaelmas. (It’s all about the carrots.)

I don’t know how it is that we have never before celebrated this feast. It has been on my list for years now, but we never seemed to fit it in. Maybe it is because it follows the big “birthday season” of late September, when our three oldest children have their birthdays. Maybe it is because it falls just before the feast of St. Therese, my patron, on October 1. Whatever the reason, we just haven’t made it happen.

This year, we finally did it. We pulled it off. We had a lovely Michaelmas Feast of the Archangels.

This feast feels like a kickoff to fall, which is my favorite time of year. (I say that about lots of times of year, but I mean it the most about fall. Really.) It celebrates the three archangels mentioned in scripture: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. For more information on the tradition of the archangels, here’s a great article.

We had a roasted chicken with red potatoes, these whiskey-glazed carrots, and blackberry cobbler. I meant to make a salad…there should always be a green vegetable…but I didn’t. (It was fine, Mom. No one died.)

The cobbler and the chicken were delicious, but this feast is all about the carrots. You must try them. I could drink the sauce with a straw- it is that good.

The children each colored a picture of one of the archangels (these coloring pages from Waltzing Matilda are lovely if you don’t want to draw your own) . Sam read the traditional prayer to St. Michael and a prayer to St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. We decorated the table for fall and added three angels from our nativity set (which, thankfully, has a host of angels). It wasn’t complicated, but it felt festive- a perfect opening to a season of warmth and good food and celebrations.

A friend of mine growing up had a saying in his family: If you do something once and you like it, it’s a tradition. (If you do it twice, it’s a tradition even if you don’t like it.)  I liked both the saying and the family, so I adopted it for my own.

We all agreed that we liked Michaelmas quite a bit, so that does it- it’s our newest family tradition.

For more Michaelmas, try these links:

History, prayers and relevant readings about the Feast of the Archangels at Women for Faith and Family

Traditions, food and some great art at Two O’s Plus More (where I first learned that I have been pronouncing Michaelmas incorrectly)


The recipe for the amazing whiskey-glazed carrots from The Pioneer Woman

Ideas for a family Michaelmas from Molly at Molly Makes Do

Kendra’s crazy fun-looking devil piñata celebration at Catholic All Year

A great overview of Michaelmas with traditional menus (and a legend about the Devil spitting on blackberries) from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas

A video interview on Michaelmas of Haley by Bonnie at A Knotted Life (where you can hear Haley use the correct pronunciation!)

Archangel coloring pages at Waltzing Matilda

Prayers, recipes and activities for the Feast of the Archangels at Catholic Culture

 

baptism day, feasts and seasons, liturgical year, prayer

Celebrating Baptism Day

Last night, we celebrated the baptism day of our three children.

We meant to do this last year, but the day was sandwiched between Father’s Day and my birthday, so it came and went without much notice.

The desire to do more to strengthen our family’s prayer life and to follow the seasons of the liturgical year can feel like a stumbling block. If we get too caught up in the details of the various days and feasts we’d like to celebrate, we can get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing at all. The important thing about the cycle of the liturgical year (and about praying together as a family) is that it is a cycle. It repeats. We have chance after chance to try things out, see what works for us, and take notes for next year. Doing something to mark time and to notice the holy days that matter to our family is better than doing nothing, even if our celebrations end up being less than Pinterest-worthy.

This year, we decided a simple celebration was better than no celebration at all. Here’s what we did:

  • The children chose a special dinner.

Sam asked for cheeseburgers and tater tots (and achieved consensus with the Sisters), so that’s what we had.  I made a large chocolate chip cookie for dessert and decorated it with a white icing cross and the children’s initials. The (store-bought) icing immediately ran everywhere. I did not photograph this for you, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The cookie was delicious- no one complained about the runny decorating job.

  • We pulled out their baptismal candles and lit them one at a time. George read the baptismal promises to each child. Each one answered the questions seriously- Sam with a quiet “yes,” Lucy with an emphatic “I do!” and Nora with a forceful nod of her head.

 

We found a small liturgy for this purpose here. It was fun to hear them gleefully renouncing Satan and all his empty promises. I enjoyed seeing how much they have changed since they were baptized…on that day, we answered the questions on their behalf, and now they can speak for themselves. I know they don’t fully understand everything now (do any of us, really?), but they recognized the phrases we say in the Creed each week during Mass. It felt good to see how their understanding has grown in just two short years…like we’re doing some things right. After the day we’d had around here, this was a wonderful moment for me as a parent.

  • We blessed each child with some of our Easter holy water by making a cross on his or her forehead.

  • We read a special prayer together as a family to close our celebration.  

Blessed are you, Loving Father, Ruler of the Universe. 

You have given us your Son,

And have made us temples of your Holy Spirit.

Fill our family with your light and peace.

Have mercy on all who suffer,

And bring us to everlasting joy with you, Father.

We bless your name forever and ever. Amen.

The prayer is a traditional family prayer and is included in our children’s Bible (we have this one, which contains some prayers, notes from the Catechism and other suggestions for incorporating liturgy at home). I hadn’t seen this prayer before. Lucy found it yesterday and liked the accompanying picture so much that she asked me to read it to her several times. It fit perfectly with our little service of celebration.

Afterward, we looked at pictures from the day of the children’s baptism. I never managed to get any of those pictures printed. As we crowded around the screen of the iPad trying to see them, we decided we should make a photo book so the kids could look at them more often. They all enjoyed seeing the much younger versions of themselves (they change so quickly at this stage!), commenting on how Lucy had no hair and George still had some, and noticing the differences in the baptismal font, which our parish recently replaced with a new one.

A friend of mine has a family saying: “If you do something once and you like it, it’s a tradition. If you do it twice, it’s a tradition whether you like it or not.” Based on the giggles, smiles and warm feelings this evening, I think this particular tradition is one we’ll be intentionally keeping for a long time.

Do you celebrate baptismal days in your family? What traditions do you have for marking this occasion?

 
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#HolyLens, feasts and seasons, Lent

#HolyLens, Week Six Prompts

Greetings, intrepid Lenten photographers!

Here are the prompts for #HolyLens, Week Six. (To find the prompts for previous weeks, go here.)

There’s only one week left after this one- we’ll have special prompts up starting Palm Sunday for Holy Week. If you’ve fallen behind, it’s okay to just pick up and keep going from here. If you’re just joining us, welcome…we’re happy to have you along.

Feel free to share these prompts and the Holy Week ones next week- it’s never too late to join in.