Celebrating He Who Gives Me Peace, Hope, and Joy

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It is Christmas Eve.
We wait in anticipation to celebrate the birth 
of the most important person in human history.  
A man who was sent to save us.  
God in the flesh:

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This Christmas, I reflect on the enormity of Christ's birth and how He has been at work in my life.  He is always with me, as He is with you.  I just have to answer his call and spend time with Him.  I will tell you, this has made all the difference in my life.  

It is through Him that I have found peace, even in the midst of the turmoil of daily life.  
It is through Him that I have hope each day, no matter the struggles I face.  
It is in Him that I have real contentment, not just fleeting happiness.  
It is through His example that I strive to serve others.  
It is because of His forgiveness that I can get up each day, despite my sins and failings, and strive to be holier.  
It is in Him that I trust that no matter what happens in this life, He will always be there.  

Pope Francis recently said:

"Christmas, the nativity of Jesus, (is) a feast of trust and hopewhich overcomes uncertainty and pessimism.  The earth is no longer a vale of tears.  It is the place where God himself raised a tent, the place of God's encounter with man, of God's solidarity with men." [emphasis mine]

Amen to that.

 I hope that you too will find the peace, hope, and joy of Jesus this Christmas.

Celebrate the Feast of St. Lucy! {December 13}

Friday, December 13, 2013

St. Lucy
**From Catholic Online
*I've updated this post from last year with a few pictures of last year's celebration.**

St. Lucy (or St. Lucia), was a Sicilian girl who lived from 283-304.  Little is known about her life, but what is known is that she was martyred for her Christian faith.  She is recognized for her faith and bravery.  Lucy means "light", and so light is reflected in the celebration of her feast day.  St. Lucy is the patron saint of eyesight.  
To read more about her, check out St. Lucy from Catholic Online.

If you are from my generation, you might remember Kirsten, the American Girl doll, celebrating St. Lucia Day.  Too bad she's been retired. :(

Here is a short video that tells a little about the traditions associated with St. Lucy.

Ways to celebrate St. Lucy

My daughter, Grace, age 4
bringing us cinnamon rolls.

Traditionally, the oldest daughter dresses in a white, with a red sash, and brings saffron rolls to her family, who are still in bed.  The idea of this overwhelms me at this stage in my life, so I'm focusing on some simpler ways to celebrate St. Lucy.  Below are some things you can do with your family to celebrate this Feast of St. Lucy.  They are separated into Very Easy, Easy, and More Elaborate.  Enjoy!

Very Easy

    St Lucia coloring page
  • Eat dinner by candlelight and the light of the Christmas tree.

  • Drive or take a walk to see Christmas lights.

    • Color a picture for St. Lucy's Day from here or here

    • Say a prayer to St. Lucy, like the one below from Family Prayer
    Saint Lucy
    Whose beautiful name signifies 'LIGHT'
    by the light of faith which God bestowed upon you
    increase and preserve His light in my soul
    so that I may avoid evil,
    Be zealous in the performance of good works
    and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and
    the darkness of evil and sin.
    Obtain for me, by your intercession with God
    Perfect vision for my bodily eyes
    and the grace to use them for God’s greater honour and glory
    and the salvation of souls.
    St. Lucy, virgin and martyr
    hear my prayers and obtain my petitions.


    • Make cinnamon buns from the can and make them into the shape of a saffron bun or a circle, like at Catholic Icing 

    • Eat ginger cookies.  You can buy ginger cookie mix from the grocery store or follow a recipe, like this one.

    • Listen to music from St. Lucia Day in Sweden like this: 

    • Make a St. Lucy wreath from a paper plate.  Directions can be found here.  I had some leftover fake leaves from some random craft project that I hot glued onto our paper plate wreath.  We also made candles out of foam and hot glued those on.  Here is how it turned out:


    • Have your kids dress up.  Girls can wear white dresses, red sashes around their wastes, and wreaths on their heads.  Boys can wear white, with white cone hats with stars.  
    Here is Grace, all dressed up
    with her St. Lucy paper doll.

    More Elaborate

    Enjoy St. Lucia's Day however it is you decide to celebrate!

    Celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe {December 12}

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    With my focus on Jesus this Advent, I'm making an effort to recognize several of the feast days leading up to Christmas.  I have learned so much as I have grown in my Catholic faith, and I have a new-found respect for the many traditions we have!

    December 12th is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Only recently have I learned about the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary to Saint Juan Diego in Mexico.  I learned much about this miracle from watching the Catholicism series with Father Robert Barron (video clip below) and reading articles, like this one from Catholic Online.  There is also tons of information to be found about Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as Juan Diego at Sancta.

    This video is longer, but it's very interesting and talks about what makes the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego's tilma so miraculous.  It was so incredible that it converted millions in Mexico!

    Pretty amazing stuff, right?!  Now that you're all inspired, here's some music to listen to as you peruse ideas for celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego with your family!

    Mary by Jessica P on Grooveshark

    Teach kids about Our Lady of Guadalupe

    A great way to teach kids the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe is with the DVD Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe.  We were able to get it on Netflix.

    There are also several children's books featuring this story.  

    Crafts and Coloring

     Here are a variety of Our Lady of Guadalupe coloring pages.

    Several awesome coloring pages that tell the story of Juan Diego by Holy Heroes can be found here .

    Make a printable Saint Juan Diego paper doll from Paper Dali.

    Brown bag tilma
    Catholic Inspired

    Make a tilma out of brown paper bags.  

    Ways to Celebrate

    An easy way to celebrate is to eat Mexican food for dinner.  You can also have Mexican hot chocolate!

    Get a Lady of Guadalupe candle and light it during dinner or prayer time.  You can find them at many grocery stores in the Latino food aisle.

    Jessica from Shower of Roses celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a tea (pics below).  Her children created their own Tilmas.  They had some simple, yet creative and symbolic foods, including St. Juan Diego sombreros, Tepayac Hill mash potatoes, A Woman Clothed With the Sun taco dip, A Mantle of Stars cookies, and Tilma of Roses made of tortillas.  The kids also built and decorated their own church.  I will definitely be making a few of these!

    A Tea in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe
    Shower of Roses


    Mary is such a wonderful example for us mothers, and I find great comfort in asking her for her intercession.  You can find a variety of prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe at Sancta, as well as a novena.  

    Enjoy the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

    Celebrate St. Nicholas! {December 6}

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Did you know the legend of Santa Claus actually comes from a real man?  St. Nicholas (yes, Jolly Old St. Nick) was the Bishop of Myra (now part of Turkey) around 300 years after Jesus' Ascension into Heaven.  He was known as a kind and generous follower of Jesus Christ and is the patron saint of many people and places, including children, sailors, bakers, and pawnbrokers (Yes, pawnbrokers.).  Here is a kid-friendly explanation of who St. Nicholas was and what he did.

    St. Nicholas of Myra

    St. Nicholas' feast day is December 6th, and there are many fun and easy ways to celebrate.

    Learn about St. Nicholas

    This short video gives a quick overview about St. Nicholas Day:

    St. Nicholas - Discovering the Truth About Santa Claus
    St. Nicholas Center
    The St. Nicholas Center is a great place to find information about St. Nicholas, as well as activities, recipes, and crafts.
    Saint Nicholas VeggieTales DVD
    Veggie Tales: St. Nicholas

    The Veggie Tales  video St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving tells the true story of St. Nicholas (if he were a vegetable, anyway), and incorporates the modern-day St. Nick that brings Christmas presents.  It's available on Netflix Streaming!

    Ways to celebrate

      Wooden shoe with treats
      Treats from St. Nicholas
      St. Nicholas Center
    • On the night of Dec. 5, have your kids leave out their shoes in a special place, like the fireplace.  Place treats, like chocolate, coins (or chocolate coins), clementines, and candy canes, in the children's shoes from St. Nicholas.

    • If you haven't already, hang your stockings up in preparation for Christmas.

    St. Nicholas Giving Box
    Catholic Inspired

    St. Nicholas figure
    St. Nicholas Center

    • Have a candlelit dinner or a special breakfast with St. Nicholas feast day foods, like the ones here.

    For more ideas on how to celebrate St. Nicholas' feast day, check out this page from Catholic Culture.

    I hope your family has a wonderful St. Nicholas Day!
    - Jessica

    Keeping Christ in Christmas: Celebrating Advent {Starting December 1st!}

    Saturday, November 30, 2013

    Even though I am a cradle-Catholic, I never grew up celebrating Advent.  Not intentionally, anyway.  We went to mass during the Advent season, but I guess I just didn't pay much attention, and I figured our family's Advent wreath was just part of our regular holiday decorations.  I honestly had very little understanding of what Advent was up until a few years ago.  Since then, I have been on a slow, but steady, journey to celebrate Advent with my family.  

    So what is Advent?  

    For Catholics, Advent starts the beginning of the liturgical year, and is a season of anticipation for both the birth of Jesus Christ and Jesus' second coming.  It is celebrated the four weeks leading up to Christmas.  What I love about Advent is that it helps us focus on the reason for the season: Jesus.  All those other details (Christmas gifts, cards, baking, decorating, etc) become less stressful for me, if they are put in their proper places, as ways to glorify God and celebrate His only Son.  

    This 2 minute video gives a great overview of Advent:

    Now, here's some music to get us anticipating the birth of Jesus!

    FYI - Only when you try to compile a list of Advent songs, do you realize that pretty much every Christmas song has to do with post-Jesus' birth.  Thus, a 5 song playlist that includes 4 versions of O Come, Emmanuel (which are all pretty awesome, by the way.)  

    Being pretty new to celebrating Advent, our family is trying to add one new tradition each year until we have some basics covered.  I do not want it to be overwhelming or feel like one more thing piled onto the already crazy list of "stuff" to do.  The important thing is preparing our hearts for Jesus.  I will remind myself: Advent does not have to be Pinterest-worthy.  

    So, here are some simple ways to celebrate Advent with your family:

    Advent wreath

    Advent Wreath
    An Advent wreath is a pretty simple tradition to start.  We bought ours on, along with the candles, for a very reasonable price.  You can also make one quite easily.  Here is a quick read about how this German custom started.  

    This page on Catholic Culture provides the blessing, prayers, and explanation of what to do with your Advent wreath, and Our Sunday Visitor has an Advent guide, as well.

    On the first Sunday of Advent (December 1st this year) , we will be blessing our Advent wreath and lighting the first purple candle, along with a prayer.  This is done each night of Advent.  By the second week, we will be lighting the two purple candles, and the third week sees the additional lighting of the pink "joyous" candle.  The fourth, and final, Sunday of Advent observes the lighting of the last purple candle.  The Advent wreath is a simple, yet significant way to incorporate our preparation for the birth of Christ into our daily lives.

    Advent calendar

    This is a tradition that you are probably familiar with.  There are so many different Advent calendars, and you can buy them at stores, online, or make your own.  Last year, my 4 year-old, Grace, looked forward to it everyday, and I'm sure she's excited to get her little sister in on the fun.  Sometimes we end up with more than one, which is no problem for us!  But to emphasize the true meaning of Advent and Christmas, I want to be sure that at least one of my Advent calendars is religious.  

    Loyola Press has an awesome online Advent calendar for kids, which is also printable.  

    Children's Advent Calendar

    Here is one from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that can be used online or printed.  It includes the Catholic feast days, suggested prayers, and activities that can be done to prepare for Christmas.

    This printable Family Advent Poster from Good Ground Press includes works of charity, fun activities, feast days, and a focus on family.
    Family Advent Poster
    Good Ground Press

    I also love this fabric Advent calendar because the kids can add a new piece to the nativity scene each day.  I am thinking of making this with paper nativity pieces.

    Reginas Catholic Gifts - Fabric Advent Calendar-Nativity, $42.50 (
    Fabric Advent Calendar

    Jesse Tree

    Jesse Tree

    Up until a couple of years ago, I'd never even heard of the Jesse Tree.  So what is it?  The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition that focuses on Jesus' family tree, as shown in the image on the left.  For more information about the background, check out this article.  Similar to the Advent calendar, a new symbol or ornament is hung on the Jesse Tree each day of Advent.  As the ornament is hung, a corresponding bible passage is read.  

    There are so many different ways to do a Jesse Tree:  some simple, some complex.  I even Googled it for you.  You're welcome.
    Felt Jesse Tree

    More Printable Jesse Tree Ornaments

    Because I'm making a Jesse Tree for the first time this year, I am starting out simple.  I'm printing the symbols and having my 4 year-old, Grace, color them.  The printable symbols can be found here or here.  

    Since I'm going with low-key, we will either make a tree poster or hang them on a small Christmas tree if I can find one.

    Other resources

    Looking for some basic printouts on Advent?  Check out this page:

    Advent Ideas, Activities, and Calendar
    Good Ground Press
    Here is a short video from Catholic News Service with ideas for how to celebrate Advent:

    May your family have a blessed Advent!  
    - Jessica

    Learning to be grateful: A lesson for ourselves and our kids

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." - G.K. Chesterton

    Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to focus on the things we are thankful for in our lives.  Gratitude is one of the most important values that we can instill in our children.  We often expect children to be grateful for what they have automatically, but we aren't born being thankful.  It is something that must be taught.  We are responsible for teaching our children to appreciate all of the blessings in their lives, and the best way to teach this is to live it ourselves.  With that in mind, here are some thoughts on learning to live with gratitude:

     Prayers of thanksgiving

    Author G.K. Chesterton once said, "You say grace before meals.  All right.  But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

    We often go about our days without truly appreciating the blessings we've been given.  I've been working on this a lot recently because I found that I was complaining (mostly in my head or with the occasional "ugh") about the tiniest inconveniences, like spilled milk or having to change a poopy diaper.  Instead of seeing this as an annoyance, my new approach is to see the underlying blessing in the situation. For example, I can thank God for blessing my baby with good health and a functioning digestive tract!  It may sound a bit crazy, but I'll tell you, it puts things in perspective.  The alternative to that stinky diaper would be a whole lot worse!

    Our family has a tradition of prayers of thanksgiving before meals and before bedtime. Having structured prayer times helps us remember to be grateful for God's blessings and not to to take them for granted.  But, just as Chesterton suggests, I am also doing my best to praise God throughout my day.  Yesterday, we were taking a nice, autumn walk through the neighborhood, and, as I gazed at all the changing leaves, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the world God has created.  I could have kept this to myself, but I said it aloud to my children.  I want to set an example of how to show gratitude to God for all that we have and to appreciate the things that we often take for granted.  I find this easiest with the beauty of the natural world, but I am getting better at finding times to thank God even in the midst of chaos.


    "Life is short, but there is always time enough for courtesy." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Using manners ourselves and teaching our children to use manners, like saying "please" and "thank you" shows them to appreciate people they interact with and the blessings they are given.  My daughter Ada is only 19 months old, yet she is already learning this important life skill.  After prompting her to say "tank you" for about a week, she is now saying it on her own.  It is such an easy thing for us to do, but it makes a world of difference.

    Thank you notes

    I am embarrassed to say that I'm not always good with this one.  I usually think to write a thank you note for a gift or a friend's hospitality, but I often forget.  You know what they say, "the path to hell is paved with good intentions." But I'm working on it!  I'm also working on Grace writing thank you notes for gifts that she is given.  I have some friends who are really great at this, and it is a wonderful way to show gratitude and make someone else feel appreciated.  Plus, if I teach Grace to do this now, hopefully she will be better at it than I am when she's an adult!

    Thank those who serve

    Currently less than .5% of the U.S. population is serving in the military, which means that less of us are impacted by the sacrifices of our servicemen and women (and their families) on a day-to-day basis.   But their courage and contributions should never be taken for granted.  It is their hard work and selflessness that protect all of the freedoms God has given us.  It is important that we show appreciation for our troops, both past and present, and teach our children to show them gratitude, as well.  Here are some ways to honor those who serve our country in the armed forces.

    Appreciate those who impact your family

    "We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives." - John F. Kennedy

    From a young age, I remember my mother giving Christmas gifts to the mailman and the garbage men.  We didn't know them personally, and we didn't really even see the mailman, as our mailbox was a couple hundred feet from our house.  But that didn't matter.  They deserved our thanks anyway.  The gifts were simple, usually cookies or a few  McDonald's gift dollars, but they showed how much she truly appreciated these people in our lives.  It was their service to our family that helped us have a comfortable life. 

    It is important to thank the people who impact our lives: teachers, secretaries, bus drivers, crossing guards, police officers, garbage men, mail carriers, firefighters, neighbors, store clerks and cashiers, etc.  It doesn't have to be through gifts.  It can be a simple smile, a wave, or kind words of thanks.  Your children will see this, and they will learn to show gratitude through your example, just as I have from my mom.

    Projects for gratitude

    There are all kinds of great ideas out there for projects that focus on showing gratitude.  Here are a few:

    Thankfulness Tree
    Raising Homemakers

    Thankful Tree

    Thankful Turkey
    Simple Kids
    "I'm thankful for..." Badges
    Thankful Badges
    thankful for yellow
    Thankful For Printables
    Mom Endeavors
    Thanksgiving Placemat
    Oh My Deer

    Catholic author and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton said:

    "To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.  Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.  For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.  And that is what makes all the difference."

    That is the gratitude I want to grow in myself and in my children.  Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and may God bless you and your family!  

    - Jessica

    Showing Gratitude This Veterans Day

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    With the many comforts we have in our great country, too often I take for granted the incredible sacrifices that our servicemen and women, and their families, have made and continue to make to protect us.  Not only is it important that I express my gratitude, but I want to teach my children this important lesson, as well.  

    Veterans Day is this Monday, and what better time to show thanks to those who have given so much?    

    Ways to show gratitude

    from has a comprehensive list of ideas and organizations for supporting our troops and veterans.  There are so many to choose from, that you should be able to find the right fit for your family.  

    Here are a few ways you and your children can show your appreciation to our servicemen and women:
    • Have your little ones draw pictures and write a letter or note to go with it.  For young children who can't write yet, simply write his ideas word for word for him.
    • Check out and collect and donate items requested by men and women currently serving abroad.
    • Collect or raise money to donate to one of the many organizations that help vets and service members.
    • If you know someone personally who has served in our country's military, write a thank you note with your child, and bake a treat or make a gift for him or her.
    • Remember service members' families.  If you know any, give them a gift, offer babysitting, or simply write a note of gratitude.

    Learn About and Celebrate Veterans Day

    I hope that your family has a blessed Veterans Day!
    - Jessica