Revolution of Love

Revolution of Love

Do small things with great love.

Merry Christmas 2015!

RevolutionofLove.com // Christmas_Collage_2015Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your day is filled with love, joy and peace. Thank you for your friendship and this little online community that means so much to me. You are in my prayers and I thank you for all the times you have prayed for me and my family. 🙂clip_art_bellsBelow is this year’s Christmas letter. I was going to do the normal highlights of the year letter but I just wasn’t feeling it. This is what came out instead.

Dear Family and Friends,

I have tried to write our yearly letter a number of times but I keep deleting it because it all sounds so boring. There were no great business adventures or prestigious school awards or social accolades to speak of. There were no exotic vacations, unless you count the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. There was nothing extraordinary. It was a year of ordinary moments – both good and not so great.

There were definitely highlights of the year – Brian being cancer free every three months when he had his routine testing. Or when we traveled to So Cal for my brother’s wedding. All eight of my siblings attended with their families. Or when I made my first trip alone to attend a Catholic Women’s Blogging Conference. It was a time of growth, discovery and closeness to God. But those were out of the ordinary moments. It was not the normal daily experience. The day to day looked more like this…

~~ There were countless dishes in the sink and laundry that multiplied when I was not looking. However, it meant that we had food to eat and warm clothes on our back.

~~ There were the usual toys, markers and Legos on the floor that required Jedi like reflexes not to damage your feet when walking barefoot. However, there were also proud moments when a child showed me what he built or the picture she drew and their creativity gave me a glimpse at their burgeoning talents.

~~There were incredibly loud noise levels reached when all three boys (and their father) had light saber battles or played football in the hallway. However, the sound of their giggles and contagious laughter couldn’t help but make me smile.

~~ There was the driving – so much driving – to and from school, picking up kids on three different school schedules and the countless after school appointments and activities. However, there were those moments when a child saw me after school and his face lit up as he ran to me with open arms yelling, “Mommy!” It melted my heart every time.

~~ There were meals to cook, toilets to scrub, work to be done, family to visit and deadlines to meet. However, I was paid above and beyond when a daughter placed her arms around me and rested her head on my shoulder, when a father-in-law kissed my cheek and thanked me for visiting him, when a reader sent a note of thanks or when my husband told me he loved me (even when I knew I drove him crazy at times.) Those are the moments that make life seem not mundane but blessed. Those are the rewards that make my heart light and give me strength when I am tired. Those are the times when I ask God to forgive my selfishness and for taking things for granted. That’s when I ask for the grace of gratitude.

So I pray this Christmas that God lightens the load you are carrying. I pray that your struggles are softened by love and kisses and moments of peace. I pray that all your “mundane” moments be transformed into little blessings that sparkle as brightly as the lights twinkling on a Christmas tree. I pray that the presents you are given are not under your tree but the people surrounding you. May you share joy, peace and the grace of God’s mercy this Christmas.

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do.” – Bl. Mother Teresa

xoxo,

PS – You can follow RoL on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope or Katch (past Periscopes), GoodReads, Letterboxd, or Spotify, 😉


Pinterest Party & Link-up (vol 34): Epiphany Party

(Sorry for the delay. This was supposed to be posted Tuesday!)

Welcome to the RoL Pinterest Party. Join me as we link up and share how we made, cooked, baked, crafted, planned, organized, followed or created one of the pins on our Pinterest boards OR share something original that others can pin onto their boards.

Not on Pinterest? No problem. Link-up your own creation to inspire us so we can pin in to our own boards. It can be a recipe, sewing project, Catholic craft, homeschool project, organizing/ homemaking tip, themed birthday party, whatever you’d like.

Don’t have a post ready? The link-up will be open for a month so there’s still time. Plus, feel free to link up a new post or an older post that hasn’t had much traffic lately. 🙂

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Epiphany Party // RevolutionofLoveBlog.com - epiphany_11

Since we celebrated the Epiphany this week, I thought it would be appropriate to do this month’s Pinterest Party about the Epiphany party we hosted last year.

We invited a number of local Catholic families so we had Packer football for the guys. (Brian stipulated that I could have a party only if he could still watch his game. 😉 ) We had a simple craft for the kids and the moms didn’t need direction since they know how to fill the hours with conversation and laughter without any help. 🙂

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We started out the day with a blessing of our house. There is a long blessing that you can find at Catholic Culture.org –Catholic Prayer: Blessing of the Home on Epiphany. With a big crowd we kept it simple and just said the last part of the blessing:

Leader: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

We then marked our door.

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Epiphany Blessing of the House // Revolution of Love Blog

Laci and Catholic Icing explains the meaning of the markings. (She also has some great Epiphany crafts here.)

Here’s what the chalked markings on the door mean: The “20″ is for the first 2 numbers of the year, the 3 letters are the first Initial of each of the kings (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) and the last 2 numbers are the last half of the year. The “C, M, B also stands for the Latin blessing Christius Mansionem Benedicat which means “May Christ Bless this House”.

The writing for 2015 would look like this:

20 + C + M + B + 15

As a small gift to each family, we placed in a ziploc bag a copy of the blessing prayer and a stick of chalk to bless their own house.

revolution of love blog - epiphany_1Once the prayers and blessings were said, the party could start. To keep the food simple, I set up a table with a taco salad bar with the basics – tortilla chips, ground turkey meat, homemade – healthier refried beans, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, guac, salsa and sour cream. I also had the tortilla grill ready to make quesadillas for any of the littles who preferred that.revolution of love blog -epiphany_4

I forgot to take a photo of the table before all the food was devoured but I did get a snap of someone’s taco salad.

revolution of love blog - epiphany_6For the dessert table, we had fruit, Mexican sweet bread and an Epiphany cake

revolution of love blog - epiphany_5 For the epiphany cake, my friend found a bakery (for you locals, it’s Parker Lusseau in Monterey, CA) that made a gluten free version, complete with a little figurine baked inside for someone to find. It was delicious!

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When the meal was finished we had simple crafts for the kids. They could make cards or little gift boxes for Baby Jesus.

revolution of love blog - epiphany_3We also had crowns – plain ones to be decorated and colored ones for those who wanted them already complete.

Since it was the beginning of the year, I wanted to do a tradition we often did in our home when we were older kids. We’d each pick out of a hat a card with the name of a saint and a virtue we’d work on that year. It was always a fun activity and sometimes the virtue we’d pick was spot on. (Why did I keep getting patience? I’d ask myself. 😉 )

revolution of love blog  -epiphany_10I made a Word document with a saint photo, quote and virtue then cut the cards out. I made enough for each person on the guest list. I separated the cards by groups – moms, dads, teen girls and teen boys, then had the guests chose a random card.

For the moms I picked saints and quote like these:

Love – “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” –Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Perseverance – “Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in carrying it. God is helping us. And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says, we can do anything.” –St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Greater Love of God – “Pure love is capable of great deeds, and it is not broken by difficulty or adversity. As it remains strong in the midst of great difficulties, so too it perseveres in the toilsome and drab life of each day. It knows that only one thing is needed to please God: to do even the smallest things out of great love – love, and always love.” –St. Faustina

Silence – “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” — Blessed Mother Teresa

Prayer – “A soul arms itself by prayer for all kinds of combat. In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul which is pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty; a soul which is striving after this purity must pray, or else it will never attain it; a soul which is newly converted must pray, or else it will fall again; a sinful soul, plunged in sins, must pray so that it might rise again. There is no soul which is not bound to pray, for every single grace comes to the soul through prayer.” –St. Faustina

Make Small Sacrifices for Love of Christ – “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” –St. Thérèse de Lisieux

For the dads, saints like these:

Forgiveness – “If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His Blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but even prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also.” –Saint Philip Neri

Love – “Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.” –Pope John Paul II

Peace – “Keep your soul at peace, in order to be able to be attentive and very faithful to the inner movement of the Holy Spirit.” –Saint Peter Julian Eymard

Patience – “The truly patient man neither complains of his hard lot nor desires to be pitied by others. He speaks of his sufferings in a natural, true, and sincere way, without murmuring, complaining, or exaggerating them.” — St. Francis de Sales

Obedience to God – ”Obedience is a virtue of so excellent a nature, that Our Lord was pleased to mark its observance upon the whole course of His life; thus He often says, He did not come to do His Own will, but that of His Heavenly Father.” –Saint Francis of Sales

Prayer – ‘We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.’ –St. Ignatius of Loyola

For the teen girls, saints like these:

Purity – “Those whose hearts are pure are the temples of the Holy Spirit.” –St. Lucy

Obedience – “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.” –St Faustina

Pray for the Conversion of Sinners – “I wish, oh Jesus, that my voice could reach to the ends of the world, to call all sinners and tell them to enter into Thy Heart….Oh, if only all sinners would come to Thy Heart!… Come! Come sinners, do not be afraid! The sword of Justice cannot reach you Here!” –St Gemma Galgani

Courage in Living Your Faith – “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” — St. Catherine of Siena

Be a Witness for Christ – “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ― St. Catherine of Siena

For the teen boys, saints like these:

Faithfulness / Fidelity to God – “Fidelity in little things must be the basic rule in striving for holiness,” –Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Courage in Living Your Catholic Faith – “When God is with us, we do not need to be afraid.” –Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Greater Love for Jesus in the Eucharist – “Do you want many graces? Go and visit the Blessed Sacrament often. Do you want few graces? Visit the Blessed Sacrament rarely. Do you want none at all? Then never pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament,” –St. Dominic Savio

I think the party was a success. I know we had fun and enjoyed everyone’s company. The moms in our group usually get together but it was nice to do something where the dads and kids were involved too. Hopefully we can host another Epiphany party next year. 🙂

Okay, that was my idea for the month. You can find the Pinterest pin for this party here – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/239676011395224224/.

You can find me on Pinterest here – http://www.pinterest.com/rol_bobbi.

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Now it’s your turn! Share something creative you’ve done. 🙂

1. Choose your creation, share about it and snap a photo if you can.

2. In your post, link back the original blogger/idea, rather than your Pinterest pin. That way credit goes to the proper person. 🙂 (But feel free to add your Pinterest profile link so we can follow you!)

3. Add a link back here so others can play along.

4. If you want to use it, here is the html code for the logo:

<a href=”http://www.revolutionoflove.com/blog/?p=2157″><img title=”Revolution of Love Blog – Pinterest Party & Link-up” src=”http://www.revolutionoflove.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/pinterest_2_medW32-300×240.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”240″ /></a>

5. Link up below. Make sure you’re sending us to your actual post, and not to your general blog address.

The link up will be active the whole month. Have fun!

PS – You can follow RoL on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, Letterboxd or Instagram. 😉

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Favorite Advent Traditions: Keeping Christ in Christmas

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I am excited to be a part of Beth Anne’s Advent Blog Hop! I love reading about the traditions Catholic families use to keep Christ in Christmas and today I’m sharing the activities we do. Some of these we’ve been doing for years and others we’ve just started.

NOTE: Don’t try to do all these activities unless you have super powers or at least are immune to doing-too-much-at-once stress. (Ask me how I know. 😉 ) If you are just starting out, choose one activity that would work for your family. Then you can add on as the years go by if you’d like.

The Advent Wreath

revolution of love blog - advent_candleThe Advent wreath is probably the most familiar and easiest of the Advent traditions and it remains a favorite of the kids. There is something special about turning down the lights and watching the flames flicker in the darkness.

There are many ready made advent wreaths from Catholic online stores but it is also easy to make one of your own. I went to our local Trader Joe’s and picked up one of their fresh wreaths. You could also use clipped branches from your Christmas tree arranged in a circle or make your own wreath with materials from a craft store.

Next you need 4 candles – three purple and one pink. Starting with the first Sunday of Advent, you light the first candle. The second week light two candles and so forth. The third Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday (Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice.”) We light the pink candle to symbolizing our growing joy that Christmas is almost here. (The priest will also wear rose colored vestments at Mass that week.) The last week is another purple candle.

We used to use the long taper candles but they were always toppling over. Finally I found four hefty sized candles at Hobby Lobby and we place them in our wreathe. (The only downside is that they are lavender scented so the kids think it smells like a fancy bathroom around them.) 😉 If you can’t find colored candles you could use white candles and tie purple/pink ribbons on them. (Away from the flame.) And if you have little ones who can’t keep their hands off the flame, you can use the battery operated candles!

Are you on a tight budget? Go to Pinterest and search “paper advent wreaths.” You’ll find all kinds of ideas including ones with construction paper and toilet paper rolls. It’s not really about the wreath itself, it is more about taking a few moments to quiet yourself and think about he coming Savior.

With that said, in a perfect world, each night we gather around the Advent wreath, light the candle(s) and say our night prayers. However, it was hit and miss since evenings are hectic with homework, bathing, getting the boys to bed early, prep for the next morning, etc. Family evening prayer was just not happening. So Brian suggested we switch our prayer to before we say our dinner grace. It is the one time in the day when we are always all together at the same time. It has worked so  much better!

The boys are eager to turn down the lights while Brian lights the candles and I read the reflection from  Sarah Reinhard’s book Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families. (It only cost $1.99 at Amazon and $0.99 on Kindle). It has wonderful daily reflections that are simple enough for the kids to understand.  Most days we use the reflection book. Other days when we have evening activities scheduled, Brian says a short spontaneous prayer. The main thing is that we are praying something together.

(Click here for a simple prayer from Loyola Press to say each week when lighting the candle.)

UPDATE: Fast forward two years and we are now in the habit of saying night prayers and a decade of the rosary as a family before the kids go to bed. We light our Advent wreath before our prayer time. Remember, baby steps. Start small and then you take on a little more as the kids get older. 🙂

The Advent Calendar

After we say our Advent wreath prayer, the “person of the day” gets to open the next box in our Advent calendar. We started this tradition years ago as a way to combat the seasonal “gimmies” (give me this, give me that). To help bring the focus back on Christ and sharing his love with others, we started the tradition of making our Advent Calendar into an Act of Love Calendar. We explained that we can show our love for Jesus by sharing that love with others and what we do for others, we do for Our Lord.

Revolution of Love Blog - advent_calendar_pic_1A couple years back I found this little country house Advent calendar at Target and I loved it!

advent_calendar_pic_2WNormally you would put in a treat or little toy for each day but instead I put little slips of paper with different acts of love our family could do each day.

revolution of love blog - advent_calendar_pic_4W2 If an activity doesn’t suit our family or I have something else in mind, then I write my own act.

revolution of love blog - advent_calendar_pic_7At dinner time, we each take a turn sharing something about our day. During Advent this will sometimes include sharing about our act of love. For example, Andrew shared how on the day he was supposed to help someone in need, he helped a classmate that fell down at recess and walked him to the school office to get a band aid.

Another time we had to be a peacemaker so I shared that instead of losing my temper and yelling at the kids, I first went into my room and screamed into my pillow, then came out of my bedroom and corrected the boys calmly. (They got a kick out of that one.) This sharing helps us to see how we can apply our faith into the daily fabric of our lives.

If you are looking for a nativity box, Target has some other cute ones. Amazon also has a pretty Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic Figures. Or if you prefer a wall calendar there is the Traditional Nativity Advent Calendar Personalized Version or the cute Little People Nativity Advent Calendar. But you certainly don’t need to spend money on these fancy boxes!

For the full post and links for the Acts of Love calendar, visit the full post here.

 

A Letter to Baby Jesus (Instead of Santa)Revolution of Love Blog - A letter to Baby Jesus (Instead of Santa) - letter_baby_jesusWI posted earlier this week about this activity we added to our family this year. You can get all the details here but in a nutshell, a few years back, I asked some fellow Catholic moms how they keep Christ in Christmas. A friend shared with me how she has her kids write letters to Baby Jesus instead of Santa. I loved the idea.

The boys still believe in Santa and they wanted to write their wish lists but I liked the idea of a letter to Baby Jesus so I incorporated the two.  I put together a simple form letter that I could print off and give everyone to fill out.

Before they can get to the wish list part, they first have to think about what they will give Baby Jesus as a gift.

revolution of love blog - jesus_letter_2Then they chose a person they would especially pray for during Advent.

revolution of love blog - jesus_letter_1When they were done, they folded up their letters and put them in their shoes for St. Nicholas to deliver to Baby Jesus. In the morning they found their letters gone and their treats instead.

If you’d like to print of a copy of the Letter to Baby Jesus for your little ones, I posted the PDF here. Also, I made a second version for those who don’t want the Santa aspect. It can be found here.  🙂

Advent Adventures

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I have enjoyed using the Holy Heroes activities for Advent in the past and now, along with their daily activity emails, they have their worksheets in a book form.It has made it much easier to have all the worksheets already printed out and in one place!

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For Bella and Andrew, there are a lot of various activities and puzzles they can do. For Matthew and John-Paul, they like to do the coloring pages. (They also like the Childhood of Jesus Coloring Book.) The Advent book also solved a problem I had with the next Advent tradition…

Filling Jesus’ Crib with Straw

Like the letter to Jesus, for years I’ve been wanting to do the activity of filling Baby Jesus’ crib with soft “straw.” Every time one of the kids completes their act of love or does some other sacrifice, they can put a piece of straw in Jesus’ crib. Or if I see someone doing their chores without complaint or sharing a toy with a sibling, I will tell them they they were acting very loving and they can put in a straw for Jesus. (It is the same concept as the sacrifice beans we did for Lent and that was a hit with the boys.)baby_jesus

I kept putting off starting the activity until I could buy a baby Jesus like the one we had growing up. Well, I have yet to buy one and thought I would just skip it again this year. But when I bought the Advent Adventures book, I was excited to see they had a paper version.

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With some tape, scissors and yarn to cut up as straw…

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We now have our Baby Jesus manger. (The book also comes with a paper Baby Jesus to cut out and place in the manger on Christmas morning.)

A Nativity Set for the Littles

Anyone with children knows that they are very hands on. They also know how their blood pressure rises every time their little one grabs the ceramic Mary or St. Joseph from the nativity set and starts running down the hallway with it. One of the best investments I ever made was purchasing the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set. They can be a bit pricey but it was worth it! A nativity scene that the kids can touch and move around makes life sooo much easier. Amazon has the Fisher Price deluxe models and the simple “To Go” Set.

A Birthday Party for Jesus

It is a family tradition that on each child’s birthday the dining room table is decorated with a birthday sign and stuffed animals to “greet” them when they wake up. Being Jesus’ birthday, it is only natural that it is celebrated in a similar fashion. Since Christ is the guest of honor (not Santa) our St. Nick plush holds Jesus’ birthday sign. I also place on the table the birthday cake we made for Jesus’ party.

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On Christmas morning we all gather around the table that holds the empty manger. We place a large white candle in the center of the advent wreathe and light it. Mom or Dad (or an honored sibling) places the child Jesus in his manger and we sing Happy Birthday. Then the festivities begin.

 

The Spirit of Giving

John-Paul, Matthew and Andrew packing stockings for soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

Nothing invokes greediness quite as quickly as a materialistic holiday season. To help conquer this, it is helpful to keep kids (and adults) focused on the spirit of giving, especially those less fortunate. If you have older kids this can be done through working at a soup kitchen, food pantry, or visiting the elderly. This year Bella will be singing Christmas carols at a local Catholic convalescent home with her youth group.

Most parishes have programs where you pick a name or number and buy a gift for a specific child. Brian’s work also sponsors a local needy family so we have a number of choices. I make sure to pick a young boy that the boys will sponsor, a tween/teen girl for Bella and Brian and I will pick someone on the list that is often overlooked – an older boy or a single mom. The kids, including little ones, can do extra jobs and chores around the house to earn some extra money (or use their tithing money if they get an allowance) in order to buy small gifts for these needy children. Or they can help you buy canned good for the local food bank.

This is a great lesson in selflessness for the kids – a certain 5 year old of mine was shedding dramatic tears when he realized the skateboard we bought was going to little Jose and not him. Moreover, it is a lesson of real patience for me to let the kids get involved. I love buying gifts for people and making it special but it is another thing when you are walking down the grocery aisle with three opinionated little boys arguing over which items to purchase for the food baskets for the homeless. (Seriously?) It’s easy for me to say forget it and just do it myself but I need this lesson in sacrificial giving as much, if not more, as they do.

 

Plan Ahead for Charitable Gifts

I’ll admit that the extra gift giving can add up to a lot of extra money! Luckily, I have been looking for bargains throughout the year. Once a month during one of my many Target visits, I’ll check out the dollar section for various care package items. You can pick up small toiletries, snacks and hand warmers to give to military troops or the homeless or you can find coloring books, games, craft projects, socks etc to fit into a child’s care package. During off-season sales or Pre-Thanksgiving sales or Black Friday sales I find generic gifts like baby dolls or skateboards for the Angel Tree children. To help the kids understand sacrificing for others, we’ll give away some of their older toys to St. Vincent de Paul and as a family we’ll give up one of our “Pizza Nights” and eat sandwiches or leftovers instead. The money we saved goes towards buying gifts and food for others.

With a little creativity, planning and sacrifice, you can make your charitable gift giving more affordable for your family. (NOTE – If you are anything like me, you may also want to download the free printable from the post Keeping Track of Your Hidden Gifts from Orgjunkie.com. I wish I had that last year because I have two Christmas presents that I know I bought but I can’t figure out where I hid them! LOL)

 

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

Sometimes when I read posts like this on other mom blogs I think, “Aw! Look at all that stuff they are doing! How come we don’t do things like that? Look at those eight kids in matching home-sewn outfits, kneeling reverently as they pray the rosary. And look at the gluten and dairy free Christmas recipe they followed using only fresh produce from their organic home garden. Sigh. I’m lucky I barely (fill-in-the-blank) let alone what they are doing…”

Yeah, none of that kind of talk is allowed here.

revolution of love blog - advent_messyTruth be told, this looks great on paper but in real life it is messy and chaotic. We light the candles for our Advent prayer and two of the boys will be in laughing hysterically over one of their ill timed farts or they will be near blows because one brother blew out the candle when it was their turn. Most years the activities don’t start on the first day of Advent. For example, the baby crib to be filled with straw. I literally just put it together yesterday and it only had five straws in it so far. I added more so it wouldn’t look so skimpy for the photo.

Although we are all trying to be more loving, more generous and more patient this Advent, it is not an easy road. When Brian came home yesterday I was nearly in tears because days of stormy weather and having the boys cooped up in the house had them climbing up the walls. Matthew and John-Paul are two playful buddies but sometimes they reach a point where they are arguing over everything. No, really. Everything. The ridiculousness of it coupled with the noise and fighting becomes like nails on a chalkboard. I finally blew up at them and I yelled at them like I hadn’t yelled in a long time. It was not pretty. It made me feel hypocritical for writing this “happy” post today.

The point is that even thought we try to use these tools, it is not always roses and sunshine. We all fall short. That is when we turn to God (and confession) to give us the grace to pick ourselves back up. Then in between the realness there are moments when the kids “get it.” We see a loving gesture or a chore being done without being asked,  a spontaneous act of love or a contrite apology (from child and mother). When we see in ourselves that the second time around we held our temper or that we turned off the radio to pray the rosary or that we finished all the laundry instead of checking Facebook, then we know progress is being made slowly but surely.

The other good thing about Advent is that is is four weeks long. It is never too late to start a new tradition or refocus our attitude in general. And if you are season of life right now that consists of just making it through the day in one piece, then store these ideas for the future and offer to God the little acts that pop up throughout your day. No need for elaborate activities. God knows your heart.

With those thoughts, I wish you a blessed second half of Advent! If things are going well, keep up the good work. You are an inspiration! And if things have not been going well, let’s work on this together and pray for one another. 🙂

Lastly, a big thank you to Beth Anne for including me in the Advent blog hop! Check out the other featured bloggers this week.

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PS – You can follow me on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope or Katch (past Periscopes), GoodReads, Letterboxd, or Spotify, 😉

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In other words, if you click on my affiliated links and make a purchase, I get a small compensation that goes towards keeping the blog online. Big hugs to those who click and help support the blog! xoxo 🙂


A Favorite Christ- Centered Christmas Tradition: The Advent Calendar

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Today I had the privileged to guest post over at SimpleLifeMessyLife.com. I talked about one of our favorite Advent traditions – the Advent ( aka. Acts of Love) Calendar.

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The Christmas season is a time of joy and love but it can also be a time of stress for parents and greediness for children when all they can think about is what they will find under the tree on Christmas morning! To help bring the focus back on Christ and sharing his love with others, we started the tradition of making our Advent Calendar into an Act of Love Calendar. We talked about the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25: 31-46. We explained that we can show our love for Jesus by sharing that love with others and what we do for others, we do for Our Lord.

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A couple years back I found this little country house Advent calendar at Target and I loved it! Normally you would put in a treat or little toy for each day but instead I put little slips of paper with different acts of love our family could do each day.

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To keep things simple, I searched online for a children’s printable Advent calendar. I found this one from Loyola Press. I simply cut up the calendar and put the little paper squares into the corresponding day. Each day we had one act of kindness that everyone in the family would do. If one of the day’s activities was not really suitable for our family or if there were other acts or activities I wanted our family to work on, I just wrote my own words on a slip of paper and added it in a box. On Sundays our act of love is spending time together so we do something fun as a family, such as, pick out our Christmas tree or bake cookies to bring to a neighbor or watch a Christmas movie together (without fighting who gets to choose the movie.)

RevolutionofLove.com - Pinterest Party: advent_calendar_pic_3WEach day the kids take turns opening the day’s box and we find out which act of love we will be doing that day.

RevolutionofLove.com - Pinterest Party: advent_calendar_pic_4WThis can be done in the morning but sometimes our mornings are so chaotic getting everyone to school on time that it is easier for us to do pick out our act the night before.

In the evenings after we say grace for dinner, we each take a turn to share something about our day. During Advent this will often include sharing about our act of love. For example, one of my sons shared how on the day he was supposed to be help someone in need, he helped a classmate that fell down at recess and walked him to the school office to get a band aid.

Another time we had to be a peacemaker so I shared that instead of losing my temper and yelling at the kids, I first went into my room and screamed into my pillow, then came out of my bedroom and corrected the boys calmly. (They got a kick out of that one.) This sharing helps us to see how we can apply our faith into the daily fabric of our lives.

© Revolution of Love Blog - jesus_stockingAfter our evening family prayer, we put that day’s slip of paper into our stocking set aside for Jesus. At the end of Advent, Jesus has 24 little gifts that we gave him.

RevolutionofLove.com - Pinterest Party: advent_calendar_pic_5WLet me add two disclaimers here. The first is that you don’t have to buy a fancy advent box to do this activity. You could use construction paper and make 25 Christmas shapes tracing cookie cutters. Or you can use leftover scrap book paper and make an Advent chain with 24 rings. Write acts of love on the cut out slips of paper then loop them together with tape. Then each day you remove one ring.

If you need some ideas of things you could write down, here are some suggestions.

Share something of yours with a sibling or friend at school.

Don’t lose your temper when someone makes you upset.

Be grateful and say thank you to God and others.

Say a prayer for someone in need today.

Clean up your room without being asked.

Donate toys or books you’ve outgrown to charity.

Read a favorite bible story to a family member.

Give someone you love a hug and tell them you love them.

Try hard to obedient to your teachers and parents.

Be grateful for what you have and don’t complain.

Make Christmas cards and deliver them to the local nursing home.

Do an extra job around the house to earn money to buy a toy for the Angel Tree

Spend time with your family doing a fun activity together.

The list can go on and on but you get the idea! Choose things that are most suitable to your family and where you are in life.

The second disclaimer is not to get discouraged if you try this and everything is not as picture perfect as you had hoped. There are days when my little peacemakers are practically fist fighting their brothers over who gets to pick the next act or who gets to put the slip of paper in Jesus’ stocking. Or the teen may give you a blank expression when you ask about their day at the dinner table. Or a hectic day may find you never did anything with your act. Don’t worry about it. Say a prayer to your Heavenly Father and move on to the next day. It won’t always be picture perfect but the grace comes with the effort and when you see a glimpse of your child “getting it” or when you see yourself being more patient, then you know that you truly are learning how to keep Christ in Christmas.

 

PS – You can follow RoL on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, Letterboxd or Instagram. 😉

PPS – This post first appeared at SimpleLifeMessyLife.com. 🙂

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Merry Christmas 2013 – Our Family Letter

Merry Christmas! I hope you had a wonderful day today with family and friends. If you didn’t receive our Christmas letter in the mail and you actually have a desire to read it, here it is. If you are the type that hates Christmas letters, just skip this post and have a wonderful Christmas season!

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Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas! It is hard to believe that the year is almost over. And what a year it has been. I just finished looking over our photos to refresh my memory of all that has happened over the last 12 months. Here’s a quick recap of how each of us are doing.

Brian – The biggest challenge we faced this year was Brian’s illness. He had been feeling ill for awhile and seeing various doctors. Finally, after a trip to the ER, we found out that he had colon cancer. We were shocked. Thankfully, Brian’s cancer was caught early at Stage 1 and his operation was successful with no signs of spread. It was a difficult time for each of us but we were incredibly happy when Brian was released from the hospital and we brought him back home. I watched him as he was playing outside with the kids and tears could not be stopped as my heart felt overwhelming gratitude. I could not imagine what life would be like without my sweetheart and I am glad this was not the time to find out. Secondly, we were grateful for the incredible amount of love and support that came from our family and friends. From my sister who took off work for a week to take care of the kids (and her boss that said it was ok) to my in-laws who give so much, to Brian’s coworkers that brought us home cooked, full course meals and desserts for a week. I told Brian he can never doubt that he’s loved! Okay, since I am literally trying to type through my tears as I recall all this, let’s move on.

Bella – My sweet little girl, who is growing into a young lady, turned 12 years old this year. She is doing well in the 6th grade and recently spend a week in the Santa Cruz mountains for science camp. It was her first (long) solo trip away from home. How we missed her! But I am glad she had a lot of fun. Bella still loves to draw and her talent continues to grow. (No, I am not the least bit biased!) She is an awesome big sister who knows how to mother (and tease) her little brothers, who love her dearly. She is also my comrade in this house full of boys. When we get tired of stepping on Legos or dodging swinging light sabers or hearing the yell of Packers fans, we escape for a mom and daughter day out.  She truly is a ray on sunshine in my life.

Andrew – The oldest of the boys, Andrew is my sensitive child with a playful heart. He is six years old and doing well in Kindergarten. I love to see his eyes light up as he practices his reading and discovers new words. He loves to play with his Legos and build new creations. He is the leader of the boys as they dress up in costume or act out a Star Wars scene or race their Big Wheels out on the deck. Although he is quiet around those he does not know well, he is a bundle of energy and has a contagious laughter that can get me giggling even if I have no idea what he is laughing at. His sweet smile and soulful eyes melt my heart every day.

John-Paul – JP is my night and day child. He has a sweet, playful spirit with a laid back personality but when he gets upset, everyone knows it. At the end of summer John-Paul turned four and he is really enjoying pre school. His favorite place to go is the library. Like his father, you will always see him with a book in his hands. He loves to play with his “broders” whether they are wresting on the floor, running outside or battling Angry Bird Star Wars. I love that John Paul is at an age when all the ills of life can be cured by a kiss or hug from mom. His curly top head and sideways smile steals my heart daily.

Matthew – What can I say about my little spitfire with the mischievous smile and big heart? The baby of the family may be small but he packs a big punch! Matthew is full of energy and spirit and he is ready to conquer anything his older brothers are doing. He is also the child most likely to fall in love with the country life! He loves the outdoors and hates wearing socks and shoes. I have to keep a close eye on him during these cold days because he’ll strip off this jacket and footwear to run outside in his t-shirt, sweats and bare feet. Matthew is also tender hearted and quick with his hugs. If he sees I’m upset he’ll pat my arms and say, “Don’t worry, Mama.” I can’t help but recall when I was pregnant with Matthew. I was worried about how I would handle a fourth child but looking at his sweet smile and feeling the joy he brings, I can’t imagine life without him.

It’s funny but lately I have been thinking about when I was younger and growing up with eight siblings. I used to wonder how a mom could love so many children equally and fully. But I’ve learned that a mom’s heart has an incredible capacity to grow and stretch with each child. I love each of my babies tenderly and marvel at their unique personalities and abilities. I’ll admit, I’ll sometimes have to remind myself of how much I am blessed when I am in the middle of the chaos, but truly, I love it and thank God each day for the gift of life. This year in particular, we were acutely aware that life is precious and it should never be taken for granted! So give an extra hug to those you love and reach out to those that have grown distant. Life is too short to not share your love with others.

With that thought, I’m sending you heartfelt wishes for a wonderful Christmas! May this New Year be filled with peace and joy. And a special thanks to all of you that have kept us in prayer this last year. It was your prayers and God’s grace that carried us through the difficult moments. God bless you!

Love,

PS – You can follow RoL on Bloglovin, Feedly or another news feed. If you are a social media fan like me, we can stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads or Instagram. 😉