Just a closer walk

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I wanted to do a daily hands-on activity Lenten activity with the two littlest ones. My first idea was to trace their feet and cut out 40 for each. But when my neatnik Cliff would have nothing to do with the feet tracing activity, I had to compromise. Once Lillian saw me come up with a graphic of a foot, she had design plans of her own. What we ended up with was pretty much directed by her.

I used Word and Photoshop. I made twp footprints in Photoshop’s custom shape feature and colored one pink and one blue. (You can guess who came up with that). I saved them as jpegs and pulled them into Word, added a cross on, and an empty heart near each foot (also directed by Lil) and the text: “Walking the path with Jesus brings my heart closer to his.” I printed a total of 40 in each color. The kids each fill in the heart daily with a picture (or scribble ala Cliff) and the number of the day of Lent. It’s hardly craft-0-licious – but it works. We’re tacking them up the wall and they will work their way along the ceiling (eventually leading to a hung crucifix). The children are already excited to see the path grow. I’m not usually a let’s-tape-stuff-to-the-wall mom, but I’m repainting in the spring, so I figured let’s go with my unusual flexibility while the going is good.

Here’s a pdf of what I made: Path of Lent. It’s a nice activity because it’s not too overwhelming or time-consuming, but it is still a multi-step and multi-sensory process. If you’re not for the wall-walking, collecting them in a box would be fun. You could occasionally spread them on the floor (adding a little sequencing exercise to boot). The activity has already prompted some nice conversation, engagement and an opportunity to build on their knowledge of this holy season.

Today (since all are home for break) we are making an Alleluia banner to bring out on Easter. We’ve done this before (usually on Ash Wednesday), and it adds to the celebration (and decor!) of our Easter. And yes: there will be glitter involved – because making all things new has to involve lots of sparkle, right?

Microsoft Word - Document2

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Goodbye Zsa Zsa, hello Lent

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Why start in mid January what you can put off until Lent?

In addition to prayer, alms giving and fasting – I’m planning a resolutionary Lent.

I missed the opportunity to seize my few planned resolutions for the New Year since the kids and I were sick in bed the week before, during and after the clock struck midnight. Two weeks into January, I didn’t have the wherewithal to tackle the self-improvement tasks I had intended since I was in a semi-scramble trying to make up for all the lost time, deadlines, projects and whatnot that the flu dutifully mangled.

I’m all about Lenten sacrifices, and for some reason (like my personality), I continue to add sacrifices in the form of projects as the season progresses. And, I generally over-do it. In years past, I’ve gotten rid of 40 bags of stuff. Twice. Written 40 letters for life. Taken care of 40 menial tasks (the little fixes that never seem to get done) – all while leading a prayer group, doing Lenten activities with the kids and checking off “pray more” on my mental to-do list for the season.

No matter what, I feel like I end up conquering Lent. And here I am again: planning to add a resolution (or two or three).

I need to tackle these resolutions to yield a little more quiet time with the Lord for a more spiritually productive holy season. This approach is ripe with sacrifice for me since most of these improvements appear no where on my oh-isn’t-this-fun list. I am motivated to embrace these changes for the sake of his sorrowful passion. (Even though some I should be doing for my own well-being – I know my weaknesses and thank God for his strength.)

My most ridiculous resolutionary sacrifice is in the form of coffee. (No. I am not giving up coffee. I’m pretty sure I’m still called to function.)

Where's my coffee, Dahling?

Where’s my coffee, Dahling?

I am blessed to have a dear spouse who wakes me every day by bringing me coffee. (Yes. Pity me.)

Not too terribly long ago, I was a normal person who woke to an alarm. But over the past couple years, the protocol is that Richard makes me coffee (in a French press and with frothed milk, no less), and brings it to my bedside. As much as I appreciate this (and oh golly I do!), I really need to get up on my own and not be dependent on this glorious gesture. I need to seize the day – not be eased into it. He can still make me coffee (and I hope he does), but I need to re-learn how to get up outside of this ritual. There’s no consistency in the timing. Which I need. Some mornings, I’m awake and stay put in bed, waiting for that cup of coffee. I almost feel (gasp) entitled to that coffee in bed. Which is ridiculous. (Who am I? Zsa Zsa Gabore? “Thank you, Darling?”) Giving this up really is a sacrifice – because, I so love the sweet thought behind it. But it’s also a resolution – because self-improvement will come from this change. I don’t intend to go back to the practice after Easter, and I resolve to readily seize the day and offer the fruits it brings to the Lord.

For Phil’s sake

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I want to believe Punxsutawney Phil. I’m longing for spring – the thought of which has wedged itself in my brain like a steel spike.

I get a little bit of those lack-of-sun winter blahs. Even though I love the snow, I just don’t force myself out in cold grey weather enough to soak of the helpful vitamin D provided so graciously for free by the sun. Two years ago, when I found myself crying like a baby in the confessional, a really tall and wise man said: “You probably just need some sun. Are you getting enough sun?”

Today’s extra dose of snow reminded me that spring is still far off. And even though Phil basked above the ground long enough for a bunch of grown men in top hats to declare that the rodent knows something we don’t – six, now five, weeks is still a loooooong time. (And dare I say? There is a chance that Phil is … wrong. How can he see his shadow anyway?Have you seen that whole set up? So what if the fat rat is wrong and winter is longer? Much longer.)

Maybe I’m yearning for spring more now since I’m packing some fun-in-the-sun clothing for two kids heading south to visit Grandma and Grandpa.Perhaps shopping for flip flops just wedged that spike in a little further and twisted it. I’ve been in denial, but I think it hit me that they won’t bring the sunshine home with them – so I guess I have to tough it out. (I keep picturing unzipping sunshine from their L.L. Bean duffle.)

Well, on the bright side, there’s always Lent to look forward to.

Here’s a look at a huge crowd of people cheering on the rodent. I suppose the tradition gives folks the excuse to start drinking early in the day to celebrate the coming of spring. Or to start drinking early to drown the sorrow of the long weeks of winter ahead. Either way. Cheers. 

The black-eyed pirate who loves Jesus

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The resident pirate wearing a little faith scapulin from romanticcatholic.com.

After the first of the year, I decided to diminish my participation in music ministry at our parish. The main reason was Cliff. In an effort to spend as much time as I could working on his speech challenges, it meant that I really couldn’t spare the hours of weekly practices and commitments. The byproduct has been that without all the weekly commitments, we’ve branched out and enjoyed a few occasional trips to some of the beautiful historic churches in Detroit.

Today, we visited St. Josaphat’s. It was hot, and attendance was rather sparse. The homily was solid, and the music was good. The organist has a fantastic singing voice. The acoustics in church (oddly) aren’t that great, though. And he sings without a mic. Which I don’t quite get. He even announces the songs by sort of hollering them from the choir loft. And it’s hard to pick up what he’s saying. In part because he also tends to give somewhat extensive instructions (“We’ll sing all four stanzas of the song and only sing the refrain at the beginning and end”). That said, they’re always pretty familiar traditional choices and a joy to sing. One Sunday during Lent, he sang after communion John Stainer’s “God So Love the World,” and well, I thought someone was going to have to peel me off the floor. It was gorgeous, holy, meditational and spectacularly resonant, even with his back to the congregation as he played (beautifully, I might add) the organ.

We’ve gone to noon mass there a few times since March. The pastor is young and energetic and is responsible for that church as well as two neighboring churches. And when I say neighboring … I mean neighboring. One (Sweetest Heart of Mary) is barely more than a stone’s throw away.

When visiting St. Josaphat on Palm Sunday, I had to remove Cliff from the sanctuary and hang out in the vestibule. It had something to do with his pointing out all the many paintings and depictions of Jesus in the church and wanting to discuss them. In full voice. And since he is a boy with whom we do not want to discourage talking, it was just better to take his need for conversation elsewhere.

That’s when we saw it: A tomb with a life-size statue of Christ. Complete with crucifixion wounds. Cliff – at the time – would often say, “Jesus died on the boss.” (To which I would inaudibly come back with “and the E Street Band” before modeling the correct pronunciation of the word “cross.”) When he saw Jesus in the tomb, he declared, “Jesus died in a box!”

I did my best to try – in three-year-old terms – to explain what it was that he was seeing. That it was a statue, wasn’t scary and was for a display to help people understand the story of Jesus dying and rising.

His first instinct was to gently touch the wounds on the statue of Christ.

He couldn’t stay away from it. I quickly snapped the above photo with my iPhone. I was moved by my son’s compassion for a statue that I believe many three-year-olds would find a rather unsettling. When mass was over, he made sure Richard and the other children saw it.

On Good Friday, we visited Sweetest Heart of Mary. It  had a similar statue and a tomb as part of a rather elaborate display. We examined it with Clifford hoping it was a least a step in helping him put the whole Jesus-in-a-box experience in context. We ended up going back there during Easter so Cliff could see the empty tomb.

Richard shows Cliff that Jesus isn’t in the box any more.

I was surprised today at St. Josaphat when I saw that the tomb was again tucked under the stairs to the choir loft (or bell tower – I’m not sure where they lead exactly). I assumed it would be put away somewhere. However, instead of being exposed, the statue was covered with a white sheath of some sort, which to Cliff was very unappealing. He wanted to see Jesus again. I was grateful the statue was covered; it was easier to pry him away and take him into the church.

True to form, during mass (sometime after the Offertory and before he got a shiner from knocking his head on a pew) Cliff’s loud monologue about Jesus dying on the cross (which he pronounces perfectly, now) began.  He started to point out all the paintings and statues of Christ in the church. Finally, he motioned to the back of the church and announced in full voice that, “Jesus died in a bag. In the box. But he’s alive.”

We’re getting there. I think.

Black eye a la pew.

Timeless

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That’s what I am.

You probably think I either have nothing to say. The truth is, I have too much and no time to tell.

Lent was full of lessons, wonder, sucesses, heartache, failure and ultimately joy (thank you God for Easter!). I want to tell my stories before they leave my feeble brain.

I’m just in a pinch for that all-illusive gift of time. Kids off from school. I’m paralyzed a bit by work deadlines, migrating to a new computer, doctors’ appointments, music lessons, fetching a college student after her first year (and all her stuff–which apparently reproduced), spring cleaning and another approaching “episode” of Saint Mom’s U at St. Joan of Arc. I so often need to catch my breath. And the moments I do that are when I’m crawling on the floor pretending to be a doggy or a kitty with Cliff, or punching out paper dolls with Lillian or talking baseball with Henry and laughing with Mary Claire or texting (sad as that may seem) Helen. I want stop and come here … and I will. I just need some stronger coffee and 48 hours in a day …

Just a closer walk with thee

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We sat down yesterday with the kids to discuss our plans for lent. Each of theirs individually, and ours as a family.

We talked about our family’s theme (which is actually my theme, but I’m the mom … so … what I say …). We discussed the prayer about Christ having no body but ours. Henry quickly reminded me of the song we know with those words. (Which we used as homeschooling  anthem a few years ago).

We talked about how each of us needs to think of Jesus before we speak to one another in an unkind tone. How we could all use this season to remember all the things we appreciate about each other — we are all God’s children, and brothers and sisters in Christ. If we think of him in all we do, our relationship with Him will change and with each other, too. And wouldn’t that be nice? And — after all — look at what our brother did for us.

“What?” Lillian questioned.

“He died on the cross.”

“But I don’t want Jesus to die. ‘Cause he’s walking around in my heart.”

Which is good. I’m glad she gets that part (sort 0f) and can only pray it sees her through.

Because after 7 a.m. mass and receiving ashes, she announced she needed to wash her face right away. I explained she could tell her friends at school that Ash Wednesday marks the day that Jesus went off to pray in the desert. And she quickly said, “Why would I want to tell anyone THAT?” Then marched in the bathroom.

Then in the mid-afternoon she melted in a puddle on the floor crying that she was exhausted from coloring her Lenten calendar and couldn’t do it anymore. Not quite how I was hoping this long season would start.

Wait, what’s my theme? Lentamente or insanity. Oh yeah, that was it.

Lentamente

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It’s almost here.

Lent.

The season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As we trace the steps of Christ. Not only to the cross, but as we retrace our steps, according to the Holy Father, toward Christian Initiation, “for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi and a fuller giving of oneself to him.”

I’ll be stepping slowly.

In music (and Italian) lentamente means slow. Which, as I’ve grown in wisdom, is the way I choose to approach Lent. As I’ve matured (notice how I side-step the words “gotten older”), I’ve recognized the importance of taking it slowly. Making it methodical. I don’t have a schedule that supports sporadic — if I plan to accomplish anything. If I’m not metered during Lent, I might as well just hang it up right now. Two days before I bear ashes.

So, my theme is going to be that prayer about Christ having no body now, but ours. And then I’ll make some promises that center around breaking habits that draw me from, rather to, our Lord, and trying to replace them with something more meaningful: Prayer time.  Mass time. Patience. Compassion. Forgiveness. Sacrifice.

I will make an effort to fill what I’m trying to remove with the love that is and can only be Christ. And I will try to do this, remain sane, not get crabby and help my children grow in their Lenten journeys as well. So it’s lentamente or insanity. (Maybe that should be my Lenten theme instead?)

Although I’m sure it’ll start off slowly, soon enough I hope to look forward to the promise of Spring and the promise of new life, of course knowing that it has already been fulfilled in Him that first Easter. A fact that I think is truly the beauty of the season. Our willingness as Catholic Christians to sacrifice and do more to become closer to Christ, recognizing that He’s already conquered death. We already know that He’s already offered everything for us. So, the least we can do is (keep trying to) do our best to offer our paltry sacrifices for Him and remember His sacrifice for us that, you know, redeemed the world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours
no hands but yours
no feet but yours
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
is to look out to the earth
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.

Oh, just give it up

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I’m not much of giver-upper in Lent.

I used to sacrifice chocolate or some other specific sweet guilty pleasure. But then I decided I wasn’t sure how doing that brought me closer to Christ. I thought more about the chocolate than the chosen one. I know that in my suffering, I was supposed to turn my trials to him, but the self-inflicted chocolate deprivation just didn’t seem to do the trick.  The sacrifice, at least for me, seemed misplaced. Besides, I found that I turned to him so frequently throughout the day, that I couldn’t figure out why I needed some planned punishment to do it more. Why not instead plan to be more specific in my prayers? Why not offer myself willingly and lovingly? After all, that’s what he did for us.

So, instead of sitting down and mindlessly turning on the TV, I mindfully crack open the Bible or read a Lenten reflection. Instead of vegging out in front of the late night news shows, Richard and I will share time with the next day’s readings or saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

I guess in a way, I’m giving up something: wasting time on activities that don’t bring me any closer to the cross and resurrection. By doing so, it gives me an opportunity to focus more on my relationships with Christ and my family than my relationship with chocolate (which, by the way, remains strong).