Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent Wreath Candle Lighting Liturgy for Families

There's no right or wrong way to do a family advent candle wreath. But here’s the liturgy I came up with for our family this year. It contains some responses, which are great for making the kids feel a part of things, and then it concludes with a traditional advent prayer of the week. 

Leader: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. Come to us, O Christ the Light.
All: Come to us, O Christ the Light. 
Leader: Jesus, light of the world, shine on us. Lights the candle(s).  
All: Jesus, light of the world, shine on us.  
Leader: Prays prayer for the week.  
All: Amen. 

Week One: O Lord, stir up your might, we beg you, and come that by your protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by your deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. 
Week Two: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for your only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve you with pure minds through Christ our Lord. 
Week Three: O Lord, we beg you to incline your ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of your visitation. Through Christ our Lord. 
Week Four: O Lord, stir up your power, we pray you, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of your Grace, your merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Alternative Advent Wreath

My frugal self can’t help but get frustrated at how quickly my Advent candles burn down. Even when I buy two sets for the season, a tiny part of me becomes preoccupied with blowing them out quickly so I don’t need to buy a third set before Christmas arrives. Yes, it’s ridiculous. But it is what it is. And that’s why I’m so fond of my second advent wreath. 

We have a traditional advent wreath with the tall taper candles on our kitchen table. But in our living room, I have a variation. It uses purple and pink votive candle holder and white tea lights. So, yup, the candles are totally cheap to replace.

To make your own, you just need three purple votive holders and one pink votive holder. has lots of styles to choose from. Yay for simple yet sweet!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Songs for Advent

As Advent launches us into a new church year, it becomes hard to resist the celebratory songs of Christmas. Yet we must wait. We must wait, pregnant with the longing of the Virgin Mary. We must wait, looking for a Savior with the people of God. Our hearts must sing, “O Come, O come" before we can rejoice that the Lord is come. Here are the songs on my Advent playlist:

Any additional recommendations? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Traditions and Church Celebrations

{"Church Year" painting by Lucia Wiley}

Lately I’ve been pondering the place of traditions and memories in the life of a family. I noticed that my fondest childhood memories involve some sort of habit or custom: Every June we went to the town’s fair...Every Thanksgiving morning we gathered for a football game in the snow...Every spring we washed the fence. Those predictable rhythms of the year gave my siblings and me reasons to anticipate things to come, and they built a spirit of camaraderie among us.

All humans love traditions, but especially children love traditions. The goal of the liturgical home is to capitalize on this in order to bring the life of the family into the rhythm of the life of the church. Over time, the rise and fall of everyday family life subtly syncs itself with the rise and fall of the major and minor feasts of the church year.

For example, I’ve heard of the idea of woodworking on St. Joseph's day. I imagine that many children would anticipate participating in a family’s annual woodworking project. There wouldn’t necessarily need to be a long lesson about St. Joseph during the project. Instead, year after year, the rhythm of the church year would pound itself into the heart of a child. One day, a guest comes to the house and notices the bookshelf. A child pipes up, “Oh, we made that last year for St. Joseph's Day. This year we might build a bench for the hallway.”

Season after season, the life of the family is immersed in the life of Christ, and the members of the family become true imitators of Christ. Because of this, one of the ways that our children mature in Christ occurs beyond their consciousness. Jesus quietly slips into their hearts over the course of the relentless repetition of the liturgical year. As Joan Chittiser writes, “The liturgical year is the process of slow, sure immersion in the life of Christ that, in the end, claims us, too, as heralds of that life ourselves.”

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meatless Meal of the Week {no.9}

As I've said before, I don't particularly care for lentils--I cook with them because they are an affordable and healthy source of protein, but I am always looking for ways to improve on their flavor. This portobello and basil lentil soup is very good. The flavor of the mushrooms, fresh basil, and sherry wine are excellent compliments to the lentils. I originally found the recipe here, but I have modified it a few ways.

Portobello and Basil Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups diced portabella mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 cups stock
6 ounces tomato paste
1 1/2 cups green lentils
1 cup bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup sherry cooking wine

Heat olive oil in large soup pot and saute onions, garlic, mushrooms, salt, and pepper for about five minutes until mushrooms and onions are tender. Add stock and tomato paste and stir until well mixed. Stir in lentils and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally. Add basil and simmer with pot covered for 15 more minutes. Stir in sherry cooking wine and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with remaining basil leaves.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seven Quick Takes

{Image from here}

Today I am joining Jennifer by posting seven quick takes...
  1. I’m planning to make these no-bake energy bites this weekend using peanut butter, honey, rolled oats, wheat germ, flax seed, sunflower seeds, and mini chocolate chips. Is your mouth watering too?

  2. St. James Cathedral in Chicago will be celebrating diversity this Sunday with a “Pride Eucharist,” a prayerful celebration featuring the music of Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper. To put it gently, I don't think those words should all be in the same sentence. For another perspective on the so-called diversity of same-sex "marriage," I recommend this brief article.

  3. I have never purchased anything from J.Crew, but somehow I stumbled upon this season’s swimsuit collection. My eyes are on this, this, and this one. They have it all--ruching and ruffles, great style, and even modesty, and they would be kind to my post-baby tummy! But then my eyes see the price, and I remember why I’ve never bought anything from J.Crew.

  4. Next up on my outside-to-do-list: build window boxes. Actually, I put it on my husband’s to-do list. :) Our house is white, and I am picturing glossy black window boxes sitting on pretty decorative corbels.

  5. After hearing about the movie Andrei Rublev on Ancient Faith Radio’s The Orthodox Moviegoer, my husband added it to our Netflix queue. From all he told me about the movie, the only thing I can remember is that it's over three hours long. That is really long. And that’s why I am bummed that I didn’t add more movie to our queue. Now we have a three hour movie waiting to be watched.

  6. Last night I got a haircut, and I got long bangs. I think it’s the first “hip” thing I’ve done to my hair since my Jennifer-Anniston-inspired haircut in the 6th grade. Well, actually the haircut was inspired by my best friend’s haircut. She’d actually seen Friends. I never had. And I think that long bangs are hip. Or maybe they just used to be hip. Or maybe they never were. Oh well.

  7. After my haircut, I swung by Target. My local Target had lots of great jeans marked down to $4.69. I used a $3 off any pair of jeans coupon, so I got a pair for $1.69! As of last night, the coupon was available here. Hopefully you can score a great deal too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quinoa for Breakfast

{Photo from}

I’ve previously posted about the benefits of quinoa and shared some yummy quinoa dinner recipes (see here and here for examples), but have you considered eating quinoa for breakfast? I was inspired by this recipe for Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa. The recipe calls for fresh blackberries, which taste really yummy. But I have also adjusted it, using an assortment of frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. You can eat the leftovers the following morning. I recommend mixing the leftover quinoa with yogurt and topping it with slivered almonds and granola.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Children’s Bible Storybook Recommendation

After writing this post, I’ve been thinking about a wonderful children’s Bible storybook by Sally Lloyd-Jones: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

It is refreshing to read a children’s Bible storybook that has both good theology and beautiful language. Lloyd-Jones traces the story of salvation, highlighting how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of Jesus as the Rescuer. The introduction begins,

"There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name."

From the beginning to the end of the book, Lloyd-Jones demonstrates a unmatchable ability to find words that both convey the weight of the Scriptures and catch the attention of children. I love her paraphrase of the creation narrative:

"God said, 'Hello light!' and light shone into the darkness . . . 'Hello trees!' God said. 'Hello grass and flowers!' And everything everywhere burst into life. He made buds bud, shoots shoot, and flowers flower. 'You’re good,' God said. And they were." 

And perhaps my favorite line in the book is her paraphrase of a verse in Revelation: "Everything sad has come untrue." This book is a must-have! Your heart will be just as blessed as your child's heart!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday

{Image of Martha Stewart's craft line sold by Home Decorators Collection}

Today I am joining Jennifer by posting seven quick takes...
  1. If you are interested in understanding the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on contraceptives, or if you just want to hear a smart discussion of some of the negative effects of contraceptives on our culture, Dr. Janet Smith provides an excellent overview. I strongly recommend listening to part 1 and part 2 of her lecture. 

  2. Did you know you could make a rug from a tablecloth? 

  3. I am incredibly inspired by Brandy’s philosophy of gardening and her garden layout. According to Brandy, one doesn’t need to sacrifice beauty in order to have a garden that provides the practicality of food. She says, “The trick is designing a space that will fulfill both needs.” I love formal gardens, but formal gardens and rows of vegetables just don’t seem to go together. Or so I thought. 

  4. This is a wedding hairdo, but it doesn’t have to be! 

  5. I love the organization of Martha Stewart's craft line sold by Home Decorators Collection. If you had the space for it (a corner of a basement?), don’t you think it would be easy to replicate some of these pieces by using dowel rods and ikea cubbies? 

  6. I have been making “unda-style” quesadillas for lunch lately. Yum! You should try it!

  7. Here’s a good article from the archives of Touchstone Magazine: “Bad Books for Kids: A Guide to the World of Youth Literature and What You Can Do About It.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mothering Is Spiritual Work

{"Laundry Day," Painting by Sascalia, available on Etsy}

When life gets busy, blogging takes the back seat. Of course, life hasn't been busy because our family is experiencing anything extraordinary or noteworthy. I have been busy with the ordinary demands of mothering three young children. Changing diapers. Folding laundry. Making it through the day. And then cleaning up from the day. Although I really enjoy it, the cycle can sometimes feel mundane. Years ago I was introduced to the writings of Amy Carmichael, and recently some of her words have been running through my head:

"If by doing some work
Which the undiscerning consider 'not spiritual work,'
I can best help others,
And inwardly I rebel,
Thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave,
When in truth it is the interesting and exciting,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love."

The seemingly mundane moments of motherhood are not any less spiritual than any other work which is so easily idealized. For the Christian, all work is so-called "spiritual work." Mothering is spiritual work.


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