Thursday, November 16, 2017

Seeking Stillness // Advent 2017

The bright autumn colors are fading. Colder winds are blowing these days; leaves fall softly to the ground. The earth seems to slow as winter nears. My soul feels it, too. I need to slow down.

This is the refrain I hear God speak to me: "Be still and know that I am God. . ." (Psalm 46:10). I need to seek quiet as the noise regarding all the things that have to be done to make the holidays a success crescendos. I need to step away from the harsh brightness of my iPhone screen and spend time with the One who is true Light. I need to breathe deeply of the Lord's presence and be filled by Him. 

The good news is: Advent is coming. This time in the Christian year when we are called to refocus our gaze, to prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Christ, is such a gift. And I really need it this year.

Have you thought about what you might do to celebrate this Advent season? Might I share my simple plans with you?

// FAMILY ADVENT WREATH //

Of course: the Advent wreath. Ours is somewhat non-traditional with white candles, and purple + pink ribbons. I usually end up making it with some branches trimmed from our Christmas tree, or from the tree stands around town. (Side note: One of my favorite things about city life are the pop-up Christmas tree stands on any given street corner at this time of year. Sometimes I go out of my way just to walk through one and take a deep inhale of that blessed pine smell.)

I am so looking forward to diving into God's Word with the Blessed is She community this Advent. My friend Laura Kelly Fanucci – one of my very favorite writers – wrote this year's Advent journal. I mean it very sincerely when I say her words never fail to touch my heart. The Advent journal is a way for me to keep myself centered and focused on what matters in the days leading up to Christmas. They are bound to get a little crazy, and I know this will help me stay close to the Lord. In the journal Laura writes,

"There is nothing to achieve this Advent. There is only ourselves to surrender."

That's exactly the kind of Advent I am hoping for this year. If you'd like to join me, you can purchase your copy here.

// A CHRISTMAS TREE //
This may seem like a given, but we actually have not had a Christmas tree in our apartment since 2014. Between having a baby crawling around, lack of space (hello, NYC living), and traveling for the holidays, we just haven't done it. This year, however, we have freed up a little room to have one. We can hardly wait for the joy we imagine it will bring our toddler. I mean, is there anything quite like twinkle lights on a fresh pine tree?

// NATIVITY SCENES // 
We have a couple nativity scenes that we will set up around our home, waiting to put the Christ child in the manger until Christmas morning. (The set pictured above belonged to my late grandmother, and we also have this beautiful one, which we received as a wedding gift.) My son also has the Fisher-Price Little People nativity set, which he adores.

And that's really it! Of course, there will be Christmas gift shopping to do (gift-giving is one of my love languages) and holiday baking (of course!), but overall we hope to keep it pretty simple and just seek the JOY!

While the world shouts that we need to do more this holiday season, the Lord says otherwise. May we spend this Advent season seeking His presence in the stillness, and may we quiet our hearts enough to hear His voice. For then we might hear Him whisper just how deeply we are loved.


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Monday, October 30, 2017

It's that time of year again...

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* * *

We finally carved our Halloween jack-o-lantern yesterday. It's just over three weeks to Thanksgiving (a celebration not to be forgotten or rushed – giving thanks is so good for the soul!). But ready or not, before we know it, it's going to be Advent and time to prepare our hearts for Christmas.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is the sending and receiving of Christmas cards. In today's world, communication often consists of a quick text message or, at best, an email. A hand-delivered card in the mailbox? It's something special. I don't know about you, but when I get an envelope that is not a bill or junk mail, I am filled with joy!

Every year I look forward to receiving certain Christmas cards (The annual photo update from the family I used to babysit! A card from my beloved junior high choir director!). I know some families have a beautiful tradition of saving all the Christmas cards they receive beyond the holiday season. Then, throughout the year they pick one card each night at dinner, and they pray for the person or family that has sent that card. (I'm looking at you, Whitaker family!) Isn't that a great tradition? One of these years I hope to adopt it in our own family.

I look forward to sending Christmas cards, too. And my favorite place to shop for Christmas cards online is Minted. For our family, it is an investment to get our Christmas cards here, but to me it is an investment worth making. I love that there are some beautiful religious Christmas card options.
"all because of Him" card
I like the sentiment of this card – "counting our blessings." Yes! That's the true holiday spirit!
"grateful" card
We have no greater joy than Christ, our Lord, so I think this card is super sweet, too.
"greatest joy" card
I was also pleasantly surprised to see Minted offers a wonderful selection of non-photo holiday cards, in case adding a picture is not in the cards for you this year (pun intended!).
"nativity party" card
Well, I'm off to update my Christmas cards address list, and to try to pick my favorite Minted design for our own family's card! Which one would you pick?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

G R A N O L A
(including a pumpkin spice variation!)

Over the past several months, I have gotten into the habit of making granola on a regular basis. It's a delicious breakfast that both my husband and I enjoy served with milk or over greek yogurt. I have shared in my instagram stories about making it, and had some people asked for the recipe. Well, ask and you shall receive! Here's my standard granola recipe, followed by a scrumptious pumpkin spice variation to celebrate autumn.

// G R A N O L A //





// INGREDIENTS //

4 cups oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup almonds
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup honey
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (Fahrenheit). Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. 

Meanwhile, in a microwave safe container, warm the honey and coconut oil for 45 seconds in the microwave. Mix well. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and stir until combined.
Pour the warmed honey mixture over the granola and stir until the oats mixture is well-coated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread mixture evenly onto the lined baking sheet.
Bake the granola in your preheated oven for 7 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and gently toss the granola to ensure even baking. Return the baking sheet to the oven for another 7 minutes or until the granola is golden brown.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Allow the granola to cool completely before storing it in an air-tight container.

Serve with your favorite milk or top a bowl of yogurt with a few generous spoonfuls. We enjoy adding dried cranberries to ours - delicious! Fresh fruit would be yummy, too.

As for my pumpkin spice variation...

// PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA INGREDIENTS //

4 cups oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
3 Tablespoons flaxseed
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup honey
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon pumpkin spice

Otherwise, simply follow the instructions as directed above. On a cool autumn morning, a bowl of this granola with a cup of warm coffee is enough to make me smile. Hope it will make you + yours smile, too.

Enjoy! 

Monday, July 31, 2017

That is enough for me

The gentle warmth of the May sun shines upon my face. I cannot help but smile. My heart knows a deep peace in this moment—that abiding peace which only Christ can give. God’s praises swell within my soul and I sing out in joy to Him with my pen on the paper of my journal. My voice does not ring out now—though it soon will. I have not spoken in six days.
Well, to be completely honest, I have spoken a little—once each day to my spiritual director, and the responses in Mass. Amen. Alleluia. And with your spirit. But otherwise I have spoken only to God in the quiet depths of my heart. It is one of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.

The rest of my Blessed is She devotion can be read here.


All the pictures in this post are from my time on silent retreat at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House.

In my reflection, I share the Suscipe prayer from Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Below you can see a glimpse of my first encounter with this prayer while I was on retreat.



Amen.


Isn't it amazing to recognize that the fruits of Saint Ignatius' life are still being revealed today? His Spiritual Exercises and Ignatian spirituality have been such a gift to me. The holy Jesuit priests I have been blessed to know have played a pivotal role in my Catholic faith formation. I can't imagine how different my life would look if Saint Ignatius had not followed the Lord's call for his life! We may not even have our dear Jesuit Papa, Pope Francis! I am so grateful to God for the gift of the saints.

And to think we are all called to be saints! What can you do today to continue on your journey to becoming one? Might I offer a humble suggestion? (It's one I need to heed myself.) Start with silence. Put down your smart phone. Shut your laptop. Be still before the Lord. Quiet your heart. Practice listening. For it is in the silence that we can more clearly hear His voice. 


Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

AMDG – ad majorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Baptism Party for our Precious Boy

It's high time I shared the sweet details from the celebration of our son's baptism. I figured the anniversary of that special day would be the perfect time, so without further ado, here we go!

"Children are a heritage from the Lord, 
they are a reward from Him. 
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior 
are the children born in one's youth."
// Psalm 127: 3-4 // 

The art print is a printable from Lindsay Letters. We also displayed his baptismal candle in a crystal candlestick holder (a wedding gift from my grandfather).

We decorated with all white flowers for the celebration - beautiful hydrangea, pictured below.

One of my favorite elements of the party were these prayer cards. The cards gave guests a place to write their prayers for our son on his baptism day. When he is older he will be able to look back and know the prayer intentions of his loved ones who were there for this sacred event.
The white afghan above and the booties below were knit with love by my husband's granny for the occasion.
The love is in the details...

We decided to serve all-white snacks and desserts for the party, too.

// M E N U //
powdered sugar mini donuts
freshly-popped popcorn
yogurt covered pretzels
sugar cookies with white icing
cake

I used this recipe for the sugar cookies (using this cookie cutter) and this icing recipe. Delicious!


"Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
// Acts 2:38 //

It was such a special day celebrating one of the most beautiful moments in our son's life. Keeping the party simple kept the focus on the Sacrament, and the reason for our celebration.

Praying today that the graces of baptism may continue to be nurtured and lived out in the lives of all Christians, for the greater glory of God.

Blessings to you...

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Whose image do you bear?

I invite you to grab your Bible and open it up to read Mark 12:13-17. It's a passage I have read or heard many times, but in writing this devotion, God opened my eyes to some new insight.

"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," we hear Jesus instruct in the Gospel today. This is a familiar line from Scripture, yet what does it really mean for us?

For me, the key to unlocking Jesus' message is not so much in Jesus' above answer, but in the way He first poses the question.


Read the rest of my devotion here at Blessed is She.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sweeter Than Honey // A 1st Birthday Party

Celebrating our boy's first birthday was oh, so sweet! Bumblebees are one of his favorite things to spot when reading books, so we settled upon those yellow + black honey-makers as a theme. I've always called him my little love bug, so that made it feel even more apropos! 

Let's get to the details, starting with the good stuff – the food! 

ON THE MENU //

Bee-Bee-Q PULLED PORK

CORNBREAD with homemade CINNAMON HONEY BUTTER

SPINACH SALAD with APPLES, CRANBERRIES, ALMONDS + WHITE CHEDDAR,
served with a HONEY DIJON VINAIGRETTE

BUZZY BEE FRUIT SKEWERS with PINEAPPLE, BLACKBERRIES + BANANAS
And, of course, the drinks!
SWEET AS CAN "BEE" LEMONADE
The yellow + white cloth napkins, the black + white party straws, the yellow chevron cups – party details are my jam.

ROOT BEE-R
and for the grown-ups, the real deal ;)

Saving the best for last - dessert!
BIRTHDAY CAKE
VANILLA ICE CREAM served with HONEY and a sprinkle of SEA SALT
OREOS (the springtime Oreos with yellow frosting were a perfect fit for the party!)
I loved making a sweet little smash cake with the #1 candle for my boy. Of course, he wanted nothing to do with it. (insert crying laughing emoji here) Go figure!

Take a peek inside the cake - I alternated layers of dark chocolate and yellow cake mix to create a bumblebee effect. I love the way it turned out!

As an activity for our guests, I filled an apothecary jar with honeycomb cereal and had them guess how many were inside. As a fun touch, I cut the golden cards for guessing into the honeycomb shape. The winner got to take home a big jar of organic wild-collected raw honey. 

I purchased yellow tulips, daffodils, geranium and white ranunculus with yellow centers to use as decoration. Fresh flowers within your party's color scheme brighten the atmosphere in a simple, yet beautiful way. All of mine were purchased at Trader Joe's – my favorite budget-friendly place to buy gorgeous blooms!

Speaking of which, aren't these billy balls (craspedia) flowers coming out of these tree stumps just the cutest? All thanks to my mom! They added such a fun touch of whimsy to our celebration.
 And a close-up on the party favors – a little jar of honey for each family of guests in attendance.
As my friend (and party-planner-extraordinaire) Kathryn says, love is in the details. They bring me such joy! I cut little hexagonal honeycomb-shaped stickers out by hand and found some yellow + white baker's twine to tie on for an extra sweet finish.

Best part of all? No question: being together with those we loved to celebrate our boy. Such a gift.

We were busy as bees in year number one of his life! Turns out the first year of parenthood is an emotional roller coaster, and I know the ride has only just begun. So grateful for God's sustaining grace through it all.

If you have questions about party details, please ask in the comments!

Thanks for being here (or should I say bee-ing here?). Have a bee-autiful day! (I couldn't help myself!)

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