Saturday, July 30, 2011

Clay Buttons

Most of the buttons are made with jump rings, but the green/red rose has two holes.  These buttons are going to be sold at the Mary's Shelter fundraiser in downtown Fredericksburg.

Here's something new for me- making buttons! I was in need of some new buttons for my summer dress and one button for a toy that lost it's button.  After looking up some online tutorials, I set to work using some canes I had already made.  These buttons were super easy and would be a fun activity for older kids too. 

You wouldn't have to use canes with designs in them. You could just make buttons of different colors swirled together or put polka dots on them- etc. 

Just in case you're wondering, these polymer clay buttons don't get damaged when put in washing and drying machines. This dress was washed with the buttons on it and came out just fine.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Martha Was a Saint After All

Before morning prayer, my husband says,"We should go to Mass today."
We try to go to morning Mass the days he has off, but today all I could think about was how much housework I needed to get done.

"No, I can't. I have so much to do. I have to [insert everything imaginable household chore]."

"Ok, Martha," he said snickering.

I'm thinking: Martha Stewart? What a compliment! He thinks I run a super organized house.  Oh wait, he's calling me that woman who had no time for Jesus because all she could think about was all the work that needed to be done. How dare he!!

I gave him a "I am not amused" look and the silent treatment as I opened up the Magnificat prayer book for our morning prayers.

"Oh, common. It was just a joke!" He says.

He continues to apologize as I open up the prayers for today and see right under today's date whose feast day it is. Martha. It's Martha's feast day!  We couldn't believe it!  After a good laugh, he said, "Ok now we have to go to Mass!"  Any one of the other 364 other days out of the year, this Martha thing wouldn't have worked, but today, there was no getting around it.  I had to stop everything and go to Jesus.

The wonderful thing about Saint Martha is, that in the end, she got it all figured out.  She confessed that Jesus was the son of God and that he can do anything, even raise her dead brother, Lazarus from the dead.  She grew in great faith and love; and she became a saint! Do I think she became a saint because she found a way to get out of all her housework? NO.  I think she became a saint because she learned how put Christ in her work and make her work a prayer.  She also learned when to stop and be still and let God be the only thing in her life. 

As we read though the psalm for the day, it became clear that all those chores can become my idol when I put them first and put God last.  When I give all my time, my attention and even my obedience to my work (or anything or anyone for that matter), I've made that my golden calf.

Pagan idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak;
they have eyes but cannot see

They have ears but cannot hear;
there is never a breath on their lips 
Their makers will come to be like them
and so will all who trust in them!
You who fear the Lord, bless the Lord!
(Psalm 135)

By contrast, when my work becomes a service to God and done of out love for God and my family, it can lead me to heaven.  Sometimes I think, when I get all this stuff done with this, then I can pray to God.  I tend to think holiness is something that can only be achieved when one is spending copious amounts of time in prayer and solitude.  I've even had the passing thought that once my children are grown, I'll have time for real holiness! After all, who do you see at daily Mass: old people who have LOTS of time on their hands. Now I can see the error in my ways.

Give her a reward for her labors,/ and let her works praise her at the city gates. (Prv 31: 31)

Now is the time for real holiness; when I have the face of Christ x4 in front of me every day and many opportunities to offer up little sacrifices throughout the day.

So, I'm praying today:

O Lord our God, by the intersession of Saint Martha, renew my zeal for the tasks you have given me, that I may serve my family and the world around me by the works of faith and love. Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

NFP Awareness Week- It's Not Just for Aliens!

I almost missed out on NFP Awareness week. Thank you to Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble, for spreading this good stuff.  Read her post for some very prophetic words from Pope Paul IV about what would happen to our culture if we embraced contraception.  It's all true and so sad what we have become in the name of "convenience".

One of my first posts was about Natural Family Planning that was heavily influenced by the wonderful Dr. Gregory Popcak.  It was entitled, "NFP, Say it Loudly, Say it Proudly."  What I said then, I still day today.  Even if people think you have come from another planet, they should still be aware of this "alternative" lifestyle they are missing out on. 

I won't lie-- practicing Natural Family Planning is really hard at times.  Especially when a women is breastfeeding, her cycle has not come back yet, and there is no way God is calling to them to have another baby at this time! Who cannot deny the convenience of contraception?    However, when it causes couples to take each other for granted, treat each other as objects for one's own gratification and disrupt God's plan in a marriage, how can we not step up try our hardest to make NFP work?  It's a lot of work, sure, but what's at stake, is not frivolous stuff.   It's a human life, a respectful spouse, and communion with God that cannot be found when one says NO to God's plan for their marriage.   How I wish there was a magic button to press when trying to figure out my ambiguous fertility at times, but maybe that's all part of God's plan too.   Dr. Popcak explains in his book, Holy Sex, how periods of abstinence can be fruitful to a marriage.  It agree whole heartily! It has made my husband and I closer than before.  Sometimes periods of abstinence can make a couple feel like their dating again or it can be a chance to grow in a particular virtue, as Dr. Popcak points out.

But just in case you go thinking that NFP will be really hard and allow little time for the marital embrace, this is not the case 90% of the time.  Ask couples who have been doing it all their life.  Sure,  you may end up with more than the average 2 or 3 kids, but you can be sure that it was God's plan all along.   I guess that's probably the biggest hang-up that I get from people when I share the awesomeness of NFP.  They don't want any more kids.  It's hard to get around that except that if they would try asking God what He wants, they might find out that this martian who just landed in front of them is speaking the truth after all.

Disclaimer: The number of kids is irrelevant. I do not cast judgement on how many kids people have and it's only between the husband, wife and God that can know what is best for their family. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Edible Arrangement- The Reprise

For our 6th anniversary, my husband's parents sent us this lovely edible arrangement. I couldn't bear to through away the pot, so I made another with the left over stuff.

I can't believe how much these things go for- considering I probably spent about $10.00 in fruit that was on sale, and some chocolate.  And it only took about 30 minutes to do.  Although, there is something special about a stranger knocking on your door at odd hours to drop off chocolate covered fruit.  It's kind of exciting!

Liam had fun sticking blueberries with me.

The chocolate dipping did not look half as good as the original. I think I burnt the chocolate in the microwave because it was a little lumpy. It didn't stick on the fruit very well either. But we made it work!

The Only Domesticated Plant That Will Grow in My Yard

There's not much else to say except that if I had to choose one, I'd prefer this one to be the domesticated plant that will grow in my yard.  I love how showy they are. They say LOOK AT ME, I AM GORGEOUS!  Just like my two year old daughter.  When we say, "you're so pretty", she says, "Yeah!"

The Commando Crawl

Jude been doing the commando crawl for a while now, but I've been waiting to take pictures until he gets up on all fours.  I'm not sure this will happen since he is very good at getting around quickly and efficiently on his belly.  I keep telling people I need to put a swiffer pad on his belly because he does such a good job at collecting dirt off my floor.  Gross, but true.

   It's been a challenge to keep every little thing off the floor, but at the same time, I am liking this crawling thing.  He loves being mobile! It keeps him happy for much longer so that mommy can have more time picking up marbles and coins that the other kid leave behind.

He is so happy just to explore and see what he can find behind the toilet. Yes, that's right. He loves to get in the bathroom when Mommy's not looking and get that little white cap off the screw that holds the toilet to the floor. Probably the most disgusting thing and forbidden thing in my house- which is why he make a bee line for it every time the door's open. Gotta love boys!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Monstrance Bead and Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

My monstrance bead is finally done and now I can send out those orders I have been holding on to for Eucharistic rosaries! 

While I was making this bead, I popped in a Lighthouse CD and it was coincidentally, on the Eucharist.  I learned a lot about the Jewish roots of the Eucharist from listening to this CD (three times in a row!).   One interesting fact: at the passover meal, their was no lamb present! If you have ever participated in a Seder meal, you would find this very odd since the lamb is one of the most important parts about the passover meal for the Jews.  I wonder why I have never noticed this before.  The reason for this was that Jesus is the new lamb- sacrificed for us all, and the new sacrificial food is his body and blood in the form of bread and wine.  I bet the twelve apostles were like, "hey, where's the lamb?? Why the bread and wine??" Although, maybe they were used to all of Jesus' radical changes by then.  Knowing the Jewish roots to Christianity is so important to understanding the Faith since Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law (Jewish), but to fulfill it.  If we only know one side of the story (the Christian/Catholic side), we are missing a lot of the "reasons why".

That was just one tiny part of that CD, so if you want to know more, you can get the CD here.  One last thing...Have you ever wondering why Jesus says in the Our Father: Give us this day our daily bread? He says day twice--which is unnecessary. Jesus wouldn't make such a grammatical error on purpose.  It's because of the Greek translation for the word "daily".  Literally, it is translated "super substantial" but we don't have a word in English for it.  Give us the day, our super substantial bread doesn't mean whole wheat vs. white.  I means give us super natural bread!  Try that on for size, my protestant brothers and sisters (in all love and respect). 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Big Change in Business

I have come to the decision (not at all easily or suddenly) to close my shop until February. I will have it open from February to May- or until I can no longer handle any more business.  This is my usual busy season and I hope it will be good timing for most of my customers.  I will be finishing up the orders that I have promised, but then I will be closing shop for 7 months.  Wow, sounds like an eternity, but I know it will go so quickly for me.

A dream of mine has always been to be caught up in bead making and actually have a stock of rosaries that I could just ship out as I receive orders.  However, this is has never worked out as planned.  I guess God has always had other plans.

For over a year now, I've been praying to hear His Holy Will for my business.  When my little hobby became a part time job a year and a half ago, it was very exciting, but I had a hard time maintaining balance.  While I have gotten better at balancing work and family, it still is not enough and I've been given more and more signs that I need to stop working so hard.  Yesterday was the last straw on my back as God put yet another sign in my face: a lost day working on sales tax.  I spent almost all day working on sales tax and got nothing else done!  I am the most disorganized person when it comes to accounting and it certainly was my demise today.  The wrist problem never completely went away, either, and I see that as probably the most obvious sign.

There have been other signs too. My friend, Marilisa, commenting on how she stopped selling Mary Kay because it was consuming her every thought.  That sign struck me like a lightning bolt.  One reason why this decision was so hard to make is because making rosaries is good work.  It's just not the work God has ordained for me- which is something everyone has to answer for him/herself.    I desire so much to be truly present to my children and my husband, but I fear I have filled my day with too much of "un-ordained" work that I can't focus on them when they are right in front of me.  The clay rosary business is good work, but it's only good for me when it is in the proper balance.  I hope all my customers will be able to understand.

So, being in business for four months out of the year is the best compromise between what I like to do on the side, and what I am called to do as a wife and mother.  My hope is that this way, I am able to work on making beads and start stocking up on rosaries in my own time to be more prepared for the crazy-busy months.  I have so many polymer canes sitting in my cabinet, it is ridiculous! I will be blogging here and there, so stay tuned for parts 1-500 of "slicing and punching holes through beads" blog posts.  Right now, I am finishing up my second attempt at the monstrance bead, so I will post on that when it's finished.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Some Fun Projects- Finished!

My sister left yesterday after staying with us for three and a half weeks. It was a sad goodbye, but she left us with some very fun pieces of decor to remind us of her.
Cabinet makeover

This Ethan Allen cabinet that I snagged for $40.00 at the thrift shop around the corner from us, was originally dark stained wood.  I've always wanted to make it look more cohesive in our living space, but there is no way I would have every carved out two days to paint that thing.  Here's what Christina did with some paint and fabric:

Unfortunately the kids ran off with the hinges and only two were found. I think we will have to buy all new ones.

The next project that I've been wanting to have done is to redo one of the original windows from our old house.  We found this one in the garden room when we cleaned it out.  I wanted to add some more bits of blue to the room since buying my new blue and white chairs, so this was a good way to incorporate that color:

Since Christina is thinking about going into interior design, I gifted her with some real world experience (haha).   First she painted the trim white.  Then she sanded the corners/edges.   She applied some brown stain to the sanded parts, then immediately wiped it off giving it an antiqued look.  painted all white. Finally, she put a clear coat of finish on top of the stain.

For the windows, I printed off this bird pattern from the Internet onto translucent paper. Christina used a magic marker to make a little darker blue.  Then she used contact paper to stick it on the back.  A matching ribbon completed the look.

This last project was a joint effort of my husband, Christina and I.  I had wanted to print this family picture on a canvas, but the high price tag scared me away.  Instead, I printed off this large print for 5.99 at Costco.  I cut it into three equal parts and had my husband cut an old piece of wood into three identical parts.  The wood was sanded and painted black.  Then I glued the picture on the front with decoupage glue.  It was so simple and I saved more than a hundred dollars!  I can't take credit for the idea since I saw it in flier for a hardware store a few years ago.

Thank you, Christina for all your help and hard work.   It was a great visit! You will be missed!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being Reminded to Pray for Priests

I have to admit that I've never really prayed for priests before. I know, as Catholics we are reminded to pray for them often. But when I pray, they are the last people I think to pray for.  I mean, they are already holy, right?? Well yesterday, when I received not one, but three reminders to keep them at the top of my list.  The first one was pure drama.

My sister and I were visiting a place that shall not be named because apparently, they also don't want be associated with this particular priest.  We were invited to go to Mass before touring this place.  You know me, the Catholic mom who wants nothing more than for her kids to grow up living and loving their faith; I try to sit right in front when we go to Mass.  My kids aren't going to get nearly as much out of Mass if they can't see what's going on. Plus, I think it helps them to pay attention- in theory.

So, I sit in the second row with my brood, hoping they will be good- as good as a two year old, four year old, and baby will be-- after they've driven and hour and a half.  For the record, I did let them run around for about 15 minutes before Mass began. 

Mass starts and they still have the jitters. They were a little more bouncy than normal and more distracted. I did not think they were loud.  Nothing above a whisper, except for my baby who was a little winy because he was hungry. No more "running to Jesus" this time, I thought. I'll wait until after communion to feed him. (Here's that little story if you missed that dramatic moment). I figured the priest would enjoy seeing kids there at Mass, anyway.  I couldn't be more wrong.

During Mass, the priest payed extra attention to us and would stare at us- even stopping what he was doing to stare.  At first, I thought he was maybe happy to see us...then things got weird.  Before consecration, he stopped for 30 seconds to stare at me.  Then during the Our Father, when we say "as we forgive those who trespass against us, he looked up and stared at me.  It gave me the chills.  We are supposed to think about people we haven't forgiven, why did he suddenly look at me? I thought.  On the drive home, it all made sense. 

As I walk out of Mass, the priest comes up and kindly asks my name. Then he puts his arm on my shoulder in sort of a confidential way and says, "You know, you really should have brought your kids into the foyer.  It was incredibly distracting to me and the others in Mass."  I tried to counter his nonsense with,  But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me".  His response: when they are at the age of reason and are able to sit quietly and still, then they are welcome into the church. If not, they belong in the cry room or in the foyer. You kids were wiggling, jumping, talking, running...yada, yada" I stop him short to squeeze in: they were not running! He said it didn't matter, they were a distraction.  "You should be going to your own parish for Mass.  This parish is for the students and faculty....You shouldn't be coming here...go to your own parish for Mass. "  I tried to make an argument as to why my kids have every right to be there in front as anyone else, but he wasn't going to listen. He told me to be more docile and obedient.

It came to mind after the conversation who was the real distraction- to Jesus, ultimately.   Not to mention during the Mass, when everyone was watching the priest watch us!  In all respect for the Cloth, he more of a distraction to who Jesus really is than my children- in action, attitude and speech.  My children, bouncy or not, mirror the face of Jesus more than adult.  Jesus himself said we should all be looking toward the children to see how to pray to God!  And talk about who deserves to be at the wedding feast of the Lamb- well, my children in their innocence and purity deserve more than any adult to be right there in front, praising Jesus with the angels.  They may not be doing it the way the priest wants them to do it, but we are working on that too.

Bottom line: if my kids were talking out loud, really crying, or running around, I would have stopped them or taken them out if they couldn't be stopped.  Believe me, I try my hardest to keep my kids away from any attention at Mass.  No matter how hard I try, they will be jiggly, make some noises and whisper.  I know Jesus doesn't care, so I try not to let any frowns around me me bring me down. 

Back to the priest, I told him that I and my children will be praying for him.  My sister, who witnessed this conversation, said it was the first time he didn't know what to say.  I was serious too; we will be adding him to their nightly prayers- not out of spite, but in all love, for our brother in Christ.

This encounter made me realize how much weight is really on a priest's shoulders and how much more they are expected to behave as true models of Christ.  Had this been anyone else, it wouldn't have been so disturbing. When we see priests behave badly, it shakes the very foundation of who we know Jesus to be.  Later that night, I was even hesitant to go to confession because I didn't want to encounter another priest.  In fact, as my husband and I drove to church, I said I didn't want to go to adoration.  The feelings were so fresh.  I know in my mind that priest and church don't mean that priest and church, but subconsciously, it was very slightly carried over.   I could see how devastating this kind of encounter would be for someone who was not a frequent church goer.  It made me more resolute in my decision to pray for that priest and all priests.

When we entered the church, Eric hands me a pamphlet that was sitting by the holy water font, A Rosary for Priests.  I tucked it in my purse. I hope they don't mind, but I won't be giving it back. 

Right as I was leaving the confessional, the priest said, "please pray for me".  I will, I answered. I will from now on.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

When Mormons Knock

A few days ago, I had the privilege of hosting two very nice Mormons after they unknowingly knocked on the door of one of the most eager of homes in Virginia to share the Catholic faith with nonbelievers.   In the past, I have brushed off these missionaries (as they call themselves) by simply telling them I'm Catholic.  I thought this is what us Catholics were supposed to do. But then I listened to a very good Lighthouse CD called From Mormon Missionary to Catholic Church by Thomas Smith.  This convert informed me that we should always open our doors to the missionaries because they need to see people of other faiths living out their faith.   He said most of the time, these missionaries lived very sheltered lives and had no idea that there were people who also lived faithful lives with different beliefs.  Also, he says that our witness could plant a seed a doubt in their minds, which could lead them to conversion.   As you can imagine, many of the homes they go into are ill educated, nonpracticing Catholics who are easily swayed. Our missionaries boys affirmed this well known fact to us and expressed surprise over our convictions. 

So when the Mormons knocked, the day we got back from vacation, I was ready.  My better half was not.  He answered the door and almost shooed them away with a "bad timing" excuse.  When they asked if they could come a different time, I quickly answered, YES! tomorrow!  Later Eric tells me he was so glad I invited them in because he also didn't know what I said in the above paragraph.  The extra day turned out to be the perfect amount of time to prep for our evangelization talk.  My husband scoured the and I listened to my CD again.  It also gave us time to think about what our attitudes should be- full of love for neighbor and God.  Not defensive or confrontational, I kept telling my husband who can get very.... um, passionate about his beliefs.

3:00pm the next day rolls around and who knocks again, but our poor, sweet and naive Mormon boys (ages 19 and 20).   We treated them like brothers and had a very delightful 2 hour conversation.  We were ready for a good debate, but it turned out that there were not as ready.  The didn't have very good Bible knowledge or arguments.   They mostly asked us question about our faith and as time when on, we could tell they were sincere questions.  They had very little knowledge about the Catholic faith, and even had a hard time holding up their beliefs against ours.   They were so sweet and kind, but just not not what I thought the Mormon missionaries would be like.  We shared conversion stories, family and school background, and our deepest convictions about our faith.  It was truly enjoyable!

Evangelizing with my husband was such a good thing for our marriage too.  With the graces of our marriage, the Holy Spirit made us a seamless tag-team.  If I got stuck on a thought, my husband was able to pick up the pieces of my scattered brain and put it all together.  I don't feel like I did as good of a job at explaining things as my husband did, but he tells me I helped to further explain things that he got stuck on.  It was an exhilarating feeling to evangelize with him and feel those sacramental graces flowing.  It was one of those rare times in a marriage when you for certain that this marriage is not about me or him, it's about a union made by God; joined as one.    From our "evangilization on the beach days", we knew that when one person was talking, the other was to pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through us.  We did this and it made everything feel so natural. 

One of the boys asked what our belief on the Trinity was and how we wrap our heads around it.  I asked him if he had ever heard how St. Patrick used the three leaf clover to teach about the Trinity (funny, since I didn't know his name was Patrick).  He hadn't.  The Mormons are pseudo Christians (though they don't admit to this) because they don't believe in the true Trinity.  They don't believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE God.  In fact, they don't even believe that Jesus is really God.  They said he had god-like qualities.  This is why it can be very deceiving when Mormons come knocking. They couch their beliefs in Christian language and make it seem like we believe the same thing.  This is what they kept telling us.  My husband was very good and gentle about asserting that we don't.  We believe Jesus is God.  If a person believes in everything else, but doesn't confess that Jesus is God, then what's the point?   I could see Patrick's wheels turning in his head when we explained the Trinity and why Jesus can be nothing but God. 

They also asked about heaven more than once too, which I thought was peculiar.  We were aware the strange Mormon ideas of heaven.  Populating planets, becoming Gods, etc.  We asserted that Heaven will be bliss just being in the presence of God.  There is no such thing as time or space in Heaven, so there's no really doing, it's just being; and being in the presence of God who love is more joy than we can ever imagine here on earth.  I could also see the wheels turning at this point.  Mormons believe that each planet has their own god.  They don't like to admit this either because deep in all of our hearts, we know for certain that this is not true.  From their responses, I could tell they wanted to believe too-- that there is ONE God who loves us all--throughout all space and time.

At the beginning of the conversation, they were surprised to learn that Eric and I had both done some evangilization work before (in college).  Before they left, they asked if we did this sort of thing on a regular basis for our Church!  Haha.  We said we'd love to, but right now, we are working on converting our little heathens before we venture out of our home.  total joke. Our kids convert us more than we convert them.  They knew what we meant though. 

Passing along a Catholic bible was a big accomplishment too.  Mormons are only allowed to read the King James version of the Bible, which is the most inaccurate version of the Bible in language and content.   In fact, their teaching on heaven comes from an inaccurate translation of the words for heaven and earth! We tried to convey the message of their flawed Bible to them throughout the conversion, however we weren't so good about the history and specifics about the translations.   At least before they left, one of them willing took the NAB version (New American Bible) from us.   He assured us that he would read it and come back with it someday, so we hope that we will have another good discussion in the future.

At the end of our discussion, they asked Eric to lead a prayer.  They watched us and our son make the sign of the cross and when we finished, one of them was trying it out for himself (the one whose name was Patrick and who asked about the Trinity. Interesting, huh?).

One of little secrets that we learned about Mormons from the CD is that they are given the title- Elder, and their first names almost become obsolete.  Elder Johnson, Elder Smith, etc.  becomes the only name they are referred to by other Mormons.  Not even their missionary partner knows the other's first name most of the time.  So, to find out their first name and call them by that, strips them of their authority and makes them more vulnerable.  Thomas Smith said on the CD that a protestant missionary did this to him, saying that when he died, God would be calling him by his first name- not his title.
Eric and I were waiting for an opportunity to get it out of them and before they left, Eric goes, "I'm not very good with last names, can I get your first names so I can remember you?"    It worked like a charm, even though one of them stopped himself for a moment before giving in.  We were then able to say goodbye to the boys with their real names.

I believe a seed of doubt was planted (especially in Patrick) and so now I pray for Patrick and Zachary and I asked your prayers too.