Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent - a time for preparing

...preparing for a journey ahead

Advent brings to mind so many things for me.

During our priest's sermon this morning at mass, I found it especially interesting and listened intently as he explained how simple preparations during the Advent season can enrich our lives, filling us with grace and blessings.

One of the many helpful suggestions offered during the sermon seemed to hit me deeply (smack in the center of my forehead to be exact). I could really relate to working on one virtue each week, every single day until it came becomes a habit.

It sounded easy - 4 weeks for 4 new virtues.

"Just be sure to work at one virtue every day for one week", he said. Sounds easy right?

At first it sounded like something else to add to my already overflowing to-do list, but just for a wee second, and then it all made sense to me. We have a choice to make. We can all choose to use this Advent entering our lives today for good, or not. We don't have to allow this liturgical preparation time to escape our busy, busy days at all.

Indeed Advent is a time to prepare our hearts. It's also a time for offering sacrifice. It's a time to pray, a time to anticipate and a time filled with wonder. With the entrance of a whole new church year, it's a time of hope for families filled with God's promises we can cling and hold on to.

Oh sure, I made plans to keep Advent in focus within our home during our moving preparation time we are currently experiencing, and beyond in fact, into our new home. It sounds good anyway doesn't it, to be able to voice that. Pulling it all off will be quite another thought. Or will it?

Don't get me wrong here. I knew I could keep up the continuity right now as we pack and lock up the house for another family to reside here, but once we arrive at our new home, that seemed questionable with the distraction ahead of unpacking again.

I finally found a tree to hang our brass Jesse Tree symbols on this year at IKEA, and loving all of the liturgical year possibilities it offers. I only had these red ribbon hangers but on my list for tomorrow is to set off and purchase purple ribbon instead, so much more fitting for this Advent season.

During the sermon, I must also confess my mind wondered all over the place with personal thoughts, concerns, anxieties and trepidations appearing before us during this same timing. By the end I sat spellbound for a moment to reflect on what was running through my head. I wanted to blurt out loud - "Wow, what a fitting time for everything we are preparing for"... truly I thought, it was absolutely fitting for everything happening in our lives right now!

Our second, handmade felt set of
symbols to hang on our Jesse tree.

(Just like the Jesse tree story, so too is God working on our own story here.)

We will walk the journey to Bethlehem, reflect on our Jesse tree symbol hanging and Bible readings, light our purple candles, recite our "O' Antiphons" - clearly attempting to keep Advent in our hearts and minds during the days ahead, all the while trekking to a foreign land where "home" will be where our hearts rest for the future.

I know for myself, it will present a constant to keep my focus ahead and still tend to, and keep my vision in both mind and body. I know I will eventually have to do battle with fatigue or the feeling of becoming overwhelmed, at least for the first few days while settling into our new abode. A simple thought hit me though, touching my heart deeply. Are we the only ones trying to keep the mental and spiritual intact while journeying forward to lands unknown in distant areas, trusting with all our hearts? No. There is another family making their way forward too. Now that puts a big smile on my face!

As uncertainties begin to creep up and attempt to turn me into a coward, even for a blip of a moment, I will dwell on a young girl's (Mary) trust as she proceeded forward, always trusting in God's ordained plan for her life. She just kept on trusting. Now I know I am not her, nor share the exact same journey of course, but if she could trust to easily, then why shouldn't I?

As we enter into yet another adventure "in the east", the one when that began with that whisper announcing - "it's time to go yet again", we have to continue stepping out in faith because;
  • At every step of the way, we know now that our path was already being formed for us.
  • A rocky road was being made smooth. Rounding curves ahead haven't been filled with forks so we wouldn't lose our way having to choose whether to turn right or left. It has only been a green light straight ahead for us.
  • The view is becoming more beautiful every day, especially over the past three weeks as we see the hand of God unfolding in every detail along the way since we first decided to proceed.
There is something so endearing as small tidbits of confirmation to comfort us when we were without a map to guide us, yielding our human natures heavenward, and following along where we knew we had to travel. We have been carried thus far and the forecast is only becoming brighter ahead. (with snow today!:-)

In just nine days, dozens of cardboard boxes will become filled and then stacked in rows all over our home. As we will creep along, moving from room to room, we'll begin to weave through mazes of the brown cubed blocks, hoping each one is labeled correctly for an easy unloading down the road. This will be the day of our Jenn's birthday back home, so we will honor her by having cupcakes for everyone during the day when a coffee break is in due order.

As there are still details not conforming to the exact timing of the move, we can only hope and pray the hardwood flooring workers will be able to complete the master bedroom in time for the movers to cart the furniture in there so our weary bodies can fall onto them when night falls that first day there. And, heck, if not, well, we'll just be prepared and content with being forced to camp out in the family room in front of the fireplace, that is, if we remember to keep an empty spot there without boxes resting in rows to get in the way of the possibility.

More importantly, as much as we love snow (well, you know "I" do, snicker), we pray the journey will offer our moving truck crew and ourselves driving both of our vehicles packed full, a safe road trip towards our new home. We pray for the absence of icy roads or highway closures, encountering possible snow squalls, or anything else of danger for our travels. We pray our guardian angels keep us wrapped up in their protective arms, fending off fatigue as we trek for many hours, in the middle of winter (and Advent).

I took this photo just for all of you tonight

Honestly! What a "perfect" time for our family to make a major move my friend! T'is the season for unlimited possibilities; a whole new year, and a focused and intentional time to prepare our hearts for the coming of one very sweet and wondrous babe. Oh yes, think of the possibilities! So, are you thinking???

If God wants it to be, my life will be useful through my word and witness.
If he wants it to, my life will bear fruit, through my prayers and sacrifices.
But the usefulness of my life is his concern, not mine.
It would be indecent of me to worry about that.

~ Dominique Voillaume

The world is a book.....

The world is a book...

The world is a book,
and those who do not travel
read only a page.

~ St. Augustine

This is the usual reading hour after lunchtime in our home. These two 'reserve' their spots on each chair by leaving their books there to read early in the morning. They even bring in my kitchen timers to assure me they are reading for the duration of their scheduled and assigned reading times.

Clearly - everything else beyond this moment is gravy (smile)! At least that's what I say.

There is nothing quite like the love of reading, especially when it entails a great book, which soon tends to linger in their grips, long after the ringing stops.

No doubt tomorrow will see them nearer to the fire, comfortably reading their current reads and watching those big fluffy flakes fall to earth. That is, until mother yells out it's time to get outside...hee hee.

Bring on that snow folks. It's so lovely already, much too dark for a photo op though. Sorry. I'll just have to keep on looking out the window to enjoy it for a while yet tonight.

Guess what?

Guess what?

More snow is on the way. Just when the last huge batch is slowly melting away, we are now expecting up to 30 cm. overnight and plenty of weather warnings for early morning commuters.

Let me ask you this. What is winter without snow? That's right. It's not winter. At least over here in the eastern regions, that's for sure.

Oh, and about that photo up above.... it was taken last winter just before the weather turned in time for Spring to arrive, a late snowfall in late March. I think it will soon become one of those classic type of photos for me. I love the, at least this snow over here.

Yah, yah, yah, you hear that from me alot the past two years. However, you'll also hear me say - just BRING IT ON ... and then melt before our moving truck and packers appear on Dec. 9th.

I want to build snowmen with the children.

I want to attempt pretty and just perfect snow angels on the ground.

I want to tilt my head skyward, open my mouth and give thanks for such marvelous winter feasting.

Oh yes, I'm loving it...

The children took out the snowman mugs last week which is fitting for the wintry weather matching the snowman on the front of the mugs outdoors.

This photo was snapped with my camera on my cell phone (believe it or not!) last week while looking out an upper floor window with a screen on it. I just love this photo, and will miss our little red hipbarn so much. We call it the Taj Mahal for our animals, but truly, it's quaint and sweet for our wee bit of country living here the past while. The colors are just perfect!

So, we'll see what the morning brings, a picture fit for another camera snapping session tomorrow morning no doubt.

Love it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So Thankful..

Ten things I am Thankful for!

During this season of American Thanksgiving, I am reminded of my visit with my one and only sister last year at this time when we were able to spend a week alone together for the first time since our young youthful years. It was a time for sisterly bonding, and doing many things together, and celebrating American Thanksgiving on Cape Cod, just the two of us.

After a memorable time together, we shared the same idea for the future. Perhaps this same time every year could become a sisterly tradition of sorts for continued visits together just like the one we had both enjoyed so immensely.

As I type this writing tonight, I am reminded that life must continually be filled with goals and dreams, and though they may not always become attainable in the end, it is still good to keep dreaming. For my sister and I, our reunion timing was just not meant to be this year. My own family's move currently in progress offers poor timing over our reunion during the "American Thanksgiving" season. No problem though. There is always next year, right sis? Heck, I'm still filled with many warm and cherished memories from last year to carry me through until we meet again next year for "such a time as last year's was".

Happy Thanksgiving to you Helen.

Happy thanksgiving to all our family and friends over the border.

** And without further ado, here are ten things this week which I am very thankful for. I'm absolutely filled with deep gratitude for every little itty bitty thing these past few days.

Ten things I am Thankful for!

1) For the initial confusion - now cleared up over the Surgeon who almost refused my husband’s case due to the fact he will retire in a year and he wasn't wanting to disappoint my husband in the process of having to refer him onward to another. He has not only taken my husband’s case to heart, he will try see him through to recovery if able.

2) For the confusion now cleared up also as to the Surgeon not actually responsible for my husband’s day to day care, rather only the surgery itself in the future. Three recommendations were referred to us for consideration and the Respiralogist we had hoped for nearer to our new home was on that list! Oh YES!!! Door to door travel will be less than ten minutes for appropriate care and/or emergent anything in the future. This doctor knows the surgeon personally and both will work together on my husband’s case. Wow, God is good!

3) For the Red Cross’ blood chart a friend pulled out to inform me of the fact there are actually three possible blood types which will match my husband’s rarer one of “AB neg” for future considerations with regards to an actual transplant. The blood types of donor and recipient must match to avoid rejection of the organs, so this matters. Whether or not in the end this will be of any assistance doesn’t matter right now. It just all sounds so much more positive to us at this point in time. I for one will become a regular blood donor after all the fascinating information I found out about this topic from our friend. Her husband has required over 80 emergency blood transfusions for his case of leukemia, now in remission. Praise God for this incredible gift of life!

4) For Guardian Angels unaware who watch over us, and for real life ones who bless us at every turn. A fellow colleague and his family have been transferred to work at the same location as my husband. Ahead of the family this old friend watches over and has become ever protective over my husband during his days at work, insisting on rest breaks when he sees fatigue creep into my husband's eyes, coffee breaks just because, and the occasional dinner together. He even stays at the same hotel during commuting evenings. How great is this! Last night, both wandered over to the local Costco to grab their beloved meal together – a famous Costco hotdog! His family will move there from Quebec two days after us, and live not far from where we will. Familiar faces have become quite a blessing to us as we all have stayed at the same hotel during our road trips to this area. Even if it was from long ago when we used to visit and chat, together we will all become familiar with, and forge through our foreign new land, enjoying every bit of our time, where our new homes will soon dwell.

5) For fence builders who had no problems working knee deep within two feet of snow today. There they were digging trenches to install some chain link fencing, for the sole purpose of our dogs hanging out inside of while outdoors during the daytime. Dare we let them loose? No, that is not an option at all. Our husky will run away for sure, let alone our golden lab.

6) For the success of a second attempt! A second minor hockey association announced they still had one opening remaining on their rep/travel hockey team which our son could join in on. They have one card for a last player ready and waiting, and have suggested they get him playing as soon as possible. The trick however is *when* we can provide proof of our new address with various documentation. It won’t be able to happen though (as they are aware) until we have the utilities in place, driver’s licenses changed over, etc.The first hockey association we tried had no room left on any of their teams for him, thus placing him ninth on a waiting list. When the very ability to play an endeared sport or not becomes an issue, it all matters greatly to our son. It all matters because if he is going to proceed to any higher league level caliber of play for a few more years to come, the average hockey stats from the previous year are reviewed for invitational entry into their programs. It all matters. So, with much happiness, this was all good news this past week for him. His younger brother has now requested we inquire about a spot for him to play there too. Better late than never I suppose.

7) For a happy teen daughter and her younger sister for finding out there are THREE horse riding centers and boarding barns within ½ mile or less from our new home. A nice bike ride would suffice for transportation anytime for riding lessons or the big dream of them buying their own horse.

8) For the realization we will have relatives only 1 ½ hours away from us, so much closer than this place now. Toast! Ting ting... here’s to “family” who will be living nearby, our niece and her husband we celebrated Thanksgiving with. Such a wonderful thought.

9) For snow skiing and other snowy mountain fun being within reach for a familiar feel and comparison to our Westcoast roots provided enjoyed before our move here. Yes, perhaps we will get back to this sport again; I’ll get the younguns on snowshoes and skis within no time at all. If all else fails, a great day tobogganing will be right up their alley. Wink

10) For my CURVES workout center; where I can move to the music, get in my workout, and get rid of all my stressors, one station at a time. There is nothing so triumphant as the accomplishment of a completed workout. When either negative or positive stress eats up the mind and cripples a desire for physical motivation, there is nothing as wonderful or successful as having proceeded with the workout anyway and feeling the absolute benefits from it soon afterwards. I love my CURVES, watching other woman like me bouncing around in between their stations on the circuit in order to keep up their heart rates. Here’s to women who look after themselves, one station at a time!

Mother culture moments.....

"Mother Culture Moments"

Taking a few moments to browse my new arrivals

An unexpected knock came upon my door in the early hours of yesterday morning. A parcel in her hand, she asked for my signature. I love it when this happens, a surprise from the delivery truck shipping showing up in my driveway to thrill us all.

I was expecting this parcel until next week, and yet, one of my favorite curriculum catalog suppliers honored my request for expediting this package so it would arrive before our moving date. I am just so thrilled with the Johnson family, owners of Catholic Heritage Curriculum this day, not to mention the relief to obtain this package in a super timely manner without the delay at the US border custom's office.

Each day when I rise, it seems my "to-do" list has grown from the evening before! As I note the priorities for the day before me on a fresh list written the evening before on a crisp new piece of paper; all of the many things to tend to, the calls to make concerning our move, keeping our schooling schedules in focus, I can feel a wee bit anxious at times when a little anxiety creeps in before the noon hour.

Along the way the past few weeks, I've literally had to remember to take a few moments from the crazy and hectic pace before me to "be still" and "relax" a few moments, grasping a deep breath of air and/or keeping up with my workouts to fend off any negative stressors. I have to admit the arrival of this box was indeed perfect timing for me, just perfect timing!

After opening my box, no hesitation was required to carve out a few stolen moments this day to drool over my two new wonderful additions to our family library. Both of the authors of these delightful finds are wonderful ladies whom I admire and respect, not to mention read their personal blogs regularly.

A few more moments with offered items by my children for an even longer escape to browse

My Mother Culture books this day are;

Tea and Cake with the Saints by; Alice Cantrell (homeschooling mother and artist extraordinaire) Subtitled; A Catholic Young Lady's Introduction to Hospitality and the Home Arts. It is such a lovely book filled with Alice's quaint and special artistry. Wow Alice, this is such a treasured gem! Thank you for yet another special find! Keep them coming okay?

Haystacks full of needles by; Alice Gunther (homeschooling mother and lawyer) Forward written by Laura Berquist, this book is explosive and filled with the love and charity Alice is known for. She is such a lovely woman. Alice, thank you for bringing this great book to fruition. I love the photos you included, all are really special.