4 Ways I am “Saving” Christmas This Year

Does this sound like you? Every year when Autumn comes around, and the Christmas stuff starts going on sale, you think, “This year I’m going to be organized and not wait until the last-minute.” But, then you blink and Christmas day is here and it’s like, “Whoa, where did the time go?!” (Please tell me I am not the only one!)

Well, THIS year, I have made a firm decision to really make a change. THIS year, I’m going to really be organized, relaxed, and actually enjoy the Advent and Christmas season. I am “saving” Christmas for myself and here are four ways you can save it for yourself, too!

4 Ways I am Saving Christmas This year

1. Change Your Mindset.

Instead of the go-to response, “Ugh, I am so not ready for the holidays,” this year, I am going to embrace the onset of the holidays. The holidays are a gift! They are a time to give thanks, spend time with loved ones, play with traditions, and, most importantly, to remember that God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, became man for our sakes.

Jesus, the Living God, born of Mary, became a BABY. Jesus is the reason for all the festivities of the next few months – no matter what the stores or the world says. Therefore, when stress or angst about the craziness of the season gets to you, take a couple of minutes to slow down, breathe, and remind yourself of what is important.

2. Learn to say NO.

You know, you really don’t have to say yes to every opportunity or “obligation” that comes your way. Just say yes to those things you really want to do or to those things that bring joy to your life. If you feel like you can’t say no, say “maybe” instead. Take some time to check you calendar and think about whether you want to say yes or not. If you don’t, a simple, “I’m sorry, that won’t work for me.” Is enough. You owe no explanation to anyone!

Remember, you control your calendar. If something is on the calendar, it is there because you added the item. It is up to you to leave margin in your schedule. If you don’t control your calendar, it will control you! Or, at least, everyone else will control it for you.

BELIEVE me, I know how that can be. There are a lot of good and enjoyable things that happen during the Advent/Christmas season. I hate to miss out on good things, too. Nor do I want to let anyone down, either. It is so much easier to yes something rather than face the self-imposed guilt of saying no. In the end, though, it’s not worth it. In order to keep sanity, to stay healthy, and to actually enjoy the holidays, you  need to say no to some things.

3. Enlist Some Help.

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate what you can or ask your spouse, children, or other families to help you with what you need to do. If you can afford it, you can even hire some temporary help. Get a one-time housekeeper to do a deep cleaning of your house. Use photo cards so you don’t have to handwrite every card and then have your children (or a teenager looking to make a couple of bucks) stuff, lick and stamp the envelopes. Of course, baking is one way to get the children involved – even if it makes for more work in the clean-up afterward!

With a little creativity, I am sure you can come up with tons ways to delegate your many responsibilities. Maybe getting help for the next couple of months will inspire you to continue to delegate into the new year!

4. Plan Ahead.

It really does make a difference if you can take some time to plan what you need to do and when. Getting, and staying, organized isn’t that hard if you have a plan in place.

Last year, I made a Christmas planner that made a difference for me. Unfortunately, I thought of it too late so it wasn’t as helpful as it could have been. So, I got myself in gear early and created one for 2017. I am already starting to use it and love it already! I was expecting to keep it to myself but when I told some friends about it, they wanted one too. So, I went ahead and created two: A dated planner for 2017 and an undated planner to be used for multiple years.

I will tell you, right off the bat, that it is nothing too fancy. There aren’t any pretty fonts or fancy tables. It is a clean-cut, straight-to-the-point planner that gets the job done – just how I like it! And, because it is in an e-book format, you can either print out the whole planner at once or just print out the pages you want.

To get the 2017 dated planner go here, and for the multi-year, undated planner go here.

Resources

I will be using the Advent Prayer Journal again this year. Using it last year definitely helped me keep the focus on the meaning of the season.

This year, I am hosting my first (free) virtual Advent retreat. It will be done via Facebook Live in my FB Prayer Group. More details to come soon, so if you aren’t in the FB Group, you can join here.

Is There A Rosary Rally Near You This Saturday?

Did you know that this Saturday, October 14, there will be a world-wide rosary rally in honor of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima? Now you do!

If you want to participate, you can get more information here and find out where the nearest rally for you is, here. If you are local to the Jersey Shore, come pray with us at St. Jerome Church, 254 Wall Street, West Long Branch, NJ.

The rosary is such a powerful prayer and to pray it with others is even more powerful. I hope you will join us!

God bless.

Rosary Rally

photo credit: Courtney Emery via photopin cc

Saint Vincent de Paul, Agent of Charity

September 27 is the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should be! He was a devoted Christian and had great love for the poor.

Saint Vincent de Paul

Image by WikimediaImages (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Early Life

St. Vincent was born in France to a peasant family sometime between 1576-1580. His father was a farmer so he was required to help out with the cattle, sheep and other chores. However, he was found to be very intelligent and was given the opportunity to study with the Franciscans. He was ordained in 1600 but in 1605 he was captured by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave. Thankfully, he was able to escape in the year 1607.

His Ministry

St. Vincent spent his life preaching and dedicating his life to serving the poor. He visited the prisoned, opened hospitals, and performed all sorts of charitable works to ease their sufferings. He eventually created the Missionary Congregation and the Daughters of Charity. Many lay people joined him in his work and continue to follow his example of charity in organizations such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

The Lesson

There are a couple of important lessons we can learn from Saint Vincent de Paul. First, he has a great love for God. He lived in a time when many priests were lukewarm and unknowledgable of their faith. His example of faith and love converted many people. We can ask ourselves: Am I lukewarm in my faith? Am I an example of faith and love to those around me? How can I do better?

Second, he was gentle and loving to those who were largely marginalized by the community of his time. He reached out to those in prison. He cared for those who were sick. He loved the unloveable. We are probably not called to give our lives in service at such a great scale but we can ask ourselves: How do I treat those around me? Am I gentle and kind? Do I make the effort to reach out to those who are lonely, poor, or not someone in need? How can I do better? Is there a St. Vincent de Paul Society nearby where I can volunteer?

As we celebrate the memorial of St. Vincent, let us ak his intercession that we may love our Lord and our neighbor in a deeper, more significant way.

Further Reading

Check out the following sites to learn more about Saint Vincent. He had quite a life and my post only touches on the highlights.

NewAdvent.org

Stvincentdepaul.org Eatontown

Piercedhearts.org

Catholic.org

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Psst: Just a reminder, there is only a couple of days (until September 30) left to make a difference for those who are facing tremendous challenges due to the recent natural disasters. You can grow your faith and help those in need at the same time. – a win/win!

Those Who are Well do not Need a Physician

September 21 is the feast of Saint Matthew, the Apostle and Evangelist. I love this scripture verse from the day’s Gospel reading:

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Matthew 9:12-13

These are some of the most consoling verses in the bible!

Image by DanielReche (2016) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

If you are feeling low, if you struggle with sinful habits, do not be discouraged. Jesus came just for you. He gave the Church to you – to sinners.

If you are perfect (or think you are) then you won’t need Jesus. But, by recognizing your sin, Jesus is able to heal you and give you His mercy. Jesus desires mercy. You will not find judgement in Jesus. In Jesus you will find love, acceptance, mercy, forgiveness, and healing.

So, soak up today’s scripture verse. Let it penetrate your heart and soul. Memorize it. Always remember: Jesus IS mercy itself.

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Psst: Just a reminder, From now until September 30, 50% of all journals and 30% of all services will be donated to help the victims of the recent natural disasters. This is your chance to grow your spiritual life while helping your brothers and sisters in need. See, it’s a win-win. 🙂

A Simple Way to Help the Hurricane Victims

Is your heart aching for those who have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma? Mine has. Five years ago, my family and I were fortunately not seriously affected by SuperStorm Sandy, but I know of many people who were not so lucky.

help the hurricane victims

Image by Free-Photos (2016) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

I have donated some money and goods but wanted to do more. So, I decided that from now until September 30, I am donating 50% of all book sales of my prayer journals and Christmas planners. There are paperpack versions available and printable .pdf versions available.

Additionally, I am donating 30% of all proceeds from my coaching services and my editing services. Again, this is for a limited time – until September 30th.

Let’s join together in giving some relief to the many people who suffered devastating loss and displacement due to those natural events.

P.S. I have a FEW copies of the Catholic Prayer Journal for Women available for anyone wanting an autographed copy. If you would like to purchase a copy, click the link below. (Link is just for autographed copies of the Catholic Prayer Journal for Women, not the other journals or planners.)



Until We See Each Other Again

On Monday, September 4, 2017 (Labor Day), my cousin suddenly passed away of a heart attack. He was only 55. The whole family is in a state of shock.

Most of us saw Randy at a family gathering the day before (Sunday). It was a great day and we all had some much  fun. Randy was smiling, having a good time, and being his usual funny self. And the next day, he is gone.

His death brings home the Lord’s words that we don’t know the day or the hour when we will be die. We really must be ready at all times…

Until We Meet Again

Please humor me as I share a story. Soon after my (now) husband and I met, I brought him to a family get together to meet everyone. At one point, Randy brought us apart and says to Michael, “So, what exactly is your intentions with my cousin?” Then he goes on to tell Michael that he better not hurt me or he (Randy) will make him regret it!.” He said in a joking way but it was sweet that he was looking after me.

But that was Randy. He would do anything for anyone. He was such a loving, great guy that worked hard and loved his family to pieces.

Randy, you will be forever missed! Until we see each other again!

Eternal rest grant unto him o Lord, and let Your perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.”

Assumption of the Blessed Mother

Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother and it is a beautiful and important feast in our liturgical calendar. It is also a relatively new solemnity in that the Assumption of Mary was declared a dogma of the Church in 1950.

Assumption of Mary

Image by Peter Paul Rubens (1626) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

What is the Assumption of Mary?

The Assumption of Mary is the event in which God to Mary to heaven – body and soul. When you and I die, our soul will go to heaven, purgatory or hell and our bodies will decay as it waits for the final Resurrection at the end of times. Mary, however, didn’t have to wait. Right now, Mary is in heaven with her soul and body already united.

Some theologians and thinkers believe that Mary was given the grace of not having to die and was assumed into heaven without dying first. Others believe that Mary did die, in imitation of Christ who died for us, but was assumed into heaven shortly after her death. Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter whether you believe Mary died before she was assumed or not. We are required to believe that Mary was, in fact, brought to heaven with her body and soul, not how it happened.

The Assumption is NOT the Ascension.

Many people get the Assumption of Mary and the Ascension of Jesus confused. That’s completely  understandable given that both feasts celebrate Jesus and Mary’s “entrance” into heaven body and soul. Here is the difference: In the Ascension of Jesus, 40 days after His Resurrection, Jesus ascends back to heaven through HIS OWN POWER. You can read about Jesus’ ascension at the end of the gospels in the bible. In the assumption, Mary is taken to heaven by POWER of GOD. Mary did NOT take herself to heaven, nor was she capable of doing so. The assumption is a gift and a grace of God that was granted to Mary.

Why was Mary Assumed into Heaven? 

During her life, Mary had a unique share in the suffering and death of Jesus. She carried him in her womb, she raised Him, and she followed Him in the most perfect way. Therefore, it seems fitting that she gets to have a unique share of His glory. 🙂

The significance of the Assumption.

This solemnity of the Assumption should give us great joy and hope. Mary is in heaven, in her glorified body just like we will be when the time comes. Thus, her Assumption is a peek of our future destiny. When we die, we know that our souls are separated from our bodies. But, this is temporary. When Jesus returns at the second coming, our souls and bodies will be reunited again in our own glorified bodies.

The Assumption reminds us that our life on earth isn’t all there is; we have a destiny. Jesus is our destiny. Heaven is real and it is our destiny. We live in hope that we will be with the Blessed Trinity, all the Saints and Angels in heaven, FOREVER. How awesome is that?!

How can we celebrate this special Solemnity?

1. The first thing you should do is go to Mass. As a matter of fact, the feast of the Assumption is a Holy Day of Obligation, so technically you “have” to go. Of course, we don’t celebrate the Eucharist just because we have to, right? We go to Mass because we want to. 😉

2. Pray the glorious mysteries of the rosary. The glorious mysteries include the Assumption of Mary. “Bonus points” if you pray as a family!

3. In times past, most parishes would have a procession in Our Lady’s honor on this day. It’s not that common anymore, however, your (or a  nearby) parish is doing a procession, consider participating in it. If there aren’t any local processions available, you can put do a small procession for yourself and your family.

4. If you have time, you can do some crafts with your kids like this one at crafolic.com or this one at catholicmom.com.

5. You can also make an Assumption themed meal or treat like I found here and here (scroll down to the Assumption) on catholiccuisine.com.

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure with a little thought you will be able to come up with your own way of honoring Our Lady. May your day be blessed!

Resources to deepen your understanding  of this great Solemnity:

New Advent

About.com

AssumptionMary.com

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Tomorrow (August 6) is the feast of the Transfiguration our Lord. In reading the mass readings for today, these verses particularly stand out:

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Image by dimitrisvetsikas1969 (2017) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.”

Therefore, I am going to pray for the grace to be able to hear the voice of Jesus. I am praying for the grace to not let the many cares of daily life from getting in the way of listening to His voice and paying attention to Him. I don’t know about you, but I can easily get into the habit of letting the craziness of life take over me and I don’t take the time for prayer and spending time with God. How about you? Am I alone in this?

That’s why I need the grace to make time for prayer and reading His Word. In essence, am praying for a deepening of my relationship with the Lord.

I am also praying for this grace for each of you, as well. I pray that you have a deepening of your relationship with Jesus and that you grow ever closer to Him with each new day. May all our minds and hearts be transfigured unto Jesus.

How about you? What is your prayer for this beautiful feast?

The Lord is My Rock

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

Whew. This has been a challenging summer so far. I was sick with bronchitis most of June, and recently my husband came home from the hospital recovering from pneumonia. Then there as been some financial challenges and other challenges.

The Lord is my Rock

Image by Simon (2017) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

I feel like the Lord is sending me test after test after test. And, I don’t think I am alone. Someone shared with me that she sometimes doubts if God is watching over her when she feels like the world is falling apart around her.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever wonder if God is letting you flounder your way through life? It can be frustrating so frustrating.

What is helping me is constantly reminding myself that God does have a plan and a purpose for my life, even when I can’t see what that is. I also try to hold fast to the promise in the above scripture quote. God is my rock. God is my fortress. God is my deliverer. I just have to remember that God’s timing isn’t my timing and I need to remember to trust.

Have you ever heard of putting your name into bible verses? It sometimes gives a new perspective and a reminder that God is a personal God who is look out for each one of us as if we were the only person on earth.

For example:

The LORD is Carol’s rock and Carol’s fortress and Carol’s deliverer, Carol’s God, Carol’s rock, in whom Carol takes refuge; Carol’s shield and the horn of Carol’s salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

Now it is your turn. Replace my name with yours. Know that no matter what you are suffering or dealing with God is with you. He loves you and He will bless you in His own unique way.

Next Steps

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Saints Joachim and Anne

Today is the feast of saints Joachim and Anne who are considered to be the parents of Mary, the Blessed Mother.

Saints Joachim and Anne

Image by dimitrisvetsikas1969 (2016) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Their Lives

Their names are not mentioned in the bible. In fact, they aren’t mentioned in the bible at all. They are mentioned in certain apocryphal writings, most notably, “The First Gospel of James.” These writings, obviously, do not have the authority of the bible by any stretch of the imagination; however, they do give a sketch of their lives.

So, tradition holds that that Joachim and Anne suffered years of infertility. This was a source of shame for them because at that time, having children was a blessing from God. Still, in their shame, they continued to be faithful to God and His promises and called out to Him in prayer.

Eventually, Anne had the good blessing of having a vision of an angel who announced that she will have a child that will be blessed for generations to come! At the birth of Mary, their joy knew no bounds! Therefore, in gratitude to God, they consecrated Mary to God and she was raised in the temple. (This was normal at that time.)

The Lesson

Whether or not the traditional accounts are real or  not, we can learn some lessons from Saints Joachim and Anne. One that stick out for me, in their sorrow and shame in not being able to have children, they remained faithful to God. They didn’t hide from their pain, instead, they took it to God.

Mind you, they felt the sorrow and shame. The feelings were real. Feelings are not sinful; they are neutral. It is what we do with those feelings that count. Many of us, myself included, tend to suppress our “bad” feelings or use those feelings as an excuse to turn away from God. We (I) forget that God isn’t afraid of our feelings. It is okay to cry out to God, to yell at Him, to be mad at him when things don’t turn out the way we had hoped, expected, or wanted.

How about you? Do you agree with this assessment of our feelings? Do you turn away from God when you get angry or disappointed?

References

Here are some websites about Saints Joachim and Anne:

Catholic News Agency

Catholic.org

Britannica