30 Days of Gratitude

 

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I recently attended the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network – Midwest Conference at a beautiful mansion in St Paul, MN. The conference was hosted by Anna Coyne, Jacqui Skemp, and Susanna Spencer. I promise to share more on the conference later, but in the meantime check out the conference recap link-up on Jaqui’s blog here.

At the conference, I heard Ashley Strukel, who blogs at With Praise and Thanksgiving, speak about doing a gratitude journal on her blog for 365 days. It has been a challenging month (and year) and I am looking for any thing that might infuse my life with joy and positivity. I am hoping that embarking on this challenge in the month of April will be a good start.

Update: I don’t think I realized how difficult a daily blog post would be, even a quick one! My plan is now share 7 things I am grateful for, and to do so for four weeks in a row, linking-up with Kelly and the rest of the 7 Quick Takes crew.

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Five Favorites: Matt Maher Edition

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com

 

I was blessed to attend St. Timothy Catholic Church in Tempe, Arizona for a short time when Matt Maher served as the Worship Leader (?). He is one of the only people that I have come across that somehow can combine rocking out and reverently worshiping God at a Mass. I really prefer traditional music at Mass, but would never turn down a Mass where Matt Maher was in charge of the music.

Below are my four favorite Matt Maher songs and a video that shares more about why I think Matt Maher is great.

1. Christ Is Risen

One of my favorite things about Matt Maher are his lyrics. He is able to bring the words of Jesus and the Apostles to live in his music.

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely you bled, for us

The song starts out with the lyrics above.  The  remind me of the reason for Jesus’ suffering and death. I do not need to be or to stay stuck wallowing in my shame or worried about my sins and transgressions. Christ bled to release me from the shame and death that occurs as a result of sin!

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, he’s alive! he’s alive!

I love to turn up the music as a loud as I can when these lyrics come on. I feel like I am saying take that death…take that hell…take that sin, my God is bigger than all of you. So there!!!

I love to play this song on Easter…after Reconcilliation…when I am feeling grateful…and even when I need a little inspiration to turn to God and fix my eyes on the Cross.

2. Rise Up

Thorough the lyrics below and throughout the song Matt is able to paint a picture of the despair and despondence one feels when you are lost in addiction or other struggles.

When you see the road ahead
That you’ve been down before
When you’re halfway to nowhere
And you can’t pay the toll

You’re hanging onto mercy
Withered on the vine
With your feet on the ground, your head in the clouds
And your heart on the line

And then after encouraging the encouragement to “rise up” and “look up” towards God he exclaims with great power the result of rising up and turning your life over to God.

And all the lambs roar like lions
And all the prisoners breaking their chains
And all the poor find their treasure
Cause heaven is coming this way.

What he says in this Behind The Scenes video about the song is almost as powerful as the song itself. I have included a few of my favorite quotes below:

“The line between an addict and a mystic is so unbelievable close….addiction is just a distorted hunger for God.” 

“God wants you to rise above it…God wants a breakthrough for you.”

“When the Church does this together corporately we  will see lambs roar like lions, not because of what they have done, but because of what God will be able to do through them.”

3. Lord I Need You 

He sang this song at World Youth Day with Pope Francis! You can see a video about his experience here.

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

For me this song, especially the lyrics above, remind me of the freedom that comes through my relationship with God. It is so easy to be weight down by my own sin…but God’s grace is always more than my sin, and the only way  to freedom and holiness.

4. Hold Us Together 

This song always reminds me of my Maggie’s Place family. In fact, here is a photo of us after we rocked out to this song at the Fest.

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“And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brother’s keeper
So the whole world would know that we’re not alone”

While I love the entire song, the above lyrics are the ones that remind me of the gift that I was given when I was lead to Maggie’s Place. Love truly holds Maggie’s Place together and continues to bind all who are a part of the community together. Formally Maggie’s Place as an organization provides hospitality to pregnant women and offer them and their children ” a shelter from the storm.” I have been blessed to be a part of the Maggie’s Place community for over ten years, with only some of those being formally a part of the staff. I have and know I will continue to be bound together with the rest of the community by love. Though many of us are scattered around the country I know that I can always call about someone in the Maggie’s Place community in good times and in bad.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

5. Songwriter/Musician Matt Maher – Pensado’s Place #154


Pensando’s Place is hosted by Dave Pensando. He is a Grammy Award-winning mix engineer. He hosts a weekly show called Pensado’s Place. The show is about engineering techniques and interviews a guest Mixer, Producer or Artist each episode. The interview with Matt starts at about 12:47.

There are parts of it that are above my head, as I do not know anything about the technical side of music. However it is really his knowledge of music, the Bible and the Church that makes his music work for me!

 

What I Wore Sunday: Easter Sunday

What I Wore Sunday linkup

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter. We enjoyed Mass in the morning and then a wonderful day with Justin’s dads side of the family – over 50 people! A bonus was the 70 degree weather which allowed everyone to spend time outside.

Unfortunately in the morning before Mass I discovered that a mouse had decided to partake in the egg-shaped sugar cookie that I baked for the desert I was brining to the Easter gathering. It made the morning a little hectic as we tried to balance getting ready for Mass, making an early morning run to the store and pulling the food together. The photos below are not the best, but they were the only ones that we were able to get in our church outfits.

 

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Answer Me This: Easter Sunday

Check out Catholic All Year for more Answer Me This answers!

 

 

1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?

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We had a little mishap with a desert that we were bringing to our family Easter celebration so these were the best photos we could snap before heading off to Mass.

2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?

We are leaning towards thumbs down with the Easter Bunny and Santa, as well as the Tooth Fairy and similar mythical figures. We plan to give our children presents for special occasions and holidays, but they will know that they come from us and from other family members.

We shall see how this plan works our for us and our family. As with many parenting decisions time will tell what the best decision is, and I am sure we will learn lessons along the way.

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else’s house?

We spend most of our holidays at someone else’s house. At this time in our life, with the limited time we have to clean and decorate, let alone plan, shop and prepare for a celebration, I prefer to celebrate holidays at other people’s homes.

As our family grows I think that I will enjoy hosting events and maybe holidays at our home, but for now I am grateful to have family members who do a wonderful job hosting holidays and family gatherings.

4. What is your favorite kind of candy?

Anything with chocolate and peanut butter! If I had my wish my Easter basket would be filled with Reese’s peanut butter eggs 🙂

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5. Do you like video games?

I do not like video games in general, and hope to avoid having video game systems in our home. I do not see a great benefit to video games, and think that many people waste a great deal of time and money playing them.

The only system and games that I might consider having in my home is the Wii and all of the Wii fit games. If it can encourage interacting with other and being healthy, I am all for it.

However, I think that I might be a hypocrite, because I am a pretty big fan of Candy Crush…

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6. Do you speak another language?

I do not speak another language fluently. I can speak and understand a little bit of Spanish…just enough to communicate to another person that their English is way better than my Spanish. My husband did just introduce me to free app called Duolingo. Check it out! I have found that a lot of the language is coming back to my by going through the exercises.

We use some baby sign language to communicate with Madeline, but I am really learning the signs right along with her. We don’t use any formal program, but instead just use signs in children’s books we have been given and the signs that Justin remembers from his ASL classes.

I love that Madeline is able to communicate with us and to share the things that she is observing around her. She regularly signs more when she wants more food or something that is out of her reach. She has just recently learned the sign for book and sometimes combines it with please when she wants us to read to her.

My all time favorite though, is when she saw a couple of people wearing sombreros at our local Mexican restaurant. She excitedly pointed at them and then tapped her head, the sign for hat.

Five Favorites: Summer Salads

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com

I recently helped host a baby shower for a friend. She had been great about taking care of herself and her little one during her pregnancy so we decided to have a salad bar for the main food at the shower. I think we ended up with 6 or 8 salads for the 20 people at the shower. It was awesome!

I love a good salad and often have it as the main course or main part of my meal. I thought I would share a few salads that I have pinned on Pinterest that I plan to make this year. For the ingredients and directions simply click on the pinned image. It will take you back to Pinterest and then you can click through to the original page.

I would love to hear about your favorite salads and summer meals!

1. Esquites Quinoa Salad with Avocado
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/94857135876451042/

2. Chickpea, Feta & Parsley Salad
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/94857135874910794/

3. Southwestern Black Bean Salad
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/94857135874438914/

4. Bacon & Brussel Sprout Salad
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/94857135874438849/

5. Kale, Apple & Panchetta
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/94857135874369384/

Answer Me This: Palm Sunday

Another link-up – This time with Catholic All Year! Check other blogger’s answer here.

1. What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

We prefer to go to Mass at 9:30 AM or 5 PM. We generally sit in the cry room because Madeline (almost 14 months!) is hard to contain and keep quiet. We would prefer to sit in the sanctuary, but we are not sure how to do that while respect the sanctity of the Mass and the other parishioners.

A side note: The one positive about the cry room is that it allows us to be very close to the altar and to talk with Madeline about what is going on during Mass. We are participating in our parish’s early childhood faith learning program. A new topic is highlighted each week, e.g. Baptism, service, Mary, and so on. Additionally, they often have a miniature Mass kit that the children can play with and learn about. It has everything – chalice, paten, crucifix, ciborium, incense boar, candle snuffer, bells, and so on. I am  not sure what Madeleine can understand, but it has been good to introduce her to everything and to point out the items during the Mass. 

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

I think that I would rather be too cold. It is much easier, at least to me, to warm up rather than cool down. Plus, my preferred attire would be a sweater, skinny jeans and boots. That being said…after this winter I would not mind being too hot for a few days.

3. How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

I have one sister, Carolyn, who is three years younger and one brother, Jamal, who is 13 years younger than me. Justin has a sister, Lauren, who is 13 years younger than he is. His sister Christie, who past away just over a year ago, was about four years younger than him.

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Carolyn, Jamal, me and my mom, Cathy.

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Christie, Justin & Lauren

4. If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

While I had an idea of what a boggart was, I actually had to check out the description on the Harry Potter Wiki to confirm.  The description of the boggart sitting in the darkness just waiting to take the shape of what I fear most….yuck! I would have to say that my greatest fear is that something terrible might happen to Madeline, specifically something that would cause her to suffer and/or die (e.g. cancer) She has had a few health scares, that turned out to be absolutely nothing, but during the time waiting for the test results I was extremely anxious. I get a little sick to my stomach and light-headed just thinking about it now.

The sad truth is that I know many people, including Justin’s family, that have had to deal with this very situation. A full discussion on this topic is probably best saved for another time and place, but I want to mention that have been humbled by the courage, grace and strength at which those around me have faced the struggle of watching a loved one suffer with a serious or terminal illness.

5. Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

I think that I would have to say thumbs down. I played with Barbies and loved my Barbie Dream House, but I just can’t see buying them for Madeline or any other children that we have. I would much rather purchase American Girl Dolls or baby dolls. I don’t necessary think that my idea of physical beauty was shaped by Barbie, but I also think that the more positive influences girls and women have the better.

Now a nice doll house, on the other hand, might get a thumbs up from me.

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6. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

Buy a nice mattress! It is worth it. Justin and I saved up and punched a really nice mattress. I have to tell you that I really could not believe that we spent to much on the mattress, but now I cannot imagine sleeping on anything else. It has made a significant difference in my quality of sleep, and therefore my quality of life. When you divide up the cost over the 20 years that the mattress has a warranty for it is actually quite reasonable per year, week and night 🙂

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Not me…but you get the idea 🙂

Check other Answer Me This answers here.

What I Wore Sunday: Palm Sunday Edition

What I Wore Sunday linkup

 

Happy Palm Sunday!

Justin and I spend most of Saturday evening cleaning and organizing our office and Madeline’s bedroom. Madeleine spent was out spending quality time with Justin’s parents and her cousin. We missed Madeline while she was away, but it was so nice to have some uninterrupted time to organized our space and to go through boxes that have been untouched since we moved almost a year ago.

By the time we made it to bed we were all exhausted, so I am so grateful that our local parish, St Peter’s, offers a Mass on Sunday at 5 pm. We caught up on some sleep and then had an unhurried and relaxing morning. We spent some time with Madeleine in her clean room, ate a nice breakfast together, and then relaxed in the living room – Justin and I with our coffee and Madeline with books. When Madeline went down for her nap I was able to help Justin start his blog and help him get acquainted with WordPress. It is not often that we have uninterrupted time like that to spend together.

Just a few photos of Madeline and Justin enjoying our lazy Sunday morning together

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We stepped outside to get a quick photo of my Mass outfit while Madeline was sleeping. Justin snapped a few photos before we ran back in. We knew Madeline would be up any minute and it is still pretty cold her in Minnesota! I can’t wait for it to warm up so I can wear dresses and skirts to Mass, without pants underneath. However, the pants really do come in handy as Madeline is not the easiest to keep occupied and contained. I often find myself sitting on the floor in or other positions that a dress or skirt would not allow :).

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I am excited about joining in this link-up. I do not necessarily enjoy posting photos of myself but I am grateful for the accountability to “look my best and go with confidence” I am still struggling to in both those areas, as I work to build my wardrobe to fit and my confidence about my post-pregnancy body (14 months later :/ ).  Any helpful hints on building a wardrobe and dressing a post-pregnancy body would be greatly appreciated.

Check out the other What I Wore Sunday post here!