Friday, January 23, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Share

There is still a little bit of Christmas left around here...mostly the kind I've hidden away in a drawer because it's too nice for the kids to eat. It has a high cacao content, or it was expensive, or my friend/mother/husband gave it to me (just to me) special because I really, really like chocolate.

I never meant to be that mother who hides in the laundry room with a handful of chocolate chips on a particularly tough afternoon. Some days, like today, the constant bickering and hair-pulling and shoving and tattling can make a mama cry. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I yell instead. Today, that bit of Christmas in the kitchen seemed just the thing.

So I got it out. I whacked it to break it apart, I carefully peeled back the foil, and I passed out smooth, fruit-shaped wedges to each of them. "Let's share it," I told them. After we'd licked our fingers (and I'd washed mine) I played all their favorite songs until they were yawning and heavy-eyed. 

The house feels peaceful. No one is yelling or crying. It might have been the Christmas...or it might have been the sharing. Either way, I'll take it.

Five-Minute Friday is a chance to write for five minutes in response to a one-word prompt without worrying, over-editing or backtracking. It's finger painting with words, kind of the way we used to color without feeling anxious about staying inside the lines. We share our work over at Kate Motaung's blog- you can go there to check out more and to share your own writing.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: Welcome.

The first lines of dawn are writing themselves on the sky as we pull in, gravel crunching under tires, rubbing sleep from our eyes and unfolding ourselves from the seats. There are twenty-four hours of music and audiobooks and Waffle House coffee and McDonald's bathrooms behind us. Bed-shaped, we stumble toward the house, carrying pillows but leaving suitcases for later. Before we even reach the door, they are there, pouring out into the barely-light, arms wide open and faces beaming, their eyes scanning every inch of us to see how much we've grown.

They're here! There they are! You made it! Awww...just look at you!

Hands reach out and pull us into warm pajama hugs, taking our pillows and coats, guiding us into the house, into the familiar smells of coffee and old books and family. As one aunt points us toward the room that is always ours at the end of the hall, another is following with luggage, and the third is hurrying ahead to plump pillows and smooth blankets on a bed that is already warm, I realize they are giving up their beds for us at barely four in the morning.

Aren't you going back to bed? I ask, concerned about the early hour in spite of my exhaustion.

I think I'll get a head start on the sausage biscuits, she tells me, eyes crinkling with the pleasure of a good welcome.

Five-Minute Friday is a chance to write for five minutes without over-editing, backtracking, or worrying, just for the love of the process and to see what happens. After we write, we share with the rest of the community of word-lovers over at Kate Motaung's blog. Come visit her to read more Five-Minute Friday writers and to share your own writing, if you want to play along!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

an Epiphany playlist just for you

I made you a little something. Happy tenth day of Christmas! Here's a little playlist of our favorite songs celebrating the wise men, the star of Bethlehem, and the ongoing feast of Christmas. Enjoy.

Is your family doing anything special for Epiphany? You could catch up on your Christmas picture book reading with these booklists from Two Os Plus more and Molly Makes Do or make preparations to bless your house for the new year. We missed doing this last year, but we have everything ready for participating in the tradition on Sunday night.

Whatever you do, if you're still celebrating Christmas, you're in good company. Just because the world has mostly moved on (with Valentines and Easter candy already out in our local superstore), we can still enjoy what remains of the feast of Christmas.

Want to read more about when Christmas really ends? Try this article from Aleteia.

And for a personal epiphany post from one of my favorite bloggers, try this post from Micaela at California to Korea about the accidental New Year's resolution that changed her life.

Happy Epiphany to you and yours (and Christmas, ongoing)!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Five minutes. Then five more.

It is finally nap time, and I'm leaving the lunch dishes in the sink to write for five minutes.

My trusted confidante says my five-minute writing is some of my best. That's good, because I can grab five minutes here and there. I can't always count on more than that right now.

What's five minutes, out of a whole day? How insignificant is five minutes on the second day of a new year? It's not a lot. On the first day of the year, the extra weight of intention seems to make those five minutes heavier, as if they count double, at least. 

An ordinary five minutes on a regular day, though, is not much time in which to scribble words, sketch thoughts, draw out hopes and dreams to embellish the bare-framed year stretching out ahead.

But maybe this is how we do the things that matter. Maybe this is how we enter in, lay the groundwork. Maybe this is how we claim our lives and steer them in the direction we want them to go. Maybe this is how to follow a calling. Not in large chunks of carefully-planned time, but in little found clumps of minutes.

Do you have hopes to change things this year? I'm not really a resolution person, but I often pause this time of year to evaluate how things are working and see if anything needs tweaking. This year, I'm hoping to be more intentional and less reactive by cultivating several habits:

1. Write daily for five minutes.

2. Speak more gently and sing more often than I yell. 

3. Use social media with intention (instead of mindlessly scrolling through).

How about you? Do you make resolutions or set goals for the new year? What's on your list?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year.

It is the end of the first day of 2015, and I'm still in my pajamas. Almost all of us are. Everyone is still recovering from the ring-around-the-rosey virus that has run through our household this Christmas. (When one of us got it, we all fell down.)

(insert drum and cymbal sound here)

(Sam feels a sad trombone sound would be more appropriate.)

Anyway, I'm normally quite efficient at executing this first day of the year. I totally believe all that stuff about intention and habit and momentum and how we spend our days being how we spend our lives. I'm a planner and an organizer and a recovering Type A stress case.

Today is the least productive New Year's Day I can remember.

There are piles of things everywhere. We had fast food for breakfast because we haven't been to the store. The house needs cleaning and I ought to do laundry again. This afternoon, instead of going for a run, I took a nap with the baby.

Now the sun is setting on the piles of a string of days in a life lived but not cleaned up.

I could get really grumpy about this and fly around the house, setting everything on end and vacuuming the joy right out of here.

What I'm choosing, though, is gentleness. To handle myself gently. To handle my people gently. We are all recovering, and we deserve to be treated carefully. I'm choosing to handle my home gently...the joyful chaos of Christmas (which it still is, after all! Happy eighth day!) takes a while to subside and be absorbed into our routine. I can treat messes and imperfections and frustrations and obstacles gently instead of attacking them with my usual fervor. Gentle is the way to be right now. I'm choosing to embrace it instead of struggling against it.

In every church we have entered this Christmas, my children have asked to visit Baby Jesus. With surprising piety, they have knelt carefully in front of each crèche, folded their hands, and spoken tender words to the baby in the manger. All their exuberant Christmas energy has seemed to direct itself into those several small moments of holy quietness, a small triad gathered together before the manger, sibling squabbles temporarily forgotten. 

Although I'm taken with the beauty of the scene (and the sweetness of my children in front of it), I've been thinking about my own recent-born baby boy (five months old today!)...of the stream of visitors in his first weeks of life, of the joyous challenge of being the one to receive those who are there to see the baby. 

Everyone is there to hold and meet the baby. His mother just points the way. 

And today, on the first day of the new year, I feel her gently pointing me toward him. 

"Here he is. Be gentle."

As I receive Baby Jesus into my arms, I resolve to remember those small ones entrusted to me. Each of them is Christ-in-the-least, a tiny person in need of my love and care. I will remember to treat them gently, with nurturing kindness instead of hurried efficiency, as a gentle mother once cradled her child in a stable.

And while I'm at it, I resolve to extend the same grace to myself.

Happy New Year to each of you and to your dear ones. May we all handle our gifts with care, whoever and whatever they are. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This is December 23.

It looks like this.

The tree is up, and there is music softly playing.

We finished all the O Antiphons, 

but there are somehow still three links left on our Advent chain.

Oops. We must have missed one.

There is a pile of wrapping still to do.

There are dishes in the sink.

There are multiple loads of laundry to fold and pack into variously-sized suitcases.

There's a baby on my lap, asleep.

And I'm curled up on the sofa under a blanket, having spent the last 37 hours with a wicked bug of some kind, complete with chills, fever, and general unpleasantness.

Every Type A bone in my body is telling me to get off the couch. Get moving. Do more. There's baking I'd intended to do. I just need to clean the counter where the leftover baptism cake is sitting, and put away the instruments and music from our wonderful singing party this past weekend. 

And somehow, I can't move. I'm tired and achy and I just want to rest.

I'm not ready for Christmas. 

I don't know why this surprises me every year. 

One year, I was a new mom, with a not-quite-three-month-old baby, and I wasn't ready.

Another year, I had barely three-month-old twins, and I wasn't ready.

This year, I have a sweet newly-baptized four-month-old, and I'm sick in bed a few days before the big celebration, and again, I'm not ready. Despite all my lists and charts and schedules, there is still so much I wanted to do that is left undone.

I wonder how many times I need to learn this lesson? When am I going to figure out that Christmas doesn't depend on my being ready? 

Jesus showed up long ago to an unprepared mother in the middle of a stable because he was ready. It was time...the fullness of time, a God-ordained moment. Ready or not, Christmas is coming...and I can't hold it off with my worries of being unprepared any more than Mary could have held off her labor that first Christmas night. 

Fortunately, as I keep telling my oldest son, Christmas isn't about the presents, wrapped beautifully or otherwise. It isn't about the cookies I haven't made or about having a perfect dessert to bring to our third family gathering of the Christmas celebration streak.

Jesus was born in a manger, and he doesn't care about any of that, any more than my own tiny baby boy does.

What babies need, and what Jesus needs, are willing arms. Open hearts. A little bit of space in which to grow. Love.

And despite the mess here today, I think we can manage those things.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus. Even if we won't ever be ready, we are as ready as we can be.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe {playlist}

Happy Feast Day! Our carnitas are cooking slowly in the crock pot, and I'm baking our traditional biscochitos. It seemed like a good occasion for some festive music, so I made a playlist to share. Enjoy! Un buen fiesta to you all- how are you celebrating?

(If you aren't celebrating today's feast, why not add it to your calendar for next year? I am giving away a copy of Haley and Daniel Stewart's newest book, More Feasts!  It is a great place to start if you want practical ideas, recipes and activities for celebrating the feasts of the Christian year. You can still enter to win by leaving a comment on this post. Then you'll have the carnitas recipe, too.)