Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A perfect day to ready this heart

Two days before Christmas and I did not feel ready.  Sure, most of the food has been purchased for Christmas day meals.  Presents bought and awaiting our late night wrapping fest Christmas eve.  The house is fairly clean.  But, that is not what I mean by ready. 
I mean spiritually.  My heart has not been ready. I have prayed, meditated a lot this Advent, but this year has been tough.  Family issues and adoption set backs have had me weary and all of that carried into Advent.  While I totally trust Him and His plan and His timing, it has been abundantly clear that my own plan and timing did not quite match His.  And when I entered Advent, a season of waiting, I struggled to wait.  Honestly, I was done with waiting and just did not want to wait any longer.
And that is how I entered this week.  I so desperately wanted a change of heart. I wanted to just sit back and rest in Him and wait on Him and His coming.  So, my plan for Monday was no school.  Instead, we would head down to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for daily mass and confessions.  We would then head to one of the Smithsonian's.
And it was exactly what I needed.
The Shrine was already decorated for Christmas.  The Nativity was everywhere, even in the cafeteria. Yet, not quite complete.  A sign of waiting the long awaited King.  Waiting.

Real Christmas trees adorned the sides of the main altar and were everywhere.  The scent of the pine wafted throughout the whole church.  I love that smell.
Mass was perfect.  For a whole year when we first moved to this area, we lived on the campus adjacent to this church.  And I went to daily mass in the crypt.  Yet, today the mass touched me like it never had before.  God's message was clear.  Wait.  He will come.  He will show His power.  Rejoice in Him.
And I saw this statue of Mother Teresa.  A subject of a recent blog post, and a topic of part of the Marian consecration my husband and I just completed.  Her life touches my heart deeply.  Seeing this statue that day just strengthened me to serve Him more, reach down deep, and wait on Him.  Because He is always worth waiting for.

And outside of the confession chapel. I looked to my left and saw the Our Lady of Hope side altar.  A reminder to always hope in Him.  A gentle whisper to have hope this Christmas.

And we made our way to this beautiful mosaic and I prayed for Our Lady of China to intercede for our adoption. It is all in her Son's hands, after all.
I left the Basilica that afternoon with an overwhelming peace, an excitement for Christmas morning. 
Come, thou long expected Jesus, come!

Merry Christmas everyone!  May you wait patiently for the Lord and trust in His goodness, this Christmas and everyday!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Meaningful Gifting Ideas

I started this post yesterday, and it became a tome on my philosophies of going without and our own move toward making Christmas more simple.  And I may post that, really I might, but for today I decided to scrap that and share ideas and links of meaningful giving.  Because, in  order to simplify gift giving, without scrapping the whole thing, we are working hard to give more thoughtful, meaningful gifts. No big toys. No shopping at boxed stores.  Just simple ideas and supporting companies that are making a difference in the lives of others.  Because, in my opinion, if a gift is going to be purchased, I want my purchase to help others in some way.

So here it goes . . .

1. Homemade gifts

Go on Pinterest.  Search Google.  There are TONS of great ideas for homemade gifts.  There are your standard: Mason Jar Cookie Mixes, Bean Soup Mixes, Homemade Christmas Ornaments. If you are adventurous you can make candles, all natural body butters, bath salts.  Or go simple, with cookies, cakes or fudge. 

Homemade gifts are wonderful to get and give because they convey thought and time.  You have taken the time to make another person a gift.  That is so much more special than a gift card.  Really, it is.

2. Personalized Coupons

This is one that we will be gifting our children this Christmas (shh, don't tell them).  You can make a simple coupon that the person receiving it can redeem at anytime they wish.  For the kids, the coupons can be for a date with Mom (or Dad) , a field trip day (if you homeschool), a family movie night (of their choice), a pizza night, a hug, reading time with Mom or Dad, etc.  These can also be made for your spouse.

3. Gifts that give to one in need.

I LOVE these!  Heifer International and World Vision have AMAZING gift catalogues where you can search and buy a goat for a family, a building for a village, seeds for a farmer, etc, etc.  World Vision even has options where you can buy a necklace, blanket, etc made by families in need.  These gifts can be given in the name of a another.  Ann Voskamp has written eloquently on how gifting in this way has affected her children, so I will not belabor this, but these are gifts that are truly given to those in need.

*I am going to make a plea for adoptive families too (well, really the orphan they are trying to adopt).*

Seriously consider donating money to a family who is in the process of adoption.  You are gifting an orphan a home by helping.  The costs to adopt can be crippling.  If they are running a fundraiser, help out by buying an item.  If they have a Paypal link on their blog side bar (hint, hint ;-) )hit "donate". 

And when you need a gift for someone else, give one that really counts  . . .

The following are companies/gift ideas that are great options if you are looking for a meaningful gift and a gift that not only gives to the one getting the gift, but to another as well.

4. 147 Million Orphans

I have spoken about this company a great deal.  But they sell t-shirts, jewelery, handbags.  Many of these items are made by artisans from Uganda and Haiti and sold to help them out of extreme poverty.  All profits go back to these communities by aiding mission trips, building homes and buildings and providing food for the poor and orphans. 

And, after checking out their website, if you would like to buy any of their items, please see my post here on how you can help us fund raise for our adoption by buying items from 147 Million Orphans through me.

5. Sevenly

Cute, trendy clothing, jewelery, handbags and prints.  All have an incredible meaning.  All help support amazing causes.  Their charities change each week.  Months ago, I bought a shirt that helped to raise money for orphans in China.  I feel even more in love with Sevenly, when I read the label area of the shirt and saw Matthew 22:36-39 listed with the quote "Why We Love'.  Awesome.

6. Give Jewelery

This amazing company sells bracelets made by artisans around the world.  The sale of 1 bracelet gives one child meals for an entire week!

7. Visiting Orphans

Raises money to help support missions to serve orphans around the world.  They sell t-shirts, jewelry and a variety of other items.

8. Connected in Hope

Can I just tell you, I LOVE scarves!  But, I cannot STAND the cost of them.  I refuse to go to Target and pay $30 for a scarf, I just do.  But, Connected In Hope sells scarf made by artisans in Ethiopia.  Their mission is to Empower Women and Strengthen families.  Their scarves are beautiful and reasonably priced.  Each scarf comes with a tag with the name of the woman who made it, and a note card that you can send back to have given to the women who made it.   So each time you wear the scarf, you can pray,by name, for the woman who made it and her family.

9. Freeset Global
Makes bags for gifting and for personalizing to sell too.  All proceeds go to help women around the world remain out of the slave trade.

10. The Apparent Project

This company doubly blesses.  All items are made by artisans in Haiti.  And Apparent Project then connects with families fundraising for adoptions, etc and helps them raise funds.  They have some really cute handmade ornaments right now.  See their facebook page that has links to families sell these great items if you would like to buy.

Whew!  I hope this helps some! 
Now, please share some ideas you may have too!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Meaningful giving, going without and a Rosary Bracelet Giveaway!

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!!
I am going to keep this particular post short today, but I have ideas swirling in my head for a couple posts this week.  This week I would like to spend some time on sharing my thoughts on intentional giving at Christmas and just plain learning to go without.  This whole thing was sparked by seeing the Christmas Bells on the Angel Tree in the back of our church again.  I have written about this before and my reaction each year gets stronger.  As I see "bells" that list video games and bicycles, gifts that children who are "poor" in our country desire for Christmas, I am reminded that half a world away there are children who are orphaned, or  sleep on dirt floors, or some that do not have food; these children want gifts so much more simple, so much more necessary than those in our own nation.
This idea was also sparked when a good friend shared this link from Ann Voskamp's blog. If you have not read it yet, please do so! It is thought provoking.
In the mean time, I am going to giveaway an "intentional gift." 
 This gift is a rosary bracelet made by women in China who are in crisis pregnancy and are praying for the chance to give their babies life! I will share more about this gift and other, good gifts you can give to others that will help others around the world later this week. 
 But, for now, leave a comment and tell me what sort of gifts you like to give at Christmas?  Are there homemade gifts that you make for others to make giving a bit more meaningful?  Are there companies that do good and you love to support.  Share your thoughts and links below and earn entries to this giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 2, 2013

What if Mother Teresa was on Facebook?

Saturday afternoon, my hubby and I were hanging laundry outside.  My husband had just finished some stuff on the computer, including his weekly scroll through Facebook.  While outside, we were talking about Facebook and the time we spend reading things of no consequence just because a few friends have linked to it.  My hubby remarked, just think if we spent the time in prayer instead of scrolling through Facebook.  I chuckled and said, "I would be Mother Teresa!"

And as I nervously continued to laugh after that, it did strike me . . .. what if Mother Teresa was on Facebook?  What if she had an iPhone?  What if most of her ministry was lost because she spent so much time checking each of her social media accounts?  What if I am losing my ministry because of the same thing?

Now, I know we can all argue that we can evangelize through Facebook, Instagram and all of the other hosts of social media trappings.  We can be a witness to life in Christ.  But this simple joke between my husband and I, has me wondering if that is really where I should be spending my time.  Is my presence on Facebook really making a difference in the spiritual life of others? In my spiritual life?  For the better?

Statistics vary, but some studies show that the average American spends 2-3 hours on social media A DAY!

What if Mother Teresa did that?

How much of her prayer time would have been lost to Twitter?  Would she have walked by a child hungry in the streets because she was too busy scrolling through Facebook statuses?  What if, instead of embracing the "spiritual dark night" she experienced for much of her life and filling that silence with holy work, she filled if with mindless surfing on the Internet?  Our church, our world would have lost out. Big Time.

She did write, yes.  No blog posts to fill the Internet, but paper to fill a journal.  Letters to her sisters.  And we read her words, not because she had the most followers on Bloglovin', or because her witty humor was shared tons on Facebook, but because she ardently followed the ONE who calls us all.  She, first, was an example by her works, her faith, and that is why her words had so much credibility and beauty.  She didn't serve to make a good status update, she served for an audience of one.  The ONE. 

Those moments outside, picturing Mother Teresa walking down the street eyes fixed on her iPhone's screen made me truly search my own heart and soul.  I attempt to make excuses for my time spent on the Internet.  Oh, it is "me time,'  "It is a stress reliever,"  "Who knows whose heart it will touch?"  But, oh, if these social media sites were around when Mother Teresa was alive, I do not think she would have done anything differently, knowing it is more important to touch the one person in front of you instead of attempt to reach, hundreds that you can never touch through a screen. 

As Advent approaches this year, I think that God is calling me to really focus on this as my prayer.  I do not want to miss the opportunity to develop a ministry in my home or community because I am trading prayer time in for time on Facebook.  I want to embrace His calling on my life as a mom, wife and church member instead of squander time doing something that has less meaning and only detracts from the call He has put on my life.