8 Little Arrows in my Quiver

Reflections and Ramblings of a Happily Harried Mom of Many

Mortimer’s Christmas Manger November 29, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas — 8littlearrows @ 9:00 pm

Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

 

My children received this adorable book a couple of Christmases ago.  Reading it to them before bed tonight reminded me of just how great a story it is.  It’s the story of a little mouse named Mortimer who is looking for a house that is not dark, cold, and creepy like his current home under the stairs.  One day, in his forays out into the living room, he happens upon a wooden manger that is just his size.  But before he can move in, the little people in there must be lugged and tugged out.  However, after all that hard work, he finds them all moved back in each night.  Mortimer gets pretty upset about it, until one night he overhears a very special story, and realizes suddenly just whom he has been ousting from the little house each day.  The story has a delightful ending and wonderful, bright illustrations, and teaches a beautiful lesson without it seeming like a lesson (the best kind of teaching, I think!).   My children ask for it to be read over and over.  It would make a great Christmas gift for an elementary age child.

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How Shall I Make a Return to the Lord?

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 3:44 pm

As I was flipping through my Magnificat prayer-book, trying to find today’s Morning Prayer, a poem that was printed after yesterday’s Mass caught my eye, so I decided to read it.  I never made it to the page for Morning Prayer.  The poem was called “Eve,” by Madeleine L’Engle.  I had never seen it before, and found myself profoundly moved by it, so much that I wanted to share it.

                                                                  Eve

When we left the garden we knew that it would be forever.

The new world we entered was dark and strange. Nights were cold.

We lay together for warmth, and because we were afraid

of the unnamed animals, and of the others; we had never

known about the giants, and angels gone wild. We had not been told

of dwarves and elves; they teased us; we hid whenever they played.

 

Adam held me.  When my belly grew taut and began to swell

I didn’t know what was happening.  I thought it was the beginning

of death, the very first death.  I clung to Adam and cried.

As I grew bigger something within me moved. One day I fell

and the pains started. A true angel came and pushed the grinning

creatures back. Adam helped. There was a tearing. I thought I’d died.

 

Instead, from within me came a tiny thing, a new creature,

red-faced, bellowing, mouth groping for my breast.

This was not death, but birth, and joy came to my heart again.

This was the first-born child.  How I did laugh and sing!

But from this birth came death. He never gave me any rest.

And then he killed his brother. Oh, my child. Oh, my son Cain.

 

I watched from then on over every birth,

seeing in each babe cruelty ready to kill compassion.

For centuries the pattern did not change.  Birth always meant death.

Each manchild who was born upon the longing earth

in gratefulness and joy brought me only a fresh ration

of tears. I had let hate into the world with that first breath.

 

Yet something made me hope. Each baby born

brought me hurrying, bringing, as in the old tales, a gift

looking – for what? I went to every slum and cave and palace

seeking the mothers, thinking that at least I could warn

their hearts. Thus perhaps the balance might shift

and kindness and concern replace self-will and malice.

 

So I was waiting at that extraordinary intersection

of Eternity and Time when David’s son (Adam’s, too)

was born.  I watched the Incarnate at his mother’s breast

making, by his humble, holy birth the one possible correction

of all that I by disobedience had done.  I knelt and saw new

Adam, and I cried, “My son!” and came at last to rest.

I read and re-read the poem, trying to process my strong  response to it, and suddenly realized that I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude — for the Saviour who made, “by his humble, holy birth the one possible correction of all that I by disobedience had done.”  A refrain from an old song popped into my head: “What return can I make to the Lord for the good He has done for me?”   I found myself longing to try to give something back, to do something to show the Lord how grateful I am for His incredible gift.

I googled the song refrain and discovered that it was based on Psalm 116:12. “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?”  In reading the following verses, I found the answer to the question: 

The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord; my vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people. … O Lord, I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; You have loosed my bonds.  To You will I offer sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.  (Psalm 116: 13-14, 16-17 NAB)

There’s no better response to God’s gift of salvation than to turn to Him in gratitude, and seek to serve Him in all we do.  Thank you, Lord, for giving me such a beautiful focus as we begin this holy season of Advent!

 

 

 

It’s the Thought That Counts November 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 12:19 am

I tried to gather the family together  for prayer this evening, since I had just heard that the Pope was calling all the faithful around the world to pray for the unborn tonight.  I printed out the little prayer booklet, and brought it upstairs with the best of intentions.  The kids were watching “Star Wars” for the 30th time when I got to the living room.  Hmmm… should have known right then and there that it wouldn’t be smooth sailing.

From the kids fighting over seats, to the four-year-old bursting into tears, to the whole family getting the giggles — it was one thing after another, until I found myself almost in tears.  It had been a long day already, and my patience was taxed. 

But amazingly, somehow, just when I felt the tears threatening to spill over, the Holy Spirit managed to get in and stop me in my tracks.  I was reminded that God knew my intentions, and the very fact that we were gathered in prayer was, in itself, a prayer.  Plus, I could offer up my frustration and impatience, too.  So I was really praying hard!  Just that little change in thinking completely reversed my mood.  Thank You, Lord, for Your faithful reminders!

It’s so easy, in the midst of family life, to get bogged down in making sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that I sometimes lose sight of the value in it all.  I’ve been tempted more than once, when I’ve spent the entire Mass in the back of the church with a crying baby, to question if it’s really worth it to bring her.  Or when I miss all the readings because I’ve been trying to keep little ones quiet so everyone else can hear.   

But God is so good, and at those times of doubt, He always seems to provide just that little bit of consolation I need to keep running the race.  Because the fact is, there is value in all those moments.   My kids are only going to learn how to pray and to behave at Mass if I provide them the opportunities to practice.  So I just need to be reminded sometimes that this is only a stage.  Some day I’ll be able to sit and listen to the readings at Mass, or pray a quiet rosary on my own, with no interruptions.  Of course, I may just fall asleep without the constant stimulation!  In the meantime, I know I have to store up all these moments in my heart, just like the Blessed Mother did, because before I know it, the kids will be grown, and I’ll need to have some good stories for their kids!

 

Jesse Tree November 27, 2010

Filed under: Advent and Christmas,Advent traditions — 8littlearrows @ 11:05 pm

I love Advent.  When I was a kid, my parents worked really hard to make sure that we understood the true meaning of all the holidays.  They came up with all sorts of  traditions to preserve the richness of the liturgical calendar in a fun and memorable way.  My husband and I have carried on many of these traditions with our own children, and have added some of our own.  All the kids have seemed to enjoy the Jesse Tree each year, so it’s become one of the keepers. 

For those who have not heard of a Jesse Tree, it’s named after the father of King David, and it tells the story not only of the family of Jesse, but of all the people and events which helped prepare for the coming of Christ.  It’s a great way to teach the kids about all the holy (and sometimes not so holy) men and women who make up our Salvation history.  There are an overwhelming number of suggestions for possible ornaments, Scripture stories, and symbols, so there’s no “right” way to do it.  I decided to keep it simple and just do an ornament a night all the way through Advent, starting with the Creation story, and ending with the Birth of Jesus. 

 I found a great little Jesse Tree kit put out by Pauline Books and Media, which had patterns, simple explanations, and Scripture verses for each symbol.  I traced the patterns onto felt, and with a little fabric glue we were good to go.  We use an artificial evergreen tree, since it has to last all through Advent and Christmas.  We string the tree with lights to represent the Light of Christ.  If I can get my act together before Advent starts, I like to wrap each ornament with tissue paper, and number them in order.  It adds a little excitement, especially for the little ones, who love to unwrap each one.  And it’s fun for the older ones to try to remember which story comes next.  They’re memorizing history without even realizing it!

Every night after dinner, we unwrap the ornament for that night, read the scripture  that goes with it (a children’s Bible works great for little ones), and then one of the kids gets to hang it on the tree.   Then we sing a simple Advent song (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a good one) and say a little closing prayer before bed.  I will admit that our schedules sometimes get a little crazy, or the kids are bouncing off the walls and I know they won’t sit through the Bible story.  So on those nights, I find myself paraphrasing the stories for them, or skipping a night and playing catch-up the next night.   

This year the kids were begging to get the Jesse Tree out as soon as Thanksgiving was over.  Their excitement was contagious, so I thought I would try to pass it on through my blog.  I decided to post a picture of each week’s ornaments, with the scripture for each, and provide a “virtual” Jesse tree for anyone who may be reading it.

 

 

Day 1: Creation — read Genesis 1:26-31     Since my artistic abilities are lacking somewhat, I decided to just go with the sun, moon, and stars, instead of trying to make the earth on an ornament. 

WEEK 1

 

Day 2: Adam and Eve — Read Genesis 3:1-7    Our ornament shows an apple with a bite taken out of it.

Day 3: Noah — Read Genesis 6:11-22; 9:8-13    I had fun with this one, making the rainbow over the ark, and glitter glue “waves.”

Day 4: Abraham and Sarah —  Read Genesis 12:1-7, and Hebrews 11:8    This one shows Abraham’s tent, and glittery starts to represent the Lord’s promise of descendants as numerous as the stars.

Day 5: Isaac and Rebecca — Read  Genesis 22:1-7   This ornament is one of my favorites.  It depicts the ram which the Lord provided to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place.  I traced the ram’s face and horns on felt pieces and glued them on top of shredded cotton ball which I had previously glued onto a background piece of felt.

Day 6: Jacob and Rachel — Read Genesis 28:10-22   Jacob’s ladder was the easiest thing to make for this story.

Day 7: Joseph — Read Genesis 37:1-4  Joseph’s coat was easy enough that the little ones could even help glue the pieces on.

And now, writing about this has reminded me just how much fun I have with the Jesse Tree, so I better go get wrapping those ornaments.  Tomorrow night will be here before I know it!

 

Reflections on Modesty November 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 9:00 pm

One of my friends posted this link on Facebook, and I was so impressed with it that I wanted to pass it along.  The 19-year-old young man who wrote this letter did a great job of addressing a delicate subject, and brought up some very good points.  Check it out. 

womenofgraceblog.com
 
There is only one thing I believe is missing from his message, but it’s a pretty significant omission.  He addresses his letter to mothers and daughters, but what I would like to say is this: what about the husbands and fathers who are the priests and protectors of their families?  Shouldn’t they — being men, and knowing how men are made — have the biggest responsibility in forming their daughters in the virtue of modesty, and even challenging their wives, if need be?  Women cannot be expected to know how they are perceived by men if their fathers and husbands are not telling them.
 
When I was young,  my dad would make me change my clothes before I went to school if he didn’t consider what I was wearing to be modest enough.   Thanks, Dad.   Even now, whenever I’m in doubt about a particular outfit, I always ask my husband.  I do this out of respect for men.  God made them visual – it’s not something they chose.  And it’s very tough, in our culture, for them to remain chaste in their thoughts, when they are surrounded by immodesty.  They should not have to fight this battle all the time.  If I can help by dressing more modestly, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s too much of a sacrifice.  If we, as women, want men to respect us, and not treat us as sex objects, then we should do our part by not tempting them to impure thoughts by the way we dress.  It’s a two-way street.
 
One of the best books I’ve read on the subject is Every Man’s Battle, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.  Women, if you really want to understand what men face, please read it.  For you men out there, there is also Every Woman’s Battle, and for young people, there are Every Young Man’s Battle, and Every Young Woman’s Battle.  You can find them all at www.christianbook.com.  
 
I have teenagers, so I understand that this is a tough topic, especially for young people, who want to fit in with the current fashions.  This is why it’s so important to address it with our kids early on.  In our house, we have made the rule that Dad is the final judge whenever there is any doubt about a particular outfit.  But it has not just been laying down the law.  We have talked to our kids about the reasons for it.  If they are old enough to want to look attractive to the opposite sex, then they are old enough to talk about the reasons for modesty.  We also make sure to frequently reinforce with our teenage daughter that she is beautiful, so that she will realize that she can be both modest and beautiful.
 
If enough people got on the bandwagon, modesty would come back into fashion.  Maybe by the time my younger daughters are teenagers!
 

Catch Them Doing Good November 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 9:13 pm

Today was a Monday … and boy, was it a Monday!  The kids were coming down off their sugar high from all the “Sunday treats” they had yesterday, and it seemed none of them could calm down and focus on their schoolwork.  I started the day with a crick in my neck and a headache.   Add to that the fact that I am pretty much with my kids all the time, since I home school, so there was no escape!  Thankfully, I start my Mondays with a holy hour, so I think that was my saving grace for today.  On days like this, the best thing I can do is practice a little gratitude. 

Since I’m with my kids so much, it’s easy to take the good things for granted while noticing every little thing they do wrong.  So it’s important to step back and “catch them going good.”  So here’s my Monday list of things I’ve noticed:

My almost 15-year-old mows the lawn often, without being asked.  He also dotes on his baby sister, which I just love to watch.

My 13-year-old does “school work” with her four-year-old brother during her recess, when she could be spending it doing something for herself.   She also immediately sits down and writes a thank-you note when she receives a gift from someone.

My 11-year-old straightened his big sister’s room for her when her friend was coming over, because she didn’t have time to do it herself before her friend arrived.  He also invited his younger siblings to come hang out with him on his new bunk. ( I don’t know why bunk beds are so fascinating, but they all loved it!)

My eight-year-old, during a game of tag, encouraged his friends to let my four-year-old “tag” them when he was” it,” because he knew his little brother would get discouraged by being smaller and slower than the others.  He also volunteers quite often to help put the little ones to bed at night, brushing teeth and reading stories.

My six-year-old gave his big sister one of his toys for her birthday because she told him it was one of her favorites.  He also went out with his dad in the morning and brought home flowers for me — twice within a couple of weeks.

My four-year-old brings his own dishes to the counter after meals.  He also picks flowers all summer long for me and for his sisters.  Now that the weather is colder, he tells me that he will pick me flowers for my birthday.  So precious!

My two-year-old is the best eater I’ve ever had.  I rarely have to nag her to eat.  She also has very nice manners (when she is not in the throes of a temper tantrum, and remembers to use them!).

And last, but not least, my baby girl gives me smiles that would melt any mother’s heart, and make her day brighter.  

Aaaaah … my Monday just got so much better!  I should really do this more often.