25 November 2014

Advent Ideas {How To Make the Season Holy}

Advent is my favorite liturgical season of the year. The joyful anticipation...excitement...hope...peace. In my family growing up, we had special traditions to help us as kids get ready for Baby Jesus' birthday, which often included a birthday cake on Christmas morning complete with candles and singing. Yup, we were that family.

One of the challenges of Advent for me as I gotten older is how to really celebrate Advent well; to live out the Advent season intentionally and with a proper disposition of heart. In the last few years, I have come to mix my Advent preparations with all the hustle n' bustle of the season.

I tend to not really celebrate Advent (other than lighting the Advent wreath at dinner) because I'm more focused on having the tree up and decorated right away or finishing the shopping/planning.
A lot of bloggers I follow have been talking about the way they celebrate with their families and its been giving me different ideas on how our family can better live out this Advent season.

Here's a sampling of ideas that I'm excited to try out this year:

Holding off on Christmas music...create an Advent play list on Pandora or Spotify
Public Service Announcement friends-I am not not anti-Santa, Jingle Bells, or Frosty the Snowman. I believe Santa and Jesus can happily co-exist together. But I started to realize that Advent and Christmas are actually two separate seasons. Mixing the two can happen so easily you may not even realize it at first. Advent is the four weeks that prepares us for the Christmas season.

So this year, I'm spicing things up and trying to focus on celebrating the season of Advent separately from Christmas. For me, that means holding off on jingle bells and Rudolph and listening to music that helps put me in the right mindset for Advent.
I recently made a play list on Pandora and am actually surprised how good it is! It includes all types of chant, traditional carols, and simple music to help focus my heart.
Once Christmas comes I'll be jingle bell rocking around with the rest of you...but I'm curious to try out this musical Advent experiment.

What to do with all those Christmas cards? Pray for a different family each night at dinner!
Everybody always seems to get an endless stream of Christmas cards during the month of December and early January. A few years back I read somewhere of the tradition of each night a new card is received, to spend a few minutes at dinner praying specifically for that family and their needs. After a family has been prayed for, then you can display the card with the rest.
Looking forward t adding this to the nightly lighting of our Advent wreath before having dinner!

Be intentional with using an Advent devotional

Obviously reading Gospel accounts of the birth of Christ is a grand place to start, but sometimes ya just need something else to help you stay engaged and focused. Last year I used this Advent devotional from Ann Voskamp and really really enjoyed it!! This year, I'll be using it again as well as an Advent devotional from Blessed Is She. Clearly, I was pretty stoked to see my copy come in the mail.

The devotional from BIS has all the daily readings for Mass + journal questions to prompt deeper thought and prayer + spacious room to write away your thoughts. You can order your Advent devo HERE and do so quickly...they are very near to selling out!!!
Whether its one of these two, or another one completely different, find some kind of devotional to use in the coming weeks of Advent.

Decorate your home for Advent
This one I have come to hear more about in the past few years. In my family growing up, we didn't really decorate for Advent. Our tree went up the day after Christmas, which was always a loud, joyful event in our home and holiday merriment started right after Turkey day. I still love the fun of putting up our tree right away, so we have more time to enjoy it, but in wanting to better celebrate Advent I want to decorate our home to reflect that.

So how does one decorate in a simple way for Advent? Well for starters an Advent wreath on the kitchen table is how we roll. I also have a small manger crib with a separate Baby Jesus I bought when I went to Assisi. I usually leave the crib empty out in a visible place (maybe the coffee table) as a reminder Jesus has not yet come, but we're excitedly waiting. On Christmas Eve, when Jim and I come home from church Jesus makes his grand entrance into his wee little crib.

Other ideas could include: setting out a Nativity display but keeping it empty till Christmas (even move the wise men around the living room showing them traveling to Bethlehem!), use the color purple in creating a simple banner to hang, and set out simple religious pieces to draw your mind to the reason for the season.
This year I want to hold off on certain decorations to put out until Christmas and have more simple decor out for Advent.

Crazy to think Advent starts this Sunday...hope your season is full of joy and peace!

What would you add to the list? How do you celebrate Advent in your home?

19 November 2014

Things You Would Overhear in Youth Ministry

One of the funny things about working with teenagers are the crazy, funny things memories or sayings that have over the years become part of the culture that has created greater community and joy.

So here's a list of some of my favorites and definitely things you may hear if you came to visit our youth ministry on a given Sunday night.

No Purpling
This is one of those rules that is always addressed on weekend retreats and conferences, that girls and guys are never to be in each other's rooms. Boys be blue and girls be red. Should there be the mixing of those two colors you get purple. It now has become a bit of a joke for some of the teens to randomly yell that out loud when we're in public together at an event or something. That has gotten some weird looks so naturally I killed the fun of screaming "no purpling" in public.

Don't play Hug-a-bear with Patty...she might give you a concussion
Okayyyy before you get all judgy mcjudgerson on me, let me first say the young lady didn't get a concussion and she is still happily involved in youth ministry.
So last year on fall retreat, we played this amazing, wonderful game called hug-a-bear. Everyone stands in a circle and someone yells out, "Hug-a-bear 3" and find two other people to hug. Fun right? Well sometimes I am known to get a wee bit competitive with games. So we're in the middle of this rousing game of hug-a-bear, and I accidentally hip checked one of my teens. She fell on the frozen ground and hit her head. Thankfully she was fine and we remain friends to this day. However, to this day I am still taunted by the teens (how dare they!? gasp.) to be careful when playing hug-a-bear with me. #rudebears

Telling the Archbishop the best thing about youth ministry is the humus and pita chips
Yayyy a story where I don't hurt people, but only teens embarrass me.
So our Archdiocese has a tradition on Palm Sunday. The archbishop invites all the young people and young adults to the Palm Sunday liturgy and a reception afterwards. Free food + Jesus? I'm there.

So this year, I'm sitting at the table with my posse of tweens and a couple seminarians. So the archbishop comes to our table; we make introductions and there's small chat. Well the bishop asks the young people what do they like most about youth ministry. Their response? "We love youth ministry! Patty is great! We like the food and sometimes she splurges and gets us pita chips and humus." #truestory
Whoops no mention of Jesus or growing in faith. Oh and did I add those two that flapped their gums are youth leaders in the program? Forgot my raise this year.
We laugh at about it a lot now, but at the time I was definitely less than thrilled with my little evangelists.

Can we have healthy snacks?
This year especially I have had requests for more healthy options at weekly meetings. Hey I'm all up for healthy food, especially when it comes to my weekly weigh-in for Weight Watchers. Sure we still have candy, Cheetos, and pop, but we're including stuff like carrot sticks and apples too.

What time is it? (Lent, Ordinary Time, Advent, Easter)
Nerd moment. So every time someone asks the time, I respond with the above liturgical wittiness. They always sigh and roll their eyes at me, but come on isn't that even a smidge funny?

I'm running on caffeine and grace
Every summer we go this youth conference in Ohio usually the end of June or beginning of July. Which basically translates to the fact it is as hot as Hell. Anyway its one of my most favorite things to take young people too. The only downside is in all its awesomeness and community building over the entire weekend you are running on 10-12 hours of sleep.
When we were leaving this summer to drive down, I mentioned to one of the teens it was another weekend that we'd all be running on caffeine and grace. Now when we go on retreats, conferences, or long trips some will ask if this another time we'll be running on caffeine and grace. 90% of the time it is.

There are definitely more rolling around in my head for sure, but currently these are some of my favorites. The crazy, silly, joyful moments like these are some of the best things I love about my job:)

17 November 2014

DIY Memory Magnets

Sometimes I pretend that I am reallyyy good at DIY projects. Today is one of those days. Humor me.

I have a slight hording problem with old photographs. I may have did take a good handful from my parents basement before I got married. Sorry parental units! You didn't notice anyway right?
In some way I wanted to take memories the past with into my new life. I wanted the comfort of old memories as I created new ones in married life. Lately I have been going through some of my favorites and wanting to do some projects with them projects with them. I recently finished a fun book that inspired this wee project.

All I needed was:
  • 2 sheets of magnetic adhesive 
  • old photographs
Just peel off the protective paper on the magnetic sheet and stick yo picture on it. It make take a couple tries to get the photo even with the corners. After the picture is straight, grab a pair of scissors and trim away the edges.

And viola! Magnets for the fridge while displaying happy memories.

Any favorite projects using photo's? Do share! 
If you need some idea's, be sure to give Emma and Elsie a read!

14 November 2014

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes


I have recently discovered a new-found love for sweet potatoes, minus the time Jim chopped some up and threw them in with Ramen noodles for a dinner side dish. #truestory #finedining
Needless to say, that is not a side dish we'll be bringing to my parents for Thanksgiving.

After Jim realized that was not the finest use for sweet potatoes, I showed him this recipe which I had on the grocery list to make. Thank goodness he didn't try and throw in Ramen noodles this time.

recipe source

Anyways, back to the yummies...

2 sweet onions-chopped
1 cup of beef broth
boneless pork loin roast
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup Stubb's Original BBQ Sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
 1/4 cup apple cider
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
8 sweet potatoes

1// Put onion chunks and beef broth in the crock pot.

2// Trim the fat off the pork loin roast. Mix together the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Rub the mixture evenly over pork and put meat in the crock pot.

3// Cook on high for 8 hours

4// About 45 minutes before the pork is done, start prepping the sweet potatoes. It actually takes longer to cook them in the oven, so we decided to microwave them. 
Puncture each sweet sweet potato several times with a fork or knife. While on a microwave safe dish, cook on high for 5 minutes. Then flip the potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.

5// Take the meat out from the crock pot and place in a bowl. Shred the meat with forks.

6//  In another bowl, mix up BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Pour mixture over shredded pork and onions; mix well to evenly coat the meat.

7//  Using a knife, slice sweet potatoes down the middle, creating an open center to stuff with pulled pork. Fill each sweet potato with meat and drizzle with the BBQ sauce.

End result!!

A nice variation to the typical pulled pork sandwich. So good we both may have had seconds. Maybe.
What about you? Any fall dish favorites?

12 November 2014

Lessons in Gratitude

Gratitude is not something I have practiced intentionally much in my life. Sure I grew up saying thank you and still do, but that whole saying of "living life with an attitude of gratitude"...well not so much.

I have a particular meditation book I use every day, either in the morning or as I'm getting into bed. Each month has a particular theme and all the meditations are based off that theme. The theme in August was on gratitude. One day early in August the prompt for the day was "learn to say thanks".

The author began to deeply share about her life. She had just bought a new house, but the term fixer-upper didn't do this wreck any justice. It was a mess both inside and out. She felt embarrassed for her children to call this piece of junk home and frustrated she had no time, let alone money to fix it up.

One night after wrangling her young kids into bed, she lay down on the living room floor and began to cry and complain out loud to God: how she hated her house, hated nothing could be fixed, etc. Everywhere she turned she felt bad at what she saw. It felt impossible to find anything to be grateful for. At some point, she came across a book that spoke of the power of praise and gratitude. She writes:
"Every time I felt bad, I thanked God for how I felt. Every time I noticed how awful this house looked, I thanked God for the house exactly as it was. I thanked God for the current state of my finances. I thanked God for the lack of skills to repair and remodel the house. I deliberately forced gratitude for every area of my life--those area's that really bothered me, those things I couldn't do anything about. Instead of complaining and crying, I just kept saying and chanting, "Thank you God for everything in my life, just as it is."
--Melody Beattie

A remarkable thing began to happen. First, Melody began to keep her house more neat and tidy. Then she began to learn how to do repairs and started remodeling her home. Thanking God, being grateful for all the messy, unpleasant stuff in her life just as it was began to change her outlook and soften her heart.

Even though I read this months ago, it has struck a chord with me. I guess I never really thanked God regularly or was ever grateful for the messes in my own life, being grateful for exactly where God has me in life. Because even in that mess or unpleasant situation God is still present. When we can accept and find moments of gratitude even when its difficult, it really can completely change how you view the world. #mindblown.

Learning and applying this in my own life has really been a great tool in the ol' tool box of self-care. Now, on either my way to work or coming home, I intentionally take time to look at my day, what's currently going on in life. And I take time to thank God for it all...to be grateful.  Even when its messy/sucks/hurts. Some days its easy peasy. Other days, I am faking it till I make it.

But I am starting to see how such a little action is changing me from the inside out...how I look at both the joys and sorrows; the good and the bad. Even though its not always easy, there is a great sense of freedom for me to be able to say, "Thank you God for my life exactly as it is right now".

People often tend to reflect more about thankfulness and gratitude around the holidays. 
For me it has become of my daily ritual, and for that I am thankful.grateful.blessed.

03 November 2014

That time I had to call the police while on retreat

Yup, you read right.  I had to call the police this past Sunday morning at 12:15 am while on a confirmation retreat with 40 tweens. Totally what I would prefer to do instead of sleep.

The retreat was held at this big, brand-new high school and we had it all to ourselves for the weekend.  Along with the facility came the responsibility of having to turn off the alarm at night so the alarm/motion detection sensors would not go off.  Lucky.me.

Saturday evening before the maintenance guy left he gave me thorough instructions on how to turn the alarm off at midnight: punch in the code and hit enter; sounds easy enough!  Lights out was at 11pm but being I had the special alarm job I needed to stay up to midnight to make sure the alarm situation was fine n' dandy.  So what did I do with the remaining hour of time? Well of course I raided the fridge for some leftover pizza and checked out happenings on Instagram.

As midnight approached I waited with baited breath to set the alarm so I could finallyyy go to sleep.

So its midnight.  I am typing in the code and punching enter.  It would be wayy to easy for it to work the first time, so after multiple attempts of punching in the code with it not working I proceeded to freak.the.freak.out.  On the screen it kept flashing "INVALID CODE". Oh and did I mention at by this time the alarm automatically was armed, which meant I was standing as still as a statue against the wall so as to not set off the alarm.  Insert another freak-out.

So I tried calling the maintenance guy but no such luck.  I called Jim (guess for moral support?) but the sleeping bear didn't answer.  So I called another friend, and in the middle of that realized my phone battery was like 10%.  Perfect.

I realized it was not physically possible for me to sleep standing up so I decided to go call the police.  Earlier that day the maintenance man told me he had already called the police to let them know of the school had alarms issues this weekend to not send a car to investigate because it would have been caused by our group.  So after my first call attempt to the police was dropped, I tried again and was transferred to a dispatch.  I explained the whole story including the my fear of waking up 50 people sleeping and the growing tiredness from standing still for going on 30 minutes.

The officer explained that if the alarm went off he would still need to send a car out to check the school and speak in person with me to ensure all was well. Not really the answer I wanted.

So I decided I no longer cared if I woke up 50 people with a screeching alarm, I needed to go get some sleep.  I began to walk away from the alarm.  Sure enough, the motion sensors picked up me walking and a humming noise began to grow.  I walked back to the alarm and with one final attempt plugged in the code.  By some miracle, it worked.  I turned off the alarm without waking up 50 people or needing the police come to rescue me from the evil clutches of the alarm system.

To say I was thrilled is an understatement.

I proceeded to happily skip down the hall and crawl into my sleeping bag. I am really glad we have the police available to come help at any time of the day or night, but I was realllyyy glad they didn't have to come help me turn off the alarm in the middle of the night.

Pay attention if someone ever has to teach you to set an alarm, ya never know when you could end up in a similar situation! ;)

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