I grew up Catholic. It’s almost like being born Catholic. I mean, if you do it right, it’s more than a religion, it’s a way of life. Something that permeates every single thing that you do, every thought you have. (Not usually in that order, come to think of it!) Growing up in the post Vatican II chaos that was the 1970’s Catholic Church, I was lucky to actually have some pretty good catechism. I think I can thank two crusty old nuns, in particular, for that: Sr. Josepha and Sr. Mary Catherine. They were a little scary at times, but always fair, and they definitely had our best eternal interests in mind in every thing they did.

So I learned my prayers properly and in the old formats “. . . blessed art thou amongst women. . .” none of this “blessed are you among women” stuff! And I learned to say the actual sign of the cross, (“In the name OF the Father, and OF the Son, and OF the Holy Spirit”) not the “swatting of the flies” (“fathersonholyspirit”) as Sr. Josepha described the haphazard way 2nd graders are wont to perform this act if they’re not carefully monitored!

I heard Catholic terms like “Fullness of Faith”, “Faithful Departed” and “Apostolic Succession” without ever really giving it much thought. I knew I was Catholic. Everyone I knew was also Catholic. It wasn’t until High School that anybody even challenged my Catholicism. I still remember that day. Keri (Carrie?) somebody-or-other asked me if I was saved. I had no clue what she was talking about, because “saved” is not a term we use. So I said “From what?” She thought I was being sarcastic, gasped, spun around in her desk and Never. Spoke. To me. Again. Years later, I had a Baptist boyfriend who had the same question for me, only he cared enough to explain it to me. Once I understood I assured him that I was, indeed, “saved”. And just for the record, ALL Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The only difference is that we don’t ever go through the phase where we question this fact and then make a public ‘decision’ or announcement. We are taught from birth that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We never question that. Just like we never question that the sky is blue. Anyway. . . my point here is that growing up Catholic meant I took a lot of things about my faith for granted, and never fully appreciated the depth and meaning in many of our beliefs and practices.

Like All Souls Day. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it is the day on which we commemorate and pray for everyone who has passed on before us. And this is where I realize that we Catholics are a bit different from our fellow Christians. We pray for the dead. Or at least, we should. And we believe that they can pray for us, as well. As a child, this practice didn’t really mean much to me. But now, as the half-century mark looms large in my near future, I find great comfort in these celebrations and traditions. I’ve mentioned before how comforting the familiarity of the Mass is to me when a loved one dies.

This year is the very first time in my life that it has become very real to me how important All Souls Day is. Because my own precious mother is now a member of “The Faithful Departed”. Yes, my grandparents and father all died before she did, but I was so much closer to my mother, and her death has touched me more deeply than anything in my life before. Maybe because there is something so sacred and perfect in the bond between mother and child. Maybe because she lived with us for almost 10 years before she died and was part of my daily life in a way that no other person was before at the time of their death. Maybe because I am really starting to fathom my own mortality. Whatever the reason, attending a special Mass today, dedicated to those who have been interred at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery where we laid my mother to rest just ten short months ago, hit me deep within my being.

I had planned to attend the Mass. I knew my daughter would go with me, and I hoped Gaylon would be able to take off of work and come, too. I didn’t think Kendall or Alicia would be able to come, and I was pretty sure Alex wouldn’t want to. He does not do death. I sort of saw attendance at the mass as an obligation of sorts, and didn’t really want to go, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss it. And then, my precious friend, Becky, texted me early this morning to verify what time the mass was. She said she was rearranging her schedule so she could attend. I thought that was really sweet, but as the day wore on, and I pondered why on earth she would want to rearrange her schedule to attend something I had sort of seen as an obligation, it hit me: she understood the depth and meaning of this day better than I. And she wanted to be there to support me, because she knew this would be difficult for me. Unfortunately, I was applying mascara when this realization dawned, and after I managed to stop crying, I had to start over.

This. This is what being part of the Family of God is all about. I am so very grateful for the beautiful and comforting rites and traditions of the Catholic Faith. And for family and precious friends to share it with me. I am blessed beyond all imagining.

 

 

I was in Hobby Lobby yesterday, lost in my thoughts, trying to figure out which colors of modeling clay I needed to purchase to create a model of a human cell for my Midwifery school, when a woman approached me and said “Excuse me.”  Naturally, I thought I was in her way, so I moved over and mumbled something about being sorry. She looked at me with great big eyes and said “Oh no, you’re not in my way. I want to ask you a question.” I had a feeling she wasn’t interested in modeling clay. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Okay. . . .

Woman: We are going to go to the Phillipines for a mission trip, and I was wondering if you’d like to support us by buying this Sonic gift card for $5? (Magically procures a gift card and holds it up for me to see).

Me: Who is “we”?

Woman: Oh, our church. We’re going to go over there to witness to them. (Smiles sweetly).

Me: What church is that?

Woman: The Church of Jesus of (something I didn’t recognize and can’t remember. . . I just know it was not LDS)

Me: Hmmm. Okay. Well, how do you feel about Catholics?

Woman: (Stunned) Ummmm, . . . well. . . .most of them over there are Catholic. (Smiles, thinking she’s given me the right answer).

Me: And you’re going to try to convert them?

Woman: Well, we’re going to share with them the truth of Jesus Christ!

Me: (Realizing this was not going to come out the way I intended it) Them I’m sorry. I can’t support you.

Woman: Oh! (This is when her eyes got really big and she realized that I wasn’t interested in saving Catholics, but that I am Catholic)

Me: I went to fundamentalist churches for 12 years that sound like they were a lot like your church. But then the Holy Spirit led our family to go back to the Catholic Church, because it does have the way to Jesus.

At this point, I turned to walk away with my cart, but then I stopped and added:

Me: It just feels like to me that you’re trying to convert people who are already Christian, who already know the truth of Jesus Christ, and I don’t think that’s what God wants. It seems like dividing Christians.

Woman: (Seizing upon this wonderful opportunity to save my soul) “Then do you believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the light?”

Me: (Turning to face her directly) Of course! I believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God, that He died on the cross for my sins, rose again on the third day, and is seated in Heaven with God the Father. (meaningful pause. . .) ALL Catholics believe that!

Woman: (Obviously not prepared for this response from a Catholic) Oh! Ummm. . . .well, good!

I don’t eat at Sonic, anyway, but that wasn’t really the point. The point is that Catholics ARE Christians, albeit most of us don’t have a clue about what it really means to be Catholic or Christian. I find it incredibly offensive, and yes, sad, that other so-called Christian groups are wasting time and money trying to “save” Catholics. It would be so nice if they would actually learn what we really believe before passing judgment and deciding we’re hell-bound. Satan must be so happy that Christians are so busy attacking their own!

Here in our diocese, the Bishop offers a Blessing Mass for Homeschoolers at the beginning of each new school year. We are all very appreciative that our Bishop takes time to do this for us, especially since this has not always been the case. A lot of prayers and hard work have gone into working with the Bishop to offer these annual blessings. He (or his office) chooses the parish where the Mass will be held, and we all do our best to show up, ‘with bells on’.

It was especially important for me this year, because this is our last year of homeschooling. Our daughter is in her “Senior” year, and after a quarter of a century, our journey is coming to its end. And I am suffering terribly from “short-timer’s disease”! I keep fantasizing about all the non-school things I can do, (quilting, writing a book, getting that midwifery license. . .) and thinking that I don’t need to volunteer for anything, because I’ve already done my time in the trenches and paid my dues, so-to-speak. But then, on the flip side of that, I don’t want to miss a moment, and want to be involved in every single thing that happens this year. Either way, I know I’m going to need a full dose of God’s grace to make it. What better way to embark on our final year of homeschooling than with a blessing from the Bishop?

Last year, the Blessing Mass was held at our own parish. My daughter was one of the lectors. I, myself, did the opening announcements and greeting. We had a huge turnout, and took lots of pictures of everyone afterward, gathered under one of the massive Live Oak trees that grace our parish campus. It was wonderful!

This year, the Blessing Mass was held at a small parish in one of the small towns that border the Austin/Round Rock metroplex. My first clue that I wasn’t going to feel comfortable was when we drove up to the building and it reminded me more of a small elementary school than of any sort of church, let alone a Catholic church. When we entered the building, everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and they all seemed to be sort of prepared to welcome our homeschooling community to their tiny parish. I felt encouraged, until we walked into the sanctuary. There were no kneelers! So, it was nigh impossible to kneel and pray before the mass began, to try to quiet my heart and mind and prepare myself for the Sacred Mysteries. But I tried. I really did try. Until the young lady got up to the podium to do the opening announcements and greeting.

She was wearing a chapel veil, so I felt hopeful that perhaps the parish was in some sort of transition, and when they were finished, there would be kneelers and a proper tabernacle on the altar. So I was dismayed, but not shocked, when she informed us that there was a sound system in the Cry Room “for our listening pleasure”! It seems to be far too common these days for Catholics to adopt the Protestant mindset that the music played during the service (or more appropriately, Liturgy) is for our personal enjoyment, and not a vehicle for transporting us to the Throne Room in Heaven, where we can participate with all the angels and saints celebrating the Supper of the Lamb.

Next, she suggested that we all turn and greet all of our ‘neighbors’ seated around us, in “friendly, St. XXXX fashion”. I gasped. Loudly. Yeah. . . not the best thing to do when visiting a parish, but I didn’t actually mean to gasp out loud. And I don’t suppose it would’ve mattered if I had managed to stifle it, because I’ve never been good at hiding my my emotions. I know that my horror was reflected on my countenance. The nice lady in front of us turned around to give us a good ol’ (Protestant) greeting, and I just gaped at her. She asked if I was okay. I mumbled something about never talking to others before mass, and she asked if it was okay with me, and I don’t think I even managed to answer. I think Gaylon shook her hand. Abby sat beside me in the same horrified stupor I was experiencing.

Honest: I did not mean to be rude! But as Catholics, we don’t “meet ‘n’ greet” before mass!! I was taught that one enters the sanctuary silently, with reverence. Before entering the pew, one genuflects before the tabernacle, because it contains the Host. The Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior. We are supposed to be gathering our thoughts and praying, asking God to help us prepare our hearts, minds and souls to receive this precious gift of Holy Communion. This is sacred ground!

Which brings me to the next issue. . . there was no tabernacle! I genuflected out of habit when I entered our row of seats, but when I started looking around the altar for the purpose of our being there, I couldn’t find it. I took a deep (silent!) breath, and kept trying to make myself focus on the fact that the Bishop would soon be offering the Mass, and that the point of my being there was to worship Jesus. And to receive that blessing for our homeschool.

But, somehow, I am never quite able to conquer my thoughts and heart when I am in a Catholic Church where the tabernacle is missing. The fact that we have the Real Presence of Jesus in our churches and in our masses is. . . well. . . the point! That’s what makes us different, special! We have something that nobody else has, and to not put that tabernacle front-and-center is, in my opinion, akin to heresy. But, I’ve seen it before. So, I tried very hard to focus on the Mass. Bishop’s homily was wonderful, and I did my best to take it to heart. (FWIW: I have been to several masses with this Bishop, and I always enjoy his homilies very much.)

But then, when it came time for the Consecration, I realized I had to make a choice. I have very bad, arthritic knees. I tore the meniscus in my right knee a couple of years ago, and it’s not been quite right since. Kneeling in the best of circumstances is difficult for me. From past experiences, I knew that most of the congregation would simply remain standing during the Consecration. Suddenly, I heard that small, still voice deep inside me that I’ve come to identify as belonging to God. And He asked me: “Do you believe this is real, or not?” And I had to answer, with all of my heart and soul, “Yes!” And so I took a hard look at the crucifix, and knelt on the concrete floor. I glanced around and realized that pretty much all of my homeschooling friends had made the same decision. Almost all of us knelt for the consecration. The regular members of the parish, for the most part, remained standing. Except for the young lady in the chapel veil who’d made the welcoming announcements. She also knelt, beside her parents who remained standing.

I did not receive communion. My heart wasn’t right, I couldn’t get past the missing tabernacle, and I didn’t want to receive unworthily. (“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” 1 Cor. 11:27) While I sat in our row, waiting for everyone else to receive communion, I prayed for our Church, as a whole. And I felt tears welling up in my eyes, because, for whatever reason, I have started to become very aware of what a precious and sacred thing the mass is, and it breaks my heart to see the ancient liturgy watered down. Isn’t that what Satan would want? To water our liturgy and our faith down to the point that it becomes completely impotent? A joke, even?

I don’t want to become Pharisaical about it, but it really matters deeply to me. I left the Catholic Church for about 12 years, and I came back for a reason! Well, for many reasons, actually. I crave the deep Christian symbolism and mysticism that only the Catholic Church can offer me. I love sacred music and beautiful, old churches with high, ornate altars. Kendall once said that you can tell how a people views God by the way they build their churches. I think he’s onto something with that!

I don’t want to minimize how precious it is to me (and to all of our homeschooling community, I think) that the Bishop offered a mass for us. I wonder what his thoughts are about the lack of kneelers and the missing tabernacle? I don’t know about the tabernacle, but I know for sure what Cardinal Arinze thinks about the absence of kneelers, and I will leave you with this video:

Well, while we did not find a “Forever Home”, we did, indeed, find a new home. I sort of feel like it’s a really nice extended stay place. It’s pretty generic on the outside, but the inside is very nice, with 9-foot ceilings and a vaulted living room. And a fireplace. I really love that I have a fireplace again! (And yes, we DO sometimes have weather cold enough to want to light a fire!)

It’s slightly smaller, but much nicer than our last place. And we all agree that the backyard

The chaos of moving

The chaos of moving

is wonderful! It’s really big, and it has. . . are you ready?. . .grass! It also has a sprinkler system, which, if we can just remember to use it at the designated times, should really be cool. There is already one raised bed, and lots of room to make one or two more, so I’ve been really fantasizing about actually planting a vegetable garden. My friend Becky says if I plant the right stuff, she’ll make the salsa. I think that’s a heckuva deal, because her salsa is out of this world!

So, while moving is very stressful, and crazy expensive, I think it’s a good thing, overall, and I’m glad it’s almost over.  We still have to get Abby’s and Alex’s bicycles out of the shed at the other place, but there’s really not much left. Which is so good, because April has truly been an awful month.

Don’t get me wrong: there have been some shining moments! Easter is always a glorious celebration, and even in the most stressful times, it is comforting to celebrate that our Savior is risen! God is still in charge, and He still loves us. That’s always good news. 🙂 All of the kids joined us for Mass, and my heart always feels so full when all of my ‘babies’ join us for Mass.

This year we just didn’t get to celebrate Easter completely the way we like to, by filling up a Polish Easter Basket and taking it to be blessed on Holy Saturday, like we normally do. I didn’t even get around to making the butter molds! We were still in the midst of moving and unpacking, and we just didn’t have the money to go ‘all-out’.  However, our friends, the Kinneys, invited us to join them for Easter Lunch, and time spent with them is always fun and lively! We had a wonderful time. 🙂

Then, that evening, Kendall and Lishi came over to the house and we grilled chicken.  So we got to spend the day with family and friends, and at the end of the day, we were all so stuffed that we swore we wouldn’t eat another bite for at least a week. (And yet, somehow, we managed to make room for more food the very next day!)

Then, last Tuesday I got to attend the first homebirth I’ve attended in roughly thirteen years! It was my first homebirth here in Texas, and, my first birth with a Catholic family. I loved walking in and hearing a musical version of the Divine Mercy playing. So sweet!

And tonight, our sweet priest, Fr. Alex, came over to bless our new home and join us for dinner. I was very happy to discover that all of our children (including Joe, who is our ‘adopted’ son) wanted to be present for this happy event! Our son, Alex, wanted to come and watch the Spurs game tonight, after Father left, so he came early for dinner. It was just an added perk that we won!

But, in addition to the move, there has been a lot of stress this past month. First, we fought with AT&T for over two weeks to try to get our stupid internet hooked up at the new house! Finally, we fired them, and went with DirecTV.  Now if only AT&T would get that memo and quit calling, texting and emailing me trying to reschedule our “missed” appointment! Grrr. . . .

Gaylon and his crew have been working on remodeling a home for awhile now, and all of a sudden, the homeowners have gotten very weird about it, and haven’t paid us for a large amount of work that we’ve already done! So money is very scarce at the moment. And we don’t know how this issue will turn out, so that is weighing very heavily on all of us.  Gaylon has had a lot of trouble sleeping, and is losing weight.  There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to go into it here. Let me just say that I think there needs to be some version of “Angie’s List” that contractors, builders, doctors, etc. can go to before they work for someone to check them out and see if they are known to be scam artists, or grifters, or whatever.  Everyone always worries about whether or not the professional they’ve hired to do work for them is honest, reputable, reliable, etc., but I wonder how many people realize that there are a lot of folks who hire professionals like Gaylon with the sole intent of getting their house remodeled for free!

Anyway, we very much appreciate any prayers, and are believing that things are going to get a lot less stressful very, very soon!

I may have mentioned (a time or two!) how amazing my daughter, Abby is. Well, today I want to brag on her once more. 😀 Last night, she was commissioned to become an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister in our parish!

Now, I am well aware that there is quite a debate raging among Catholics as to whether or not lEucharistay persons should ever distribute Holy Communion. I have a dear friend who will go out of her way to make sure she only receives communion from a priest or deacon, and I respect that. However, there are extraordinary circumstances in which lay persons may, indeed, legitimately serve in that capacity.

Like in our parish. We have over 6,000 families. Nope. Not a typo. We really do have over 6,000 families. Which translates to over 20,000 members. As one of our priests puts it, if he were the only one distributing communion, he’d be dead before he was finished! (For a rather thorough discussion on the validity of this practice, please read the article “EXTRAORDINARY MINISTERS OF THE EUCHARIST”, by: Peter A. Kwasniewski on EWTN’s website.)

So, back to Abby. She made the decision that this was a ministry she wanted to become involved in, and came to us to ask permission. Like becoming a lector, this was 100% her choice. And she knows that I am one of those old-school Catholics who thinks there shouldn’t be any altar girls, and that nobody should receive communion in the hand. But I know that my daughter is very prayerful and dedicated to serving God. So Gaylon and I gave her our blessing, and she spent most of a Saturday in training for this. And finally, yesterday at the 5:00 p.m. Mass, she was commissioned!

She is so excited, and so happy to be able to do this. When I asked her what it was that attracted her to this, she said “Because! I get to give my friends Jesus!” Wow. I am, again, humbled by her pure, childlike love of our Lord and our Church. When I was her age, I the last thing on my mind was giving Jesus to anyone. In fact, if memory serves (and I’m afraid it does) the main thing on my mind was ME.

So congratulations to my sweet little girl! What an amazing  young woman she’s becoming.

Graphics Credit: Image credit: Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_9643382_hands-holding-eucharist-in-a-church-interior.html’>marcovarro / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston

Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston

My last day in Boston, I got to attend a Tridentine High Mass at the Cathedral. This is the old Latin Mass, with the Schola Cantorum. A ‘Schola’, for short, is a body of singers banded together for the purpose of rendering the music in church. This is also known as the Missa Cantata, or Sung Mass.

It was, well, amazing! I have attended Latin Mass here in Austin, and while I appreciate the solemness of it, I find it very boring. Every time I’ve attended, it’s been “Low Mass”. But hearing the Gregorian Chant during the High Mass was, as it should be, heavenly. That is, after all, the purpose of the Mass: to recreate  what is happening in Heaven here on earth. I definitely understand now why so many people wish we would return to the Tridentine Mass. I felt uplifted, empowered. Like I truly had been standing on holy ground.

I love being Catholic, I love the ritual and the comforting sameness of the mass. I have attended many other churches, (Baptist, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Church of God, Evangelical, Non-Denominational) and while I believe they all have something very good to offer, I find my peace in Catholicism.  Attending the High Tridentine Mass just reminded me of why I love being Catholic, and why it’s important to me to keep it Catholic, and not try to be non-Catholic in our liturgy. I’ve sort of “been there, done that”, and it just didn’t work out for me.

Anyway, if you’re ever in Boston, I cannot recommend highly enough the Latin Tridentine Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross! They have it every Sunday, at 11:00 a.m. in the “Lower Church”. (Which was quite lovely, but I didn’t get any pictures of it.) I did, however, get some pictures of the main church. It is beautiful!

Flavitsky "Christian Martyrs In Colosseum"

Flavitsky “Christian Martyrs In Colosseum”

A lot of things surprise me.  In fact, the older I get, the more things I feel like I simply do not understand.  For example: yesterday, I was browsing the fabric selection at a local store, and ran across a woman who, seemingly, was doing the same.  I needed to get by her, and so I smiled my brightest, most polite smile, said “Excuse me,” and waited for her to move. Or smile. Or something.  But no. . . she just glared at me, much like one might glare at an annoying stray dog. So I tried even harder to smile, thinking maybe she just needed someone to be friendly to her, and her mood might improve.  But, again, no.  She wasn’t having it, and so I ended up maneuvering my cart around her and hoping I wouldn’t run across her again. (I didn’t.)

I am surprised by the viciousness of politics in our country nowadays.  I have lots of opinions of the way things should be, but I do not expect everyone to agree with me.  And I certainly do not start name-calling and labeling those who disagree with my point of view.  I think it’s ridiculous to call someone a ‘hater’ because they disagree with you!  Seriously?  That’s such a childish mentality!  It reminds me of the guys who, when rejected by a girl at a bar or party, immediately conclude that she’s a lesbian!  That just doesn’t make any sense! Just because a girl isn’t attracted to a guy doesn’t inherently mean there is anything wrong with either of them!

And, I’m surprised (although, at this point, I suppose I really shouldn’t be) at the ridiculous and perverse antics of the pro-gay activists up in Washington, D.C.  Does dressing in drag and harassing children really make the point that the GLBT groups really deserve marriage equality?  I think it makes them all look like freaks that just want their 15 minutes of fame, and it really makes me question if they are serious about their “rights”, or if they just want to put on some sort of freak show!  What if “straight” people ran up to folks marching in a gay pride parade and started making out or having sex right there in front of them? No way would that fly!! To say that these two groups have different definitions of marriage doesn’t even begin to define their differences!

But I am not surprised at all by how much the attacks have escalated against the Catholic Church.  There has always been someone who was ticked off at God or the Church about something (or everything!). And since today, it’s almost mandatory to have a chip on one’s shoulder, that’s an easy one to take on.  The Church has stood tall and strong for many centuries on certain points, and she is not giving any indication of changing her mind now.

It would make sense to me for those who oppose her teachings to be unhappy with her, but that’s not enough for them.  Apparently, they feel some sort of guilt or shame over what they are doing, so they need to attack the Church in some feeble attempt to discredit her.  But here is where I feel baffled: if they think the Church is so wrong, or corrupt, or whatever, then why do they focus so much energy on it?

I have a theory about that. I think it’s because they know, somewhere deep inside, that the Church is right! Consider this: satanists do not have “Black Altar Calls” or “Black Tent Revivals”.  They have “Black Masses“. They do not bother to steal the communion crackers from non-Catholic churches, because there is no power in them.  They try to steal them from Catholic churches, because those communion wafers, those consecrated hosts, are the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus Christ, himself. They want to mock what is real, what has true power!

So, it’s no surprise to me that people want to discredit the Catholic Church.  That they want to bring her down to their base and perverse level. And, it’s nothing new.  Christians have been persecuted since the beginning.  Starting with, of course, Jesus himself!

This has all been on my mind lately for a few reasons, but I can attribute most of it to some billboards that the American Atheists are running attacking the Catholic Church. Why a group who doesn’t even believe in God cares so much that they would spend in excess of $6,000.00 per billboard to attack Him is beyond me.  Wouldn’t that be their equivalent of Don Quixote fighting windmills?  They are railing against a “fairy tale”!  WHY??? I think, again, it’s because they know, deep down, that they’re wrong.

At any rate, I do not think that things are going to get any better, or easier, for Christians of any denomination in the days to come. Already our own government, the last bastion of freedom in the western world, is trying to force Christians to violate their own consciences with healthcare clauses and laws.  Christians are being labeled as ‘hate groups’ for being pro-life! That simply does NOT make any sense. At all! It’s irony in its worst form! And, while other groups are lauded for standing up for their rights and beliefs, anyone standing up for Christian rights and beliefs is a ‘hater’ or ‘bigot’! Nobody would dare to challenge a Muslim for facing east and praying to Allah!!! “Tolerance” is the buzzword of the hour, and yet those who actually preach mercy and forgiveness are the least “tolerated”.

No, none of  it makes sense to me, but then, that’s really no surprise, is it?

 

Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

Today is two weeks before Christmas, and I have really been thinking a lot about why our family does a lot of the things we do each Holiday Season.  We go all out.  We have three Christmas trees, not counting the small one in my daughter’s bedroom. In fact, we pretty much redecorate our entire home every December! What used to take a couple of hours now takes three to four days!!

I have my very own “Santa Tree”, where I display all of my collectible Santa and Father Christmas ornaments.  I also have an ever-growing collection of Santas, which has outgrown the top of my piano, where it was displayed for many Christmases, and is now threatening to take over the entire downstairs! My Mom has her own tree, as well, decorated in a really cool Southwest Theme, complete with chile peppers and cacti!

Our “Family Tree” features all sorts of Hallmark collectible ornaments, some dating back

Family Christmas Tree

Family Christmas Tree

to the early 1970’s, when my mother first started buying one each year.  Kendall requested that we send his ornaments to him after he got married, which was a heart-wrenching thing, but in spite of one-third of our ornaments being MIA, our tree is still full. 🙂  This is a good thing!

Mom has an amazing Dept. 56 “Snow Village”, that takes up our entire entertainment center, and that’s no small piece of real estate!  It is adorable, with little houses and shops all lit up for Christmas, complete with an ice skating pond and Malt Shop.  Mom has this nostalgic thing about the 1950’s, so that’s the era her Snow Village depicts.  I am more traditional than my mother, and would have gone for the Victorian era, but it’s exquisite and fun, nonetheless!

After Gaylon and I got married, Mom also started collecting Spode for us.  Spode is from England, and they have several patterns of fine china, but arguably, their best-loved and most well-known pattern is their Christmas tree set. Occasionally our friends or family will add to this collection, and so we now have twenty-six years worth of Spode!  It’s pretty impressive, and without question, my Spode is one of my most prized possessions. (And my children are already fighting over who gets it when I die! :-/)

Also belonging to the “Prized Possessions” category would be our Christmas stockings, all of which I cross-stitched.  It’s pretty obvious that I made Kendall’s first, because it’s really basic, but by the time I got to Faith’s (AKA: Abby’s) I had pretty much hit my stride.  (I will be posting pictures soon!) Kendall has hinted that he would appreciate me making a new, more ‘grown-up’ stocking for him. (Sheesh!  First he wanted all of his ornaments, and now a new stocking? ;))

But all of this begs the question: WHY?  Yeah, I know that on Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I am a Christian, so I’m very familiar with this! 😉  In fact, the weeks leading up to Christmas are some of my favorite!  We call this time in the Liturgical Year “Advent”, and it is a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation for the coming of Jesus. But many people manage to celebrate Christmas with one tree and maybe a wreath or two.  (We have several of those, as well!)  Is this just an exercise in excess?  Some sort of manic-obsessive-compulsive thing I’ve got going on, that rears its Yuletide head every Advent?

I think that, in all honesty, I would have to admit that, yes, I am a bit over-the-top with Christmas.  But I think it is because there is a really big part of me that loves all that this season represents.  I love the idea of spending extra time each morning reading Advent devotionals and praying.  I love the idea of preparing my heart and soul for the coming of my savior.  It helps me to re-focus and re-dedicate.  It’s so amazingly easy for me to get off track and forget to make extra time for prayer, for God.  Advent gently helps me re-center.

Santa Tree

But it’s not just the religious aspect of this season that I love. I love the idea of families getting together to celebrate, (especially when that celebration is a shared religious holiday).  I love shopping, I love all the lights and decorations.  Our neighborhood is lit up, and glorious! I love the wonderful performances this time of year, as well. Living Christmas Trees, Christmas Pageants, Symphonies, Concerts, and my all-time favorite, the Nutcracker Ballet! I love the music and the movies, and I really love getting cards from friends and family, far-and-wide.

So for me, I think the Holiday Season gives me a feeling of connectedness that I crave, and don’t feel as strongly the rest of the year.  A wonderful  connectedness with friends and family, and with my religion, my spirituality, as well.  It all comes together, at least for me, in one glorious crescendo! (Cue up – Carol of the Bells, Trans-Siberian Orchestra version!!)

So, with all of that in mind, would you please leave me a comment below, and tell me why YOU celebrate Christmas?  I am planning to post a new topic each day until Christmas, and am really hoping to hear from all of you about what you like/enjoy, and why. Look for coming posts (and questions!!!) about all things Christmas: movies, music, ethnic celebrations, foods, memories, and more! (Please leave your comments here on my blog, and not on Facebook!)

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