Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Advent and Christmas Sacred Music Giveaway!

It's been a while since I've had a giveaway here but it's time!  I love Advent and Christmas music so much.  I especially love great music and most of the albums I have aren't going to be heard on the local fluff pop radio stations.  (That's probably good because we hold off on the Christmas music until Christmas.  Last year one of the local stations that had been playing Christmas music since Halloween stopped playing it in the middle of Christmas Day so I'm glad we have a whole bunch of our own!)  

Finding music that is more Advent appropriate is tough, though!  I guess that does help punctuate the silence and quiet of the season but it's lovely to have some good music to help us enter in as well. This album and the first four tracks of this one have joined us the last few years but I am really happy to have found another album that is perfect for both Advent and Christmas.  

O Emmanuel is a new release from Dynamic Catholic written by composer and musician J.J. Wright featuring the Notre Dame Children's Choir.

"It’s not just another Christmas album. O Emmanuel is an extraordinary journey to rediscover the joy of Christmas through a harmonious blend of children’s voices, a jazz piano trio, adult vocal soloists, and creative renditions of traditional Advent and Christmas melodies. Tapping into his expertise in sacred music, Wright incorporates the sacred texts of the “O Antiphons” to help tell the story of Jesus’ birth. (The “O Antiphons” are the hymns sung at evening prayers during the final seven days of Advent.) With a perfect combination of ancient and modern, traditional and original, O Emmanuel is an unforgettable listening experience that will quickly become a Christmas favorite."

The songs include plenty of original work but also contain within them new twists on beautiful traditional music that is creative while, I think, still maintaining respect and reverence for the original work.  There is a wide genre of types of music represented throughout the album.  The jazz rifts pulled me out of my comfort zone in a good way and as someone who loves to sing, I really appreciated the phenomenal talent of the soloists.  The tracks take one from the Annunciation to Christmas Day making it a perfect fit for Advent or Christmas.  The focus on the O Antiphons is a wonderful idea and something that can help bring back and teach this beautiful but often unlearned piece of Advent tradition.  (I had never even heard of the O Antiphons until a few years ago!)  I also adore the album cover design!  

Tracks on the album:

Gabriel's Message
I.  Sapientia
II.  Adonai
III.  Radix
IV.  Clavis
V.  Oriens
VI.  Rex
VII.  Emmanuel
VIII.  When the Sun Rises in the Morning Sky
IX.  Christ the Lord is Born Today

You can order O Emmanuel here and for more of the story behind the music you can watch the video below.

I'm blessed to know much of the Wright family personally and feel proud to see someone and something like this come out of our community here.  I have 10 (yes ten!) copies to give away this week!  I'll be giving away five here on the blog and five on my Facebook page.  So you have two ways to enter:

1.  To enter on the blog, simply leave a comment below!  (PLEASE make sure that your email address is linked with your username so I can contact you OR leave your email in the comment.) That's it!  

2.  To get another chance on the Facebook page, simply go to the page, make sure you've 'liked' the PAGE so I can contact you, and leave a comment on the giveaway post.  Yes, you can enter in both places for double the chance!  

Giveaway will be closed 12 a.m. next Thursday the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, one week from today.  I'll be picking winners for both that day.  Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you win!

Good luck and blessed Advent!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Celebrating Saint Nicholas - Filled Shoes, Golden Coins, and Secret Gifts for the Poor

I've posted a few pictures over the years but a friend recently asked if I had a Saint Nicholas post and I realized I've never actually done a post just about Saint Nicholas day around here!  How is that?  
Well, here's what we do... 

Growing up we celebrated Saint Nicholas Day every December 6, our empty shoes left in the hallway to be filled sometime during the night by "Saint Nick" and a special Mass said at school where the great saint would make a guest appearance at the end of Mass.  It only felt natural to do similar with my own kiddos from the very beginning (minus the gym teacher donned in a mitre).  So every December 5 we put out our shoes the night before to prepare for Saint Nicholas to come.  

(the baby was too little for shoes so the boys made a box for him :)

I wish we had a fireplace so very much but alas, we have to put them near the faux mantel or the window (one story we have says he threw the sacks of gold through the window).  In the morning the boys find four things:

A Christmas/Saint/Religious Themed Book

(From a few years back!)
Each child gets one new (or new to us) faith or Christmas themed book.  I buy almost everything through Amazon now but once in a while will find something earlier in the year at a garage sale or a Catholic bookstore and save it for St. Nick's.  The suggestions that Amazon gives at the bottom of a listing are really helpful for finding new books.  This is the primary way I've been able to build up our Christmas and saint book collection.  I wrap the book in simple paper tied with raffia and place it behind each shoe.  

A Candy Cane
These dye-free ones are our favorites!  (I never buy the multi pack, though, and just get one or two boxes at our local natural food store.)  The candy cane has rich religious symbolism and is perfect for Saint Nicholas.  The cane represents the shepherding of Christ but can also represent the shepherding of our bishops like Nicholas.  The red symbolizes the blood of Christ but is also a color traditionally associated with Saint Nick.  

Chocolate Coins

I'm making an effort this year to convert our chocolate consumption to fair trade and I was so excited to see that there are fair trade chocolate coins available!  This store has the best price and always has coupon codes to stack on top.  I'm pretty miserly and usually split one bag between two kids ;)

One Real Gold Dollar Coin

Last year we started a new tradition that I absolutely love.  All credit goes to Molly!  In each shoe there is a golden dollar coin.  You can go to the bank and buy them there.  With the coin is a note that instructs them to buy something in secret for the poor, just like Saint Nicholas.  So we take a trip that day to the dollar store or grocery store, the sole purpose being to buy something for someone in need - a pair of gloves, a hat, a few cans of soup, toothpaste, or whatever other thing they choose that they think can help someone.  We have a donation box at our church that goes to a downtown mission each week and whatever they have chosen can be put in the box on our next trip to church.  I just love that this places the focus of the day on modeling ourselves after Saint Nicholas rather than just on the treats!

This year I made a printable note rather than writing one out and I'm sharing it here for anyone who would like.  If you click the image below, you can download it to your computer and print it out.  It's formatted to 8 1/2 x 11 paper but you can decrease the percentage size on your printer if you'd like it smaller.  I plan on rolling it up and tying it with ribbon and placing one in each shoe.  There's also a second option underneath for those who like to pretend that it's really Saint Nicholas bringing the treats. We've never told our kids or pretended one way or the other unless they directly ask.  They don't seem to care as long as there's candy ;)    

We don't do any other treats or toys and are happy keeping it to just this much, especially with Christmas just a few weeks away.  Of course, celebrating the liturgy with the Church is the highest and best way to live the liturgical year so that should always take precedence if possible.  I sometimes will have a special breakfast in the morning like pancakes or coffee cake, though not always.  We do usually have some sort of pasta and red sauce for dinner because of the red and white symbolism (also: easy).   Greek or Turkish food might be more appropriate, though, considering that he was born Greek and presided over what is now Turkey!

So that's how we Saint Nicholas around here.  And now I officially have a post on it.

(Amazon links are affiliate links.  I appreciate so much when you buy through those links!)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

How to Punch the Devil in the Face This Advent

I've become absolutely certain that the devil hates Advent.  

When you think about the whole meaning and purpose behind this sacred season, it only makes sense. The evil one will want to do absolutely everything he can to make us forget it's here or, if we do remember, to only do so in passing or to sabotage it from the very beginning.  After all, what is the whole point of Advent?  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What They Don't Tell You About Preteens

I've never really been itching to do the preteen years.  I remember college discussions about what age group we catechetics majors would prefer to work with and my instinct was always toward the tiny little kids or the teenagers.  None of those popularity-minded, angsty, awkwardly self-conscious in-betweens, thank you very much.  I could only remember who I was back then, the environment and peers that surrounded me during those years and I only knew that I did NOT want that. I didn't want those ones. 

I was so wrong.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

lately. {two}

Here's a bit of life lately...eking the last moments out of tolerable weather, new chicks, lots of leaves, and more.  Come on in and let's catch up...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Good Vibes Don't Heal Grandma {and other thoughts on intercessory prayer in the age of social media}

I'm a big fan of social media.  It has it's drawbacks, to be sure, but overall it has incredible power for doing good, most of its potential still untapped.  I love that social media has become a common place where people can easily ask for prayers and share their needs.  In fact, I think that's one of its best purposes and perhaps the primary reason that God allowed us to access this reality - to build up the kingdom of God!  It's an amazing tool for bringing Him glory and fostering communion when used well. Being able to know what is breaking someone's heart or where they need - be it an old college friend or a stranger's sick baby or the ministry your aunt is doing - and then bring that before God is a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Three Novenas for the Election (and all are invited)

Hey friends, sooo how 'bout this election, huh?  Ha, just kidding.  I know no one wants to really talk about it anymore, do they?  Most of us are pretty upset that we've been given two candidates who are...this.  It's kinda crazy, right?  I mean, if like a year or so ago, someone would've predicted that the two main candidates really would be left at these?  ANYWAY.  If anything, I think it's prompting a whole lot of us to pray and discern like never before and remember that our hope is only in Him, not in any elected official or earthly ruler.  It's a great lesson in trust and in remembering that we are not made for this world.  

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