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A Thrill Of Hope, The Weary World Rejoices…

December 07, 2018
By HTCS Crusader

A Thrill Of Hope, The Weary World Rejoices…

By Candace Sandifer

                  I remember my youngest daughter’s first Advent, because of how truly awful it all went down. I had been preparing for months in advance, Christmas outings reserved, matching outfits purchased with coordinating bows and shirts for her older brothers, presents galore, parties planned, photos scheduled and then….the flu. Yes. The full on FLU hit the house hard that first week in December.  Those Santa photos? Only my oldest son and my husband could attend. (Those are still Carson’s favorite photos with just himself and Santa. No siblings. What a win for him ;)) The ride on the Polar Express that was well over $100? Tickets sold the day before we were ready to ride.  The tickets to the Symphony? Handed over to friends while my husband and my sweet baby girl, who was only 10 months old at the time, moped in misery while it felt like everyone else in the world was celebrating like we should have been.  I ended up with not only the flu, which morphed into bronchitis, but also the gift of two stress fractures in my ribs from the constant coughing.  If I had not been listening to the soft whispers of my God asking me to slow down before, his obvious hand in physically forcing me to slow down was seen and felt loud and clear that season.  The following year, in true Type A Facebook world of mothering fashion I was at it again. Overcommitting, over spending, overdoing, overworking, over………everything.  Santa visits with screaming exhausted toddlers and preschoolers just aren’t fun. Not for you, not for your kids and certainly not for Santa. But, we went anyways. I imagine God shaking his head in a knowing fashion at my escapades.

                  We all fall victim to the Christmas Crazy.  For many of us, this cycle repeats year after year and isn’t exclusive to our generation. My husband and I laugh every year at the song  “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” when they sing “ And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again” and laugh like crazed maniacs. I mean, this is what Christmas is about! Everyone loses their mind while preparing for the most wonderful time of the year! Right?

Christmas, or truly, Advent is meant to be a time of joyful anticipation. Joyful. Not anxious, overcommitted, “at each other’s throats for the perfect Christmas card photo can this be OVER now please” anticipation.  Joy. Peace. Hope.   The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gives us this easy explanation of what Advent is and what it means:

 Advent has a twofold character:

  • as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered;
  • as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.

Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation [Norms 39].

I can say, that many times our Advent preparations are anything but devout, and seriously lacking in joy. But there are always times, every year, when I sit back with a smile on my face and watch my little ones drinking in the spirit of the season and I tear up with the love of a mama who is mostly grateful for them and how much they make Christmas a joy for us.  More often than not, these are the unplanned nights and days. Those quieter times with family, at home, in front of the Christmas tree drinking a simple cup of Swiss Miss cocoa.  I realize, those are the times to be treasured.  As our kids have gotten older we have settled on three solid Christmas traditions in our family: gingerbread house building the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the season, buying a live tree and setting it up together and yes, the symphony.  Anything more than that, is a bonus. If it happens, great, if not no big deal. No more three hour lines for the Mall Santa Photo, if we catch one at a breakfast with him, that’s the picture we frame, and these days most of those photos are free.  No more trains to the North Pole.  No more $350 dollar 13 foot live trees that are a pain to decorate and always leave us more frustrated than merry. Enough. If it truly doesn’t bring joy it goes off the calendar.

Fewer plans, and more quiet…and it is absolutely still a struggle to live by that commitment. I live for sweet photo ops, I want to give my kiddos the best Christmas experiences ever.  We all do.  However, that intense feeling of love for my kids pales in comparison of the love Jesus, our newborn king has for us, and that’s the message of Advent.  God loves us so much that he sent his son down to be born of a Virgin, in a manger, to live among us and spread the message of his love and then to die on a cross for every single one of us. No matter our sins, no matter our failings, no matter how many times we post on Facebook those fake photos that never quite tell the whole story.  He loves us. Christmas is a reminder of how much he loves us.   And that is when my weary heart fills with joy.  I am the daughter of a King, born to us in Bethlehem and I anxiously wait in joyful expectation for his coming again.  He will come again! What a message for our weary and worn world.  A thrill of hope, our weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  He is coming, praise Him.   

Won’t you join our family in this season of wonder to step back, stay home and live in the moment?  Even if you cancel one thing from your calendar this year, it’s a start.   We are so grateful to have our children in a school that supports families in the time of Advent, and what better way to encourage those teachings than to take them to heart in our own homes this season. Less crazy, and more Christmas.   Let’s take the time to light the candles on our advent wreaths instead. Let’s devote a few more minutes to Jesus. He is so worthy of our time and devotion.

“For to us a child is born…and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…establishing justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” 

Blessings to everyone as we embark on the season of joyful expectation.  Alleluia! The Son of God is born! 

 

Thankful

October 31, 2018
By HTCS Crusader

Post grad life. Three words that can strike terror in the heart of any college student. If I am being honest these three words caused a good amount of fear for me in my last year studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It just felt like there were so many options, all good, for what I could pursue after graduation. There was the idea that I could teach history, the subject I got my minor in, a track in which I could start doing historical research in DC for a non-profit, a thought that perhaps I could work in a parish doing evangelical work, or finally the most outlandish idea that I could move to Italy and study at the Sacred Art School to pursue a long held dream of painting sacred art. Through God’s direction and the wisdom of my family and friends I decided to move to Michigan and take a position as the Director of Evangelization and Youth Ministry at an incredible parish.

 All of this leads me to what I want to address here – thankfulness. The greatest thing I am thankful for, and I think anyone could be thankful for, is that the Lord is good and has a great plan for us. I never imagined I would end up moving north or working as a youth minister. However, I am tremendously grateful that He led me here for this confusing time in my life because though I do not know the big reasons I am working and living here yet, I can see His hand leading me.

 I believe I can easily attribute the trust I have been taught in the Lord’s plan to my parents and to my formation from Holy Trinity. God’s plan is so wild: when we moved from Dallas to be closer to the airport my mom and dad specifically picked Colleyville because of the good public schools. All it took was one drive past Holy Trinity to remind them of the dream both had of sending their kids to Catholic school as they had really appreciated their own Catholic school educations. Fast forward almost eighteen years and the Cummings family has had at least one kid at HTCS every year since. As long as I can remember the school has been a part of my life. From being picked to be Mary in our Las Posadas procession in Kindergarten to vocations day in fifth grade and finally to eighth grade when we watched movies about incredible saints in religion class and got to go on a day retreat, I have been learning about the Lord and His love for me. It is difficult to put into words how thankful I am for that gift.

There is something about moving away from home that can make you realize how incredible your parents really are. Ask any of my new friends in Michigan what I think of Jackie and Jim Cummings and you will get an earful. I think that the reason that Holy Trinity was able to have such an impact on my spiritual life and intellectual life is because the school’s values lined up perfectly with what I was already being taught at home. As I was being allowed to explore my interests at home (funny enough these were collecting rocks, reading, and playing chess) Holy Trinity gave me great opportunities to actually do them. I am thankful for classes like art with teachers like Mrs. Loar who sparked a love of painting in me. Elementary school is an immensely formative time and I believe so many of the things I love now can be attributed to going to HTCS.

So now, as a recent college grad with a big girl job I am beginning to see how lucky I am. It was the love and support of my parents, the closeness to my incredibly fun siblings, tender and encouraging teachers, and the Catholic environment of Holy Trinity that I am thankful to for helping me get here today. Post grad life isn’t too scary when you know God will lead you where you need to go so long as you do your part to work hard, love hard, and be thankful for all he has given you.  

What This Community Means to Me

September 07, 2018
By Pam Elliott, HTCS Mom

“How do you do it?”, people sometimes ask as I walk in somewhere, usually late, lagging behind my pseudo independent 6 and 5 year olds, constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure the easily distracted 3 year old hasn’t run off with a stranger (highly probable), and dragging the infant behind me in her increasingly heavy carrier.

 

Well, the answer is – I don’t. I don’t do anything in this mom life on my own. There’s not one thing I can take sole credit for. And praise God for that.

 

Three years ago, we made the decision to enroll our oldest son, Jacob, in Holy Trinity’s Pre-K program. Having a November birthday, he wasn’t old enough for Kindergarten yet. So, we’ll just do this for a year before he starts at our neighborhood school, we thought. After all, that’s why we left uptown Dallas and moved to the suburbs – so we wouldn’t have to pay for private school. God’s funny that way.

 

But really at this point I secretly hoped we would be able to send Jacob to Holy Trinity beyond PreK, but I knew my husband wasn’t convinced. “You obviously don’t think our property taxes are high enough,” he told me when I suggested it back then. Come, Holy Spirit, come. If this is Your will, please let us be able to send him, I prayed. And then I waited.

 

The fall semester was blur as we adjusted to “real school”, but in the Spring I began to attend the Rosary group and daily Mass at school weekly on Wednesdays. With my 3 and 1 year olds in tow. Who does that to themselves, one might wonder. Well, again, it started out as just something I thought I’d give a try temporarily. Probably won’t last long, but we’ll just see how far we can go. Seeing a trend here yet?

 

It’s no surprise that those Wednesday mornings quickly became one of the highlights of my week. Even when my girls acted up. I quickly found that there was never a shortage of hands to help with them. Or a shortage of smiles to encourage me to keep coming back. A then stranger, now dear friend, would hold out her rosary for the baby to “help” count as she prayed. Another would take out her notepad and pens to entertain my toddler. Yet another would swoop in gently during Mass to hold the baby, while I raced to the potty with her sister.

 

Community. If I could sum up our last three years at Holy Trinity in one word, it would be that. The other parents and children have become our extended family. Our community. They have poured their life into us through their daily acts of love and self-sacrifice. Some days it’s a simple holding the doors open at pick up long enough for my distracted, all- over-the-place crew to make it outside in one piece. Other days, it’s a friend bringing us a hot meal at pick up time because she could tell I was overwhelmed and she just wanted to give me the night off from cooking.

 

I heard recently on a popular Catholic radio show of this concept that family life was always meant to be done in community, but that over time, we Americans began moving away from immediate and extended family, ultimately leaving us to feel as though raising children is solely the job of the two individuals whom God allowed to partake in their creation. We kind of cling to this crazy notion that we have to do things on our own. Maybe because we don’t want to inconvenience anyone or appear like we don’t have it all together. Well, I’m only three years into life as a Crusader and it’s like I must be in a time machine of sorts. I must have travelled back to that mystical time where parents weren’t alone in raising their kids, where the community around them was their family.

 

I started out wanting so badly to have my son in a school that would build him up in a Catholic setting, shape him into a godly boy and eventually young man. What I didn’t expect was that it would also dramatically shape me. That it would make me want to be a better wife, mom, neighbor, and friend. That it would show me exactly what it means to witness others around me be the hands and feet of Christ. That I would be so grateful for this new family in our lives. So, how do I do it? I do it, only because they, my new family, does what they do so very well.

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