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Need a Little Christmas

©Nissa Gadbois

For the first time in many years, I’m rushing Christmas.  I feel like we all need a hit of that sweetness to lift our spirits.  Last Friday, our date night consisted of a trip to Michael’s to buy Christmas decorations on sale.  Yesterday, I did all of our Christmas shopping.  All of it.  I’m done.  That never happens.  We are always running around on Christmas Eve before the midnight Mass.  Not this year. 

I am working on a new Advent tradition here, too.  I’m still going to use my matchbox calendar, but this year I think I’m going to print little messages to put into the boxes.  The messages will herald what activity we will do for that day: a special meal, a service project, a handcraft. 

If you’re feeling like you need a little Christmas, too, and you plan on heading over to do some shopping for Christmas gifts this weekend, you can click on the link below before going to Amazon and we will earn a commission!  It only takes a moment to click through.  We are so grateful to all of the people who clicked through the last couple of years.

Happiness

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton

©Nissa GadboisA maple wood bowl filled with sweet fern and acorns.
 
 

I used to believe that happiness was a matter of intensity.  I craved stimulation of all the senses, all the time.  I needed to feel life in order to be sure I was alive.

Over the last year, I’ve had more stimulation of the senses than I could ever have dreamed.  We all have.  That constant onslaught makes you tender and sore.  It makes you crave quietude.  And it often makes happiness feel elusive.  We forgot how to be happy in the storm that is trauma.  Trauma is evil.  Trauma steals all good things.  It is hell.

And then Brian and I had a talk at a restaurant dinner table recently… 

We were working through strategies for bringing back an abundance of peace and joy, hope and love into our home.  I think we both started out thinking that we had to plan an elaborate distraction – a weekend away in a totally new environment with new adventures.  But in the end, it was the small things that we decided would make the most difference – order and rhythm would restore balance and harmony. 

The gentle, orderly rhythm that is provided by our prayer life and homeschool studies, the flow of the liturgical seasons, the joy of marking holidays and holy days with simple, joyful celebrations.  That is what heals the soul, what brings happiness back to the hearth, what dispels darkness.

Martinmas

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin
Rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow,
He rode so boldly through the storm
His great cloak kept him well and warm

By the roadside, by the roadside, by the roadside
A poor man arose,
Out of the snow in tattered clothes
He said please help me with my plight
Or I shall die of cold tonight

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin
Stopped his horse and drew
His sword and cut his cloak in two
One half to the beggar man he gave
And by this deed a life did save

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin
Rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow,
He rode so boldly through the storm
His great cloak kept him well and warm – Traditional

©Nissa Gadbois
 
©Nissa Gadbois

Father, by his life and death Martin of Tours offered you worship and praise. Renew in your hearts the power of your love, so that neither death nor life may separate us from you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.  Amen.

I wanted to wait until this evening to post this since the lanterns look so much better in the dark.  May you respond to the grace of generosity and grow in holiness!

Icon of the World

“If geography is prose, maps are iconography.” Lennart Meri
 

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

It has been a light week here since we finished our main lesson block on Tuesday.  So today, Louis and Sophie made up a game to play with the United States map.  It’s rather like that game you play with a group of dots where each player takes a turn making a line between two dots and the one who closes the box claims it.  Louis won this time ’round.

And then Louis spent some time tracing rivers and highways.  We talked some about our friend Fran who walked the entire length of Route 20 from Albany (Oregon) to Boston in 2012.

Then the older kids worked together to locate both state and national capitals.  And then made the map of the world look like a nice game of Global Thermonuclear Warfare.  It was at once amusing and slightly unsettling.  The winner for the longest range missile is Tonga, which managed to reach Japan going round the long way.

Geography was my favourite subject growing up and I’m extremely gratified that my own children are having so much fun with it, too.

In case you’re curious, our pretty maps are from National Geographic, and our frames are from Michael’s.  The latter are wood with a plastic sheet to protect the maps.  We just use regular dry erase markers.

Pieces of Our Hearts

Today is one year.  One year since we walked into that orphanage in a tiny Bulgarian village and our world changed forever.

For many families, the day that they arrive at the orphanage (or foster home) to pick up their child(ren) is a happy day to be celebrated every year.  But when you adopt an older child – a much older child – it’s a day that is bittersweet to commemorate.  It is the day on which they are rescued.  It is the beginning of a new life, a second chance.  It is a full ride to the School of Love.

But it costs them everything. 

It is the day on which they’ve lost all that they know.  Everything.  It is devastating.  They have lost their language and culture, they’ve lost all of their friends, they’ve lost familiar surroundings, and any adult they had come to trust.  They’ve lost the possibility of being reunited with their birth family.  No matter what we are to our children, how much we love them, how hard we try to keep language and culture alive, we are not replacements for those people and things they’ve lost.  They are being saved from a life they (please, God) will never truly understand.  But they won’t know that until they are grown, until they are themselves parents.  Perhaps they will never fully appreciate what they have lost and gained.

It takes a great measure of bravery for these kids to keep their heads up and move on into a new life about which they know nothing.  It takes enormous strength to leave behind little pieces of their hearts and give the rest to someone new.  Some kids, particularly much older ones, can never give the rest of their hearts to their new families.  They cling desperately to the remains.  They don’t know that this act of preservation isn’t saving them at all.  They slowly die inside.  Only they can choose whether to love or not.  Some never choose love.
 ©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

And us? 
We left pieces of our hearts behind in Bulgaria, too.  One child in particular became very special to us throughout the process of adopting Nick and Olivia.  We left the orphanage that day knowing that we might never meet again this side of Heaven.  And we loved each other well.  We smiled and we laughed, we hugged and we kissed.  We held hands.  And we wept.  We sobbed as we tore pieces of our hearts off and handed them to each other.  And it remains one of the most enduring and precious memories I have. 

©Nissa Gadbois
This day is a day to be treasured always for so many reasons. 

For the work that God has done through us.
For the children we rescued.
For the love they’ve brought into our lives.
For their resilience, and their bravery.
For the strength we have gained through the difficulties.
For the wisdom and courage to follow our hearts.
For the desire to keep on helping those left behind.
For a daughter who is ever present in our hearts, if not in our arms.

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