Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Celebrations on the 4th Day of Christmas

The fourth day of Christmas gave me and my family more than one gift to be thankful for.
First, our baby Georg Daniel (Geordan for short) celebrated his first month of life. I was amazed to realize that he's already one month old. I still feel like it was just yesterday when I gave birth to him. Time flies so fast indeed!
Second, our baby has been gaining weight steadily. We had been weighing him every week and so far he has gained weight every week. His biggest weight gain so far was last weekend! He gained 1.6 pounds! Hurray! This was surely an encouraging development for me as I strive to give him the best milk to nourish him.

Third, I was able to breastfeed our baby exclusively in the past month! Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of milk! I thank God for helping me endure the early challenges I experienced. Just like in my previous breastfeeding journeys, I had sore nipples again during the early days. I thank God for the grace and strength to persevere and endure the pain. I survived the crucial first month! Things are better now and I'm happy to see my baby growing bigger as I nourish him with my milk.

I have mentioned previously in one of my blog entries here that Georg Daniel's birth (he was born on November 28) inspired me to move our traditional family outreach to street children from Christmas Day to December 28, which is also the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The brown bags that we make will be like his and Jesus' loot bags and the street kids who will receive them will represent the poor children who were massacred on that same day more than 2,000 years ago.
I involved our two older kids in preparing our loot bags. I asked my husband to look for a photo of the Nativity scene in the internet and to print it in pink paper. I cut the photos and asked our older kids to glue them in front of the brown bags.

I also asked our 3-year-old to help sort/group the food that we will put inside the brown bags. When my eldest child finished sticking the photos in our brown bags, he helped his younger brother in adding the juice to the food that he has grouped/sorted.

I asked our maids to prepare the sandwiches and wrap them in napkins. I punched holes on our brown bags and cut the yarn which will be used to close our brown bags. My husband and older kids placed the food and juice inside the brown bags while one of our maids placed the sandwiches inside after they have finished preparing them. We also added some chocolates and candies inside them. Then, I tied our brown bags with pink and blue yarn.
Then, we all rode our vehicle and drove around the city to look for street kids. On our way out of our village, I prayed in my heart that God would lead us to the street kids who need these brown bags the most. It took us around an hour to distribute our brown bags.
I thank God for this fourth gift: the gift of family bonding over doing an outreach or work of mercy/act of charity towards our homeless, hungry and thirsty brothers and sisters. 
After that, we had some snack before going to Mass in our parish. Incidentally, it was also the Feast of the Holy Family. I thank God that we were able to go to Mass as a family. What perfect way to celebrate this wonderful day!
Our parish priest blessed our family after the Mass then we went to the Nativity Scene in our church and had our family picture taken there.
How is your Christmas celebration coming along? Hope you'd find time to savor the gift of Christmas.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

A child has been born to us, a son has been given to us! (Again!)

He was not part of my plan this year.
But he was part of God's plan for me and my family. 
"For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us." Isaiah 9:6 (NET Bible)

This Word of God first became flesh and blood to me and my husband when I gave birth to our firstborn son more than six years ago. It was an answered prayer, a miracle from God, a promise fulfilled! It came to life for the second time when our second son was born. Another miracle from God! A bonus treat! Then, I got pregnant again! And we found out that we're having another son... Honestly, I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping that God would give us a baby girl this time. But, my disappointment did not last long. Thank God for the grace to remember that this child, this son, is no less a miracle compared to my two older children.

Being the thinker that I am, I asked God why He gave me and my husband another son and why he had to come close to Christmas.
One of God's answers to me was this: so that I would be reminded of His coming during the first Christmas.
Since I gave birth close to Christmas or just a few days before the start of the season of Advent, I could not help but turn my thoughts to Mama Mary's experience when she became pregnant unexpectedly and gave birth in a stable.
I wondered if she was also disappointed that her original plans did not push through, that she had to experience inconveniences (to say the least) because of this unexpected pregnancy ,and that she had to give birth in a stable of all places!
I admit that one of my weaknesses is my need for control on the things that will happen in my life. I love it when things fall into place as I imagined and planned them to happen. And I hate it when things do not turn out as I wanted.
I guess this third pregnancy and the birth of our third child is "very timely" indeed! I say this because I believe that God is giving me more opportunities where I can practice how to let go and let Him be in control.
I wanted to finish two more books this year. I wanted to finish at least one an online training program. I was thinking of going on tour to promote my book on breastfeeding. I wanted to cover as much material as we possibly can in our homeschool. I was excited to plan and prepare for Christmas activities with my family this year since my husband is in the Philippines this year, unlike last year when he was abroad. I was looking forward to attending Simbang Gabi Masses with my husband and kids now that we live in a house near a church. All these plans didn't materialize this year because I had another challenging/difficult pregnancy and I gave birth just before Advent.
God reminded me of this Bible verse through these unfulfilled plans.
"You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:21 (NLT)
I am thankful to God for His abounding grace that helped me overcome my disappointment over the many plans that I had to postpone. I thank God for teaching me to be humble enough not to insist on what I want to achieve or happen this year. I thank God for the grace to trust in God's perfect timing.
As the year quickly draws to a close, I lifted my dreams and plans once more to the Lord this morning. I asked Him to help me fulfill the dreams that He planted in my heart. I asked Him to bless my plans for next year. I claim in faith that "all things work together for the good of all those who love the Lord and those whom He has called to His purpose. " I know in my heart that even though I was not able to work on these dreams this year, they can still be fulfilled if God wills them to be fulfilled. Even with another child to take care of, I know that God can still enable me accomplish these God-sized dreams. It might be more difficult because I would be busier but this could be the testimony that God wants me to share: that nothing is impossible with Him. That when God plants a dream in our hearts, even when our circumstances are not encouraging, God can bring it to pass. We only need to believe and allow Him to supply us with all that we need to accomplish the good that He has called us to do.
Thus, I thank God that a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us again at this time in my life!
Do you also have plans that did not materialize this year? What is God telling you through them? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Preparations for Advent and a New Baby

The moment we got my first ultrasound result, I knew that our Advent and Christmas celebrations would be different this year. My expected delivery date for our third baby was on the last week of November or the first few days of December according to the ultrasound results that we received in the past months. This moved me to prepare early for Advent and Christmas.
So I revisited books that we usually use for our yearly Christmas countdown and I wrapped them in Manila paper, numbered them from 1 to 25, and placed them under the Christmas tree as early as middle of November. This family tradition was top of my mind when I thought of what I needed to prepare early for Advent this year. I also thought that this activity would be something to keep the kids, my eldest son particularly, feel secure amid the changes that will come to our family as we welcome a new addition to our brood.
True enough, our third baby boy came a couple of days before the first Sunday of Advent. In fact, we were invited to light the first Advent candle in our parish church but my husband and I were already in the hospital when he received the message because I was already experiencing the first signs of labor. I hope we would be invited again next year and that next time, we can participate and light the candle with our three boys.
Another family tradition that we have is making our own decorations for Advent and Christmas. Just like in the past, my sons and I made our very own Advent wreath. We traced our hands on green-colored paper. We formed the hand cut outs into a wreath. We also made DIY candles for our wreath. I was able to assemble the parts and set it up a few days before I gave birth.
Another decoration that we made are the angel ornaments in our Christmas tree. We made these as part of our homeschool lesson and Catholic alphabet curriculum (Letter of the Week Activity: A as in Angel). You may read about this craft in detail here.

The third DIY décor that we made as part of our family tradition and homeschool activity is the Bethlehem scene. We actually made two. One is made of popsicle sticks and is now hanging on our Christmas tree. The other one is made from toilet paper tubes. This one is under our Christmas tree right now.
Our second DIY nativity scene, minus St. Joseph.
We are supposed to make him when we get to letter J
in our Letter of the Week Program.
We were still in Letter G when I gave birth. 
Our coming home from the hospital with our new baby, Georg Daniel, was very timely. We said the prayers for the blessing of the Advent wreath and Christmas tree last night as one family. There are now five of us in our family. After the prayers and blessings, we read the first book in our Christmas countdown.  

My eldest son made a welcome home banner for us,
which they taped to our main door. 
We will also celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas this year. Last year, we celebrated it by going to Mass wearing red clothes, by giving a gift to someone and reading a book from our Christmas countdown about St. Nicholas. This year, aside from doing these same things, I plan to put chocolate coins on the kids' shoes. I have already wrapped the gift that the boys will give away. The chocolate coins are also inside our refrigerator already. I also lined up books about Santa Claus to be opened on the days before and after St. Nicholas' feast day aside from the book on St. Nicholas that we will read on December 6.
I also bought gifts already for the boys in advance, wrapped them and placed them under the Christmas tree because I knew that once I give birth to our new baby, I can't go out of the house for quite a while. I wanted to make sure that the boys would get presents on Christmas day.
I needed to consider preparing for the coming of our new baby as I prepared for Advent and Christmas this year. It's quite challenging because that meant preparing early for a number of things. It also meant streamlining my activities and tasks in the months leading to Advent because I needed to spend time on those that are most important to me and my family. Knowing that I would be on maternity leave also moved me to update my maid manual and the daily and weekly work schedule of our maids. (If you want to get a FREE copy of these, click here to sign up.) My friend who is also an ob-gynecologist advised me during my first delivery (6 years ago) to refrain as much as possible from using the stairs during the first month after my delivery. I had been observing this after my past two deliveries. I want to follow her advice again this time especially since I'm older now and I have three kids to consider. Since we now live in a two-storey house, I updated the maid manual and their work schedule so that these tools can guide them while I'm recovering. I do not need to supervise them closely. Plus my husband can use the manual and schedule as reference in supervising and checking the maids.
With all these preparations and more, I thank God for the reminder that the coming of a child, just like the coming of the Christ Child on the very first Christmas, is something that we need to watch out for with joyful anticipation, not dread. God sent me this timely reminder last Sunday through the priest's homily. I was in truth disappointed that I was not able to go to Mass physically last Sunday because I was still in the hospital and there was no Sunday Mass in the chapel of the hospital last Sunday. I am thankful that my husband and I were able to watch the Mass televised through EWTN. The priest's homily was beautiful! What I heard from the priest was something I haven't heard from other priests in the past. I believe that God was telling me that day that even though my Advent and Christmas experience this year would be a lot different from my planned and preferred ways of celebrating these seasons, God wants me to look forward with joyful anticipation for the blessings He has in store for me and my family. I may not be able to go to daily Mass and Simbang Gabi Masses because I'm still recovering from childbirth; but it doesn't mean that I will not be able to encounter Jesus at this time. God assured me that as I take care of myself and of our new baby, He will continue to reveal Himself to me.   

God's gift to us this Christmas!
Meet the latest addition to our family: Georg Daniel!
This is challenging for someone like me who has been devoted to the Holy Eucharist for years (since I was teenager). I've always looked forward to communing with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and to celebrating Advent and Christmas. This devotion is one of the reasons why my husband and I bought a house near a church. But God's plans for me this Advent and Christmas season is different from my plans. I choose to embrace His perfect plan although I'm still wondering how things would fall into place in the coming days and weeks. I'm still wondering how I would survive taking care of three kids now and still live family life joyfully. I guess I just need to remind myself often of what the priest said in his homily last Sunday... That we are invited to watch and welcome the Christ Child just like when we are preparing for the arrival of a new baby -- with hearts filled with excitement and joy. Moreover, we are invited to watch and welcome Christmas in the same way that little children anticipate its coming -- expecting good things to come/happen and expecting to receive beautiful things as gifts.
I pray for a double portion of God's grace this season of Advent and Christmas to experience Jesus in the ordinariness and challenges of taking care of a new born baby and two older children. May God reveal to me in the coming days His purpose for blessing us with a new baby at this time.
If you need more suggestions and inspirations on how to celebrate Christmas meaningfully, I invite you to check out these previous posts of mine:
As for me and my family, we will be having a birthday cake again for Jesus on Christmas eve/day. We will also give away brown bags/loot bags for the Birthday Boy's favorites (the poor: street kids). But instead of doing it exactly on Christmas day (like we used to do), we will do this on December 28. I got this inspiration during the Mass last Sunday. I think it's very timely because it's one way to honor the memory of the innocent children who died that day. On top of that, our newborn baby would be celebrating his first month that day. Sharing the little that we have to the poor around us would be a good way to express our thanksgiving to God for the blessings we received in the past year, most especially our baby Georg Daniel.
How are you preparing for the Christ Child this Advent? Feel free to share by leaving a comment. Have a blessed Advent and Christmas season to you and your family!