Don’t you know you have 4 legs?! Reflections on who we truly are

Well not you specifically of course! But you might be surprised how many times I have said this to our dog, Max, over the years we have had him. Whenever Max gets muddy we try to wipe at least his paws down before letting him back into the house. 1. He is a white dog so the mud really stands out and 2. the kids track in enough, I don’t need extra muddy footprints to wipe up. Nearly every time I have to clean him off he tries to escape around the 3rd leg. This leads me to inevitably complain, “Don’t you know you have 4 legs?! Stand still!”

I was sharing this with Ben a few weeks ago. I said something to the effect of: “You would think that even Max should be able to understand something so integral and basic to his identity. He has 4 legs. Period. Even if he can’t count per say, shouldn’t he at least be able to recognize that not all of his legs got cleaned off yet.”

As I was complaining, a light bulb went off in my head. We are just like Max. Not in that we actually have 4 legs (wouldn’t that be awkward), but that there are realities so basic and fundamental to our existence which we fail to grasp. We are made in the image of God. We have God’s life in us, grace freely given to us at our baptism. We have the opportunity to become living tabernacles, hold Jesus within us and letting His goodness, mercy and love shine through us. But so often we get caught up in the day to day, the sin, the temptation, the hustle, the bustle, the good times and the not so good times. We, or at least I for sure, lose touch with who I really truly am – a daughter of God.

Today is the first day of the new Church year, the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is a unique moment in the year where we are preparing for the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus, the most incredible and abundantly generous gift of our loving God, is truly God and truly man. St. Irenaeus teaches:

“For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God”

Advent is our opportunity to enter deeply into communion with the Word, with God, so that we might become a son or daughter of God. There are many ways we can enter into communion with God, especially during Advent. We can commit to a daily Mass or weekly Confession. We can carve out time for a Morning Offering or daily Rosary. There are many reflection series, both online and in print, designed specifically for Advent. Advent is an excellent time to explore God’s Word in a more prayerful and intentional way – have you printed out your free Lectio Divina journal yet?

Advent is a time to step back and evaluate who we are in relation to who God is. Who are we, in our most basic and fundamental elements? The Catechism of the Catholic Church professes that we are:

  1. Made in the image of God (355)
  2. Capable of relationship with God (357)
  3. Willed by God into being – both body and soul (362)

This Advent, what are you going to do to help you reconnect with these basic truths about your life? Why are they important? What impact do they have on your life and relationships? And, how will they bring you into deeper communion with God as we await the coming of the Savior?Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Born to Soar: Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life

As many of you know I have been trying to stay more organized with a pen and paper planner. So far, so good! Not only am I more organized and peaceful about my schedule, I am finding it is easier to remember things I want to write about (because now I have a single place to write them down!) Discovering the benefits of journaling seemed to be the next logical step in the “pen and paper journey.” As luck would have it, the opportunity to review a book that is part scripture reflection, part monarch butterfly life cycle, and part journal landed in my inbox that same week!

Melissa Overmyer’s Born to Soar is a unique book that integrates so many ideas but in a new and creative way. She bases the structure of the 6 week study (this can be read individually or in a group setting) around the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Jumping from each stage – egg, caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly – Overmyer takes the reader, or perhaps I should say the participant or reflector, on a spiritual journey that starts with how God made us and travels through the Eucharistic as spiritual food, cocooning with God, and the practicing and strengthening our virtues. The reflections take on their fullest potential in the final chapter/week where Overmyer explores the ways we, as joyful, fed and transformed people are called to spread God’s love with intensity each and every day. 

This book truly embodies the oft-mentioned phrase “You get out what you put in.” If you want to hunker down and really commit to 6 weeks of daily prayer and reflection Born to Soar would be a great choice for you. Each week has not only an opening reflection that is linked to one of the stages of monarch development, it also has excerpts from John of the Cross’ poetry for added spiritual wisdom. There are journaling questions that can be done individually and then, when desired, discussed in a group study. Finally, each day of the week has a daily Scripture verse and journaling prompt. There is ample space to journal which I appreciated. 

Born to Soar brings a fresh take to long standing desire for many people. How do I make time for God? How can I incorporate more Scripture, journaling or reflecting into my day? This book not only provides the text, it is itself a journal which you can come back to time and again to see how you are maturing toward your imago state, the place of fullness of being, in the presence of God. 

Worth the Making

For me, holiday season means baking season. I know we aren’t quite there yet but this weekend I made a big batch of sugar cookies for Halloween. I didn’t decorate them like I normally would have which makes me a little sad, but we truthfully don’t have the counter space or storage space for such an endeavor. Just making the cookies themselves took me 3 days. The kids helped make the dough on Friday and then I spent 2 days baking them.

Normally, it doesn’t take 2 days, just a few hours. But when you are living in a space that isn’t your own and you don’t have your regular tools and pans, things can get a little tricky. Like in this example, where the largest “cookie sheet” I have isn’t actually a cookie sheet but a 9X13-ish cake pan. The most cookies I got on that thing was 9 at a time and that was pretty squished. This recipe made nearly 60 cookies (I know, I should have halved the recipe, I usually do. I blame pregnancy on that particular decision-making moment).

As I was going through this baking marathon, before I had decided not to decorate them, I found myself wondering if it was all worth it. I mean yes, these cookies are good, but they aren’t the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Yes, they can look super cute when they are decorated well, but to truly decorate them well would have taken at least another 2-3 days depending on how long naptime was. To really go all out with these cookies is a multi-day extravaganza that usually leaves me with cramped hands, sore feet and no tupperware left.

For what? Someone to walk in and eat 2 cookies in under 2 minutes. Days of work for a brief moment of enjoyment. Surely it would be easier to go to H.E.B. (Texas’ version of Kroger/Jewel/Raley’s) and buy a box of cookies. Why pour my soul into something so fleeting?

I believe that we do these kinds of things because of the way we were created. God didn’t make us up or imagine us, He gave us life as a reflection of His very self. God poured His breath into Adam while fully knowing that this firstborn of creation would choose disobedience over obedience. God creates us still knowing that now, because of original sin, our lives on earth are but sparks in the night, there for a moment and then extinguished.

We are capable of reflecting God in all things, even in our creativity. Think of someone who is passionate about gardening. They work their soil, preparing it for seeds year after year, constantly trying to improve its nutrients and suitableness. They weed, they prune, they cultivate. They marvel at each flower and enjoy the fruits of their labor. They do all this, knowing full well that these plants that they have loved into existence will die come winter.

Or consider the people who have booths at your local craft fair or fall festival. These people have worked all summer, some all year, long to bring you their merchandise. The hours spent deciding on paint color, harvesting the right kind of wood, repeating the same pattern over and over, was done out of love for their craft. Of course, the financial compensation is also a motivating factor, but for many items these crafters are making pennies on the dollar when you consider an hourly wage and the cost of the materials. Their passion is both a testament to their creativity but also a reflection of the creative God who made them.

Naked pumpkin sugar cookies from the post "Worth the Making" on Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
Naked pumpkin sugar cookies. Copyright Kate Taliaferro 2016

So yes, the cookies are worth it. Even if this time they are naked =)Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com