Forgive my tardiness. I had originally planned to post this Giveaway on Friday, but Uncle Billy's funeral went longer than I had anticipated.
However, here it is!
I'm excited to announce that I'll be giving away four different crucifixes, each a beautiful bit or art.
First up is this amazing Stations of the Cross crucifix. The little boxes each depict a different station. It's small enough to really use as a prayer tool, but it's obviously great to hang on the wall, too.
I just found the size perfect to keep by my bedside for personal prayer. It's like having the Stations of the Cross in my parish church right in the palm of my hand!
So for Lent, I thought this was a very fitting prize for those looking to deepen their understanding of (and appreciation for) Christ's Passion.
It's just magnificent.
Next in line is a dream for those devotees of Divine Mercy. St. Faustina joins Christ as Divine Mercy onto this wood cross. The "shine" you see is the reflective gold paint the artist used to create a border and accents.
Three doting cherubs look down in wonder at the gift of Divine Mercy while St. Faustina is consistently at prayer for all of her "poor souls."
This is the largest crucifix in the giveaway, standing at 12" high, this would be great as an entryway crucifix. It is bold, different, and a great reminder that Christ's death, though terrible, was, in fact, a gift of Divine Mercy. He died not to condemn, but to reconcile.
Again, sorry for the glare. I was taking these images with an iPhone, so not all of them came out as nicely as I'd hoped.
Anyway, this is a truly beautiful crucifix. It's called an "Archangels Crucifix" because of the presence of St. Gabriel (holding the lillies to signify purity and truth), St. Raphael (holding a staff to represent healing) and St. Michael at the foot of the cross defeating the serpent. At the top, these three archangels lead the "host of angels" behind them in prayer and contemplation of the Triune Sacrifice a the center of the cross.
This colorful cross is about 6" high and is STUNNING.
Finally, we have this little guy.
This is a small cross depicting the Trinity in all their infamous iconic appearances. Each branch of the cross contains a different variation on well-known iconography of the Most Holy Trinity.
I love this because of the way it forces folks to remember that we didn't just sacrifice Christ on Calvary. The sacrifice was a TRIUNE sacrifice. God the Father and the Holy Spirit took just as much an active role in this mercy as Jesus. This beautiful cross depicts their loving, united relationship so wonderfully.
Even at only 3.5" it packs a powerful punch!
Okay, so now that you've seen these beauties, directions on how to enter are below!
Good luck and again... may your Lent continue to be blessed!
I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of Walking With Jesus to Calvary: Stations of the Cross for Children. I got it in the mail early this year and have been waiting for Lent to roll around given the nature of the book.
Here we are!
The book is written by Angela M. Burrin and illustrated by Maria Cristina Lo Cascio. Truthfully, the illustrations are what drew me in to the story. Colorful, fluid and expressive, they told the story of the Stations in beautiful detail.
The writing ended up surprising me. At first, I was very put off by the "lengthy" paragraphs. Truthfully, I think this is because my expectation was that I'd be able to read it to Vincent. This book is not meant for toddlers. It's meant for older children - at least 1st grade and up. Once I made peace with that, I found the narrative grew on me.
I especially love how Burrin pays close attention to the Blessed Mother throughout the stations. Never is she far from her Son. She, too, is an active participant in His Passion, and Burrin does a wonderful job keeping this in focus for us. There are some passages that solicited heart-wrenching sadness for her. For this fact alone, this book has become my favorite Stations book for children.
Now for the content:
There is a brief Forward that explains what the Stations of the Cross are and why we keep this form of prayer alive. There is also a page explaining how to pray the stations, offering suggestions for first-timers (It's okay to choose one or two Stations at a time and really focus on them. You don't have to pray them all at once!).
There is no Table of Contents (I assume with 14 stations, it's hard to get lost). However, given the Stations are listed where the Table of Contents usually go, I'm not sure why they opted to leave out page numbers. That could be helpful to veterans who are looking to focus on one or two for a specific prayer intention.
Just before the Stations begin, Burrin wisely decided to explain a little about Holy Thursday, and how Jesus came to be in Pilate's courtyard. Thus, with the kiss of Judas Iscariot, we begin our journey with the Stations.
At each Station, Biblical quotes are interlaced with imagination as Burrin tells the story of Jesus' Passion in a child-friendly manner. At the end of each Station, there is a small reflection / prayer kids can offer that brings that footstep of Christ in sync with their own. One, in particular, calls out to the Holy Spirit. I loved that, because normally the reflection prayers tend to focus solely on Jesus.
Of course, each Station is beautifully illustrated by Lo Casio. Some of the images have left me staring at them for many minutes before I realize I've lost myself in their mysteries. I mean, just look at these two examples. I apologize, I snapped them with my phone, but even through the grainy iPhone shutter, the powerful emotions pours through:
Oh, that last one of Our Lady cradling Jesus - it is perfect. The tree in the background is barren and lifeless (which is poignant given how lively the background trees were in previous Stations). The atmosphere is grey, foggy and ominous. Joseph of Arimethea is hunched over them like an old bough weighed down by weather, protective. Mary's mantle is unfurled to encompass Jesus' Body... an exaggerated drawing, but similar to Michelangelo's Pieta. The effect is a brutal, gut-wrenching beauty - a mother cradling Her Baby Boy one last time as the entire world mourns with her.
Can you guess where I keep catching myself getting lost?
Finally, the Stations end with the Resurrection (since not all books contain a 15th!). Burrin includes Mary Magdalene's joyous meeting of her Resurrected Savior, which I always appreciate.
This book then gifts you a few surprise pages that I think are incredible resources for school-aged children.
The first is a 2 page spread on Prayer Intentions. After all, when you pray the Stations, you should have some intentions in mind, right? This useful list suggests everything from family and friends to doctors, politicians and the souls in Purgatory. I LOVED this, and I thought it was very wise to add this section.
Finally, there was a four-page spread of traditional prayers used while praying the Stations of the Cross. These pages, just as the Stations, themselves, are beautiful illustrated. These latter pages reminded me of those gorgeous illuminated manuscripts monks would create as they copied the Bible over and over and over again.
Verdict: This hard-cover book is a winner, all 45 pages of it. I am so glad The Word Among Us Press sent it my way for review.
As a thanks, I'll be giving one away to one of you fine readers! Enter via Rafflecopter below.
When I showed up for the photo shoot, I was nervous and felt really, REALLY silly.
I mean, who goes and gets pictures taken of herself all "glammed" up?
Turns out I do.
When I walked up to the counter, I didn't know what to expect. The two women inside were beauty people. Nice hair, flawless makeup and cute outfits. Read: intimidating.
Really. That's intimidating to a person like me. You're lucky if you can find me in jeans anymore. I'm a pajama bottom girl. And cute tops? Please. Toss me one of John's old T-shirts and I'm good to go.
Such is the glamours style of Gina. *Grin*
And I'm not even wearing glasses in these. I try really hard not to get photographed in my glasses. I hate the way I look. Annnnd, proof of the glasses and general frumpiness:
So when I say I'm not glamorous, I really REALLY mean that. Even for my own wedding, I wore glasses, did nothing special with my hair, and had a whisper of makeup.
Me and girly stuff just... I just don't know what to do with it.
Imagine my wonder, then, when stylist, Ashley, effortlessly made me look glamorous. I instantly felt at ease with her. I could tell she'd dealt with my type before, because she sorta laughed off my fears that she might have a tough time getting my hair to do anything fun. After years of boring, my hair knows its place, and its place is in a crinkled bun-thing at the nape of my neck.
Not with Ashley, though. She expertly maneuvered my locks around a curling iron. A CURLING IRON, people! Do you know how many stylists have complained about how healthy my hair is? No one could ever get curls to stick because my hair was too soft to hold shape. Ashley didn't even use hairspray.
Which, BTW, I loved. She understood how much care I took with my hair because of donation, so she made sure not to put any sort of product into my hair. Everything you see in the photos was all her. I don't know how she managed it, but she did, and I loved it!
Regarding the makeup, she used an airbrush machine. I've always been curious how they worked, and I was surprised at how quickly foundation went on. It felt like Vincent was blowing into my face after eating a popsicle. The air was cold and a bit soggy if you catch my drift. When I opened my eyes, I looked like a recent victim of Dracula; I was so pale! Ashley had given me fair warning, though, so I wasn't worried.
She quickly layered blush and bronzer to give me color and brushed some eye shadow over my brow while suggesting I should stick with browns to complement my blue eyes. When she attempted to use eyeliner under my eye, she didn't judge my freakish fear of eyeballs and let me line, myself, under her direction.
The entire make-up / hair session went by super fast. Ashley kept the conversation going and didn't think twice about the questions she genuinely seemed interested to know the answers to.
Believe it or not, readers, she asked why John and I only had one child! I was really surprised, but pleasantly so. She reminded me a lot of myself. She can't wait to have children. She couldn't understand why John didn't want more, and I laughed as I tried to explain that society just doesn't value children as much as those of us who do. We view them as fun and rewarding. Society? Hurdles to personal pleasure.
She was just so sweet. I even opened up a bit about Myla. Surprised the heck out of myself. I felt comfortable enough with her in such a short span of time that when she asked if John would accept things should I get pregnant, I told her he would because he did with the little girl I'd miscarried in July.
To think I would have that tentative conversation with a stylist I'd just met. Wonder of wonders! That just goes to show you how amazing she was.
Once the makeup was applied, she told me to get changed into the first outfit. I had brought two vests with me and she helped me pick out the best one to suit the dress I wore with it. How nice was that?
She set me loose in the studio which is, itself, ingeniously designed to save on space and maximize efficiency. One studio had five different "hard" backdrops that you could move through quickly to match a certain style. The next studio had "soft" backdrops that could quickly be unfurled for a change in scenery. There were plenty of props tucked away into every corner that could be pulled and used if the photographer thought it would add to the shot.
Over all, I was really impressed with the set up. Moreso, though, I was impressed by the professionalism and warmth that exuded from the staff. Everyone was genuinely sweet and helpful. They shower you with a thousand compliments because, frankly, they do good work. Each time I was told how beautiful I looked, I shot a nod towards Ashley whose fault it was I looked so flawless.
The photos, themselves, were great. All of the things Ashley had me do ("drop your shoulder, drop your shoulder, always drop your shoulder!") looked natural. That, in itself, is a miracle, because I kept laughing at myself being placed in what felt like super unnatural poses.
Put my arms up? Scoot my butt against the wall? Raise my chin?
My favorite was when she said, "C'mon. Let's try a sexy pose."
I actually laughed. Hard. Miss I-Wear-PJs-and-Old-Tees doesn't do "sexy."
She said, "No, you can do it. It's all in the eyes."
Within a few clicks of me staring up into her camera while trying to keep my hands placed exactly where she'd put them, she nodded to herself and said, "Yes. That's a good one."
I remember thinking Oh, good. She caught me between blinks that time.
Turns out she actually captured the most beautiful photo I'd ever - EVER - seen of myself. I wouldn't call it sexy, because again - I don't believe I can ever pull of "sexy." But I did look beautiful, and I gasped when I saw myself.
When I saw this after the photo shoot was over, I was so taken aback I almost couldn't speak for a quick second. That's not me. She looks nothing like me. She's wearing my wedding rings, she has my blue eyes, and she's even wearing my clothes, but that woman is not me!
And yet she is. She's the woman I sometimes forget I am at 3 in the afternoon as I'm trudging through payables. She's the woman who is hidden under the peanut butter kisses I'm given on the weekends. She's the woman I hope my husband still sees hiding under his favorite wrestling shirt.
I never put much stock into what I look like. Looks aren't important to me. However, seeing this reminder of my femininity when I haven't thought about myself past "Mom" in so long... it was startling. Startling and refreshing. I really did gain a confidence boost, and I didn't even think I needed one.
Ever since seeing myself through her lens, I've made a conscious effort to pay more attention to my feminine side. I haven't started donning makeup or curling my hair, mind you, but I have distanced myself somewhat from the harsher tones of "being one of the guys" and began embracing the soft and gentle ways indicative of women.
So to all you fabulous ladies out there - I do think you owe yourselves this experience at least once in your lives. See yourself through the lens of another... someone who can expertly see who you are and capture it on film. At Glamour Shots, it seems like they've got the process down perfectly. I had so much fun, and this experience really did gently shift my vision of who I am and who I want to be. I appreciate so much more the gift of being a woman.
Thanks, Ashley... and the whole Glamour Shots team.
This is a franchise, so I'm assuming you guys can find Groupons near you! Do it, and then link back here to share with the rest of us!
I was there for about three hours.
Yes, their prices are expensive, but given the amount of work they put into it, I don't mind (especially since they put such great deals up on Groupon!).
They do have a sales pitch at the end, but again, I went in fully expecting that. They weren't pushy, but they definitely know exactly how to make you want to walk out handing over your life savings. :)
They do everything from maternity and family portraits to school and modeling shots. They also do boudoir (which is what my Groupon stated), but obviously you don't have to show up with lingerie to take advantage of their offer.
(Yes, I just blushed while writing that.)
Yes, I do plan to go back. I also purchased a Groupon for family portraits through them and can't wait to see how the family pictures turn out. They did such a great job with me, I can only imagine how they'll capture Vincent and John!
If you have any other questions I missed, feel free to leave 'em below (or message me). :)
I was looking for a new book for Vincent the other day when I came across Press Here by Herve Tullet on sale at Walmart. It was listed as a NYT bestseller.
A kids' book?
Color me curious.
So I picked it up and paged through it. IMMEDIATELY I understood why it was such a hit. This concept is brilliant, and it provides a perfect backdrop to get kids interested and excited about reading.
The concept is simple. Kids are active. They like to learn by play. What better way to learn "reading" than to get them "reading" with their hands?
A little yellow dot is our main character, but the true protagonist is your finger! The text coaxes you in easy language to "press," "shake" and "tilt" the book in various ways. Each time you do so, you see the result of such actions on the next page.
Vincent really thought he was somewhat magic as the dots changed colors, multiplied and moved as the pages flipped by.
For an SPD kid like Vince, this is a PERFECT way to get him to sit still and read through a full story because it allows him to experience tactile sensation as he follows the prompts. I wish I had a video of him screeching, laughing and clapping with joy each and every time we read. Without fail he asks for it at least twice (many times more) and has yet to be bored of it. In fact, he tries to read it on his own now, and I can tell he's picking up some of the words based on repetition. What's not to love?
And the fun doesn't end there. Press Here has become so popular that apps have been created. I downloaded a free one onto the iPad so he can take the fun with him without ripping the pages in an overly enthusiastic turn.
I highly recommend it - especially for children like Vince who can use the extra sensory boost.
It's pricey, but if you can find one used / on sale (like I did), it's worth EVERY.SINGLE.PENNY.
Now I've gotta try to snag a video of Vince reading through it next time. The trailer below fails to capture the pure joy these kids get out of the book. :)
So to break in my brand new Kindle Touch, I purchased a book by Rebecca Springer entitled Within Heaven's Gates. Springer claimed to have visited Heaven during a severe illness and documented her experience through this book, originally entitled Intra Muros or My Dream of Heaven.
Truth be told, her story is amazing. There is an authentic feel to her descriptions, though I was struck by a few curiosities. I'll handle those shortly. First, however, the positives!
Springer has a gift for description. Even when attempting to explain the unfathomable, she takes care to break down lofty images into manageable portions. Though relying heavily on flowery language, it doesn't seem tedious or superfluous. One gets the impression that every page really is a prayer of thanksgiving and awe, beckoning the reader to hope for the possibility that her descriptions are, in fact, what await us upon death. This sincerity of conviction is what makes this book so captivating and comforting.
Next, her understanding of Heaven is truly wonderful. Mansions built by the loving hands of God through each of our loved ones dot the perfect landscape. Holy lakes and rivers that souls truly cleanse and refresh themselves in, the companionship of angelic choirs, the incomprehensible, but much appreciated movement of Divine Will that all creatures happily submit to without hesitation... it is utopia. However, souls aren't all just running around, blissfully aimless. Life, indeed, continues on - preachers still preach (Martin Luther and John Wesley are mentioned), great authors still write, and missionaries still teach others the greater mysteries of Christ. Families joyfully reunite, friends share memories of their "earth lives" and seeming strangers rejoice in the surprising moments on earth that led to their meeting in Heaven.
I admit to, myself, longing to know this place for myself... to see and feel and experience these emotional and spiritual highs with my own loved ones.
Wonderful were her dealings with Jesus. Though she didn't detail much of their conversations, she was specific in her emotional and spiritual reactions to Him. Each time Christ makes Himself present... it's as if even through her words the pages (er, my Kindle?) would light up. Incredible.
Some things I was surprised with, however...
There was no mention of Our Lady. I noticed that almost immediately because I was awaiting this woman's reaction to the Blessed Mother (she is Methodist). Considering how much "time" she spent in Heaven, I figured there'd be a meeting somewhere along the line between her and the Blessed Mother.
There was no mention of guardian angels, either. Sure, angels would crop up now and again during particular passages, but no mention was made of personal guardian angels. Her brother-in-law, Frank, seemed to act as her guardian angel much of the time, but I don't think that was her purpose in explaining him in such a way.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that even from her own writings, a visit by the Blessed Mother may not have been a "reward" her soul was ready to receive at that point. Being a Methodist, her views on the Blessed Mother probably weren't very fleshed out. As a result, it isn't surprising that Mary wouldn't pop into her spiritual journey "so soon upon arrival" when there were other things God may have wanted her to understand first... especially if she were to be tasked with explaining Heaven to those of us still on earth.
As for guardian angels, I really don't know.
Would I recommend this book? I already have. Ha ha. Also, I'll be seeing my mother this weekend, and I'll be sharing it with her Kindle so she's able to read it as well. The views expressed within the pages are very Christian and very much in line with what the Church teaches. Many of the souls in Springer's book do exactly what St. Therese of Lisieux said when she wrote "I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth."
All in all, it was a quick and beautiful read. My heart felt lifted upon completion, and my soul longed more deeply for that which we lost through sin. Any book that can do that gets an A+ from me. :)
So there's a new game in the Facebook world for those interested in the Catholic Faith. It's called Vatican Wars (click the link for details) and challenges gamers to tackle hot-button topics like abortion, the death penalty and homosexuality.
What I find incredibly entertaining is the data compiled through the testing phase (when Vatican Wars was referred to as "Priestville"). Several respondants who played felt that the game had re-established their faith in some way - going to Mass more frequently, feeling the call to the priesthood, etc. So they're pushing forward with the game as a tool for apologetics, I guess? Interesting!
I dunno how I feel about it, though. The point is to debate and better understand Church teaching, I guess, but leaving things open-ended without a proper moderation to the varying understandings of the faithful (who probably never picked up actual teachings of the Church) could lead to widespread confusion.
I like the idea of a Catholic game, but I dunno if I like the idea of this particular format. Plus, allowing the misspellings of words like "Bishop" or "Priest" to denote female players kind of bothers me. I'm not implying, mind you, that women shouldn't play, I'm just again slightly concerned about the confusion that this sort of thing could lead to.
Plus, I note that it's not actually created (or even approved) by anyone even remotely related to the Catholic Church, so methinks this isn't really an attempt to teach so much as make money.
I'm curious to hear from folks who have played this game. Until I open it myself, I'm not going to have a well-informed opinion.
I started playing the game to get a feel for what it's all about. I honestly have no idea how this could help anyone with their faith or wanting to go to Mass. Much like other game apps on Facebook, this is simply a means to an end, and that end is money. Blah - that's a total bummer.
Anyway, the game presents itself much like any other RPG. You choose a side (Templar for conservatives, Crusader for the liberals). From there, you choose your belief system, focusing on five hot button issues - abortion, heterosexual marriage, birth control, women as priests and celibacy for priests.
These issues don't really get "debated" in the debate section. When you debate, much like most RPGs, your basically comparing you're "integrity" and "charisma" to another person's. Whoever has higher numbers "wins" the debate. That doesn't sound like a debate to me in the slightest.
Then we have those lovely "gold" coins with which you can buy your integrity / charisma points. Not very Christian, if you ask me. Ha ha! Anyway, you can also earn these gold coins, but it takes forever and in the end, it's simply not worth it when you realize there are actually folks purchasing (with real money) hundreds of coins so they can continue "winning" debates to move ahead in the game. So for those of us who want to play a game without buying our way to victory, we find ourselves using water guns against anti-aircraft missles. It's just ridiculous.
So no - I don't see how this game could possibly lead to a better understanding of our faith at all. I also don't see how it'd entice folks to attend Mass or do readings on their own. The only plus I can see from this is the blurb section they have on the Saint of the Day. The "readings" they give you don't actually have to be read, so you can play the game without ever asking one question about the faith. That seems silly to me.
Plus, now that it's been opened to the forum of Facebook, anti-Catholics abound with names like "Prince of Darkness" or "1st Gay Pope." So while I'm sure it was a good idea in their minds to create something like this, it's garbage. Don't waste your time.
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