January 12, 2018

When the Spirit has something to say

You guys, this post contains affiliate links. Ye be warned.

As a writer for Blessed Is She I am given my devotion assignments two at a time. So in November I was given my December and January dates and I sat down to begin my work. I prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, read the Mass readings for my December date, and prayed through them again, listening for the Lord to speak. There were two parts of the Gospel that stood out to me and I didn't know which to write on - the need for friends or Jesus' question, "Why are you thinking such things in your heart?" I decided to set it aside and move on to January's readings. And when I got there it was the same Gospel.

So in December I wrote about the need for "people who will believe so hard and love so big that they will break down walls for you." (You can read the rest of that one here.)

And for today I wrote about what I learned when Jesus asked me, "Why are you thinking such things in your heart?" (You can read that one here.)

So how 'bout that?

And in other Blessed Is She news, the Lent Journal is available now. It's called She Who Believed and is written by Laura Kelly Fanucci, the same author of the Advent Journal. She is such a powerful writer and this book promises to be just as beautiful and the Advent Journal was.

In Laura's words, She Who Believed, "dives into the stories of women in Scripture to learn what they teach us about prayer." Each week the book looks at four women - two from the Old Testament and two from the New - and challenges us to grow our prayer life while deepening our knowledge of Scripture. Flipping through my copy I am really impressed with what lies ahead and I invite you to get a copy yourself.  The book will discuss how real women wrestled with God while helping us prepare for Easter.

As usual, there is a limited number of Lenten journals and they *will* sell out. Once they are all sold an e-version will be available. Also, if you have a Blessed Is She Membership yours will be auto-shipped to you! To purchase a copy of She Who Believed or even the Catholic Journaling Bible please go here. God bless, sisters.

January 1, 2018

Starting Right Here: A Happy New Year

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Lyrics from JJ Heller's This Year

It's negative one outside with a windchill of negative 17. I'm wearing my slipper boots and cardi and drinking warm tea with honey cause baby, it's cold outside! And this post may be a heavy dose of navel gazing but my fingers want to type and I want to write this out and so I hope you don't mind sitting with me through this.

(Here's hoping my kids will play by themselves long enough to let me do it!)

Thirteen months ago started a really, really rough time for me. Sickness, death, grief, hard parenting, open heart surgery for L, and major surgery for me. Months and months of hard but I remember holding my sweet newborn while recovering from my second c-section and thinking to myself, "It's all done. We're through the thick of it." And especially as the school year started and a routine was established I saw us all thrive and I felt like it was really true. In my prayer I felt this
 p e a c e  like an exhale and I repeatedly had this image of a clearing in the woods. The woods, dense and dark and scary, were behind me and in the distance there were more woods, though not has thick or scary. But I was standing in an open field with tall green grass and sweet flowers.

In September I attended the Blessed Is She writers' retreat and there the fabulous Beth Davis was praying over me. She said, "Bonnie, I don't know if this will mean anything to you but I just see this huge field of wildflowers for you" and BAM: ugly cry. There it was from someone else - the same Holy Spirit showing the same promise for me to both of us. I will readily admit, I was overwhelmingly relieved.

It was at that same retreat, though, that Travis called me to let me know that he was at the emergency room because he was experiencing loss of balance, numbness, and other signs of a stroke. The ER doctor thought it was actually his body reacting to stress and exhaustion (football season + seven kids + hard work around home) and I wasn't scared. Because that field of wildflowers was as good as Noah's rainbow.

I came home from the retreat and there were more tests for Travis. Our family doctor suspected that Travis had MS which was showing itself because of exhaustion and stress but I held out hope. In the end all the neurological issues went away with allergy medicine and sleep. Seriously. And the words from Isaiah rang so true in my heart, "God indeed is my Savior. I am confident and unafraid."

Halloween and Thanksgiving and Advent came and went. Our family was healthy and happy with the kids growing and learning and things going well. A clearing in the woods, filled with thriving wildflowers.

And as the New Year approached people started talking about adopting a saint and a word of the year. I've never done the word of the year thing before because, well, I thought it was weird, but as the conversations began I remembered that St. John Paul the Great was the saint appointed to me by Jennifer Fulwiler's saint generator last year. Back then I thought, "Oh yeah! He's great! What wonderful, evangilistic things will come my way?" but now I see that he probably wanted to walk with me through all that suffering and I had, for the most part, forgotten about him. Stupid me.

But this year I am paying attention. I have this feeling that God is calling me to do beautiful work for Him in the hidden, quiet, normal of my home and daily life as wife and mom. St. Cecilia was the saint given to me this year and I think she wants to show me how to live so that my heart is always glorifying God.

And this year I decided to try the whole word of the year thing and as I prayed about it, at home and Mass and adoration, I kept coming back to the word "be." It isn't flashy, in fact it seems to reinforce the hidden and quiet that I already mentioned. And then (!) the word that was randomly chosen for me from Jen's word of the year generator was BLOSSOM. It's different than thrive, you know, which seems to have to do with *doing* whereas blossom seems to be about *being.* Just do what you do, be who you are meant to be and you will blossom... in a a field of wildflowers... in a clearing in the woods.

There is a peace in heart and a hope in my Lord and I know that whatever happens God is good.

You can find your saint here.
Have a word of the year picked here.

December 15, 2017

I want you to know...


I want to be as transparent as possible and so I've got a bit of an update for you.

 As you probably already know, I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon .com and affiliated sites. In order to be sure that I am in compliance I had to change a few links on my blog and social media accounts. You may notice a bit more links in my blog posts (when they happen) because of this.

However, I also signed up for the Amazon Influencer program. This basically means I have my own page on Amazon, where I can share my favorite things with you. (As a girl who watched Oprah throughout middle and high school this delights me.) I'm really excited about this because it is fairly common for me to get questions about books, gifts, toys, and other products our family uses. This way I can keep a running list for you and hopefully it will serve as a great resource. I plan to keep some items always there and some I will change with the seasons. I add comments to them all, too, so you'll know why I'm suggesting them!

So right now my Amazon Page has some of our favorite holiday books and movies along with (and this is an affiliate link ->) the Wet Brush because every woman, girl, and long-haired man should have a Wet Brush.

You can always find my Amazon Page in the sidebar and I will also share it on Facebook and Instagram. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please let me know!

Thank you so much for reading, understanding, and being awesome. Happy shopping, folks!

November 20, 2017

Advent Care Package Giveaway

CONGRATS to Reagan and Madeleine! Thanks to everyone who entered and have a very happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!

In 2014 I had an idea: wouldn't it be fun to give away a care package? Something filled with a variety of items that will help a woman feel cozy and ready for Advent, that will cross items off her Christmas shopping list, that will take a few things off her plate? And so I teamed up with vendors, authors, and crafters and together we did just that. And ... it was a lot of fun!

In 2015 I had a baby and that was enough, but last year I hosted the Advent Care Package Giveaway again. Once more I teamed up with superb artisans, movers, and shakers and I was so proud to showcase their work and bless two women with packages filled with an abundance of beautiful, fun items.

This year, I decided to Oprah it up and reach out to vendors who make and sell my favorite things. I am thrilled to be teaming up with the likes of Marzipantz, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Curio, Chews Life, Lily Joy Designs, Just Love Prints, January in June, Emmaus Road, Sancta Bovina, Rose Harrington Art, The Keen Bean Shop, Whole Parenting Goods, and more.

The value of this giveaway is $700!* That means that each winner will receive a Care Package worth $350!

I am so, so grateful to all the vendors and crafters who donated items. People are so generous and so I hope that you thank them by showing them some love. Follow their social media accounts, favorite their Etsy shops, share their work and shop names with friends, and best of all: purchase from them, either now or in the future.

 Directions to enter and all the fine print are at the bottom. Now check out all the goods!

Catholic Curio
St. Nicholas Cookie Cutter: $7
Etsy Shop

Chews Life
Mama Necklace: $24
Follow on Instagram
Shop Website

Emmaus Road
St. Nicholas peg doll: $15
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Fitz Knitz
Stocking Cap with Pompom: $15
Etsy Shop

January in June
Embroidered Christmas Ornaments: $12 each
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Just Love Prints
Sacred Heart with Mother Teresa print: $16
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: 15% off your order of $25 or more with code AKNOTTEDLIFE. Expires December 30, 2017.

Lily Joy Designs
Wooden Wall Rosary: $62
Decade Rosary: $25
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: ADVENT15 for 15% through December 1st.

Lula Roe with Megan Stevenart
Leggings: $25
Shop the Roe going out of business sale page
40% off everything - no coupon needed through November 30th.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Doll: $65
Our Lady of Guadalupe inspired mini Flower Crown: $10

Follow on Instagram
Follow on Facebook
Etsy Shop
Coupon: AKLTEN for 10% off any order through December 10th

Middle West Knitting Co
Pixie Bonnet: $20
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Polka Dot Bowlevard
Reindeer Bow: $12
Glory to the Newborn King Bow: $10
Christmas Red, Green, & Navy: $10
Etsy Shop

Rose Harrington Art
The Time of Advent is a Time of Hope Print: $18
Pause in Silence to Understand a Presence: $18
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Sancta Bovina
Love Like Mary Mug: $17.50
Follow on Instagram
Shop & Website

Sleightholm Folk Art
Santa Lucia Print: $18
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Tea With Tolkien
Sweatshirt: $48
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

The Keen Bean Shop
Hey Nunnie Nunnie Mushies: $15
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Usborne Books from Michelle Mosbach
Christmas Activity Book: $10
Nativity Sticker Book: $7
Shop Michelle's Page

Whole Parenting Goods
Linen Dress with Cotton Lace Detailing: $60
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: BONNIE for 15% off

P l u s !
I wanted to add a lot of little extras because a lot of the time it's the little things that can fill the gaps, right? So here's a few more of my favorite things. All of these items were purchased by me for you!

Blessed Is She Advent Journal: $25
Blessed Is She Shop ( that's my affiliate link)

Stocking Stuffers & Hygge Helpers: $30
candles, peppermint tea, Christmas-y notecards, new pen, window clings, candy canes, St. Nick chocolate coins, homemade chocolate chip cookies

Rules and fine print:
One winner will be drawn from the blog and one from Instagram. To enter on the blog you must leave a comment below - tell me your favorite version of O Come O Come Emmanuel or which item you're most excited to win or just say Hi but be sure you give me your email address. Your email will only be used to contact you if you are the winner and entries without email addresses will be disqualified. To enter on Instagram you must go to the main Advent Care Package Giveaway post (here) and follow the directions there. This contest is in no way affiliated with Instagram.

The giveaway ends Wednesday, November 22nd at 5pm CST. The two winners will be announced here, on Instagram, and on the A Knotted Life Facebook page. The blog winner will be contacted via email and the Instagram winner will be contacted via an Instagram Direct Message. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with their mailing address. If I do not have a response in 24 hours a new winner will be drawn. Open to US residents only - sorry international friends.

Good luck and have fun!

October 30, 2017

A Peek at Our Hallowtide

Happy Hallowtide! I love this time of year and I love celebrating the next three days. Here's a bit of a photo dump along with some of our plans. 

We have been pre-gaming for awhile, eating lots of popcorn mixed with candy corn, building fires in the fireplace, listening to my Halloween playlist, watching The Great Pumpkin, and more. 

Like decorating,

and carving jack o'lanterns

and fluffing the scarecrow after kids sit on its lap. And they always seem to sit on its lap while adults are always the ones who are startled by it.

Over the weekend the whole family went to a local park for a "Not So Scary" event so you get to see the kids in their costumes before the neighborhood. Lucky you. 
L and Ben's costumes go together and if you can figure them out then you're the best. Do you want a clue? Okay: Raggedy Man. 

It's a family tradition to have chili for dinner on Halloween, this year with cute little pumpkin biscuits on the side. After trick-or-treating we'll probably have popcorn and hot chocolate.

On All Saints Day the family will attend the All School Mass, where JF and all the first graders will dress as saints. It's the sweetest thing ever. They process in with Father and once Mass is done they each stand in front and give a little bio on the saint they are representing. Can you guess who JF will be?

Since the day is a Solemnity we'll be having a family favorite (and slightly labor intensive to make) meal for dinner: sweet and sour chicken. It has nothing to do with the theme except that everyone loves it. Dessert will be Halloween candy. :)

Last year I gathered all our saint peg dolls and lined them up on the buffet aka family altar but this year they're being loaned out to my friend Katie. We'll gather holy cards for this spot instead and pray a litany of family saints at bed time. 

In case you're in charge of your child's All Saints' Day snack here's a little something I made up last year. Each baggie had this little rhyme typed up and slipped inside. 

All Saints have symbols to help us connect: 
Animals for Francis, firewood for Bernadette. 
Green for St. Patrick, Yellow for Mary's Heavenly Crown.
Royal Purple for King Wenceslas, Food for St. Isidore who farmed the ground.
Tomorrow we'll pray for all the poor souls. 
Today we'll celebrate Saints who reached Heaven's goals.

animals = Teddy Grahams
firewood = pretzel sticks
green, yellow, and purple = Skittles
food = Motts fruit snacks
poor souls = marshmallows with faces made from edible markers

I have no idea if it helped the kids or not, but I sure thought it was cute. ;)

The Feast of All Souls is a busy day for our family, but an important one. In between parent teacher conferences and all the regular busyness of a school night we will be attending our parish's Mass of Remembrance. I want to take some time to remember and pray for our grandparents who have passed, along with all the souls in Purgatory. We may work through these little booklets my friend Katie made, too.

So that's our upcoming week! Tell me your plans!

October 23, 2017

Ways to Pray - Sign Up for the Online Study

UPDATE: All nine spots have been filled and registration is now closed. Thanks!

I have been wanting to do the Blessed Is She "Ways to Pray" study from the Blessed Conversations series. And I thought it would be fun if I did it with you!

"Ways to Pray" is a three part study, based on the Catechism and written by the lovely and wise Rose Coleman. It covers vocal, meditative, and contemplative prayer and I'm hoping it will help me launch more fully into Advent and clear my head a bit after an incredibly busy back to school season.

The online study will be hosted by me and held on Google Hangouts. Space is limited so please only sign up if you are sure you can commit to all three sessions: November 2, 9, and 16 at 8:30 pm Central Time. The nine spots will be filled on a first come, first serve basis and I'll email you to set things up once registration is closed.

If you want to sign up, please go here.
If you want to buy your downloadable copy of the study, please go here. (You can wait for confirmation that you're in the study group first if you want. PS - That's my affiliate link.)

PS: In case you didn't hear there are a few awesome items in the Blessed Is She shop including the Advent Journal, 2018 Planner, Selah daily prayer journal, and the brand-spanking-new journaling Bible, which is available for pre-order now and will be in your hands this January! You can check out any of the items and buy them through my affiliate link here. Happy shopping and thank you!

September 10, 2017

Meet Sweet MJ

Three months and three days ago I announced that I was pregnant. Three months and two days ago today I gave birth to a baby girl. Allow me to introduce to you

Miriam Joan
8lbs 6oz
21" long

delivered via planned c-section at 39 weeks. 
She is named for our Blessed Mother, Miriam being a form of the name Mary, and Moses' sister who led the Israelites in songs of praise after crossing the Red Sea. She is also named for St. Joan of Arc and Travis' dear Grandma Joan.

Miriam's life was another unexpected gift from God. I must tell you that as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test I smiled. It was the biggest, dopiest grin. I was a bundle of nerves and wondered what Travis would think and feel but I quickly told the baby, "I love you," and hoped to God that she would be a girl. 

All through that autumn day I would send Travis a text or tell him something and end every sentence in my head with "I'm pregnant." I was afraid he might be worried or upset so I was incredibly nervous to tell him.

"Please pick up some buns on the way home. (I'm pregnant.)"

"How was work today? (I'm pregnant.)"

"Can you have the kids set the table? (I'm pregnant.)"

And finally, after dinner but before bedtime, when the kids were playing outside in the cool evening I said to him, "I'm pregnant." 

He laughed.

I thought he might have thought he heard me say "I'm pregnant" when really he just knew I said something else so I said it again. "I'm pregnant. I took the test this morning and I'm pregnant." I was shaking and laughing from nervousness but he smiled at me from his spot on the sofa and said, "This is good news."

And it really, really was. 

I laughed and cried and felt such relief and joy. And I hoped she'd be a girl.

The first trimester brought bi-weekly progesterone injections. We never bought alcohol wipes but used vodka to sanitize my hip and I watched highlight videos from the Graham Norton Show while Travis did the injections.  It wasn't my favorite thing - okay, I was super nervous because those needles are huge and the whole process takes awhile - but of course I would do it a million times over for my baby.

On Christmas morning we finally told the kids and our families. After morning Mass my grandpa, uncle, and parents came over. We feasted on bacon and cinnamon rolls and then opened gifts. The last present to be opened was Thomas' - a "Little Brother" onesie with 'little' crossed out and "Big" written above it. L was ecstatic. Ben was worried about having another kid to destroy his things. The others were too busy with their toys. But my mom was thrilled and she too laughed. When we saw Travis' family later that day they too were all hugs, smiles, and congratulations.

We never said anything online, though there were many times I wanted to, but we opted from the very beginning to only tell friends and family who would be happy for us. With Tee's pregnancy there was a lot of hurtful things said to us and we didn't want anyone to ruin the pregnancy for us, to steal our joy. In fact, this is the only picture I took of my bump - a super bad selfie in my bedroom mirror just hours before she was born - because I was otherwise trying to hide the pregnancy in photos.

 But I've learned something in the meantime: by not telling people we still let those meanies steal our joy. I'm sad that I wasn't able to share my daughter's life with people from the very beginning. I'm sad that we have been so hurt by comments and opinions that we let those jerks control our lives. Our daughter is a precious gift from God and I am sad that I didn't get to proudly share the good news of our great gift from the very beginning.

Miriam's pregnancy was tough and not necessarily because of the pregnancy but because my life was crazy. Sickness, my grandpa's death, Travis' grandpa's death, hard times with the IEP, and then learning that L had two congenital heart defects and needed open heart surgery - remember? - it was a lot. 

In the three months that she's been here things have been so good. It feels like we are finally out the thick of things, our life has calmed down and we are happy. She is the sweetest babe - a girl!!! and with red hair to boot!!! I love that I have a little ginger baby and I hope her hair stays its sweet strawberry blonde coloring and her eyes remain their pretty shade of blue. 

I'll write her birth story later - she's just woken from a nap - but here's the birth announcement three months late. Miriam Joan, whom we call MJ, was born. Thanks be to God from Whom all blessings flow.