Saturday, May 31, 2008

Special Announcement

A Maiden's Wreath

A few months ago, Clare at A Maiden's Wreath graciously invited me to join as a contributor. I'm excited to say that I've put up my first introductory post there, including a bit of background on why I'm thrilled to be a part of that blog! You can check it out here. God-willing, I'll be posting there somewhat regularly with thoughts, encouragement, and advice specific to Catholic young ladies. I hope you'll bring over a cup of tea and join us!

I'm Back!

The 2008 ILCHC last weekend was simply saturated with graces! Sarah and I had two major projects going in the week leading up to the Conference: a new story-coloring/activity book for young boys offered through the Rosa Mystica Modesty Movement, and the workshop we gave together at the conference, titled "The Fruits of Homeschooling: A Graduate's Perspective". (If by chance you should be interested in hearing our talk, it can be ordered on CD here).

What a week it was! A week of many near-sleepless nights as we worked through them together, eating midnight snacks and laughing at our own excessive punchiness. At 2am (or 3, or 4am), nearly anything can drive me to laughter! I would have never been able to finish on my own — the joy and fellowship of sisterhood really comes through at a time like this! We'd chuckle because when one of us started to get really weary, the other would say "no, let's push through!", and by about ten minutes later, it was usually reversed. :)

Going on a few very short hours of sleep each night put my body into such a state of know, where you start to mix up hungry and tired? I kept reaching for chocolate because I hoped the caffeine would help! It was only grace that pulled me through the weekend... usually I am an 8-hours-per-night person, or I just can't function very well. Our Lord's goodness kept me going last week on less than half that. There were times that Sarah and I looked at each other's glazed-over eyes and said to each other: "You know, if we weren't doing this for Christ, we'd have quit a long, long time ago." Yes, it was hard, but also so rewarding... and there are a whole lot of dear memories. I've no doubt that we'll be telling each other's children about it someday. :)

Needless to say, I have been more than a little exhausted this week. It all caught up to me rather abruptly yesterday when I came down with a fever, sore throat, and a whammy of a sinus headache. The hardest part of being sick for me is that I simply don't have time to be sick. I'll lay there thinking, "Lord, You know how many things I needed to get done today!", but He's clearly telling me that my agenda got replaced with His: prayer and suffering, and some "down" time. Thankfully, I'm on the mend today, although I've gone through no end of tissues!

I usually don't like to dedicate such a long post to a personal update, but these few weeks were exceptionally full, and blessed. Despite the exhaustion, and the illness, God is good. All the time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Around the Corner...

May 23-24, 2008
University of St. Francis, Joliet

Since my mom is coordinating this conference, the Little Flowers Troupe is performing, my resources will be in the vendor hall, and my sister Sarah and I are giving a workshop ("The Fruits of Homeschooling: A Graduate's Perspective"), I will be more than occupied the next few weeks. In fact, if you think of it I could really use some prayer warriors' intercession because what I need to accomplish in the next two weeks is not humanly possible... that means only by the grace of God and the power of prayer will I be ready. That also means that I must leave any and all blogging till after this event is over!

Of course, I can't leave without plugging the conference — especially if you live in IL or the greater midwest! Visit our conference website to see all of its wonderful offerings... including terrific keynotes, wide selection of workshops, Conference Mass with Fr. Pablo Straub, and entertainment by the Little Flowers Catholic Dance and Theatre Troupe.

May the grace and peace of Christ be with you all! Adieu for now!

Through the Week in Feminine Dress: Day 7

My skirt today was found just this week on a thrift store trip. It's a Coldwater Creek "Gypsy" skirt that I found still with its brand-new tags! I got it for $8, and since the skirts on Coldwater Creek's website range from $50-$150, that's a pretty good find. :)

The embellishments are so fun and pretty! We had an all-day dance practice today, and this skirt's flow and fullness — not too much, but not too little — was perfect.

I'm wearing my Little Flowers t-shirt, which has this wonderful quote of St. Therese's on the front...

...And our group name and logo on the back. You can't see the red oval very well, but it has our theme: "Modesty, Beauty, and Joy". I continued the theme of roses with what I like to call my "pro-life" necklace:

Thank you to all who've followed and commented this week. It's been enjoyable for me to participate in this! Gentlemen, I hope I've been able to offer some encouragement that femininity is still alive. Ladies, I hope I've been able to offer some tips and inspiration... the goal of highlighting through our dress the femininity and modesty of the heart should be one that we hold onto and share!

~ ~ ~

"Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity---a reality of God's design and God's making, His gift to me and to every woman---and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself."

-Elisabeth Elliot (The Essence of Femininity)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Through the Week in Feminine Dress: Day 6

Today's outfit was a bit more active and casual: my a-line tensil/denim skirt, a pink cotton stop with stitched accents, and my vivid pink summery vest, almost peasant-style. It was rather chilly today, so my pastel pink fleece jacket completed my wardrobe. I was quite comfortable doing all kinds of running around in this outfit today — including an early-morning jog and enjoying a family game of volleyball in the yard tonight!

My Eucharistic medal... I wore it yesterday, too, because May 8 is my double Sacramental anniversary: 20 years since my baptism and 14 since my First Holy Communion!

Oh, and thanks to Veronica for these photos! :)

Through the Week in Feminine Dress: Day 5

Yesterday was our Suzuki String group concert. I'm a teacher, Sarah's a helper, and Veronica and David are students.

I accented my concert black outfit — a long linen skirt and a chiffon top with ties at the neck —with a ribbon sash to add a touch of spring color. The sleeves are my favorite part of this top! However, being chiffon with lace inserts makes it it very sheer. Worn alone or even with a tank top camisole underneath, the sheer lace up the sleeves can still be somewhat glaring (and distracting, according to the Modesty Survey). :)

So... I just wear a solid long-sleeve stretch shirt underneath, which both makes a lining for the chiffon and fills in the sheer lace on the sleeves. Voila!

My shoes are actually a pair of character dance shoes that I like so well, I use them for formalwear. :)

My jeweled cross...

Oh, and if anyone's wondering if I wore this all day, I didn't. :) Before I changed for the evening concert, I actually wore the same outfit as on Friday (the denim and pink).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

His Vessel

The Master was searching for a vessel to use;
On the shelf there were many — which one would He choose?

"Take me!", cried the gold one: "I'm shiny and bright,
I'm of great value and I do things just right.

My beauty and luster will outshine the rest
And for someone like you, Master,
gold would be best!"

The Master passed on with no word at all;
He looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall.

"I'll serve you, dear Master,
I'll pour out your wine
And I'll be at your table whenever you dine,
My lines are so graceful, my carvings so true,
And my silver will always compliment you."

Unheeding, the Master passed on
to the brass...
It was wide mouthed and shallow,
and polished like glass.

"Here! Here!" cried the vessel,
"I know I will do.
Place me on your table for all men to view."

"Look at me!"
called the goblet of crystal so clear.
"My transparency shows my contents so dear,
Though fragile am I,
I will serve you with pride,
And I'm sure I'll be happy
in your home to abide."

The Master came next to a vessel of wood,
Polished and carved, it solidly stood.

"You may use me, dear Master",
the wooden bowl said.
"But I'd rather you used me for fruit,
not for bread!"

Then the Master looked down at a vessel of clay,
Empty and broken it helplessly lay.
No hope had the vessel that the master might choose,
To cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.

"Ah! This is the vessel I've been hoping to find...
I will mend and use it and make it all mine.
I need not the vessel with pride of itself,
Nor the one who is narrow to sit on the shelf,
Nor the one who is big mouthed and shallow and loud,
Nor one who displays his contents so proud;
Nor the one who thinks he can do all things just right,
But this plain earthly vessel filled with my power and might."

Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay,
Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day.
Spoke to it kindly: "There's work you must do.
Just pour out to others as I pour into you."

~ ~ ~

My heart is often consoled to remember that our Lord does not call the qualified —
He qualifies the called!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Through the Week in Feminine Dress: Day 4

Today's outfit was another complete thrift-store ensemble. I always say that I'm not accustomed to paying more than $7 for a single article of clothing! :) This skirt is deep green but has lots of different colors in its print, so the possibilites for matching a top are numerous. Today I'm wearing my vivid blue three-quarter sleeve blouse accompanied by a woven brown leather belt. As Clare at Romance and the Roses mentioned, a belt can add such definition and character to an outfit! In the book Dressing with Dignity, author Colleen Hammond talks about tastefully defining the curves of our feminine figure. We we speak of modest attire, a gunny-sack wardbrobe is not at all what we're talking about. :) Mrs. Hammond points out how our Blessed Mother always appears in a beautiful flowing robe with a sash or belt about her waist. An interesting point, I think!

As you may have noticed, I wear a lot of blue. :) I also love pink...perhaps some will show up later this week. Vivid colors (rather than earthy hues) seem to fit my skin tone better.

I felt very Narnian taking this picture! :) It rained this morning, so I wore my long wine-violet jacket to Mass. The tree behind me is our lovely flowering pear... my only disappointment in it is that it doesn't bloom very long.

My cross — a Christmas gift last year from one of my Religious Ed students. It's very pretty and dainty. Underneath my blouse I have a lightweight white cotton tank top with a row of eyelet lace and a touch of ribbon sewn along the collar. Yesterday I mentioned using brooches to fix a neckline — this is another great way!

Photo credit goes to my lovely sister, Sarah. :) Thank you, my dear!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Through the Week in Feminine Dress: Day 3

Another beautiful Spring day! In recent months, I've taken to checking each night as I prepare for bed, and laying out my clothes for the next day. It really helps me because I may not always be thinking so creatively in the morning! :) Perhaps it sounds silly, but I find myself more easily focused on morning prayers and exercises when I've predetermined what I'm to put on when they are finished. :)

Today I wore my flowered linen skirt found at Wal-Mart about four Springs ago (they had a bunch of nice things that year!). It's still in great condition. I love, love, love the ruffle (I am absolutely a ruffles kind of girl...they send me into exclamations). The design of a lightly gathered back and drawstring front is one of my favorite.

My blouse is a button-down white cotton with small white embroidered flowers throughout. Again, a thrift store find and one of my "staple" spring/summer pieces! Three-quarter-length sleeves are my favorite — they are so versatile in many kinds of weather.

I'm barefoot again...I did wear my closed-toe brown leather sandals when I went out today, but as soon as I get home they're off. :)

I wore my hair up in what is actually a fast do for me, but one which I am often asked how long it takes! I think it must look more complicated than it is...the mini claw clips are what make it a breeze. With the thickness of my hair, keeping this up with bobby pins alone would take a gazillion of them.

I enjoy brooches, but one of the biggest reasons I wear them less than necklaces is that I'm reluctant to put away my crosses and holy medals! :) Today I took a bow-shaped brooch that has a pearl "dangling" piece from the center and did something I've done before on occasion: detached the pearly dangle and in its place, put a medal of my choice! Today, I chose Our Lady of Guadalupe. I'm always good when Mom is with me. :)

A tip... a brooch is a terrific way to dress up and/or fix a blouse neckline. Especially those that they sell now that tend to be missing a top button or two! The pin takes their place with competence and a good deal more style, and takes care of too much peeking skin. (Those few buttons missing can make for a real teaser).

Thank you all for your kind words about yesterday's outfit. This is so much fun!

Where is your heart?

I had to share this powerful quote I just came across from St. John of Avila (not to be confused with St. John of the Cross — actually, John of Avila was spiritual director to John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila).

"Withdraw your heart from the world before God takes your body from it."
- St. John of Avila

Through the Week in Feminine Dress: Days 1 and 2

I've seen these in the past and always thought it was such a lovely idea — to post daily photos of going through the week in pretty and practical feminine attire! Contrary to common thought, semi-dressy is both possible and comfortable on a daily basis. :)

So, when I saw a few days ago at A Joyful Handmaiden that a group of ladies are doing their "Spring 2008" week, I decided to join in. I know this works on different levels for different ladies — some decide to do it to try wearing skirts daily for a week, and some just decide to share a peek at how they regularly dress. For me, it's the latter. Either way, I think this can be a blessing and encouragement! I'll do my best to keep up in between the many goings on of this week!

I wasn't able to take any photos on Sunday, but I wore a pastel-sort-of-green skirt with a gentle print of swirly lavender and white flowers, coupled with the clearanced $9.99 white eyelet jacket I found at Sears a while back. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we celebrated First Holy Communion at the parish where I'm DRE. Later in the afternoon I changed into a work skirt and t-shirt since we were catching up on housework, but they're not worth describing. :)

Yesterday (Day 2), I wore one of my favorite solid skirts — a dark navy rayon (I think) that I love for its comfort and versatility. It's one of my many valuable Unique Thrift Store finds. :) It has six gores, a side zipper, and is smooth in front and elasticized in back, making it the perfect fullness. While I enjoy pretty shoes, I also love going barefoot, and will whenever possible when the weather is as lovely as it is now. :)

My top is a sheer white polyester with shimmery knots down the front as buttons (also a thrift store find). It would be unthinkable to wear it alone, but I simply layer a white cotton short sleeve shirt underneath and voila! — comfortable, springy, and lightweight.

The only item of my outfit not found at a thrift store is my scarf — it was actually a gift from a friend who is a pilot in Europe. For many years, he would bring home scarves from various places for my sisters and me. I think this one is silk and is from Italy! I love how a scarf can add character to an outfit.

I especially enjoy wearing jewelry that proclaims my Catholicism...
such as my large miraculous medal.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee

I wore my hair in a simple braid, with a few rhinestone barrettes to clip back the top. Of course, a braid means matching a satin ribbon to my ensemble. :)

Since we had a dance practice yesterday, I wore white cotton eyelet capris underneath my skirt instead of a slip/petticoat. I actually found these last Spring at Wal-Mart — in the pajama section! They make perfect bloomers. Any activity can be done in a skirt with a comfy pair of capris or bloomers underneath! :)

If any of my readers are participating in the week of feminine dress, do let me know!
Blessings on this lovely Spring day!