Advent: First Sunday

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The theme and, I suppose the objective also, of Advent is waiting in joyful hope. This is often the titles of books marketed to Catholics for their Advent reading. And that is really what it is. Becoming Catholic taught me that the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day, and the season of Advent is a special time in its own right. Last year, I was given a set of four candles for my Advent wreath and this year I have coupled those candles with my daily reflection book, my daily readings, and beginning on Tuesday, the Novena of the Immaculate Conception. However, this Advent, while I am in joyful hope and I am waiting for the birth of Christ, I am also struggling with parts of my faith and parts of my life.

I’ve spent this entire month writing for Nanowrimo, just stream of consciousing my way through my book about my travels to Wales, and I’ve made great progress. I am very pleased. I have almost reached the 50,000 word goal and I anticipate that I will complete it before the 30th.

Nanowrimo Kick-Off at the Library.
(c)2022

My personal update on the Home page explained my accident, and I believe I am in the must get worse before it gets better stage of recovery. My ankle is much better, and I am driving a little, but not far, staying in our small town when I am able. My husband has been doing everything. While I can cook, I can’t do any lifting and standing for a long period of time is difficult. Thanksgiving actually was the least stressful I have ever had. I gave a lot of directions and stirred one dish and added marshmallows to another on my own, but I had to rely on everyone else to do the heavy lifting. There were hardly any of the usual arguments, we put the turkey in the oven around 10:30am, and then everyone was free until about 4:30 when the sides would need to be prepared. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

I was even able to go to church for Thanksgiving mass. I wasn’t sure how it would go; it’s been just over a year since we lost our priest, and while our new priest is a joy, I do not like change. I wondered if we’d keep the traditions that we’ve had, that I’ve gotten used to over the last few years, and I was happy to see that most traditions held.

Our church gives all the parishioners a loaf of bread and a short prayer for our Thanksgiving table. It is one of the things I love about our church – those seemingly little things that are so personal.

Right before Thanksgiving, my husband was driving my daughter home from work when they were rear-ended. Hard. No one was hurt, PBTG, but because of the holiday we won’t know about the car until tomorrow or Tuesday. It needed to be towed from the accident. This is a struggle, and a sadness, and it is hard to get past the awfulness of possibly losing the car, something that was so important to our family. Of course, we are so relieved and grateful that no one was hurt, and it was only materials that may be lost.

Last weekend, I returned from my annual retreat. The theme was Change. And I have gone through so many changes, and many more continue to happen, whether I like it or not. I had to laugh when I found out the theme. I discovered it soon after my first reconciliation with our new priest, and after giving him the litany of things that are bothering me, and frustrating me, he commented, “Boy, you’re going through a lot of changes.” Yes. Yes, I am! In addition to the new priest, my therapist is retiring (soon!) among other things.

And I shouldn’t forget the good changes. I taught for the first time in a long time. This was for adults and it was a writing class. Next semester, I’m teaching two, so that is both exciting and terrifying. This one went well (I think), and I hope the next ones go as well and better (crosses fingers). As with all teachers, I spent more than I made, but such is the life of the classroom. I’ll hope to downsize my affinity (obsession) with handouts and maybe lower my overhead.

I’m hoping that with this Advent, I can slow down. I can focus. I can focus on my faith, and also on how I’m approaching the things in my life. It is a good time to reevaluate and reassess and wonder about the changes that will inevitably be coming, whether I like it or not.

Through it all, I’m trying to keep my perspective and my faith. This is the first day of the Advent journey which will ultimately end with the Birth of Christ. But of course, that is only the beginning, isn’t it?

Some photos that I wanted to share: The first two are works-in-progress sketches on I did on my retreat from things that I saw around me in the dining and the conference rooms. The third photo is the statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward outside the library where the Nanowrimo Kick-Off was held on November 1st. I was also there when they dedicated the statue. I love history.

Statue of Harriet Tubman and William Seward.
(c)2022

Inspire. December.

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What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In some things I am struggling, but I still find that inspiration is all around. I see labyrinths everywhere, and I’m beginning to find words to accompany them. I search for new ones to walk and to pray on, and each one is as different as the clouds in the sky.

Labyrinth. (c)2021

I am devoted to Mary, and I think on all of the knots I’m called to untie, many of which I cannot do without her intercession. Last week was the feast of her Immaculate Conception, a special day in my parish of the same name, and each Monday I recite the Joyous Mysteries with my Cursillo family.

Mary, Untier of Knots. Tiny Saints. (c)2021

I have also completed a book series that I long to write about and share with you. It was not only entertaining, I have decided on a Halloween costume (already!) and it has inspired a few ideas of where to approach my book on my journey through Wales (although that particular title is already taken – *shakes fist at Gerald of Wales*). I have lists to make for my book, and having finished the series, I have already began it again. I read the first five books in 2018 so they were not fresh in my mind. I was able to be surprised by some twists and turns that I had forgotten, and I will continue the rest in the new year. Fear not, I will share my thoughts on Amelia Peabody and her adventures in the coming weeks, if not days.


In the meantime, enjoy the waiting of Advent, the lights of Chanukah, and the promise of the New Year, and eat all the foods of all the holidays.

Waiting in Joyful Hope with Michelle Frankl-Donnay

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As we come to the last Sunday of Advent, I have finally decided to recommend an Advent book. The book itself begins with Advent but continues with daily readings throughout the Christmas season. What I have really come to share with you is the author, Michelle Frankl-Donnay.

I have been reading her reflections for a few years now, and she is by far my favorite person to read their reflections. They are a wonderful blend of spirituality and real life with the enormity of the universe for perspective. Professor Frankl-Donnay teaches chemistry at Bryn Mawr College and her science background gives an entire feeling with the mixing of the scientific and religious. Whenever I am reading her books durng the holiday seasons, I am wonderfully surprised at my reactions and how much I get emotionally from her reflections.

In addition to the current book, Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2020-2021, she can also be found at her blog:

Michelle Frankl-Donnay

Quantum Theology

Twitter

Inspire. December.

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There are many ways to inspire this month. It starts somewhat in darkness as the nights get longer and the days shorter, but my birthday was last week, so there were birthday candles. Advent began a few days before that and the church has their advent wreath with two of the four candles lit now. In two days is the first night of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, and it also marks the anniversary of my mother’s death when I will light a Yartzeit candle for her, and then of course, Christmas two weeks after that.

There are many ways to bring light into our lives in this darkest season in what seems to be a very dark year. It may be that the older we get, the more we notice that our childhood heroes keep dying. I remember my mother making comment on that many years ago when she was in her fifties. I am noticing it now, but I don’t know if it’s my age or the year that 2020 has been.

In some ways, the year has stood still, or at least it’s seemed like that with how slowly it’s passing by, and it seems that every week is a new loss: Childhood heroes like Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters, Chuck Yeager, Little Richard, actors that I enjoyed watching on my own and with my mother: Stan Kirsch, Kirk Douglas, Fred Willard, Phyllis George, James Lipton, Orson Bean, and Olivia de Havilland to name but a few.

And those that really hit me hard, whose deaths I still carry with me in some way or form: Jerry Stiller, Grant Imahara, Tomie de Paola, Chadwick Boseman, John Lewis, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and so many others including a dear friend who died just last week.

And yet, we continue on, as we do.

I am attending a three week Advent program on Zoom that includes music, prayer, reflection, journaling, and breakout groups. It is affording me the time, the facilitator calls it the gift of time, the ability to sit still, in quiet, and reflect. Contemplate.

And so I will pass that on to you right now.

Take fifteen minutes. Set a timer if you need to, and just stop. You can come back to this post after the fifteen minutes are finished, but take the time and sit with yourself (and with G-d if you like, but you don’t have to).

– – Fifteen minutes of quiet – –

Did you light a candle? Listen to music? Pray? Think? Draw or color?

This morning, I did all of these things and I was inspired, even just a little, to finish this post.

Some things that inspired me this week:

“Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.”

— Grace Coddington
Advent Wreath art. (c)2020
Stained Glass Window. Immaculate Conception, Mary. (c)2020
The light shining on the Advent Wreath. (c)2020

December – Holiday Season – Reflection

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​December always comes raring in. Thanksgiving is over, our families have left, we’re still feeling a little full. The air is crisp, and snow can be smelled on the horizon. December first comes on suddenly amidst end of year projects and parties, holiday shopping and decorating, lists and more lists, oh, and Christmas cards. In that first week is my birthday, Chanukah (this year), the letter with the schedules from church, some sort of special day at school that I’ve already forgotten about, but need to buy something for, and in this year, two birthday parties for my daughter to attend and seeing Aquaman a week earlier (tonight, in fact.)

It’s not my least favorite month, but it’s probably one of the busiest, and I think I may have finally learned not to overschedule myself, although I do have many extra medical appointments before 2019 comes and resets my deductible. But the good news is I get one more hour of therapy (at no cost) and my mammogram and colonoscopy both came back all good, which I’m thankful for.

My birthday adventure began with mass and breakfast and then I took myself to the movies: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, and then dinner and cake with my family. They don’t like when I say this, but I like when my birthday falls on a weekday when they’re all at school or work. It gives me some private celebratory time that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Some years I’ve gone to a upscale shopping plaza, twice I’ve gone to the movies, although usually I go to Starbucks to relax and write and then go ornament shopping for myself at Target. I think this was the first birthday in recent memory that I didn’t find myself at Target. I also get to do all of this while not rushing around like a chicken without a head, and I’m still home by the time the kids get home from school.

I also had two retreats, one letting go of clutter workshop, and one Cursillo group meeting. All of these set me back on a calming, spiritual path. Sometimes we all need that reminder, and the Advent reflections are perfect for that reset. Unlike Lent, the focus is on waiting and anticipating as opposed to the penitential aspect of Lent. Advent feels refreshing and uplifting; a new start, like the beginning of the new year, only weeks away on the calendar, but already having begun for the Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic liturgical calendars. The Cursillo group is new to me. After having been introduced to the idea and the local people (called cursillistas), I am very much looking forward to next fall when I will undertake my own weekend and join with the group. It had been mentioned to me last year, and when I looked into it a bit more I realized that it is exactly what my inner being is looking for. The local group is lovely and they’ve welcomed me to their monthly get-together, so I can start some of the prayerful parts.

Our tree is up, although no lights and no ornaments. I don’t mind the half finished way our decorating looks this weekend. Our house is always cluttered, and it’s gotten a little worse this month, but when the tree is half done and the ornaments are still in the box, and the lights are strewn around the tree, but not on, it makes the normal clutter look like decorating clutter, and it gives us a pass. At least in my head it does.

This year is also a little confusing. It’s the first year that my son will be living on his own, and will need to come visit for the holidays, so I’m not sure how decorating and celebrating will go. I’m trying to be open about schedules, but it’sw hard with the other family members who have been doing things the same way for the last twelve years (for my husband since his childhood since we’ve adapted most of his family traditions into our family). Last year, my son was working three jobs, and since he’s in public service (first responder) and is required to work the holidays with extended shifts, we moved everything up one day. We celebrated Christmas Eve the day before and on Christmas Eve we had our traditional Christmas dinner and opened our presents. By Christmas Day, we were not sure what we were supposed to do. We still had a wonderful holiday, and I have no doubts we will again this year because we’re working around the most important factors – our family time together.

I had a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share, but I think I’ll save them for next week’s post, and simply leave this one of the Blessed Mother. She has become one of my go-go patrons. She comforts and uplifts me.

Gold colored Christmas ornament of Mary the Blessed Mother. (c)2018


Have a blessed holiday, whichever ones you celebrate, and remember to take a few moments each day to reflect on where you are and where you are looking forward to going.

An Advent Reflection

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​Last year I was all gung-ho about Advent. I think it may have been the first time I had a real understanding of what it was all about. Coming from secular Christmas to religious Christmas took me from the Santa countdown to the more solemn, restfulness of Advent. Or is it restlessness? Having the excitement build without the harriedness of worrying about presents or stockings or dinner was a true revelation. All of that will manage to happen regardless. The realization that Christmas could be had without the crazy or at least with a lot of the crazy at bey was eye-opening and very satisfying.

This year however is, I don’t know how to describe it. I’m not ambivalent and i’m looking forward to the next few weeks of anticipation. I have a wonderful devotional book written by an acquaintance, and three days in, she’s expressing what I’m feeling, but there’s something missing. Is it because my house is a mess? Is it the constant noise of the kids? The never ending “what’s for dinner”, the ‘are we there yet’ of the weekday.1

I wake up each day unsure of what i want from the day. If I don’t attend the 9am mass for whatever reason, I typically don’t do morning prayers. It feels odd to me. I don’t know why that is. It may have more to do with how I’m perceived in my house.l Could I just simply go downstairs each morning, light one of my scented candles, hold a talisman or my rosary and give myself over to G-d? It feels foreign. It sounds so simple and yet in my mind it feels impossible. 

I’d be interrupted. I’d be questioned. Not in a terrible, judgmental way, but starting something new is the impossibility. Seemingly.

Climbing Mt. Everest is impossible.

Running a four minute mile is impossible.

Eating one Lay’s potato chip is impossible.

Spending a few moments in G-d’s presence shouldn’t be.

I could try it out tomorrow, couldn’t I?

Instead of beginning my day with Facebook and Instagram, emails and Twitter as I usually do, instead of bemoaning the state of affairs of this country, perhaps I could pad downstairs, boil some water for a cup of tea, light a candle and read the two minute devotional. When that’s complete, I can read the day’s Scripture readings. Then just sit for a time. Finish up with the rosary.

I think that sounds like a plan. Maybe that’s all I needed – a plan.

I tend to be self-defeatist. It’s too late to start. I started late so what’s the point? Advent is only four days in (at this writing). There are still eighteen days to go. That’s more than four-fifths of the season.

As you read this, today’s Scriptures are:

Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 85, and Luke 5:17-26.

A few thoughts I had on them as they came upon me:

bloom, joyful song, strengthen, make firm. Be strong, fear not. no beast of prey. “They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”

– – –

kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace shall kiss.

– – –

lowered the man on the stretcher – where there’s a will, there’s a way. “we have seen incredible things today.”

– – – 

Don’t we see incredible things every day? Or is just that we’re hyper-aware during Advent?

Is it possible that when we’re told to slow down, we have a knee-jerk reaction and start a new to-do list?

We are our own worst enemy.

We can be self-sacrificing, but we are also so easily self-sabotaging. My personal foible is the television and the clutter. The television can be my therapy, one of my coping tools, but it also keeps me from writing. I get stuck in a vortex of television as meditation. My son clutters my office, and when I see it, instead of simply moving it where he’ll see it and take care of it, I’ll leave it for him and then do nothing productive because I’m being bombarded with the clutter.

Perhaps, if I can be hyper-aware about the incredible things, i can be hyper-aware of these things, and ignore my base instinct of can’t, and just do.

Even just sitting in the presence, eyeing the flickering light of the candle, feeling the warmth of the tea on my palms through the porcelain, hearing yesterday’s choir during mass in my head, anticipating the coming of Jesus, and remembering what he has personally brought to my own life.

It is a short Advent, but it’s not too late to start something positive. It is never too late for that.

(c)2017

49/52 – December

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​December used to be cold and miserable. Snow and wind, sleet and hail. And as the climate changed so did December. I never worked on my birthday. From college on, no classes, no work. One birthday I went on a job interview and for a drug test. I almost got into a head on collision. That should have been a sign.

I usually take the day to myself, have a Starbucks breakfast, go shopping, stop by into Target and get one or two Christmas ornaments, a Moose, a Mary, something for someone, maybe even write.

This year, it’s Sunday, so I’ll stay home with the family, quietly, although…

Supermoon?

Mercury in retrograde? Is that good or bad?

Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s approaching quickly; too quickly.

But it’s still early in December, still time to enjoy the quiet before the last minute rush, before school recesses, holiday parties, last minute wrapping.

The quiet of the house is a reminder that quiet can be found throughout December. Light a candle, read a book, say a prayer. Have a cup of tea. Every day is an opportunity to slow down and look past the noise and see what’s really important.

Day two of Advent calls. Editing Nano calls. The kids call.

But I think I’ll light a candle and drink this tea.

And…slow…down.

Advent Reflection – Dec. 8 and Dec. 9

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What role does music play in your faith life? What role does Mary have in your Christian discipleship?

From Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Birhsop Robert F. Morneau


Music plays such a profound role in the church I attend, both the physical parish and the church of my heart. We are blessed with a beautiful choir and our musical director is so talented and has such an amazing voice. For the Immaculate Conception, he sang Ave Maria, and each Christmas I look forward to his singing of O, Holy Night. It defies description and takes my breath away.

I have always been a fan of Gregorian chants and Welsh choirs are the voices of angels.

It is not only hymns and church music that brings me spirituality. I have an affinity for modern, albeit alternative music that lets me travel in my mind to many places and thoughts. My current favorite is the Hamilton soundtrack and my collection of Supernatural and The Walking Dead music. They truly do feed my soul in ways that only writing typically does.

If the flute is being played, we dance. At Christmas parties and wedding celebrations we eat and drink in moderation. If a dirge sounds, we mourn the loss of a loved one or repent of our sins by doing penance, by practicing asceticism.

From Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas:Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

We’ve had this difficulty all year – of trying to discern when to dance and when to mourn. This whole year has been a long, drawn out pop culture funeral beginning with David Bowie and Alan Rickman followed by Prince and Muhammad Ali, and continuing most recently with Florence Henderson and John Glenn. Some of them have been harder on my heart than others, but so much of my childhood has been disappearing before my eyes.

It is always difficult to continue living our daily lives with so much sorrow hanging over us. Each death brought me down, but I got back up. We get ourselves back up and we keep going. Because that’s what we do.

After my mother-in-law was hit by a car and almost died three years ago, we thought she’d live forever. She wasn’t supposed to walk or leave the hospital, and she did. As hard as it was, and as long as it took, she was home, she was walking and she was doing great. She is the epitome of energy and independence and inspiration. We are fortunate that my daughter seems to have inherited all of that from her.

We were stunned while on a visit after school let out that she passed away suddenly at the end of June. We were with her earlier in the day, talking, joking, she admiring my daughter’s taste in clothes as well as the discount we got in buying it. Bargains and garage sales made her happy.

Her passing made all the others less significant, and it’s taken a lot to get through it.Thanksgiving without her was difficult and I know that Christmas will be even harder. We didn’t see her for Christmas, but we spoke to her throughout the day. She is missed every day. Her birthday is in a few weeks, and we will continue to struggle with this loss that is so deep and devastating.

Advent Reflection – Dec. 1

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​Each of us has to decide on what or whom we will build our spiritual security.

-From the Reflection portion of Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

While we’re in anticipation of the birth of Christ, it is a good time to evaluate or re-evaluate our own spiritual security and/or foundation.

Today is World AIDS Day, and while things are much better than they once were, there is still a long way to go as we strive to help those afflicted and find a cure.

Two days ago was Giving Tuesday, a charitable follow up to Black Friday. Before the end of the year, our family will contribute to:

ACLU
Planned Parenthood
NAACP
Random Acts, and

my local church parish or St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Three of these have stemmed from the recent election here in the United States. Find where you want to support with your money, time, and talents and discuss your reasons with your children. Let them make their own suggestions for charitable contributions.

I’m pretty clear on my spiritual foundation and when I have concerns or a lack of faith, I find a way to think more about it and get through that period.

I’m enjoying praying and meditating privately on a daily basis.

I’d like to share this article that I read this morning on Vox

Advent, explained