There are a few things that I do to get ready for Lent to begin. One of them is enjoying what my church provides. As my priest said during his homily, the heart is to keep in our pockets and remember that Jesus loves us. I often have some kind of talisman that I can rub or twirl with my fingers, like the now-popular fidget cubes to remind me of the season or help me to focus on what my intentions are. I also love this series of booklets. This is the third one I’ve had from Liturgical Press, and it is short enough to read every day without fail as well as giving me the ability to form my own reflections with the wisdom of the author but not an overpowering do it this way.
It is a lovely combination and balance.
“…the road that we seek is often the road we have already found.”
– Fr. James Martin, SJ, My Life with the Saints
I sometimes find that I need to get away, but I still want some familiarity. It’s less running away and more running to. Or strolling. It’s not always hurrying along, but slowing, not sloth-like but cautious optimism, observant, and taking it all in.
In those familiar places, taking it all in comes in spurts, a little at a time. At first, we see the big things, the vibrant colors, the loud sounds, the people’s clothes, and then each time after, we pick up something new. The running water of a stream, the steepness of a hill, the beep of the French fry fryer, the cheek’s freckles, the light that won’t stop flickering.
For some, familiarity breeds contempt; for others, comfort.
We have two nearby shrines – four saints that I’ve tried to visit each year. I’ve heard talk that it may be sold. That would make me sad.
While I was in Ireland, the chapel was unfamiliar but the shrines, while different in saint and location was familiar enough. I lie a candle fort the first time in prayer.
In Wales (and Ireland) I gathered my own holy water. The feel of the water was familiar as was the air I breathed and yet, still new.
My three favorite eateries are familiar even when I travel away from my regular joints.
Our habits can make the places familiar and they are different, changed enough to make the experience e, the visit, the meditation something new.
A breeze in a community park can feel the same as at a shrine or at St. Patrick’s Park in Dublin.
The feeling conjured by the 9/11 memorial in Belfast can be just as moving as others away from New York City.
Signing a condolence book as I did as an American in Belfast for Barcelona joined me with the prayers of others across the world and across City Hall.
When I’m not seeking I often feel that I should have just stayed home, made a pot of tea, lit a candle and sat in my office that I modeled so carefully. Easy chair and ottoman, tea mug, and flickering candle guiding the reading or the writing or the praying.
The candle doesn’t light the darkness, but guides the holy spirit to where it is needed, requested, its purpose unknown until it arrives.
Visit a few of your familiar places: the shopping mall, the library, your church in the off hours, a porch chair on a quiet morning, the sun glimmering through bare branches or glowing through full green ones.
Where is that road that you seek?
Where does it lead?
Is it rough or easy terrain?
Is it new yet familiar? Or so new it sets your heart pounding, your breath quickening?
Have you found what you’ve been looking for?
Are you still continuing to look?
The Weekly Prayer Project – this is a book that my husband got me for Christmas. I’ve only just started reading it this morning. It’s divided into seven sections, and can be used in order or jumped from one to the other. My intention is to read the week’s pages on a Wednesday, and then contemplate what it’s asking me to journal. I will probably do the journaling before the weekend, and then read what i’ve written in the days before the next Wednesday. I have decided that I will read from each section for seven weeks, and then go back to the first. For example, today I read week 1. Next Wednesday (1/10) I’ll read week 8. On 1/17, I’ll read week 15, and so on. On 2/21, I’ll go back to week 2, and begin the format again.
365 Days to Happiness – These are nice, short blurbs offering suggestions to finding happiness. They are little things to do or not to do. Again, as I keep coming back to this week, choose what works for you. When I skimmed through the first couple of pages, I read on Day 2 to fill in your planner. I laughed because I do that literally at midnight on the first. When yesterday arrived, and I actually read day 2, I discovered that in addition to filliing in my calendar, there was a surprise suggestion that I thought was wonderful, and so I did that yesterday. My point is, even the most mundane, seemingly routine thing can surprise you.
Grace by Max Lucado – another daily prayer book with prayers for both the morning and the evening. The version I have has room for a few lines of journaling. I have such a hard time writing in books that I usually just read this one. It is still filled with inspiration and time for mindfulness.
The Word Among Us – this is a worship aid that my church gives out every month. It lists all the daily prayers, and has a few articles for the cover topic that are usually very interesting. I have had a digital subscription for about three years now, and I enjoy it very much. Since I would take the paper copy from my church, I thought this was a way to go paperless.
Give Us This Day – Similar to The Word Among Us. This has a daily reflection as well as a daily introduction to a person of faith. There is also an app that can be used to read your subscription. I’m trying out the first thirty days free for this month to see how it fits into my other meditations.
The Writer – This is my professional go-to, and the only writing magazine that I subscribe to. Like the planner below, it has taken me years to figure out what works, and this magazine is the most comprehensive, covering every writing topic imaginable and of use.
Mead Day Planner – this link take you directly to Mead’s website. The photo is similar to the planner that I have and have been using for a couple of years now. I got mine at Target. I use the monthly for whatever needs to be on my calendar, and I use the weekly for writing and blog planning. It’s taken me years to figure out this system and discover that it works for me.
[Editor’s Note: When I’m including links, I usually will use Amazon, mainly because I use them for most of my online shopping. I receive no compensation from them. That is true of all recommendations unless otherwise stated.]
What am I looking for in the new year?
More tea, more candles, more writing. More quiet time for mindfulness.
One of my pet peeves for myself is constantly on the lookout for a new calendar even while I’m already using a new calendar. I am never satisfied with the planner that I have. Except for 2016. That was the first planner that I used for all twelve months. I’m going to try again this year. I’ve got a different design, but the same exact style, size, and binding, so I have high hopes. I use the monthly section for important dates, you know, like a calendar, and I use the weekly pages for planning my website, blog, and writing.
So, that’s first. Next Monday, I will spend most of my day filling in all of the dates that I’ve been listing in a notebook plus birthdays and retreats.
Once again, as I am wont to do, I’m going to add some weekly topics, perhaps a monthly theme tied into a weekly series. I like to find what people find interesting and enjoyable. Or even worthy of discourse. All suggestions welcome.
One of the things that I discover after every major liturgical season is how much I miss the daily devotional books. I’m currently reading the one for Advent and Christmas, and I enjoy the daily thoughts that I can meditate on, whether they affect my prayer life or my writing life; both are really balanced against the other, and interchangeable. Interconnected. Unfortunately, that book will end with the Baptism of the Lord (January 8th).
My husband bought me the best, most thoughtful Christmas present. It is a weekly prayer journal. There is a short reading, a Scripture, and a space to jot down thoughts. I always think that I want to do this daily, but that is usually too overwhelming and forced. This weekly format seems perfect. It’s also a personal test for me since I am always hesitant to write directly into a journal like this – I will usually do the exercises on a separate paper or notebook so the original remains perfect. That is so not the objective, but I’m trying.
I also discovered a book offer in my emails for daily reflecting and exercises. 365 Health and Happiness Boosters Kindle Edition by M.J. Ryan. I’m going into it with a reasonable expectation to only do what I choose to do. I’ll read it daily, and see how it and I feel.
In building my own program of mindfulness or whatever the kids are calling it these days, I am seriously contemplating writing a yearly format book. I know it sounds braggadocios to say, but often I like parts of several books, and can’t find one that works best for me, and think that I could do it better. I know there are others who’ve mentioned this to me as well. That was the feeling I had when I created and published my original travel organizer.
I’d like to get back in the custom of attending the daily 9am mass, barring any weather or work-related conflicts. In doing so, I’d also like to stay for those rosary prayers as well.
Spend less money.
Express myself better, especially politically.
Teach a writing class.
Join a board of education committee.
Stay ahead with a writing schedule and putting together a quarterly editorial calendar. I’ve tried this before, but what I’ve been doing the last few weeks seems on the whole to be working – planning, writing, scheduling those posts and writing others. Keep better track of my published pieces and word counts.
Work on my Wales book.
Outline my House book.
Do good. Be good.
Be kind. Create art.
Give myself a mantra. (Those are already taken.)