Monthly Archives: December 2016

An Early Christmas Gift

I feel so very happy – like I have received an early Christmas gift.  Since a week ago Friday, I have had events – both social, and spiritual/church-related (and even better, combined – whoopee) – which have rejuvenated my spirit.  This may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is a very big deal to me.

Last Christmas, my family was dealing with the loss of my husband’s long-time job.  I was not feeling very merry.  My children were not feeling very merry.  We were looking to the future with trepidation and fear.  So what did I do?  I closed myself off to the people I cared most about.  I responded an instant “no” to the Evite of my dear friend Cathy who hosts a lovely Christmas brunch, chock-a-block with incredible Christian women from our parish.  I am sure I also said no to my awesome “boozy” friends who wanted to celebrate with a glass or two of Christmas cheer.  Hey, all are welcome in this place.  We are all God’s children.

This year, despite the recent loss of my dear mom, and my funk of not only feeling poor physically but also feeling perennially behind the eight ball logistically, I said “yes” to more than my usual invites.  It even surprised me, as social as I like to think that I am.  The MMPG Christmas meeting at Pam’s house inspired me to honor my mother who just passed, my parish’s Life Teen Special Needs group reminded to me to dance as if no one was looking, and my Marist Love & Logic ladies group said we are all in this together – no matter what our children’s age.  I also encountered in this small space of time:  my friend Cathy’s gathering of “incredible Christian women whom I seek to emulate,” my former Bible Study’s rock star moms who foster newborns while raising their own families, and lastly – an amazing group of women at my parish “Walking with Purpose” who reach out regularly to moms like me with welcoming invitations to “come and seek.”  That’s a lot for a week during Advent.

Wow.  I feel loved.  I feel recognized.  I feel like someone is seeking my miserable, “Debbie Downer” company.  I feel like even when I am a horrible hermit crab, tucked inside my shell and so barely wanting to venture out, someone wants to draw me out and interact with me.  That feels so great.  What a beautiful reflection of God’s love during this season of Advent!  The second week of Advent the theme was “Love,” as we lit the second purple candle

 “Love is knowing that someone cares for us more than themselves.  Love is the realization someone would lay down their life for us.  Loves involves commitment, and commitment involves sacrifice and time.  God loves us beyond any human love we have ever experienced. Love can be ours this Christmas as part of The Christmas Gift.”

 Source:  St. Brigid Advent program

I leave you all with a note of thanks for those who have invited me (and others who may be like me) to partake in fellowship even though I (or they) may seem like a huge buzz-kill some days (not exactly the most Christian words, but hey, they fit).  I strive to reflect God’s glory, even in my challenges, even in my family’s challenges.  Thanks for continuing to invite me to be a part of your world.  It means the world to little ‘ole me.  I also promise you, that reaching out to others will reap the same fruit.  Keep reaching out to those who are difficult or challenging. To the neighbor who drives you crazy.  To the widow on your street who is always complaining about something.  Love, Love, and Love some more.  Even when it is so, so hard.

“Lord, I love you and know in spite of everything I can depend on your love for me.  As I encounter times that are rushed, even crazy, I will repeat the phrase, “I love you, Lord” to remind myself that I cannot do everything alone.  When my chores, holiday preparations, and gift-buying overwhelm me, and I face more darkness, I will turn to you and your LOVE.  You will point me towards The Greatest Gift that awaits me on Christmas.  Amen.”

Source:  Brigid Catholic Church Advent 2016 Program

 

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What? Advent? Already?

Advent has completely and utterly snuck up on me this year.  Maybe it was the unseasonably warm weather.  Maybe it was being sick a good bit of November.  I turned around, blinked, and it was the end of November.  I’m not sure where the last few months went, but here we are, already in Advent.  Needless to say, my halls have not been decked.  In fact, I can’t even get to my Advent wreath or calendar, let alone the Christmas decorations, because my Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations are on the floor blocking my way to the closet.

Not only am I not physically ready for Advent and all that the Christmas season brings, I am definitely not spiritually ready.  I always say “this year will be different.”  This year I’m going to be better prepared so that I can actually enjoy the season and my family more.  This year I’m going to have healthy spiritual habits during Advent so that I can focus on the real reason for the season.  This year I’m going to be more joyful.  And the list goes on.

Tomorrow is the MMPG annual Christmas meeting hosted by the mom of a Marist alumae.  Her house is lovely, festive, and inviting.  Year in, year out, she always graciously hosts all of the MMPG moms – current and past – with a warm smile and an open heart.  It is her gift to the Marist community.  I am hoping that our hostess, the speaker, and all the other moms will inspire me to finally embark on my Advent journey.  I might be getting off to a late start this year, but better late than never.

One of my favorite blogs is “Blessed is She.”  As a gift to myself this week, I am sharing a letter from the editor that echoes how I have felt in years past during the Advent season, and I hope that you consider taking on her call to action.  I am going to try.  And then I better hop on the Christmas train that has left the station without me!

Adapted from Jenna from http://www.blessedisshe.net

Every single Advent, I get caught up in the vicious cycle of buying presents, feeling frustrated that I’m not a Liturgically Amazing Catholic Woman, compare myself to what others have done or not done for the season and for Christmas.

And by the time Christmas comes around (hello! the birth of our Savior!), I am sucked dry. I am empty. I am frustrated that I didn’t get *all the things done* like I wanted to. Or my gifts aren’t thoughtful. Or I am not in a peaceful state AT ALL to celebrate this joyous and incredibly important day.

I almost come to a point of saying, “I hate Christmas and all the stress it adds to my life.”

But if I’m being honest, it’s not Christmas that I hate. Not even close.

I hate how I act during the incredibly important four weeks leading up to Christmas. I hate the Jenna that comes out and is irritable and frustrated and impatient and all the yucky things that we hate to admit we’re acting like.

Ultimately, I dive into every Advent with a chip on my shoulder — I think to myself, This season will be so awful.

But then I make myself stop humming and hawing, and I think:

He constantly offers me another way.

He constantly waits for me to wake up from my pity party of irritability and to see HIM.

He constantly beckons me, kindly, lovingly, with the fading trees and the quiet, dark nights.

It is peaceful outside, at night, in the winter. But it is far from peaceful in my heart.

It is peaceful in relationship with Him. But I am walking in with a chip on my shoulder.

Time to throw off that chip.

Time to dust off the dirt of despair and to soak up the peace of winter, the calm of the season that I so desperately need renewal in.

So, this Advent is the one. I am in a place in my life where I want to build a deeper relationship with our Lord. I have a desire for it, I yearn for it, I long for it.

Do you?