Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

Who is TNSPC?

{SQT} Advent Take-Aways

At the end of the first entry in my Blessed is She Advent Journal, I wrote "I want PEACE". By the 3rd Sunday, I had found it. The weird thing is that the night before, I had a dream, and I had a physical memory of the dream. At least, I think it was a dream. I don't know how to describe the feeling, except to say that it felt almost like a panic attack. In my dream, I immediately said, "Jesus, I love you" followed by "Jesus, Mary, & Joseph, pray for me". I woke up the next morning feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I actually felt really good. I felt good about my oldest son moving to the West Coast. I felt good about not focusing on "things" this Advent. I just felt...GOOD.

As I told a friend of mine, I'm still trying to get the hang of this "Empty Nest" gig. Letting go is extremely hard for me; I'm a total control freak. But, I've really come to embrace "God's got this" over the past 4 weeks. Man, these weeks went by quickly! I get so dependent on the "special times" of the Liturgical Calendar that I don't want it to end. I've got to keep working at getting closer to God during "Ordinary Times". 

I always thought the beginning of Matthew was one of (if not the) the most boring chapters in the Bible, with the list of genealogy. I've never understood why that was included until I read the reflections. Now I understand that it's to underscore that Jesus didn't just come from nothing...he has a family tree that is similar to just about everyone's on this planet. There are saints, and there are sinners; there are murderers and prostitutes, but there are also good, saintly people.

We all know that Jesus was born in a manger...a feeding trough. It wasn't until this Advent that I put the feeding trough and the table of God together. We come to that Table through the Eucharist. (And that only took me 54 years to realize!)

I loved the readings that had to do with signs. We are encouraged to not look too hard for signs, but rather just trust that God will take care of us. God gave people signs, but they didn't see them. He sent the largest, most blatant sign of all, but people didn't see. In fact, some don't see it today. 

The 2 words that summarize this Advent for me are "Trust" and "Gratitude". Elizabeth & Zechariah trusted God, John the Baptist trusted God, Mary trusted God, Joseph trusted God. All of these people had plans that weren't God's. Yet, in the end, they didn't fight His plan or go against it. They trusted in Him, and they were grateful to Him, even when His plan was tough to follow. 

Last, but certainly not least, this Advent taught me to take a look at past Advents and readjust my attitude. For the past 28 years (at least), I've tried to have a perfect Christmas for my boys. And in doing so, I think I missed out on teaching them what it's really all about. Sure, we always had an Advent Wreath and a Nativity Set, and we went to Mass. I wanted them to have the memories that I have of Christmas: the baking, the decorating, the gifts. Last year, one of my sons suggested that we skip the gifts this year; they aren't important to him. Another one of my sons told me a few weeks ago that he felt like Christmas was just another day in the last month of the year. That really cut to the bone, but he did immediately say that he guessed it was an important day. I just have to keep praying that he'll come back around some day. 
I spent this Advent getting ready for Christmas...spiritually. I woke up early, read the Daily Readings & some reflections, said morning prayers, and wrote in my journal. I also viewed the clips from Best Advent Ever from Dynamic Catholic. I feel prepared, yet unprepared for Christmas at the same time. I didn't get stressed about not doing this year; I didn't get stressed about not buying. This has definitely been my best Advent yet. 
I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes. 

{Fourth Sunday of Advent} UNBELIEVABLE!

Have you ever stopped to think about how truly unbelievable the Birth of Christ is? Here is this innocent little baby who is our Savior! So many things had to come together before this happened. Mary had to say "yes". Joseph had to have enough faith to say "yes". One little "no" and history would have been different. 
What struck me while reading today's Readings, was how things that were foretold in the Old Testament came to fruition. In the First Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14), we're told that there will be a sign, a virgin birth whose name will be Emmanuel. Mary's and Joseph's yes fulfilled that sign.
The reflections that I read centered around signs. One that I read suggested that, at times, we are so caught up in looking for signs that we forget to give the control to God. I keep saying this in recent posts, but I'm really trying to live this in my daily life: God knows all. He knows what we're going to do, how we're going to mess up, and how we're going to fix it. So there's no reason to worry. We have to give it all to God. With one son traveling across the country and another one staying at university for break, reminding myself of this has kept me from getting down and from worrying. I'm strangely completely at peace with everything. 
ePriest put things in perspective for me. Joseph's plans were completely shattered by Mary's news. He more than likely had their life planned out: he would work in his carpentry shop, Mary would keep the house, and they would have lots of children in the years to come. What a blow this must have been to him. How terrible he must have felt! And then he has this dream. He must have said, "Wait. How are my plans changing? I'm going to do what? Mary is going to be the mother of whom? I'm going to raise whom?" Yet, he had the faith to say "yes" and do as God asked. 
The video reflection from USCCB by Father Greg Friedman told 2 pieces of trivia (as it were) about today's Gospel (Matthew 1:18-24): Luke told the story of Mary's Annunciation; Matthew tells us about Joseph's. None of Joseph's words are recorded, only his actions. This is a perfect example of actions speaking louder than words. 
The Deacon during the Homily asked us how many times during the day do we say "That's unbelievable"? I know that I say it quite often. Now think about how many times we say that same thing when talking about our Lord. Not very many, huh? But if we stop to really think about Jesus' birth, His life, and His death, it truly is unbelievable. 
The next time you say "That's unbelievable", think about our Lord. Think about how truly unbelievable He really is, and how much faith it requires to believe. And, as the Deacon said, if someone asks you how you can believe, give them this answer: "God said it, God did it, and that's enough for me."

{SQT} I Refuse

This year, I refuse to get caught up in the craziness of the secular Christmas Season. Over the past year (especially since last Lent), I have revamped my lifestyle of watching tv for hours on end. That's not to say that I haven't binge-watched a few shows (Longmire & Vikings top the list), but I've really cut back on how much I watch tv. I try to catch up on some shows when I can ("This is Us" tops that list), but I do that through Hulu. Our tv is rarely on. I think that's helped cut down on the craziness.
I refuse to buy the boys "stuff" just for the sake of them having something under the tree. Traditionally, they get a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a pair of nice winter socks. They always know they're getting those. My boys are now men; money is the preferred gift so they can get what they want. I learned from last year when I gave my oldest son the exact (except for the color) same clothes as the year before. We took everything back and he got something that he wanted/needed. 
I refuse to get caught up in baking/candy making. In years' past, I would spend 2 whole days baking and making candy, just so the boys would have an honored tradition that was passed down from my mother. I will have to make something for my next door neighbor, who supplies me with pecans so I'll make, a specific candy for her, but other than that, I'm really scaling down. 
This is some of the what I usually make...just a small portion!
I refuse to worry about my boys. As I said, they're now men, and 2 of them won't be home for Christmas. Over the past couple of weeks, I've taken the idea that "God has this" to heart. As one of the Sisters said, "He knows what's going to happen; how they're going to mess up and how they're going to fix it, so there's no sense in worrying." 
I refuse to fret over not having a "perfect Christmas". I've been trying for 32 years and it hasn't happened. There's no such thing. At least with only 1 of my boys home for Christmas, I know that the tree will remain intact. There will be no wrestling next to the tree. 

I refuse to stress over the house not being decorated. I just put the tree up last Tuesday, and put the lights on it. I finished decorating it on Wednesday, and found the skirt on Thursday. I put out a few things around the house, but the decorating is sparse this year. I still have my fall wreath & Thanksgiving flags up. (Don't judge!) Since I'm not putting out all of my decorations, I'll have to look through totes to see if I can find my Christmas ones. My mailbox cover is, at this minute, on the living room floor. It'll eventually make it to the mailbox.
I refuse to get angry over family matters...on both my side and my husband's side. I will enjoy spending Christmas Eve/Day with my husband and my 91 year old father. My Daddy will come up for our traditional Danish Christmas Eve Dinner and again for Christmas Day Brunch. It's going to be a quiet one, so I'm going to enjoy it. 
As the years have gone by I'm realizing what's important. This will be the 3rd Christmas without my mom (who was born on Christmas Day and whose name is Chris); last year was harder than the first. I will not allow myself to be blue like I was last year. Family means the world to me, and, even though things are a little stressed with both my family & my husband's family, I will be happy this Christmas Day and enjoy it with my husband, father, and youngest son.

I'm joining Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes. It's a day late, but I refuse to get stressed about it! 😁

{Second Sunday in Advent}: HE KNOWS

As I read the Readings for today, the above verse jumped out at me. How many times do I look at someone and immediately make a judgment? There's a lady in my parish who used to sit a couple of rows ahead of me during Mass. I would see her look around, watching people as they came in. In my head, I could hear her make comments about them. My reaction was to think that this woman was really nosy, and more interested in people than what was going on at the altar.  And then I met her and spent a little bit of time with her. I had the opportunity to see what an absolutely beautiful person she is. I saw her come into Mass Sat. evening, and I thought about my wrong first impression of her. This was before I read and heard the Readings. Even during the reading during Mass, I didn't catch it. Then, Sunday morning as I read the Readings at my kitchen table, this hit home:
Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.  (Isaiah 11:3)
It's so very easy to be swayed by someone else's opinion, and I'm the world's worst at that. We are urged to think for ourselves and not be influenced by what others think. 

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. (Romans 15: 5)
Jenna Hines wrote today's reflection for Blessed is She. The target of the reflection is to be in harmony with other people. Not to change their thoughts, just to work on yourself and let God worry about the big picture. Yesterday, during an Advent Reflection at a nearby convent, Sister mentioned that there is no need for us to worry about anything; God is in control. He knows all: He knows when we're going to mess up, and He knows how we're going to fix it. offers this explanation of that line: 
[15:5Think in harmony: a Greco-Roman ideal. Not rigid uniformity of thought and expression but thoughtful consideration of other people’s views finds expression here.
Isn't that perfect for right now, considering what's happening post-election?

Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  ( Matthew 3:10)
We are called to live out our lives for God. We are called to evangelize and to go out into the world and proclaim God's word, if not by our words, then by our actions. It all goes back to the question: If we were on trial for being a Christian, would we be found guilty?

For the Gospel's reflections, both ePriest and my parish priest explained that when in the desert, the Israelites learned to depend on God. When they were in the desert, they had to give all control to God. Tying the Gospel in with the other Readings, all 3 have the component of letting go and putting everything in God's hands. Man, that's difficult! There are things that go on in my life, with my adult children, that I want to control. I end up getting all stressed out about it because I think I have to be in control, when I should lift it up to God. HE's the one in control. He knows how things are going to be "fixed". When I think I have to be in control, I get physically sick to my stomach. As I learn to hand the problems up to God, I can feel that sinking feeling and the anxiety being lifted.
ePriest mentioned that John's baptism helped get rid of old attitudes and old ways of thinking. This Advent, my goal is to let go of my old attitudes and old ways of thinking I'm in control, and to LET GOD.

{SQT} Make This Advent Your Best Yet

I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes.
It's Advent. Just look around and you'll know that it's not Ordinary Time any more! Need some ideas on how to make this Advent the best yet?

Journals. I got one from Blessed is She, but I've also seen one from Heart of Mary Women Fellowship. Heck, you can even make your own. 
I printed off the Daily Readings for Advent, and added a few lines to each day. I take a few minutes at the beginning of the day, read, and reflect. I also get a few reflections in my email to get me going. I'll make notes, highlight, and/or circle. 
Advent Photo Challenge. Catholic Sistas is challenging us to post a picture/day.

Check your bulletin. My Parish is doing some cool things this Advent. Check and see what yours is doing; take the time to go.
Spend an hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration. Try it; you'll like it.
Attend or participate in a TaizΓ© Prayer Service. I had the opportunity to participate with the choir last Monday. It was beautiful, even with the wind howling, causing some very strange sounds in the church. Jesus even swung on the crucifix a little bit. 
It's a prayer service with songs that are short & repetitive. It began with a sung prayer followed by a Responsorial Psalm, Gospel Reading, and another sung prayer. Then, we had 10 minutes of silent prayer followed by Intercessions, the Our Father, another prayer, and 2 more sung prayers. It was just so peaceful; I left the church with such peace, even though the wind was so nasty.

Take time to learn about your church. I'm talking about the building. Check and see if there's some literature about the building of the church; talk to someone who knows the history. 

Subscribe to special Advent programs that will be delivered to your email. Dynamic Catholic delivers short videos to your email every morning during Advent through The Best Advent Ever program. You'll get a very short video (around 2-3 minutes) that will give you something to think about during the day. Bishop Robert Barron has free daily Advent Reflections.
"He who sings prays twice". (St. Augustine) The Vigil Project has a 7-part video series going on right now. You can sign up for reminders of new videos to be delivered to your inbox.

1st Sunday of Advent: STAY AWAKE

The Gospel today reminds us to stay prepare ourselves. Much as we prepare our houses for the holidays, we should prepare our souls and our hearts for the coming of the Lord.
Advent is such a beautiful time. It's a new Liturgical Year; a time for another chance to get ready for the Lord. Much like the Calendar New Year is a time for resolutions and a chance to start over, Advent gives us the chance to do the same, but in a spiritual sense. 
The days are shorter, it gets darker earlier...but there are the candles from the Advent Wreath making us aware of the light that is to come. It's a reminder that hope is there. We don't know the hour or the day; we have to stay awake and be ready.
I'm ready to be re-energized and get out of my spiritual drought. I'm ready to get in spiritual shape for the coming of our Lord. I'm ready for Ordinary Time to be over, because it really was just "ordinary" for me. 
The priest spoke of the difference between expectations and reality. As we anticipate an event, we have an expectation of what it will be like; however, the reality usually doesn't live up to the expectations. When my boys were growing up, I expected to have perfect Christmases. I wanted everything to be perfect; from the meals to the presents. I pictured the family watching Christmas movies, eating popcorn, and getting along. The reality is that we haven't had a perfect Christmas; I truly believe there is no such thing. There were years that the tree was almost knocked down from the wrestling,  dinners that didn't turn out right, and the boys were late for Christmas Eve Dinner. All the preparation and it didn't turn out perfectly. Looking back, had I focused on truly preparing myself and the boys for Christmas, maybe all of that wouldn't have mattered. 
Much like preparing for a big event, it is necessary to prepare ourselves for the big day...the day when we will meet Jesus face-to-face. What will it be like to hear him say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21)? Isn't that something we all would like to hear? 
It is necessary that we stay awake and be prepared. Advent is the perfect time to begin the preparation. We're all travelers on the journey...are you prepared?

{SQT}: Thanksgiving Edition

I’m linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

πŸ¦ƒ Another Thanksgiving in the books. I tried some new recipes, and all of them were great! It was good to stay in my own house & cook the whole dinner by myself. My youngest son (who is 22) helped out some when I was trying to do 5 things at once! 2 of my 3 sons were home for dinner; the one who wasn't there is going to school 10 hours away, so it wasn't worth him coming home for a long weekend. He's almost halfway through law school, so he needed to stay there and study. 
πŸ¦ƒ My pies turned out great. They were new recipes, and the pecan pie was completely different than what I had made before, but I think this was the best one yet. 

πŸ¦ƒ Thanksgiving Day Mass was absolutely beautiful. There was the Blessing of the Bread & a blessing of a blanket that will go to someone who is sick. I love these traditions that our current priest began a few years ago.

(I didn't get to the table before people started getting their bread. It was overflowing during Mass!)
πŸ¦ƒ Thanksgiving Homily was all about not giving thanks for what we have, but, rather, knowing that all gifts are from God. Thanksgiving is about the goodness of God, not turkey (although the turkey definitely adds a little something!). It's about knowing that no matter what trials we go through, we can deal with it. This priest always poses a question for us to chew on. Thursday, he posed this question: Are we the ones going to the Lord and thanking him?
πŸ¦ƒOne week ago, the school where I work on Tues. & Thurs. dismissed early because of a fire on the mountain directly behind the school. When I say "directly", that's exactly what I mean. The school was build on the side of the mountain. This is what it looked like shortly after it started:
Within 30 minutes, it looked like the whole mountain was on fire.
Can I just say how amazing firefighters are? From the fire dept. (the community only has a volunteer dept.), the surrounding fire depts., the forestry service, the National Guard, and other firefighters from around the country coming in to fight the fire, they are just amazing. No structures were lost. NONE. There was a story of 1 man's pond being used by the National Guard's helicopter to fill up buckets to dump on the fire. Instead of being mad about them depleting his pond that he had just stocked with fish, he filled the pond up with his garden hose from his house so they could continue to use his pond. I have a feeling that we will continue to hear stories like this in the future.
I saw a National Guard helicopter fly over my house on Tuesday, but didn't think to snap a picture. That one had a bucket hanging from it. The one below is a National Guard helicopter, but it didn't have the bucket. I took that as a good sign that their efforts are being successful.
πŸ¦ƒ The parish had a "Harvest of Blessings" last Sunday. Each ministry is invited to host a table in order to fund-raise and get the word out about our different ministries. The picture below is the table for the Council of Catholic Women (CCW). Our theme was Cookies (and other baked goods), Crafts, and What-nots. 

I think we had more "what-nots" than anything else. What didn't sell will be held until our yard sale in the spring.
πŸ¦ƒ I kept thinking that last week was the first Sunday of Advent. I am so excited to finally be able to delve into my By the Manger in the Morning, a Blessed is She Advent Journal. It arrived the same day as the fires. I wasn't sure if I was going to get it in time, because I didn't get an email confirmation. It was perfect timing..a good ending to a rotten day.
We have so much to be thankful for this year. I had another Thanksgiving with my father, who has had a rough couple of months but is hanging in there. My boys are healthy and are trying to find their way in this world. My husband and I are enjoying life with each other. 
Hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving, and recognize that all that we have are gifts from God!

The Solemnity of Christ the King

Doesn't it seem strange that we close out the Liturgical Year with the same Gospel that we hear on Good Friday? Here we have the soldiers jeering at Jesus while He's on the cross, and even one of the thieves beside Him gives Him a hard time. But then, the thief on the other side asks for His mercy and we see his faith. 
Where was the crowd? 
Why didn't anyone say anything? Not one person could stand up for Him? How many times are we like the crowd and don't say anything? How many times do we laugh at jokes when Jesus or the Church is the subject? Why are we so afraid???  Why can't we speak up for Him?
One was brave enough to speak up and show Jesus his faith; his reward was to be with Jesus. That should be our ultimate goal, too. So what if we defend Jesus or the Church and are ridiculed because of it? I think we'll learn who are real friends are; even if it's family members who are doing the ridiculing. 
Is it an ending, or a beginning? 
Maybe it's not so strange that this was the Gospel today. We're beginning a new year in the church next week. For the next 4 weeks, we will be anticipating the Birth of Jesus. We'll declare our faith and prepare our hearts for Christmas, much like Dismas declared his faith while on the cross next to Jesus.
This morning, the deacon asked what kind of crown would be fit for Jesus? Everything about Jesus is in the Crown of Thorns. Life is painful. During Baptism, we are anointed as priest, prophet, and king. Are we worthy enough to wear a crown of thorns?
Jesus, Remember Me
We sang this song as the Meditation Song (right after Communion); the flutes alternated playing and not playing each time. It was so very moving; I actually had chills at one point.  Such a simple, short song...but, oh, how powerful.

{SQT} Staying Positive

Joining Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes.
What a week! It hasn't been too hard to stay positive. WHAT? Did I really just say that? Yes, I did. Here's how I did it:

1) Stay off of social media. I listened to Hallie Lord's show on The Catholic Channel the other day; she said she made the mistake of getting on twitter, and then proceeded to fight all day long. Why do people insist on putting their political opinions on social media? Does anyone really care what my opinions are? (Yeah, I didn't think so!) Likewise, I don't really care what anyone else's opinions are...least of all some celebrity.

2) Remember the words of Father Leo Patalinghug: We will continue to be One Nation Under God. We have to continue to pray for the USA and for all of our leaders. We have to pray that the Holy Spirit will give them the wisdom to make the right choices for all of the citizens.

3) Remember the US Motto: In God We Trust. That's something we see every day, we just don't notice it. We have to trust that God knows what He's doing.
4) Keep in mind the words of a friend:  It is not the responsibility of ONE president to make sure I'm OK. It is MY hard work, effort, the love of my family and the everlasting love of my God that will carry me through. God bless the USA!

5) Uplifting videos, like this one:
6) Watching non-political clips:
7) Wednesday morning, I woke up and went to work just like I do every weekday...just like most Americans.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Don't Miss the Point

I didn't read the Readings before going to Mass this week...and I didn't take notes during the Homily. Let's just say I'm winging it!
My impressions: During the 1st Reading (2MC 7:1-2, 9-14), my heart went out to those 7 brothers. What faith they had! You would have thought that since "...the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage..." he would have shown some mercy on the other brothers, but that didn't happen. All just because they didn't want to eat pork??? Those were some rough times to live in, weren't they? 
During the homily, Father mentioned that Maccabees is one of the books in the bible that protestants left out of their versions, because it deals with the after-life. He said that when he was having a conversation with a protestant, he was questioned about really believing in purgatory. Father's response was that not only did he believe, but he was counting on it...he was counting on being able to have a chance at cleansing his soul so he could enter into heaven. What a great response, and what a great way to answer that question!
As I listened to the Gospel during Mass, I couldn't help but think that Jesus never answers their question. I was right: He didn't answer, but pretty much told them that they were missing the point. As Father said: marriage, remarrying, and divorce are all things of the earth. We should be looking toward heaven and doing our best to get there.
Don't we all miss the point? More often than not, I think we do...everybody does. We get wrapped up in the happenings of our daily life that we miss the reason we're here. We miss what our ultimate goal is: to have everlasting life. To have that chance for our souls to be cleansed so that we may enter into heaven and see our loved ones who have passed from this life. This week, when things seem to be going crazy, take a second and say to yourself, "Don't miss the point."

{SQT} Reveling in God's Splendor

It's not hard to be in awe of what God can do, especially this time of year...especially in East Tn./ Western NC. Last weekend, my husband & I took a day trip to enjoy the changing of the leaves.

As we left our house, we saw an amazing sunrise.

Taking the backroad was definitely an option:

A wrong turn allowed us to see a creek with mossy rocks and fallen leaves:

Looking up is always a must to get a different perspective!

We found a perfect spot for an autumn selfie:

This was the first year I remember going to Mass on All Soul's Day, and, to be perfectly honest, I only went because Sister asked the people attending RCIA to attend in lieu of having class. It was absolutely beautiful! I will probably start attending every year. 
I'm linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes!