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

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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!