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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{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 Taizé 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.