Thursday, December 20, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 4 - Abandonment

Advent has moved swiftly, as usual. 😬 Somehow, we're almost at the 4th Sunday of Advent, and the final week of our Advent Book Club! I've found this to be a peaceful little foray, and I hope that you have as well. 🤗 There will be a short hiatus on the blog between Christmas and the new year, but we'll reconvene in early January with lots of fun stuff! A new year is always something to celebrate and be refreshed by, and I know that I'm embracing that more than ever right now. We're in this journey together!

All right, this week we only have one chapter left to go, and we're spending time with Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade. I knew the least about this friend prior to our adventure, so let's dive in and see what he has to teach us. :)

And it is this same Jesus, ever living and ever active, who still surprises us if our faith is not strong and clear-sighted enough. There is never a moment when God does not come forward in the guise of some suffering or some duty, and all that takes place within us, around us and through us both includes and hides his activity. Yet, because it is invisible, we are always taken by surprise and do not recognize his operation until it has passed us by. If we could lift the veil and if we watched with vigilant attention, God would endlessly reveal himself to us and we should see and rejoice in his active presence in all that befalls us. 
- "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

To Reflect: In what ways do I struggle on a daily basis with having faith and trust in what God is asking me to do?

Throughout my days, faith and trust and things that weave in and out of the decisions that I make, and I suspect that I am not alone. Sometimes I reflect on things with a lot of discernment and prayer and make good decisions. Other times, I do not. 😬 Even after all these years, sometimes I feel like I know better about what I want and need than God does. I muddle things up and make them more difficult for myself than they need to be. The bottom line is that faith and trust can be HARD. I love Fr. de Caussade's words about how God is invisible, but still very much real and there with us all the time. His presence is "active" all around us. Hidden, but active, that really struck a chord with me. Especially at Advent, we must look for the quiet, still voice amidst the chaos.

A few times recently, I've encountered a challenge (mixing up the time of an appointment, minor damage to the passenger side mirror on my car) that immediately prior, I've had a little niggling thought that I should proceed differently or verify a detail I thought was all finalized. Both times, I assured myself that I had it right, and both times resulted in major stress for myself and inconvenience for others. I've been dwelling on the fact that I need to listen to that small voice in the back of my mind. Sometimes, he knows more than I do. ;-)

Those are my thoughts for the week! What are yours? Leave them below!

I'll chat with you all again in the new year! Happy holidays! *heart*

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Musings on the New Year, just a bit early...

Well, it's almost the end of 2018, and I'll skip bemoaning how quickly time goes by when you get old and how humbling that is.


Since we've been focusing on the Advent Book Club for the past several weeks, I thought a little update post would be nice, just about general life stuff. That's one of my favorite things about this blog. :)

So, the kids.


Henry is in 8th grade this year 😭 and has taken the Catholic High School Entrance Exam. We should get his scores and a financial aid package at the end of January. Please pray for us that it is manageable to send him to the Catholic boys high school he'd like to attend, if you please! We would love to send him there, I think he would thrive, and it's literally blocks from our house. But, you know...$$$$. He has also made the basketball team at his current school and has been doing very well. Henry is a more reserved kid, and it's good to see him socializing and fitting in. Warms my heart.

Anne is in 2nd grade and as sassy as ever. She's suddenly very tall and it's hard to believe that this is my little baby. 😭 She's made great strides with her reading abilities, and has a brand new subscription to Magnifikid magazine to show for it. She joined up with a Brownie troop out of a local parish this year, and so far we're both really enjoying it. A good friend of mine is the troop leader, and it's been a fun and warm experience for all. She went camping with them a few weekends ago, and was away from us overnight (without being with a grandparent) for the very first time. 😢 It's hard, but it's so lovely to see her growing and thriving.

Both of my kids are precious souls with good hearts. They drive me crazy more than 50% of the time, but this means that, you know, they're NORMAL. Anne helped me set up our new Shining Light nativity set back at the beginning of Advent, and she now has the wise men slowly traversing the dining room each day to get to the manger in time for the Epiphany. This means that daily, I accidentally kick them over because they're walking right in the path from the kitchen :0 but it's SO ADORABLE that I don't have the heart to move them. It's moments like that that I remember why life is so good.

My Mike is between semesters of teaching and enjoying the time to refresh and recharge prior to the new semester. He's teaching something in the spring called Phenomenology and Existentialism.


If anybody can decipher that for me, I'd be much obliged. :0 Our 14th wedding anniversary is coming up in early January, and we're planning a little weekend trip away!  *heart*

In other news, I'm dancing again on New Year's Eve, and I'm actually looking forward to it rather than being frozen in fear, that's a nice change. ;-) Granted, the morning of December 31st, I'll wake up feeling like I'd rather face a trip to the gallows, but no need worrying about that now! :0 I have lots of dance workshop plans in the new year, and I'm SO EXCITED. In addition to Egyptian belly dance, I've been really into studying folkloric dance lately. I study Egyptian folkloric dance as part of my regular classes, but I'm wanting to really delve more into these as there are quite a few different styles in Egypt, (can one procure an advanced degree in belly dance history? 🤔) as well as into Turkish folkloric dance. I took a workshop a few weeks ago on Turkish Roman dance, and I LOVED IT. I've never studied Turkish style dance at all, and this is just one very specific folkloric style. It's wonderful to learn about a new-to-me culture and their dance, the possibilities are endless! But I'm a dance nerd, I can't help myself. ;-)

So, lots of dance research and fun in the new year, and just generally a Life Is Good mentality. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I never want to take that for granted. There were some hard things this year, but I made it, and most importantly, I learned from them. Not all lessons are pleasant, but they are important and vital to our long term well-being. Maybe we won't make the same mistake again next time, you know?

I suppose this is a New Year's Resolution post just a tad early. In the near year, I want to:

  • practice a lot of gratitude
  • take advantage of every opportunity to grow in my dance hobby that I am so passionate about
  • take time, with intentionality, (is this even a real word?!) to be the best that I can be in my main vocation as wife and mother, and in my career as a librarian

How about you? Any goals for the new year? I'd love to hear them!

The final Advent Book Club will be up tomorrow morning!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 3 - The Eucharist, and the importance of trust...

brrrrrrr, it's getting pretty wintry here in WNY, and I hope that you are all keeping warm and cozy.

*virtual hug*

I have lots going on over here (all good stuff) and I plan a separate post for that in addition to our final Advent Book Club post next week. Our Book Club selections are only for a single chapter next week, so that works out very well.

This week, we are snugging up with two modern saints, St. Edith Stein and St. John Paul II. Is this an awesome duo or what?! I'm super excited to dive into what they have to tell us about our faith, and how specifically we can tie that into Advent. Are you ready?! Grab your mug of hot cocoa!

It is most important that the Holy Eucharist become life's focal point: that the Eucharistic Savior is the center of existence; that every day is received from His hand and laid back therein; that the day's happenings are deliberated with Him. In this way, God is given the best opportunity to be heard in the heart, to form the soul, and to make its faculties clear-sighted and alert for the supernatural. 
- "On Woman" by St. Edith Stein
To Reflect: How can I improve the way that I make the Eucharist the focal point of my day?

The Eucharist, YES. Whenever our faith needs a boost, the Eucharist is where we need to be. I used to be able to attend daily Mass, and I miss those days so, so much. My schedule and state in life make that something that just isn't happening right now. But if we're receiving on Sunday only, how can we carry the Eucharist with us in our hearts throughout the week?

We can make an Act of Spiritual Communion. From EWTN:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and united myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Fabulous, right?  We could incorporate this into our daily prayer for Advent quite easily. When we make the Eucharist the center of our faith, we can hear God so much more clearly. He is able to speak to us much more clearly this way. This makes me really appreciate Sunday Mass that much more when I dwell on this!
Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter's Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words 'Be not afraid!' 
- "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" by St. John Paul II
To Reflect: Do I fully trust in God's mercy and goodness, or does fear play a role in my everyday life?

John Paul II. 😍 I just love this man so much. And being that one of the messages he is most known for in his papacy is that of releasing fear, he is even dearer to my heart. As someone who struggles with anxiety daily, being afraid of things is something I'm very used to. And St. John Paul II tells us to NOT be afraid, because God has redeemed us. In the end, isn't this the only thing that is important? Yes, we have daily challenges and worries, but nothing can truly harm us because God has us. He has redeemed us, and we have hope for eternal life with Him. I personally *know* that I struggle with trust and with fear. It's a daily source of consternation for me. But I keep trying, and we're all in this together!

I find this Litany of Trust from the Sisters of Life SO HELPFUL, and I have a printed copy of it in my office. Definitely check it out! It is absolutely perfect for the Advent season.

All right, those are my thoughts for the week. Please leave yours in the comments! Next week, we are finishing up with Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence!"

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Advent Book Club 2018 Week 2 - Prayer & Interior Silence...

Welcome back to week 2 of our book club for this Advent, reflecting along with the saints in Exploring the Catholic Classics! :) Today we are scheduled to touch base with St. Teresa of Avila, and St Francis de Sales, so we will have a mix of high mystical wisdom offered to cloistered contemplatives, and practical spirituality for the layperson. :0 I love it!


Our themes for the week, as you can see from the title, are prayer and interior silence. I 'm actually writing about this very topic for Catholic Mom this month, if you'd like a little more to dig into this Advent! I'll post the link as soon as it's up early next week. :) All right, let's get started, shall we?
Let us now return to our vocal prayer so that we may learn to pray in such a way that, without our understanding how, God may give us everything at once: if we do this, as I have said, we shall pray as we ought. As you know, the first things must be examination of conscience, confession of sin and the signing of yourself with the Cross. Then, daughter, as you are alone, you must look for a companion--and who could be a better Companion than the very Master Who taught you the prayer that you are about to say? Imagine that this Lord himself is at your side and see how lovingly and how humbly he is teaching you...He will help you in all your trials and you will have him everywhere. Do you think it is a small thing to have such a Friend as that beside you? 
- "The Way of Perfection" by St. Teresa of Avila
To Reflect: In what ways can we create a domestic monastery for ourselves in our prayer lives and in our homes?

St. Teresa's life in the convent was certainly different than our own life experiences, and she did not have laypeople in mind when she wrote her work! However, I think that, in our own way, we can all cultivate a little "domestic monastery" for ourselves within our homes, and within our hearts. I like to have little nooks around my house where I have holy reminders that make a nice focal point for prayer. Small pictures and statutes of our Lord, Blessed Mother and the saints make perfect fodder. I'll leave rosary beads in each room for easy access if the mood strikes. ;-) Inspiring things to look at help to inspire us to pray, no doubt about it.

And during Advent, as we try to cultivate that peace and silence within ourselves, inspiration to pray is the perfect way to keep this cycle going. Even amidst noisy chaos, we can harbor quiet joy within. Thinking of that special night, the feelings that Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing, the expectant excitement mingled with fear of the unknown...I like to take time to dwell on those things, and they help to keep my inner being at peace. Thinking of our Lord right beside us as we contemplate these things, as we pray and ask for protection over our loved ones...the quiet intimacy that St. Teresa lays out here is absolutely perfect for the season of Advent.
After finishing your mental prayer, watch against disturbing the inner peace it bestows. If possible, keep silence for a while and quietly transfer your heart from prayer to other duties. Should you meet someone on the way home, or even at the church door, with whom you must converse, do so, of course, but still try to preserve your tranquility. You must learn how to go from prayer to duties brought on by your vocation and state of life...Since both prayer and the duties of your state in life are both in conformity with God's will, you must pass from one to the other with a devout and quiet mind. 
- "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St. Francis de Sales
To Reflect: What is a practical way to start our days with prayer as St. Francis suggests? In what ways can we carry the resulting sense of interior peace throughout an entire day?

And then we come to our practical guy, St. Francis de Sales. ;-) He is a favorite of mine, for sure! He talks further about bridging that gap between our mental prayer and busy states in life. I love how he emphasizes that both things (prayer AND your daily responsibilities as a lay person) are God's will for your life, and there is no need to fear that we are failing in some way as a good, holy person if our minds and time are so often taken up with changing diapers or the expense reports that you need to complete by the end of the fiscal year. These are things that need our attention, and there is nothing wrong with that. We can just do our best to keep our minds quiet; when we have a free moment, offer your day and it's challenges up to God, and wing up a prayer for continued peace and tranquility. During Advent, this is more important than ever!

What are your thoughts on maintaining quiet prayer and a sense of inner tranquility during Advent? Have any experiences to share about previous reading with St. Teresa of Avila or St. Francis de Sales? Do comment away! Next week, we will turn to modern saints Edith Stein and one of my absolute favorite guys ever, St. John Paul II! 😍