November/ December reading

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This is the pile I will be gathering from as I read in December. It’s a mix of very light reading, alongside Advent reading and winter novels. I’m excited to dig in. I might not get through all these, but have high hopes with a bit of holiday time coming! I wonder if you have read any of these titles?

I also have a vast collection of Advent and Christmas picture books, which I will be dipping into. I love picture books, they are a wonderful way to engage with the Christmas story in an accessible way. The beautiful, often detailed pictures are perfect for contemplating each of the characters on their journey to Christmas.

In November I enjoyed reading cosy autumn and other seasonal reads. These included Antonia Fraser’s The Gunpowder Plot, which was meticulously researched and included fascinating stories of the role of women in Catholic families at the time. Also featuring was The Wind in the Willows, and A Nest for Celeste, which is filled with the most wonderful illustrations, as you can see above.

I’d love to hear about your recent and upcoming reads, and am always looking for new suggestions!

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Quieting your heart for Advent

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Our Advent wreath, 2014

This week has been so busy with work, that despite my best intentions and even after the lovely quiet day I enjoyed last Saturday, today I feel harried and distracted, and not really ready to enter the first day of Advent.

I was reflecting and wondering what I could do to remedy this. I came up with a few ideas, and thought I would share them here in case you are in need of one or more of them too:

  • Go outside for a walk: walking always helps me to calm down. I enjoy being outside in God’s creation, and noticing the beauty. I enjoy being able to talk with God as I walk. A walk before I started reading a devotional would help me to arrive at reading with a clearer mind.
  • Listen to an audio prayer. I find it easier to enter fully into an audio experience than reading if my mind is racing. My favourite audio resource is the Contemplative at Home podcast. Lissy’s prayers are the perfect companion and never fail to settle my racing mind and agitated body. One of her recent examen episodes would be a great way to end the Liturgical new years eve tomorrow on December 1, ready to start Advent on Sunday. And for Advent she is sharing a series on Isaiah, which will start soon.
  • Find a beautiful piece of Advent art to meditate upon. What do you notice? What do you like about this piece? How does it make you feel? Consider printing it out to keep nearby so that you catch a glance of it each day. Some of my favourite Advent art is on this board. It does include other Advent & Christmas images and ideas too, but plenty of fine art!
  • Sit quietly with your favourite drink, light a candle and listen to Advent music.
  • Just start, and accept the imperfection! Don’t put off your reading because everything isn’t perfect, and if you miss a day don’t let that put you off the next days’ reading. Just keep going, do what you can and slowly but surely you will reap the benefits of more time with the Lord.

Every blessing for a peaceful Advent.

 

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Meeting Mary

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A significant change that has happened while I’ve been away from blogging is that I joined the Catholic Church this year. My journey from Protestant to Catholic took several years, and would make a long blog post. Some highlights would include a drawing in towards the more contemplative style of worship, liturgical living, and the real presence of Christ in the eucharist.

Along the way I explored some of the misconceptions about the Catholic Church, which  were part of the narrative of my childhood. I am still a baby Catholic and not equipped to write comprehensively about these here from a thorough theological standpoint, but I am happy to share what I understand so far. One of the big ones was

‘What about Mary?’ and ‘what about the Saints?’…..

‘Do Catholics pray to them….and if they do…..is that ok?’

Here are four things I have learned:

  1. Mary is incredibly important:
    • her holiness, humility and obedience is a model to us;
    • through her we received Jesus as a baby on earth;
    • and she is a powerful advocate for us to Jesus in heaven.
  2. Which brings me to the Saints, who are also our advocates in heaven. We do not pray to them as we would to God or Jesus, but we implore them to pray for us, to intercede to Jesus for us.
  3. We can do this because they are in heaven, with Jesus. They are holy and in a wonderful position to pray for us, in accordance with God’s will.
  4. We ask them to pray for us, just as we would ask our friends and family on earth to pray for us. When I thought about it like that, I wondered ‘why would we suddenly stop asking people for their prayers after they have died? Once in heaven it seems even more sensible to ask for their prayers.

I plan to write more about Mary and my journey getting to know her better over the next few weeks. Please do ask any questions that you might have below. I may not always be able to answer them, but will happily share my thoughts and experiences.

Posted in Catholic Faith, Contemplative life, Mary, Saints | 1 Comment

Preparing for Advent

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Returning to this space just before Advent is super exciting because it is my favourite time of the liturgical year. And also a little awkward because I have previously enjoyed slowly sharing my preparations for Advent during October & November.

In the archives you’ll find an almost two-month build up from a previous year, as I talked through a plan in October to prepare for Advent, and steps in November to get everything ready for Christmas before 1 December, so that Advent could be all about the waiting, the quiet, and still; and not the rush and hustle of Christmas.

If this appeals to your heart too, why not bookmark this idea for a slow preparation next year? And in the meantime, think about whether you can streamline your Christmas preparations to fit into the first two weeks of Advent, and then savour the final two weeks? It’s never too late; I am not completely ready, but anything that is done is one less thing for late December!

I am feeling quite Advent-y already, after a quiet day at our Church on Saturday, and I must confess that I have started enjoying this Advent playlist a little early this year! It was so wonderful to step into the quiet and begin contemplating the mysteries of this season. On Monday this week, I began the Saviour study with Love God Greatly. From Sunday, when Advent starts, I will also be reading The Advent of Christ, pictured above.

Listening to Abiding Together yesterday, I heard another wonderful idea that I am thinking about in spare moments this week and recording each evening. As we are in the final week of the liturgical year, they suggested taking time to look back over the year and noticing the highlights of our journey this year; where Jesus has been most present, our blessings, our trials, and personal growth. One for me is the time at the start of the year when my Dad died; I was blessed to be in a quieter time at work, and able to spend more time with him. It was a comfort and honour to be able to pray beside his bed and know that Christ was with us both.

I’d love to hear how you are feeling as you approach Advent this year; and what you might be reading?

 

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A possible return?

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

It is hard to believe that nearly three years have gone by since I wrote in this space. And three years since I created the Advent postcards that I shared daily in 2015 up until my last post on Christmas Day 2015.

For a few months now, I have felt a tug to come back and write here. It’s different from before. At first I wanted to practice writing, connect with other people writing about their Christian faith, and share a little encouragement. All of those would still be true, but it seems to matter less how many people might come by; and is more just about sharing and noticing and recording my own journey as a reflection. I’m a verbal processor so it’s something I need!

I’m writing this post on 26th November, and planning to write a few more before publishing any….to see whether it is good to return….or not. If you see this post, stay tuned as I have a few more up my sleeve!

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Happy Christmas!

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Happy Christmas! Thank you so much for following along with these Advent prompts. Have a wonderful 12 days of Christmas!

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Advent: Christmas Eve

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Silent Night is one of my favourite carols, it’s beauty feels so tangible to me when I hear it played.

Going deeper: I’ve been following along with Dawn’s Christmas journalling and enjoyed her wonderful Christmas songs prompt. Perhaps you’d like to use it today too? Here’s a picture I created after that journalling session:

Silent Night

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Advent: The news!

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I love reading the announcement by the angels – God’s heavenly messengers – to the shepherds – amongst the lowest of people in and around Bethlehem. Isn’t it wonderful? This is such a rich story to reflect on. I wonder how it must have felt to be the Shepherds? To imagine their daily lives and worries, their evenings around a fire watching the sheep. The sudden and terrifying interruption, followed by the best of news. Their first thoughts, their second thoughts, and so on throughout the whole night and days ahead. I wonder if any of them were still alive when Jesus’ ministry began?

Going deeper: read the whole of Luke 2:8-21 and see where you own “wonderings with God” take you in this story.

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Advent: it’s all about the light!

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I think that this may be my favourite of all the verses we have reflected on during Advent. I won’t be adding more text to our reflections today: this verse is enough: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:15

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Advent: Listen to Him

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This week our Advent images move ever closer to the nativity story of Christmas night; to the birth of Jesus. But first, today and tomorrow, let us pause again and remember just who we are waiting for.

The verse above is another one that stood out strongly to me during Constance’s Gospel Read Through in October. It made me reflect on Jesus role as a Wonderful Counsellor; on who it is we should focus on pleasing and following; and it also brings to mind this verse, which I think brings even more closely into focus  the instruction that is held here for us:

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.

Matthew 17:5

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