Tiny Revelations

Holiday Hallucinations

In my former life, I was a family humor columnist. While I was rooting through some old Word documents, I uncovered this gem from eight years ago. Some things never change! I hope you enjoy this little Throwback Thursday!

It’s that time of year again. The fall decor gets pushed aside by all things red and green, the holiday music kicks in over PA systems everywhere, and the gift catalogs jam the mailboxes. And I, as I do every season, get overtaken by a rush of sentimentality and initiate grandiose plans to create lovely and personal gifts for everyone on my Christmas list.

Let’s see. Will I make some aromatic homemade candles this year? Yes! I’ll buy some scented oil and wax tomorrow. What about the pretty layered brownie mixes in quart jars, all tied with ribbon and a hand-stenciled recipe card? They’ll be great gifts for the teachers. And as soon as I can, I need to cut and dry the perennials from my flowerbeds, so I can make beautiful wreaths and pressed flower arrangements for my sisters.

There’s just one problem with all this: I am not what you would consider a domestic goddess. I rarely bake, unless you count Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls on Sunday mornings. When my kids need something sewn, they know they have to call Grandma. I don’t even own a sewing machine. And my attempts at anything craft-y usually end up in the garbage can. I was just not blessed with those skills. But still…

I can’t stop myself. There’s something uniquely motivational about the holiday season. All those home and garden shows touting the many ways you can decorate a home using only chunks of coal and pocket lint are enough to rouse my usually-dormant homemaking genes from their deep sleep. The magazine covers shout at me to bake seventeen kinds of cookies and share them at a cookie swap with neighbors I don’t even know. Yea, I must traipse over the river and through the woods to cut real greens in order to bring the authentic smell of Christmas to my home. That nativity scene hand-carved out of soap doesn’t look too tough to handle, does it?  And of course it’s time to sit down and make elaborate, time-consuming mini-houses out of terrible-tasting dough and a variety of hard-to find-candy (so the cats have something enticing to shove off the counter tops tomorrow). Where’s the gingerbread?? My children scatter when I start posing these questions and my husband suspects I’ve been prematurely nipping into the eggnog. They try to talk me out of these attempts, but it’s too late. I am in a holiday planning frenzy and have already purchased yards of raffia ribbon and brown paper that I can hand-stamp for gift wrap, Martha-Stewart-style.

Now, I know in my mind that most of these projects will remain undone and un-created. It will get to be December 23rd, and with the clock ticking away, I will resort to gift cards and overnight deliveries from Amazon to round out the gift list. The raffia and quart jars will be stored in a basement cabinet, right next to last year’s “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” cross-stitch undertaking and the unfinished manger made entirely of pop can tabs. But in my heart, I know I am creating something greater: a genuine sense of anticipation and joy that comes from thinking about the ones I love and the many reasons I have to be thankful that Jesus Christ came as a baby to redeem us. And that’s more than enough.

Except for maybe a pan or two of homemade fudge shaped liked Christmas trees…

Happy Advent everyone!

Praying with a Pen

An Attitude of Gratitude Radio Interview

Gary Zimak did it again! I was invited to return to Gary’s show “Spirit in the Morning” on Holy Spirit Radio in Philadelphia and somehow he made me sound coherent. On the day before Thanksgiving, we discussed being intentional and practicing  thankfulness by writing down things for which we are grateful every day. And where’s the perfect place to practice daily thankfulness? A prayer journal, of course! 🙂 Click here for the interview: my section runs from 18:00-28:37.

 

Catholic Treasure Chest

An Advent Journal

Here’s a peek at what I plan to use as a prayer journal prompt for the upcoming Advent Season. “In the Beginning” is published by Blessed Is She, one of my favorite groups of Catholic sisters, and is written by the talented Laura Kelly Fanucci of motheringspirit.com. I can hardly wait to dive in! It covers the beginnings of all four Gospels, and walks us through an Examen-like approach to read, reflect, respond, act and pray. I anticipate learning a great deal and, as the journal says, preparing my heart “for the One who is waiting to transform our lives.” There’s still time–order one for yourself today!

Praying with a Pen

The Luxury of a Look-back

One of the true advantages and joys of prayer journaling is the ability to look back through your journal pages and see how God has been at work in your life. It’s a consolation, an encouragement and an inspiration to keep moving ahead with your spiritual life! By marking your lessons and insights and realizations (I call them Holy Whispers or even Holy Moly Moments) in your prayer journal, you can easily return to them and recall how God loved you through a difficult phase. Here’s how I (and others) explain it in Praying with a Pen:

“…Don’t let my excitement over Holy Whispers and Holy Moly Moments received in prayer journaling give you the impression that I get these experiences all the time, every day and with the same constant pace that dirty laundry piles up in the laundry room. I don’t. The examples I’ve shared in this book have come to me over the course of many years. I am not a mystic or a saint or even someone who feels extra close to God all day, every day. I am a passenger on the struggle bus, just like you. I am someone who has gotten much better at being quiet and listening, thanks to prayer journaling. But I have a long way to go. In fact, most of the time when I figure out something significant, I want to shake my head and say, Duh, Mary Beth! How could you have not realized this before? And I often go days or weeks without feeling I’m making any progress at all. But that’s another reason to prayer journal and mark your “moments”—when you feel like you are going through a time of spiritual dryness, you can open your past notebooks and smile and have renewed hope and faith. You will know that you are drawing nearer, daughter of a King, one page at a time.

St. Augustine is quoted, “God loves each of us as if there was only one of us.” This means the Holy Whispers you receive will be different from my Holy Whispers, and your Holy Moly Moments will be different from my Holy Moly Moments. God will speak to you in your own language. “If I sense something from the Lord, I write that down,” says Debbie Guardino. “The more you pray, the more comfortable you are in knowing whether it’s the Lord’s voice you hear. The Lord is never speaking above my head in prayer journaling.”

You will want to track those unique-to-you whispers and moments so you will be able to appreciate your steady spiritual growth and progress. I had always known God’s hand was at work in my life, but when I began to track my spiritual growth and insights through my journal pages, I was floored. I could clearly see that grace was changing me, that prayers were indeed answered, that I felt greater peace despite any upheaval that was going on in my life at the time.

Prayer journaling will help you see what God is doing in your life, too, if you learn to mark your moments. Adriene, Jackie and Debbie have all seen the benefits of tracking and reviewing their journal entries. “It is so wonderful to look back at past entries—I can see just what God was showing me during all seasons of my life,” said Adriene. “One of the best things about journaling is it allows me to trace God’s hand of faithfulness,” Jackie said. “When I feel like God isn’t hearing me, I can go back in my journal and see where God has been faithful even though he didn’t answer my prayers like I thought they should be answered (Ha—why do we think we know better than God?).” Debbie adds, “I rely on looking back on my previous prayer journaling experiences when things are difficult: ‘You did hear me and you answered!’”

My friends–mark your prayer journaling “AHA!” moments so you can have the luxury of a look-back!

 

Prayer Journal Pondering

Forward in Faith

Wowza, is this world a hot mess right now.  Violence in our schools, deadly mass shootings, incredible natural disasters, government scandals and corruption—and that’s just on the national scale. Every day it seems we are faced with some new challenge in our own little worlds too: Challenges to our belief in goodness, our belief in humanity, and even our belief in a loving, ever-present God.

In one week in October, we had two deaths in our family. One was a long life well-lived, yet still came as a surprise. The other was a life sadly cut short, but was anticipated after a five-year bout with cancer.  I’m the first to admit it’s hard to make sense of it all.

In times like these I turn to an encouraging phrase that came together for me one morning in prayer journaling.  After reading the day’s gospel about Peter who tries to walk across the water to meet Jesus and then takes his eyes off Jesus and starts to sink, I wrote, Move forward in faith. Not just move forward, passing through the tragedies and the illnesses and the unfortunate events we are forced to deal with. There are millions in this world who simply move forward. The trick is moving forward in faith.  Not turning away from God, or being paralyzed by fear, or losing hope, but letting Jesus accompany us through our grief and confusion, allowing him to fight our battles with the evil one, and inviting him in to tend to our physical, emotional and spiritual needs.  Moving forward in faith means keeping our eyes on Jesus as we attempt to sort out and sift through life’s chaos. It’ the only guarantee we have against outright sinking.

Forward in Faith has helped me hand off my adult son to God this year, when the mom in me was desperately trying to hang on to my role (can anyone else relate??).  Forward in Faith has helped me leave a close-to-my-heart, part-time job behind as I make room for better things. And Forward in Faith has helped me slog through the grieving process and comfort others along the way.

I wrote this a few pages later in my prayer journal:

Jesus, you tell me: “Take courage, It is I. Do not be afraid. I am with you. I love you and you are mine.” So… Forward in Faith we will go together. Help me to be unafraid and always willing to move forward in faith with you.

Don’t try to go it alone, girlfriends. Focus on Jesus and go Forward in Faith!