Advent: A Season of (much-needed) Hope

Teenage girl sitting at a window and holding a cup of coffee on a cold autumn day

It’s officially Advent! This is one of my favorite Liturgical seasons — a season of HOPE and a season of preparation.

St. John Paul II said Advent is synonymous with hope. But it’s not, “the vain waiting for a faceless God.” Rather, it’s a, “concrete and certain trust in the return of Him who has already visited us.”

I’m good at the hope part (most of the time), but the preparation part is something I haven’t done too well in the past… That’s one of the things I intentionally wanted to work on this Advent.

And as you might have noticed, it’s been a little quiet on the blog here lately and that’s because I’ve been working on a special project for Advent: the Pray More Advent Retreat.

The Pray More Retreat is an online retreat for the season of Advent that focuses on slowing down & preparing to receive Jesus at Christmas.

Because Jesus Christ comes at Christmas.

He comes into our world as a man — as a baby, to share in our humanity. And this changes everything.

Everything!

When Jesus comes, the darkness turns into light. And this is something we are all in deep need of; light — light and hope.

But a big problem of our society is that we’ve placed our hope in many other things over the years; in other people, in our culture, in our jobs, security, health, home, etc.

And those things have let us down. They haven’t fulfilled us. They haven’t brought us true happiness. Or peace.

Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring us those things — and more.

The way I see it, that can really only happen if our hearts and minds are oriented towards Him, prepared for Him — purified for Him. Certainly, God works past our limitations. But I think He might be able to work even greater in our lives when we do some of the work, too, and invite Him in.

That’s what the Pray More Advent Retreat is all about: quieting down this Advent season, not getting lost in the hustle & bustle of the Christmas season before it’s actually Christmas, and truly preparing our hearts to receive the Lord when He comes this Christmas.

The retreat is all online and it’s all self-paced.

It includes 20 different videos — some are 10 minutes long, others are 20 minutes long, and each of those talks come with a short study guide (one of my favorite parts of the retreat), a transcript of the talk (in case you prefer to read it) and an audio download so that you can listen to the presentation wherever you are — even when you’re on the go.

We wanted to make the retreat as accessible as possible — so you can be a part of it anywhere and at anytime this Advent — because we know that everyone is just so busy.

adventretreatHere are some of the topics the retreat covers:

+ Discovering the Joy in Advent
+ Six Ways to Keep Your Advent Season Holy
+ The Lifelong Journey of Holiness
+ St. John Paul II and the Holy Eucharist
+ How St. Therese of Lisieux Teaches us to Live Simply with Great Love
+ What the “Our Father” Teaches Us About Prayer
+ St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Process of Reflecting on the Gospels
+ Living as a Redeemed People in a Broken World
+ Isaiah, the Prophet of Christmas
+ “Was it Not Necessary?” (Jesus’s Suffering, and Ours)
+ Turning to Mary During Advent

You can see the rest of the topics of each of the talks here:

The Pray More Retreat!

That’s also where you can sign up 🙂

As Pope Francis said, Advent is a journey towards Bethlehem.

“May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God made man.”

Staying in the Present, Doable Acts of Mercy, How to Really Put Big Love into Small Things {and more!}

Two friends relaxing and drinking coffee .Coffee break.Coffee to go.Here are my favorite reads of the week, my take on ’em, and a few other finds that I thought you would like! Grab a cup of coffee — or tea, & enjoy!

“10 Songs That Keep Me Present”

by Amanda over at Erring on the Side of Love

My take: Music is one of my love languages, and I love the list she put together of songs that keep her in the present moment — and oh, isn’t that something we all can/must be better at doing? God is in the present moment, that’s why it’s important we stay here too. And as far as the future? He’s there too, and that’s why ya don’t need to worry about it! 😉 My two favorites from Amanda’s list are, “Good to me,” and, “I Shall Not Want,” by Audrey Assad. Just. So. Good. Go take a listen!

“How do you put big love into small things?”

by Erin over at Humble Handmaid:

My prayer that night in front of that sink full of dishes was that God would help me learn how to practically put “great love” into my duties as a wife and mother, particularly when I don’t feel very loving toward the task or the people I’m serving. I have a long way to go, trust me, but here are some thoughts from the past few weeks. Big love in small things is choosing not to snap angrily at a child who wakes you up early from a much-needed nap. Big love in small things is nursing the baby at the end of a couch full of clothes you haven’t had time to fold, and making yourself list (out loud) ten things you are thankful for instead of letting your thoughts slip into irritation or despair. Big love in small things is making sure you turn off all the lights, fans, and the washer and dryer before you leave the house, because it’s important to your husband (although it’s not quite as important to you, and although it’s a hassle sometimes!) Big love in small things is making red beans and rice every Monday because it’s your husband’s favorite dish and he grew up eating it every Monday night (although you’re not a big fan)…”

My take: Big love is hard, and painful, but that’s sort of what it’s meant to be, right? It’s meant to be sanctifying. And if our sanctification were so easy, there would be a lot more people walking on the path towards Heaven, and Jesus probably wouldn’t have had to die for us. But we gotta do what we gotta do. We’re called to put big love into small things and I know that might seem like an impossible task, but Erin’s tips seriously nail down how you can do it in your everyday life.

Read it here.

10 simple (totally doable!) acts of mercy to slip into your everyday

by Arleen Spencely over at For Her:

“Sometimes it feels like more people need mercy than we can provide—and exactly how to show mercy feels overwhelming or impossible, so we just … sink back into our everyday lives. But there are ways to be merciful that are small but still meaningful. With just a month left in the jubilee year, try squeezing these 10 simple acts into your everyday…”

My take: I love so much of what I’ve seen Arleen write. She’s inspired by the Holy Spirit, that’s for sure! Her first tip in this piece is to forgive yourself. Stop and let that sink in. It might hurt — looking at our sins, at our flaws, at our pasts, but — but — God can forgive us (He has, is, and will forgive us), and so you can too. And the good that can come when we extend mercy to ourselves? The sort of good that happens when we extend mercy to other people. We have to start with ourselves. Forge on, friends, and forgive yourselves! <3

Read it here.

Jose Sanchez del Rio: Hero for Christ the King

by Elias Rubio over at TFP Student Action:

“The guards made Jose walk ten blocks, barefoot and bleeding, along a rocky path to the cemetery were he would be buried. Along the way, the soldiers screamed blasphemies with satanic hatred, praising the godless government, trying to pressure the boy to deny his faith: “You better learn your lesson!” “We will kill you!” “What a proud and arrogant boy!” they said.

“Jose’s only response was: “Viva Cristo Rey!” and “Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!”

“Already at the cemetery, Jose asked: “Where is my plot?” as he did not want any of the troops to touch him.  One of the soldiers suddenly swung his rifle around, breaking Jose’s jaw with the butt.   Without hesitation, the soldiers furiously stabbed him in the neck, chest and the back with knives. At every stab, Jose proclaimed the name of Christ the King at top of his lungs, “Viva Cristo Rey!”

“Jose was dying slowly.  But he still mustered enough energy to defy the soldiers, saying:  “You have done a lot to me, but God still allows me [to continue]!  But when I can no longer speak, if I wiggle my feet, that means, ‘Viva Cristo Rey and the Virgin of Guadalupe!'”

“A federal officer approached the dying and bleeding boy on the ground and asked in a sarcastic tone:  “What should we tell your father?”  Jose answered: “That we will see each other in Heaven! Viva Cristo Rey! and the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

My take: Every time I read about Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, I react the same way I did the first time I heard his story: I just cry — like a baby, no less. This young boy died while proclaiming that Jesus Christ is King. He was not going to deny his faith or his King, not even to safe his life. No wonder he became a saint. I similarly wonder when his mom will become a saint (or if she already is one?), because let’s be honest: who do you think taught him these things? This inspires and challenges me when it comes to thinking about our future children. I imagine it might do the same for you 🙂 Jose had a beautiful faith and he defended it in numerous ways. Read his story. Talk about it with your family and children, or nieces & nephews.

Read it here.

Prayer of the Week:

moldme

Weekly Wish List:

Here are a few things that caught my eye this week…

This Mother Teresa Apron that says, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

My take: I love it. It’s a beautiful sentiment and especially hits close to home since I mostly cook just for two 🙂 The apron could also work as a Halloween Costume. Anyone else dressing up for All Saints Day too??? 🙂

Speaking of Mother Teresa, check out this cute Mother Teresa doll. This will be going in the back of my mind as a gift for friends’ & families’ babies.

Have a beautiful week!

To be Seen, to be Known, and to be Loved

gorgeous elegant happy bride and stylish groom on the background of beautiful sunset in forest

I was at a Hallmark card store the other day picking out a birthday card for my brother. After I found the right one, I kept looking at the other cards in the aisle. Greeting cards are one of my love languages — and my husband knows it. Sometimes we’ll show each other cards in the aisle without buying them, and for me, that’s often enough.

I like to be thought of.

I like to be intentionally shown that I’m cared for — and thought of.

And I like to be known — and (still) loved.

God, our Creator, does all of these things for us.

He thinks of us constantly. We would not even be created if He hadn’t thought us up. We wouldn’t have our hearts, our sensitivities, or our personalities if He didn’t give us one moment of His thought.

And then because God is God, He is thinking of us at every single moment. Still working on us just like He was when He created us. He’s still molding us, still shaping us. He’s still holding us close.

And He knows us. He knows us deeply. He knows us, truly.

And beyond my understanding, He loves us.

That shakes my world. That uproots my life. That changes everything.

He knows what we’ve done, what we should have done, what we’ve failed at doing, and He loves us.

I could have said, “but” He loves us, however, there are no ‘buts’ about this business of God’s love. He doesn’t love us on a sliding scale of extremes; you failed, BUT He loves you.

No.

You might have failed AND He loves you.

He doesn’t look the other way because of those failings, misgivings and imperfections.

He welcomes those too, in His arms. He welcomes us back, He transforms us and gives us what we need to try again.

So I think of all of these things, and then I think about how amazing it is to feel this — to feel God’s love, and then I think about the people in our lives who might like to feel like this too; the people in our lives who might like to feel thought of, cared for, and loved. (AND loved).

And I cannot help but feel like exploding with the notion that we have to share this with each other — we have to tell each other these things, to SHOW each other these things. Because we’re supposed to reflect Christ’s love to these people — our family & our friends.

Because they need it, friends.

They need it so very badly — just like we need it, just like you and I need it.

And I believe that when the thought comes to me, to us — to tell someone they look beautiful, to tell someone they’re doing a good job, to tell someone they came to mind that day; when these things happen, the Holy Spirit is working within us, and I’m asking you today to not deny him a voice in your relationships.

Give, show, tell; love, love, love.

There is beauty all around us, but the greatest beauty, I believe, exists within us — within each other.

Tell someone you know that you see it.

Because there is nothing greater than to be seen, than to be known, and to be loved.

“Honey, I see how hard you work for our family. Thank you for working tirelessly to provide for us.”

“Honey, I see the sacrifices you make so that you can take care of our family. Thank you for being selfless. Thank you for doing such hard work every day for us.”

“Friend, I see how you tirelessly work to give your husband and your children the best life they can have. Thank you for sharing your heart with me. You’re beautiful.”

“Friend, I know you are struggling and going through a hard time. You are so strong to keep walking forward. Thank you for being a part of my life. I’m grateful for your friendship and your witness of faith.”

“When the Burden is Beyond My Strength…”

Beautiful young couple holding hands, love, lifestyle-conceptI read the Diary of St. Maria Faustina, “Divine Mercy in My Soul,” when I was in college and praying a holy hour every morning. That was the same holy hour I was praying when I was hoping to meet my future husband soon (hint: I did!).

Since then, St. Faustina has been one of my favorite saints, and her diary, one of my favorite books too.

She suffered so much. Over the years, I related to this.

But she offered her suffering to God, uniting herself to Jesus on the cross, to atone for the sins of others.

She was to be God’s secretary and messenger of God’s mercy.

And she was supposed to encourage others to trust in Him, like she trusted in Him, so they could prepare for when He would come again.

And so these two excerpts from her diary really stick out to me today… because I suffer with suffering, and because I know this is a huge part of the cross we all carry (none of us are immune to this), and she even tells us what we can do with when our burdens are beyond our strength.

I hope they help you today. Stay strong & faithful, friends! Jesus does not allow anything to happen to us that could not possibly bring us closer to Him.

whentheburdenisbeyondmystrength-1

And if you haven’t read the Diary of St. Faustina, I highly encourage it! It’s a beautiful read, and actually something that’s easy to read on a daily basis — just one page, or a few pages, at a time.

You can buy a copy here for $6.

thepurerthelove

And lastly, please join me in saying this prayer today:

Jesus, I Trust in You.

Jesus, I trust in You. I trust that You will lead me today to the places and people where I need to be, where I need to love, where I need to serve. I trust You’ll give me everything I need to accomplish these things, and to give your love and mercy to those closest to me. I trust You’re with me every single moment of the day, especially in the darkest moments. I trust that You have a plan for me and my life, and that You also know the desires of my heart, and that Your plan is for my good. I trust that your plans are always for my good and that your ways are always for me. Jesus, I trust that even my pain and suffering, and heartache, are meaningful to you, so I trust You will use them for your glory. I trust you will not allow me to endure hard things without bringing about better things, even if I cannot see them now or in this world. Amen.

How Marriage & Our Crosses Refine Us, God’s Favorite Prayer {and more!}

Image of two cups of coffee on table with romantic couple on background

Here are my favorite reads of the week, my take on ’em, and a few other finds that I thought you would like! Grab a cup of coffee — or tea, & enjoy!

“A Picture of Marriage”

by Hallie Lord

“As we walked out of the candlelit church and into our marriage, I was blissfully unaware that creating a strong marriage isn’t entirely a matter of identifying our mutual desires and bringing them to life (fueled entirely by the force of our wills, of course). I didn’t yet understand that marriage is refined by fire; that it feels more like traveling along a mountainous path that leads through a series of beautiful peaks and dark, cold valleys. I had no idea that there would be elements of our marriage that took me so completely by surprise that they took my breath away, challenged my faith, and filled me with an anxiety so vicious that I feared it might never release its grasp upon me… We didn’t know how much we would change as individuals and how much we would grow in love.” (read the rest here)

My take: Yes, yes and yes! Marriage refines us — and while it is a good thing, the best thing, it can hurt, and you don’t know the growing pains until you’ve felt ’em for yourself. But it’s a beautiful thing. It’s what God intended for us in each of our vocations.

The First Prayer Wine Chocolate Retreat

hosted by Amy:

“Take some time out of the busy fall season to reconnect with the Lord; enjoy the faith and friendship of others and recharge your soul with prayer, wine and chocolate! Let’s tour the St. Katherine Drexel shrine . . . then pour the wine!(more details here)

My take: I’m going! And I’d love to see you there!

“Yes, You Should Say Something: Overcoming Awkwardness with Grieving People”

by Nancy Guthrie

“It’s not up to you to recommend the book they need to read, the counselor they need to see, the drug they need to take. You don’t have to provide a framework for thinking and feeling their way through their loss. Really, you just have to show up and say little. What they need more than someone with a lot of words is someone with a willingness to listen without judgment, someone who seems to be entering into their hurting world for the long haul of grief.” (read more here)

My take: I don’t know too many people who know how to do this, but the few that I do know have made an indelible mark on my heart. It’s something I struggle to really put into practice, myself, but it’s totally on my list of how to love people better.

Our Tailor-Made Crosses & How to Make Them Lighter 

“By accepting the sufferings ‘offered’ by life and allowed by God for our progress and purification, we spare ourselves much harder ones. We need to develop this kind of realism and, once and for all, stop dreaming of a life without suffering or conflict. That is the life of heaven, not earth. We must take up our cross and follow Christ courageously every day; the bitterness of that cross will sooner or later be transformed into sweetness.”

— Fr. Jacques Philippe

My take: Our crosses become lighter when we reach out and ask others to help us to carry them, to pray for us, and to walk alongside us. In turn, we should also try to do this for our loved ones. It also helps to remember that these crosses were specifically the ones that God has chosen for us. For me. For you. They may be very different, but they’re meant to refine us, to sanctify us and to bring us closer to God.  (read more here and here)

God’s Favorite Prayer: “Change Me, Lord”

Anniversary Round-Up Series (4)

My take: I firmly believe that this is what makes the greatest difference in our prayers, in our lives and in our relationships: asking the Lord to change *us.* Our circumstances may not change. The people we have relationships may not change. Our husbands may not change. But we have the power to change us, and to ask the Lord to give us what we need to change — and He *will* give us those graces when we ask for them. And believe this: when we change, those other things I mentioned — our circumstances, relationships, and husbands — often change as well. It’s sort of like a domino effect — like a ripple effect. People cannot help but be changed by love. (read more here)


Weekend Wish List

Lastly, here’s something I added to my Amazon wish list this week, and it’s less than $3:

God Will Use This for Good: Surviving the Mess of Life, by Max Lucado

(This is an affiliate link. That means that if you click it, I’ll get a very small percentage of whatever you purchase through Amazon so that I can keep my blog up & running. If you would rather me not get any money from your purchase, you can click this link here)

I have really enjoyed everything I’ve read by Max Lucado and this looks like it won’t be the exception to that.

“When tragedy strikes, people desperately search for answers. Believers and unbelievers alike find themselves turning to God. Best-selling author and pastor Max Lucado points to the only real answer to tragedy and crisis: Prayer. In For the Tough Times, Lucado helps us understand how to pray despite our doubt and fear.”

Check it out and have a beautiful weekend!