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Here are this week’s must-reads:

+ “We busted out the wedding dress to dance again tonight (watch in our stories) and thought we’d leave these 12 bits of advice that have helped us along our marriage. We have mastered none of them and probably never will, lol. But they make our marriage stronger! Also I’m sure we’re missing a bunch of good ones but these were the first 12 that came to our minds… Be a student to your spouse… listen well and take note to what they’re saying and how they’re feeling // When a tiny fight turns into a blowup and you can’t figure out how you got there, there’s almost always another issue at play that’s deeper // Know which burdens are yours to help carry and which you should walk beside while they carry it and work through it // Allow your spouse to be who they are and do your best to love them for it, even in the weird little quirky things. Also remember to still be yourself- your identity is not in them. // Don’t look to your spouse for your happiness.. they should be a source, but they will never be THE source.” — Story of This Life

+ Choosing Joy Even in Difficult Circumstances

+ The difference between joy & happiness: The third Sunday of Advent is everyone’s favorite Sunday in Advent: Gaudete Sunday — where we wear pink (I mean rose!) and where we rejoice — because we know what’s coming. It’s a day of Joy.

Now, If you were around here last year, you might remember that last Advent — last Winter, really, was a pretty dark season for me. I remember getting out our Christmas decorations, and walking through stores and seeing their displays with JOY printed on everything under the sun, thinking, “That’s about the last thing I feel right now.” It was a season full of fear and unknowns, and those can be really difficult and painful to live through.

Something that helped me through that season, though, was the nearness of the ones I love — and I don’t just mean their physical presence, but the nearness of their care and love; constant checking-in, frequent calls and texts and “I’m thinking of yous.” None of them could entirely fix what was going on and completely erase the pain and fear, but they made it ever so slightly easier to bear. They made it endurable.

Cookies and twinkle lights and Christmas movies – they barely got my mind off of things, they somewhat superficially lifted my heart for just a moment. But the nearness of the ones I loved — that left a longer-lasting mark. A warmth. Which reminded me that I could live through what I was going through. That I could face the mountain I feared was before me.

This is how I look at the distinction between happiness and joy: happiness is that temporary sweetness while joy is a longer-lasting warmth that changes things.

The joy that we get to know during Advent is that longer lasting warmth that changes things because we know Jesus is coming (and has already come), and with Him, all the pains and trials and crosses in this life are more endurable.

So when I see these decorative signs that shout JOY… I remind myself that for us, this Joy is about the warmth and nearness of His presence.

+ “You are never the only one. Who feels unpolished. Who is an introverted extrovert. Who wishes they could be what they were. You are never the only one Who can’t stop comparing their progress to everyone else’s. Who is hiding some unseen wounds. Who would give anything to go back and have that one day go differently. You are never the only one. Do you hear that? Suffering falsely makes us feel completely and utterly alone when that is a lie from the pits of Hell. Whatever you’re walking through, ashamed of, or trying to hide, hear this. Know this. Believe with everything in you that it’s true. You are NEVER the only one.” — Ashley Stevens, Mountains Unmoved

+ “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

+ O Light That Knew No Dawn: A Meditation & Reflection on a Nativity painting by Kevin Heider

+ “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most.” — Thomas Merton

+ “Often, we go running and searching to find answers to our cries and our needs. We try to self-soothe and be self-sufficient, but we have so many beloved Saints willing to intercede and help us. Mary, our mother, is so close! She wants to love us with tender, motherly love. She wants to lead us to her Son, to help us trust the movements of the Spirit, and to rest in the Father’s promises of providence. Let her love you as a mother loves her child! She is so, so good.” — Abiding Together podcast

+ Lastly, here’s what’s featured in this week’s Catholic Wife, Catholic Life NewsletterI share these every Monday and they always include: two gluten-free recipes, a reflection & prayer based on Sunday’s Mass readings, and links to budget-friendly fashion & home decor.

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