“On the First Day of Christmas…”

“My true love gave to me:

my own blog domain name!”

Merry Christmas, everyone, and I pray you’ve had a blessed day celebrating the arrival of the Christ Child. Now let’s keep on celebrating for the remainder of the 12 Days of Christmas! 🙂

Holiday/Seasonal Suffering

Whether it’s illness (depression, anxiety, pain, etc.), the common triggers of departed loved ones and family separated from us by distance or even various unexpected changes in life, the holidays are, for many, a time full of suffering. I know this year I’m just feeling worn out in general and although I’m not having a bad Advent it’s not the one I had hoped to have. So much for more time for reflection on the meaning of the life Christ came into this world to bring us. It’s not over just yet but it seems there’s only been little bits and pieces of that woven through our Advent wreath prayers and O, Antiphons and my eclectic Advent/winter music mix (and those Christmas hymns that I think of as good year-round).

Then there are circumstances that make gift giving more challenging this year and, as always it seems with me, right down to the line, so there’s the additional pressures of meeting deadlines when one is suffering and thereby slowed down. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the material things of the world and frustrated that I can’t be more focused on the spiritual things of life. But then I serendipitously came across these words of one of my personal heroes, Vincent van Gogh, during a time when he was working as a teacher and feeling pretty overwhelmed himself it seems. His letters from that period are “packed with long quotes from the Bible, poems, and hymns about struggles, sorrows, lost dreams, and his faith in God.”

Must man not struggle here on earth? You must have felt so when you were ill. No victory without a battle, no battle without suffering…No, being ill and being supported by God’s arm and acquiring new ideas and resolutions, which couldn’t occur to us when we weren’t ill, and acquiring clearer faith and firmer trust during those days, no that’s not a bad thing.

Letter 95, Isleworth, October 1876, Van Gogh’s Inner Struggle: Life, Work, & Mental Illness; Secrets of Van Gogh, Vol. 2, Liesbeth Heenk, p. 9.

And you know what? He’s absolutely right! My struggles this Advent have been helping me acquire a clearer faith and firmer trust in God, even though my feelings don’t always match my head’s assessment. So to all of you who are struggling–and I’m sure the majority of you have struggles that make mine seem trite, just as there are those below me on the ladder of suffering who feel the same way regarding mine–let’s remember what Scripture instructs us:

“If one member suffers, all suffer together.” 1 Cor 12:26a RSV-CE

Ten Advents

Today is the first Monday in the first week of Advent. It also marks the tenth anniversary of having an Advent wreath and special family prayers. Individually I’ve pursued a variety of readings but have almost always spent Advent with Fr. Groeschel’s book for this liturgical season, and for very good reason, as I think as his words always seem fresh and tailored to that particular year’s needs. For example, here’s an excerpt for this day:

“I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)

Advent must remind us of that possibility [the world with God’s grace and the promise of salvation]. I could cry when I think of all the decent people who live without hope. Christians must pray for these people, that they would experience Advent—literally the time of His coming in their own lives. [emphasis mine]

Behold, He Comes: Meditations On the Incarnation: Daily Reading from Advent to Epiphany, Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.

This year also marks a change from our traditional wreath with tapers to an antiqued bronze wrought iron votive holder (minus the glass holders or votives, of course) that I found at a thrift store. I have no idea if it was ever intended to be a wall hanging Advent candle holder but decided it went well with our first Advent minus a coffee table, as using the dining table in the past was always cramped–and besides, we eat more meals in the living room than at the dining table (not that I’m proud of that, but it is what it is…). This more stark and yet beautiful in its own unique way holder of our Advent candles reminds me once again that our Savior really did come to save the whole world–in all its diversity–and how sad it must make Him when those who’ve been given a good introduction to Him turn–or perhaps just drift–away. Thankfully, He’s always just a prayer away.

P.S. A very blessed Advent to Fr. Groeschel, R.I.P., as this year he now spends it in the best possible place!

Home Sweet Home

After a week’s absence from the hubby, the teen and I have returned to the family nest and it is a profoundly comforting sensation to be reunited with your beloved spouse and have everyone where they’re supposed to be…for now. With the graduation of the teen just two years away and every day being so precious to me because of that, I love being in my nest and getting to spend the extra time with him when I can, especially with school starting back tomorrow. He also now volunteers with the adorable felines at a wonderful place called The Haven of the Ozarks.

I don’t know who enjoys his time there the most: the furry, purry creatures or him! And next month he plans to take his driver’s license exam and so, D.V., will be able to be more independent and pursue whatever activities he previously was dependent upon us for, which some times meant, due to our life’s circumstances, he couldn’t do some of the things he wanted. So for me, our time spent on the road trip was a nice way to wrap up the summer with some extra time with my extra special teen.

And now that I’m back with my hubby, I breathe a sigh of deep relief knowing all is right with the world because I’ve not left my better half somewhere while I’m enjoying the wonderful making of memories with family and friends. When you live out of state and your health and other circumstances (or theirs) make travel infrequent–even impossible at times–it leaves an aching in your soul for closer proximity and/or fewer health issues that would make regular, ongoing memory making that one takes for granted when they’re younger (or at least I did) an ongoing thing one must accept as a limitation that can be offered up to God or something that causes ongoing frustration. But we all make our own choices based on a myriad of factors, ultimately guided by the hand of Le Bon Dieu (“the good God” per Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s novels), “who never has problems, only plans,” as Corrie ten Boom reminds us. I’m grateful for where I live at this point in my life. I also wish I could be closer or my family would move closer. We’re all where we’re supposed to be at this point for a reason. At any time that may change, as improbable as it may seem.

In the meantime, it’s good to be home.

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