Advent with Mary

advent

Advent.  A time of waiting.  A time of joy.  A time of repentance.  A time of hope.  A time of growth.  A time to quiet ourselves so that we can hear the Christ Child when He comes into the world.

I do love the season of Advent.  It’s a new season in the Liturgical Year, so that means I get to change out my breviary, and make some “new year” resolutions.  I love lighting our Advent wreath. I love the kids putting hay in our manger each night as they get ready for Baby Jesus to come.  I love the hot cocoa, the cookie making, the gingerbread house decorating, our annual Posada potluck, Dan creating his Christmas village.  I love going out to cut down the perfect tree and then slowly getting it ready (we put ornaments on it on Christmas Eve.) I love vacation beginning and the anticipation the kids have for Jesus’ birthday.  I love all the time we get together as a family.  We have some traditions that we really love.  But, it is also busy… card mailing, picture taking, shopping, trying to figure out the best presents for each kid and keep it in our small budget, the school play, the holiday concert or two that we would like to get to, overcoming the temptation to buy or make something for every person we know…etc…

Sometimes I wish we could all go off in some cabin in the woods, and really DO Advent.  Do Advent, without the hustle and bustle of the holiday madness that this world thrives on.  Just come away and sit with Mary quietly as Christ grows in her womb and she prepares to welcome Him, her Son, her God, into the world.  What beautiful thoughts and prayers must have flowed through Mary’s heart during her Advent.

Advent is an opportunity to really invite Mary “in.” Into the home of our heart.  Finding for her the best spot for her to rest; making her as comfortable as she can be while pregnant; preparing for her the best meal, knowing that food is also nourishing her Son as well.  But also, as a good host does ~  sitting with her; listening to her; being present to her; sharing and listening.  And there would be silence too.   Time to ponder.  Time to ponder this great mystery of the Incarnation, of God becoming man, of His overwhelming and unfailing love for us, of his deep humility in coming into the world as a helpless baby, totally dependent on His mother and father for even the most basic of needs. Being born in a stable, in the cold, in a place only fit for animals, our God comes to us….

He comes.

Mary didn’t spend her Advent away in a cabin in the woods.  She made preparations for a great journey, traveled far – very pregnant, rode on the donkey, was rejected by inn after inn, with no place to rest her very tired body, and the world around her was also hustling and bustling with the madness of the census.  And yet, in the midst of it all, she quieted herself, prayed to her God who was growing in her womb, and pondered… in silence.

The world around her was constantly moving,

but her soul was still and quiet,

preparing for the Christ Child to come.

 

Let us ask Mary to guide us this Advent.  Let us invite her into our hearts.  Let us ask her to help prepare our hearts too, that we may be ready to truly welcome the Christ Child this Christmas, into our souls, into the quiet of our hearts.

God Nudges

therese-little-flower-clipart-1

I have entered a fascinating new period of motherhood. One I have longed for deeply, one I have tried to push myself into unsuccessfully, one I had almost given up hope of ever entering, and one I finally resigned myself to the thought that if God wants, and when He wants, I will enter. Well, eight children later, I am finally able to go to Mass during the week. I don’t go every day, but aim for 2 or 3 days. God seemed to be putting on my heart in a more intense way the need for more prayer, like a lot more. And sometimes we wonder, “How am I going to ever find the time? How can I really give of myself in that way intensely as I have this, this, and this obligation….” and on goes the list. A dear friend sent me a little post from a dad somewhere out in cyberspace praising all the moms who take their babies to daily Mass. He did a great job articulating things; it was a very well written piece. And so, this little encouragement, this gentle push from a friend, had me wondering if daily Mass might just be what God had in mind when He kept nudging me to go deeper. I left the inspiration there for the moment.
Then my husband and I wanted to go to Mass for the feast of St. Therese to finish our novena to our dear saint friend. She brought us together, has answered so many prayers, and well, she is just awesome. We found a church down the road from our children’s school with an 8:15 Mass… just enough time to go through carline and get into the church. It was a blessing for that day. Then the nudging persisted… so I tried it. Colette is two and not always the most docile of toddlers… and well, you just never know how toddlers are going to do in church – every time is a brand new adventure. She was wonderful. And Andre, little chubby angel that he is, was content. So, we tried again…. and again. It is becoming a habit, and a good one. We use the entrance door that goes right into the cryroom, and Mass happens. I hear some of the readings, we watch Jesus come onto the altar, Colette loves “peace” time, and when it’s time to “go see Jesus” in communion, she is all in. After, she runs back, and stops at our Lady’s statue and kneels right down and fold her hands. Sometimes I just want to cry watching it all happen – it is such a gift. I longed for this my whole motherhood, but it was never the right time. Sometimes that holy day of obligation was the toughest Mass ever, and I would just pray that me getting through with the wailing child would help some poor soul in purgatory. Yes, I was and still am that mom who will bring the screaming child up to Communion, because, I love Him and NEED Him immensely, need that grace as I make it through this crazy beautiful messy calling of motherhood. (And I encourage any parent with an unhappy child in the back of the church to go up or tell them to go see the priest after Mass if they don’t make it up to communion so they can receive – because we all need Jesus.) 🙂
So, I am very grateful for this new season. It may only last a couple of months, but I am going to soak it in! And when the season ends, it will be ok. (I am really looking forward to Dan and I being that old couple at daily Mass… those couples are the cutest!) One thing I have learned not only in motherhood, but in life is, there are different seasons for different things. (I’ll write more on this later.) For now, I am glad God is showing me to embrace the present moment, grateful for a gentle push from a friend, and thankful for God’s little nudges to draw me closer to His Heart. And as I look out from the cryroom, just past the altar, I see a beautiful yet simple wooden statue of St. Therese, and wonder if maybe she is smiling.

Joy in Autumn

A crisp autumn day.  Fall has taken its time to come, but finally it has arrived.  The colder air came first, but now the leaves on the trees have begun to change – some bright reds and oranges, some mild golden leaves, an occasional purple bunch, and of course, many that are still green.  Each in its own time.  Each one has its own path, its own time to turn colors, its own time to fall and bring delight to little feet as they crunch them along their little walk, or those little hands that find it, thinking it is the most beautiful and most intricate leaf they have ever collected, or those giggles and shrieks of laughter that come from jumping into a huge pile of multicolored leaves before they are raked or blown into the woods to one day become fertile ground for new life.

After many, many moons, our family was returned to beautiful New England, a place of all four seasons, a place where we can reach the mountains or the ocean under 2 hours, where apple picking is really a thing (there are two great orchards right down the street from our home!), where cider, leaf piles, and all things pumpkin are part of what we call “fall,” a return to family and to friendships we had made so very long ago, a homecoming to the mission territory that never truly left our heart and prayers, but a mission we knew God had to work on us first before sending us back.  We left New England as newly weds, and 16 years and 5 states later, we’ve returned with 8 beautiful children, and hearts still hanging on every word from Christ’s Heart.  How good the Lord is!  I am so very grateful.  I am glad He can see into our hearts, and know what is truly in them, for as St. Therese would say, words can never fully express what is felt in the heart.

Of course, there will be much more talk about daisies, but for today, I suppose it is about leaves.  As a little child looks down and sees that one very special leaf, dearer to him than all the others, and picks it up and smiles and carries it close to his little heart as it is his greatest treasure, so too must we remember that we are that leaf, and God is so very, very pleased with us, in all our imperfections – and He smiles as He bends down and picks us up, and carries us close to His Sacred Heart.