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Newsy Stuff #2

blue-birds-blog-header1.jpgI have quite a bit of news, both life and faith related.  However, I will keep the two separate and update on the faith part in another post. 

There are some significant changes taking place in my life at the moment.  Firstly, and I suppose most importantly, my mum has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  She has chosen not to have any aggressive treatment and has opted for palliative care only, I totally respect her decision as it’s not something you can decide for someone else.   I understand why she’s chosen this path, I don’t think chemotherapy is for everyone, it can be worse than the disease it’s trying to cure in some cases.  So, good for her on knowing what she wants and bravely going for it!

My relationship with my mother has been very strained since the death of my lovely step-father Jim, back in 2009.  We were fairly close up until then, but she has never been easy to love if I’m honest and that became a lot more difficult after Jim’s death.  I think he somehow kept us together and calmed the waters between us when he was alive but when he died that soothing balm went with him.  I had kind of hoped that she would mellow a bit with this latest news and build a few bridges but, despite my offered olive branch, that has not happened.  She knows I’m here if she needs me but as it stands that’s as close as I’m allowed.   Some things you just have to place into God’s hands and trust that He knows what’s best.

Secondly, Ethan [who is about to turn 11!!!!] has just left primary school.  He attended a fantastic Catholic Primary School here in Milton Keynes,  and they became like family by the end.  Yesterday was his very last day and to say it was emotional is an understatement.  So many tears from staff, students and parents alike.  From my point of view it was also the end of an era; for the last 33 years I’ve been a parent to at least one child of primary school age or under.  I have to admit to feeling rather bereaved at the loss of that status.  There has to be a time to move on but it’s a hard habit to break and I’m sad at its passing.

I am still not working having given up my job as a Teaching Assistant back in December ’15.  However, once I’ve got Ethan settled into secondary school I will start to re-assess things.  I’d really like something part-time that gives me time with Ethan in the holidays as I won’t leave him on his own all day yet.  I’m not keen to go back into a school full-time but if anything part-time comes up then I’ll probably go for it.  Finances dictate that I’m probably going to have to earn something within the next year or so, barring a lottery win.   I may sign-up for supply work which will mean I can choose when and where I work.  For now it’s in God’s hands and I’m trying to remain open and just see what comes along in the next few months. 

My crochet has been badly neglected recently.  Just too much going on with the huge amount of end-of-term activities that goes with being the mother of a Year 6 student, visits to the new secondary school and organising uniform/equipment/bus passes etc., hospital appointments with mum and the general demands of a family and a house that still refuses to clean itself.

That is about it for the ‘life’ part of my news.  I will do a ‘faith’ update very soon.  

Sharon xx

Silence. . .

cloisters 5Awwww it’s the most beautiful day here in sunny Milton Keynes, UK.  The kind of lovely day that I’d like to wrap up in pretty paper and send to you all so you can share it.

I make no apology for banging on about prayer in my last two posts, it’s something I feel I need to, ‘get down on paper’ if you follow me.  Sometimes you just need to write things down to make them stick. 

I went to the taster session on Tuesday evening, as a forerunner to our, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which starts in June.  It was all I knew it would be and much more.  I signed up then and there and paid the small donation.  I came all home full of anticipation for what I’m thinking will be a wonderful week.  It’s certainly a fabulous opportunity, a bit like being on an individually guided retreat but at home.  Perfect!

I found myself craving that silent, peaceful place that a retreat provides.  It isn’t necessarily a ‘real’ place, more a state of mind really.  A silence that comes from within so that, even in a busy street, you can be silent and still on the inside.  Since giving up work in December I’ve created a lot more silence in my daily life.  I’d always been a Radio 2 kind of girl, a constant murmur of background chatter and music; but of late even that has been turned off. 

I watched, ‘The Big Silence’ [further reading] yesterday to remind myself what it’s all about and how difficult it can be for some people to just settle into the silence.  That was me a few years ago, struggling to be at peace without a TV or radio to fill in the blanks, now I crave that silent time because I know that God is there in the silence. 

We’re using a book called, ‘Patterns of Prayer’ by Eugene McCaffrey, OCD at the Carmelite contemplative prayer group that’s just started in my parish.  It’s the most wonderful little book, the kind of book that makes you want to read each page over and over to soak in all that it has to say.  It speaks to me on so many levels.  Anyway, I wanted to share a small part of it with you as it’s relevant to this post and Eugene puts it so much better than I can:~

Silence

Silence is an essential condition for listening.  Prayer is born in silence, a still receptive silence that enables one to hear the deep vibrations of the spirit.  Silence is our way of helping God so that he can help us.  We try to be still, conscious of our own poverty and of our own need to hear and to receive.  Silence is much more than an absence of words or noise, much more even than just being quiet.  Rather, it is a response to our whole being reaching out to grasp the word of life.  It is an alert and attentive receptiveness to “hear the word of God and obey it” [Luke 11:28].  Like the boy Samuel, we cry out with our whole heart, “Speak, for your servant is listening” [1Samuel 3:10]. pp28-29

Earlier in the book it says that it takes two to pray [p26] and I think we often forget that.  We are not alone in that moment, God is with us, always.  But we need to listen and in order to hear Him we need to be silent.  As Fr Christopher Jamison says in, ‘The Big Silence’, “Silence is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God”.

Peace and blessings

Sharon xx

 

Barriers to prayer. . .

Prayer Basket

My Prayer Basket

Following on from my last post on my different types and methods of prayer, I thought a quick post on barriers to prayer might be prudent.  I often hear people say that they just don’t have time for prayer, that life just gets in the way.  I sympathise because I can be the master of prevarication regarding a lot of things and prayer is one of them.  I’m terrible for finding household tasks to do before I start the one thing I SHOULD be doing.  “I’ll just hang the washing out, and then I’ll pray.”  “I’ll just prep the veg for tea, and then I’ll pray.”  You can replace the word, ‘pray’ with any of those things that you continually put off, we all have them.

I know that sometimes I feel that my house should be spotlessly clean and tidy before I sit down and do the things I enjoy doing, so that can drive my desire to leave prayer/bible study until the end of my chore list; I love it so much that I almost feel guilty for taking time out to do it when the vacuuming still needs doing and the dog wants a walk.  I’m getting better at prioritising prayer but I’m also mastering the art of praying whilst working.  More on that in a minute.

For me another barrier was that I thought I had to speak in a formal way during prayer, scripted prayers, thees and thous etc.  This is really not what God wants, he just wants us to open our hearts to Him and speak as we would to a friend.  As the saying goes, it’s not how you pray that matters, it just matters that you do.  Don’t let formality come between you and time with God.

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who gets up at sparrow’s fart and puts in half an hour with God before the day even starts….hmmmm.  Now, those of you who know me, know that I already get up at silly o’clock in the morning [5.30am usually] so let’s be honest here, any earlier and it’d barely be worth even going to bed at all lol.  I hit the ground running and don’t draw breath until Ethan’s at school at 8.30am.  So, I’ve compromised and I set my alarm for ten minutes earlier than I need to be up and I give that ten minutes solely to God.  No books, no rosary, no trappings at all; just God and I chatting and getting ready for the day to come.  I always ask for his strength and guidance through the day ahead and He always tells me He loves me. 

Praying whilst working;  The other trick to prayer is to remember that you don’t have to be on bended knee with a breviary in your hand or at church when speaking to God.  He’s with us all the time, ALL THE TIME!!  So, when you’re stood there washing the dishes…pray for your children;  when you’re hanging out the washing….pray for your spouse;  when you’re cooking the supper….pray for international causes.  You get the picture.  I pray in the car on my way home from dropping Ethan at school.  I pray for the people on my prayer list during that journey…I turn the radio off, throw a glance at the passenger seat to make sure Jesus is there [He always is], and away I go.  I’m sure other drivers think I’m on my hands free kit lol.  I don’t need it, I have a direct line to God.

If you enjoy praying scripture, you can pick out one of your favourite verses, write it on the back of your hand [size limits allowing😉 ] and every time you catch sight of it during the day you will automatically send it up to God. 

Post-its around the house are great too.  Short, arrow prayers can be stuck in strategic places ~ on the back of the toilet door, on the fridge, on your dash board. 

There is absolutely a place for scheduling time to spend with God in prayer.  However, we are all victims of our own success and life has become ridiculously busy and complex.  So yes, on the days when you can find half an hour to sit down with God, go for it.  For me, that time is usually after the school run.  I come in, put the kettle on and put away the dishes while it’s boiling.  Make a pot of tea and while it’s brewing I fold the washing.  Then I grab my favourite mug and my prayer basket and it’s my time with God….and I stick with it until I’m done.  I don’t put a time limit on it, I just do it until I feel complete.  This doesn’t happen every day but I try to make sure it happens as often as possible.  Fridays and Sundays I’m at Mass in the morning anyway but on the other days I just do my best. 

Ah, and that’s another thing that I’ve found helps enormously, my prayer basket [see photo’ at the head of this post].  Having everything I need in one place and totally portable is perfect.  No scrabbling around looking for my bible or rosary, no frantic search for my pen…there it all is ready to grab and go.  So, what’s in my prayer basket?  Hmm, more than you think lol.  My CTS bible;  Sacred Space Prayer Book, 2016;  Just Calling bible study series [Book 1] and relevant note book;  Trusting God Day by Day devotional by Joyce Meyer;  A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis [beautiful book regardless of whether you’re catholic or not];  Patterns of Prayer by Eugene McCaffrey [equally delicious and the book we’re using for our Carmelite prayer group]; notebook listing people to pray for; two more notebooks [hmmm possibly too many notebooks lol although they each have a purpose, honest]; pink, blue and purple pens; my rosary beads; regular prayer beads; post-it’s and bible hi-glider pens.  Yep, all of that fits in my little basket.  I don’t use all of it every day and I do switch things in and out depending on mood/need.  But it stops me using the excuse that I don’t have what I need to be with God.

I think the only thing I need to add now are some links to my favourite online sites that I use for prayer and bible study.  I don’t use them often but they’re a Godsend [no pun intended]and if that’s more your bag then they’re fantastic, especially for on-the-hoof prayer: ~ Pray as you go ~ I use this on my phone’, particularly the Examen at the end of the day.  Sacred Space which I mentioned in my last post.  Ignatian Spirituality ~ a beautiful site covering all aspects of Ignatian prayer.  WordLive ~ this is more of a bible study but another great site nevertheless.  Daily Reflections-Alive Publishing ~ distinctly catholic but hey, horses for courses.  Joyce Meyer also offers a daily devotional under the, Everyday Answers tab on her home page.  So, there should be something there to suit everyone.  Quite a diverse list.

I really hope this helps you if you’re struggling to find time to be with God.  If nothing else just sitting silently in His presence is perfect, you really don’t need ‘stuff’.  If you have a young family, just resting in His presence for a few moments may be all you can do.  And on those days when you don’t manage anything other a quick apology towards heaven for not having prayed at all, don’t worry, tomorrow is another day and God is faithful and knows the intentions of your heart. He loves you regardless. 

I’ll pray for you today, in case you don’t manage to ~ may you be blessed beyond your wildest dreams, may you feel the love of God surrounding you as you go through your day xx

Sharon xx

[ps links in pink, as always]

What is prayer? . . .

rezar-pray-spanish-english

Lent this year was a time of huge change and transition for me.  A time of spiritual growth.  I was so lucky not to be working because this gave me the time and space to indulge in Lent completely.  Sadly, I had a flu type bug over the actual Easter weekend so missed all those beautiful services but you know what,  Lent was such a blessing that nothing could put a dampener on the joy it brought me.

So, coming out of Easter-tide [although, we’re still officially in the season of Easter until Pentecost which falls on Sunday 15th May this year] I’ve been left with my mind heavily focused on prayer.  God seems to be leading me down a prayerful path by opening many doors to prayer filled opportunities.  A Carmelite prayer group has just started at my local church, we’re meeting once a month to spend time in contemplative prayer.  This is challenging but beautiful. 

I’ve also been lucky enough to secure myself a place on a, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which is being organised and offered by our local church partnership.  This is such a fantastic opportunity and I feel so blessed.  I get to meet with a Prayer Guide for around half an hour each day for a week, there are no words to express how much I’m looking forward to this.

I’ve just acquired myself a copy of, Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2016 which was suggested to me by the lovely Sister who is the Pastoral Administrator of our parish at the moment.  It’s a book I’ve considered for the last few years but have always used the online version found HERE.   When she suggested it I kind of wasn’t surprised.  God has a way of bringing these things to our attention if we’re refusing to see the obvious.  It’s just the most perfect devotional prayer book for me, very thought provoking and relevant.

With all this focus on prayer I’ve been thinking about exactly what prayer is and what form/s it can take.  It’s a question I’ve been asked a couple of times recently.  I’ve discovered this is a huge subject because prayer can be so many things, it has so many facets.  It’s also unique to each person because we are all so different with myriad needs.  I can’t speak for others so I’ll just describe my own experiences of prayer. 

Whether it be the comforting recital of the Our Father during Mass or a handful of Hail Marys during the week, structured prayers have an important part to play.  They bring me a feeling of peace and familiarity [often taking me back to my childhood] and, no matter how many times I say them, they bring something different each time.  They are a safety net when all else fails and I have no words of my own.  Also praying scripture, particularly the Psalms, can be a wonderful expression of prayer and devotion.  There’s a Psalm for every mood and every situation.

Private intentions and petitions are another important facet.  Praying for the needs of others and ourselves.  I’ve begun to keep a book of people and causes to pray for because otherwise I’m worried I’ll forget.  The list is long….and forever growing. 

There are those arrow prayers that I fire heavenwards throughout the day.  Maybe just, ‘Jesus, help me’ or ‘Bless this person, Lord’.  These are small, but mighty.  Acknowledgements that Jesus is always close, always on hand to guide and encourage.  We just have to reach out to Him.

In our monthly contemplative group, prayer is silence….it’s listening…..it’s being at one with God.  Listening is a very important part of prayer and something that people often forget.  They can be so busy with a ‘shopping list’ of people and personal needs [which are important] that they forget to just listen. . . . to just ‘be still and know that I am God’. [Psalm 46:10]  Remember, prayer is a two-way street, God also has things He would like to say to us, to ask of us.  ‘Listen with the ear of you heart.’ Rule of Benedict, Prologue.

I also do a lot of Ignatian Contemplation where you place yourself within a scene or event in the bible, usually from the Gospels, and imagine what you can hear, see, smell, taste and feel…you put yourself in that place, lose yourself in the story.  Imagine that you’re there with Jesus in the boat as he calms the waters….  It’s a truly amazing way to pray and it has revealed some amazing insights to me, and God has spoken right into my heart during some of these exercises.  As an alternative to this I sometimes just imagine that Jesus is sat opposite me at the table in my kitchen and we have a conversation.  This is a very simple act but totally mind blowing at times. We’ve had some great chats, Jesus and I. 

Back in August 2009 I wrote the words below ~ I found them today and they are still relevant: ~ 

Prayer is unique to each individual

It’s that hurried word on waking or a constant all-day dialogue.

It’s half an hour of liturgical trawling through the Breviary.

It’s that conversation with the ‘no one’ beside you at the table or in the car ~ it’s our faith that makes that ‘no one’ a someone!

It’s just a thought ‘thrown’ God’s way.

It’s a heartfelt plea on the back of despair or a word of joyful thanks at a beautiful moment.

Prayer does not have to be words, it can just be silence.  It’s a two-way street and that silence can be filled with listening.

Most of all prayer, in whatever form, is an act of fidelity to God.

On the face of it, not much has changed since I wrote this, but yet everything has changed because I have changed.  There are a lot of echoes of what I still do today but it all feels very different.  A lot more authentic somehow.  I particularly like the reference to prayer being an act of fidelity to God.  Our way of demonstrating our faithfulness to God. 

In an ideal world my whole life would be my prayer, to be ‘always in His holy presence’ and keep ‘a loving gaze on God’. [Patterns of Prayer, McCaffrey OCD p19]  It is something to aspire to.  

Sharon xx

Sock update. . .#2

Stage one sock 1

We have, what appears to be, the start of a sock!!  I’m really pleased with it so far and the pattern has been really simple to follow.  See THIS post for the pattern.

It’s been a lovely  Bank Holiday weekend.  Lots of birthday meals out and time spent with family.  I’ve consumed far more than my fair share of chocolate too.  I hope you’ve all had a super few days and enjoyed the extra day if you got the Monday off too.

Sharon xx

Sock update. . .

Sold yarn and 2.5mm hook

It’s arrived already, the solid coloured 4ply sock yarn in Drops Fabel Blue [107] and Apple Green [112].  The green is a lot more vivid in real life, the photo’ really doesn’t do it justice.  Also my lovely new 2.5mm Clover Armour hook.  Wool Warehouse really do give an amazing customer service and super speedy delivery.  I didn’t pay for anything other than regular postage and two days later it’s on the door mat.  Impressive!!

So, no excuses now as I have everything I need to start my journey into the land of socks…..

Sharon xx

Who’s in control? . .

Faith is having the courage xx

Sharon xx

Newsy stuff. . .

Hello lovely people.  I thought I’d just go with a newsy chat today.  It’s my birthday [53, ouch] and I’ve given myself the day off.  Well, as much as any wife and mother ever gets the day off; I was still up at sparrow’s fart and have done all the usual morning chores and the school run but, other than that, I’m not doing much else.  I might get my crochet out in a while and try to finish Ethan’s Cosy Crofter Throw.  We’ve finally transferred him, and most of his belongings, to his new room and I have to say that it’s looking very nice.  I thought we’d struggle to fit all his ‘stuff’ into his new room but he’s become a bit of a minimalist and has been totally ruthless about recycling things that he’s not played with for a while or that he thinks he’s grown out of.  However, he informs me that the room just needs a nice throw on the bed to finish it off so I need to get a wriggle on.

I share my birthday with St Catherine of Siena’s feast day.  It’s lovely to share my birthday with a special saint and if I’m lucky enough to go to Mass on my birthday [which I did today] then it makes for some great readings within the service.

Catherine_of_Siena

St Catherine of Siena

After sharing the crocheted sock pattern in my last post I was excited to give them a go straight away.  Unfortunately I discovered that the only 2.5mm hook I had was a grey Pony one, but I find them very difficult to use now.  As I’ve got older my hands have been prone to cramp and I have a ganglian [deep joy] on the back of each hand, so gripping a very thin, metal hook really makes my hands ache and, after a few hours, I also get a blister on one finger.  Pony hooks were all I used years or so ago but I had to find an alternative once my hand problems started.  Now I’m a Clover Amour‘ convert, and I’ve never looked back, no pain, no blisters, no cramp.  So, back to the story ~ without both hook sizes I couldn’t really start the socks😦 .  I ordered one immediately along with a couple of balls of plain sock yarn [be rude not to huh?] to use for the toes, heels and cuffs.  I’ve got some beautiful 4ply sock yarns but they’re all multi-coloured.  If you click on each photo’ below you’ll be able to see exactly what the yarn is and which colourway.

As soon as the new yarn and hook arrive I’ll make a start and be sure to share anything I achieve on here.  I’m trying very hard not to have too many projects on the go at once or I’ve discovered nothing gets finished as I hop from one to another depending on mood.  So, I’ve allowed myself one large and one small project at a time.  Ethan’s throw is the large one and these socks will be the small one.  It is working so far. 

The sun is out here as I type but the clouds are looming and there’s a bitter chill in the wind.  I have to confess that I’ve put the heating back on.  We’re out for a quick tea tonight, something of Ethan’s choice which I suspect will involve a burger.  Tomorrow I’m going out for a meal with my beautiful daughter, Millie, so I’ll be twice my normal size by Monday!! lol  Oh, and did I mention cake?  No hope!!!🙂

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK so we’ve got an extra day together which is perfect given it’s my birthday weekend.  I hope you all have a fantastic weekend and enjoy your extra day off if you’re lucky enough to have one. 

Blessings xx

Sharon xx

Crocheted Socks!!!

Kathryn's crocheted socks.

Photo’ courtesy of Deramores

Well, I’m beyond excited to share that the lovely Kathryn Senior from Crafternoon Treats is trialing her own crocheted sock pattern over at Deramores, starting immediately and being released at weekly intervals over the next three weeks or so.  So if, like me, knitting is a complete enigma to you but you’ve been watching with serious envy all those beautiful socks being knitted from the absolutely delicious sock yarns, then this is YOUR MOMENT! The pattern calls for 4ply sock yarn [I may have the odd ball of that, one or two, maybe more], a 3mm and a 2.5mm hook…..!!  The image above is THE socks.  

You can also find Kathryn’s lovely Facebook, group, ‘The Crafternooners’ HERE.  It really is a super group with very few rules other than ‘be nice’.  I belong to it so I can vouch for the niceness [is that a word?] of all the members, so pop over and join us. 

Just had to share that because all the good things in life are made better for having shared them.

[Click on pink links or photo’ to take you to the relevant sites.]

Sharon xx

 

The 3030 Challenge. . .

bible_light

I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned that I’m a closet Joyce Meyer fan.  I ‘found’ her during the early years of my faith walk, the ‘non-denominational’ years if you like.  I have to confess that I’m not all that keen on the heavy approach of a lot of the American evangelical preachers but Joyce is something apart. She is a woman who exudes enthusiasm for Christ and shares a simple but loving message. 

Anyway, I’m digressing here, so the point of this post is that each year Joyce issues her ‘3030 Challenge’.  This is where she invites people to read the bible for thirty minutes each day for thirty days.  Easy huh?  You’d think so but if you’re anything like me you’re great at starting, but not so great at seeing things through to the end.  You can sign up to receive various resources and have access to teaching videos.  The best of all is that it’s completely FREE.   Here is a LINK to the 3030 Challenge page and ANOTHER to Joyce’s website.  If you look in the top right corner of her homepage you can opt for the English [as opposed to American] version of the site which does make a difference. 

I just thought I’d share this, it really helped me last year when I was struggling to find time to read my bible or pray at all.  My work life had totally taken over.  This simple little challenge really made a difference and proved to me that you don’t actually need hours and hours, you just need a few minutes and the desire to spend time with God, the rest will just happen. 

Sharon xx

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