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Archive for the ‘Lent & Easter’ Category

It has been a long time.  Life has moved on.  I have moved on.  A few times I nearly deleted this blog, but then. . . . I just couldn’t quite bring myself to.   I am back at work, albeit it very part-time.  I provide lunch-time cover at a school for children with severe physical and learning disabilities.  It’s rewarding and humbling.  You think you’re having a bad day and then you realise that your worst day is a hundred times better than their best day.

Ethan is half-way through his second term at our local Catholic Senior School.  For the most part he’s enjoying it and has [according to his tutor] transitioned really well but the step-up in homework quantity, compared to Primary School, has taken some getting used to.  I’m sure he’s not alone in that challenge.

Si has also got himself a new job.  His night shift at a local distribution warehouse has been cast aside for the dizzy heights as an IT Consultant, a job he did for fourteen years back in the days before he worked in education.  The hours are so much better and so is the money.  The whole nights thing is not conducive to family life or having any quality time together.  Made worse to be honest by a truly ridiculous off-duty rota that included far too many single nights off.  Anyone who’s worked nights will appreciate that a single night off is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard……!!!

My crochet continues on at a steady pace.  I’m not churning out a project a week, or even a month, but I enjoy what I do and I’ve got three projects that are all going to be finished within the next few weeks.  A shawl, a pair of socks and a blanket.  I’ll post photo’s of the finished articles when I get there.  I have however, finished Ethan’s Cosy Crofter Blanket and the photo’s of that are at the head of this post.  The perfect finishing touch to his new bedroom.

There is big news on the Faith Front and this has been one of those subjects that I’ve spent a while deciding whether or not to write about/share.  The thing that finally swung it was that I myself would have liked to have a found an article like this when I was trying to discern my religious path.  Interestingly this is not something I’ve shared much in real life apart from a strictly need-to-know basis.  It feels a little boastful and overly pious to make this public but hopefully it will help someone else.  So . . . . . .

At the latter end of 2008 [before I became Catholic] I found the wonderful community of Turvey Abbey where, for many years, I walked the path towards becoming a Benedictine Oblate.  A time of formation ensued towards taking the vows of Stability, Conversion and Obedience.   For all sorts of reasons I never took that final step to oblation.  All I can say is that it never felt quite right.  I love Turvey and the community and I still love going there, in fact it’s probably one of my favourite places on this Earth to worship, but I felt that God was calling me elsewhere.  However, it’s taken me a very long time to discern where that might be.

Somehow I felt that God was asking me to make private vows….promises just between Him and me, not attached to a charism or a community, just a way of aligning myself more closely with Jesus and hopefully bringing some of His love to all the people in my life.  Easy you’d think huh?  Hmmm well in reality, not easy at all.  Firstly, it took me a while to find out anything about private vows [we’re not talking consecrated vows of chastity, poverty and obedience here] and secondly what would that/they even look like?   With the blessing of the Turvey Nuns I gave up the Oblate path and decided to focus completely on Private Vows, asking God to guide me.  I devoted the whole of Lent 2016 to this cause not really expecting much to happen in what is after all just a few short weeks.  A good starting point seemed to be working out exactly what the vows would be.  Clearly I’m a wife and mother so chastity or the eremetic life were out of the question.  These would have to be vows that challenged me yes, but that would also fit around my family.  I also felt that they would have to benefit everyone [without exception] who touched my life.  These are not vows to benefit me, they’re for the benefit of my community, they’re to bring the face and love of Christ to all.  So, with much trepidation and the loving support of Sr Yvonne who is the Vicar for Religious and the Pastoral Administrator of my parish, I moved forward in faith and prayer.  Over the coming days words soon made themselves clear….Obedience, Simplicity…and ???  That last one was illusive to say the least.  One day I was dusting upstairs with the TV on in my bedroom and I suddenly heard the word, ‘Caring’ and I knew instantly that was the last one.  I’ve no idea if it was from the TV or God but there it was, loud and clear.  So I had them all ~ Simplicity, Obedience and Caring.  I wrote posts on Simplicity and Caring when I was discerning last year so you can read a little of the thought process behind them if you’re interested. 

I have not yet made these vows but, as we approach Lent 2017, I know that the time is right to move forward with this and I will be sure to share how and when that happens.  The one thing I do know is that it will be very private and simple.  If you pray keep me in your prayers, if you don’t, think of me kindly as I make this amazing journey into the arms of God.

God bless.

Sharon xx

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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

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Hi lovelies xx

A really quick Sunday night post just to share a custom order for some button flowers that I made yesterday.  There are two sets of flowers, one in multi pastel shades and the other in plain pastels.  The plain ones are going off to their new home tomorrow.  These have become very popular for embellishing things, and I’ve used them to decorate my little crocheted bags.  As you can see I haven’t sewn in the ends yet but by the time they leave they’ll be all tidied up. [Click on any photo’ to see it enlarged.]

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all you ladies out there who Mother someone, whether that be biologically or just through the love of someone you care for in a maternal way. May you all be blessed.

Today is also Laetare Sunday in the catholic faith.  This falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent and it is a day of rejoicing [Laetare meaning, to rejoice] and the Priests and Deacons wear rose coloured vestments.  It’s a day when we can relax a little from our Lenten rigours [such as they are 😉 ].  

Take care,

Sharon xx

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Hi lovelies xx

Did anyone wonder if I’d been abducted by aliens??  No??  lol  As you can see my blog has morphed once again.  I don’t want anyone getting bored 🙂 .  It’s been nearly a year since I last posted, ahem!!  **looks slightly shame-faced**  Life takes over and pressures of work become overwhelming. . .well, you all know how it is.

As I’m way overdue an update, here goes. . .

I gave up my job as a Teaching Assistant in December ’15 partly because quite frankly I’d had enough [don’t get me started on the pressure of working in a school etc etc.] but mainly to see Ethan [10] through his Year 6 SAT’s and into secondary school in September.  I may have to return to some form of paid work for financial reasons at some point, but for now we’re surviving quite nicely.

Si has also left his school job and is now a warehouse operative, working nights.  He loves it, especially the lack of pressure and stress.  Don’t get me wrong here, we both loved working with children [him senior, me primary] and if that was all there was to it then great.  Sadly, that is not how it is…you only have to look to the media over the last few years to know how challenging working in a school has become, for everyone, not just support staff.  Fine if you can leave it at the door but if you care at all about your job then it’s impossible not to take it home with you.  There comes a point when your sanity is more important, we both arrived at that dark place at pretty much the same time.  Nuff said but the right decision for both of us without a doubt.

I’m still heavily into crochet and have completed a few projects, most of them since Christmas.  Some finished ones below and one just begun…the Crofter’s Throw in the variegated yarn [rest your cursor over or click on each image to see the caption]. There are other ‘works in progress’ but I’ll save them for another day.

So, you can see why I’ve revamped the blog with more of a crochet theme.  I was thinking about starting to sell some of the things that I make.  A few people have already asked for commissions so there is work out there.  However, I’ve promised Ethan a new bedroom first…and I’m a woman of my word.  I just love wielding a paint brush and roller about with six cats trying to ‘help’…oh the joy!!  The gloss and ceiling are all done…just the walls to go and Ethan tells me that he’s helping with them….gulp!!

My faith has become very settled, at peace is probably a better term.  I’m in a very good place.  Ethan is about to take his First Holy Communion which is his choice; it had to be as I wasn’t going to insist and it was totally his decision which is just as it should be. 

I notice that my last post was in Lent of 2015 and here we are again, just starting week three of Lent 2016 and yet another journey towards the cross.  The joy of not being at work is that I can participate in Lent totally.  This is a time of huge growth and discernment for me, I can feel change is in the air.  It’s scary, but it’s good scary and I will share properly in another post.

So I will leave it there.  Interestingly I believe that tomorrow, or rather midnight tonight to be irritatingly precise, we’ll receive notification via email of which secondary school Ethan will be going to.  I’m hoping for one of our four ‘choices’ [I use the term loosely] or we’ll have to go through the hassle of appealing which I can well do without.  Think positive Sharon, think positive.  I’ll let you know. . .

Peace and blessings to all

Sharon xx

 

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Hebrews 11 1

Hebrews 11:1

The children in my class were having a lesson yesterday [last day of term] on the meaning of Easter.  What [who?] we remember and celebrate on which days, and why?  One of them asked how we knew it was true?  [Good question!] The class teacher explained it was all down to faith.  Faith and love are the basis of everything within Christianity and most other religions too if I think about it.  The above piece of scripture immediately came to mind, the perfect response to such a question.  The bible holds the answers to most questions if you approach it with prayer and an open heart. 

The photo’ above illustrates how I experience my faith.  The trees are there in the distance, just out of reach.  On some days you can see them clearly, they’ll be bathed in sunlight and comfortingly evident, strong and stable. On other days they will be shrouded in mist and difficult to make out, with no clear definition and slightly surreal and dreamlike.  Faith, for me is just like this ~ on a good day it’s clear, tangible and strong, and I’m confident of my journey and direction.  On a misty day it’s difficult to be sure, I feel uncertain and weak in my resolve and the path ahead is unclear. 

As we approach Palm Sunday I wonder if Jesus was having a ‘clear’ day or a ‘misty’ day as he returned to Jerusalem?  How was his resolve [faith] in this, his last earthly week?  He could be forgiven for feeling uncertain and fearful.  I am grateful for his example and I strive to hold fast to my resolve on those difficult days.  So, faith is indeed being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see . . .even on a misty day.

Peace and blessings

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Today has been one of my baking days.  I woke up with that urge to create good, wholesome food and use up some leftovers and bits that have been lurking in the freezer and fridge for a while.  So we have a fish pie; using a tin of pink salmon, some smoked haddock that had been in the freezer for a few months and some potatoes [for the topping] that had got tired of waiting and started growing to amuse themselves. 

Fish pie. . .

Fish pie. . .

We also have a fruit pie and fruit crumble.  I like crumble, but Si likes pie hence the pudding ensemble.  They are both filled with plum and apple, the plums were the last of a batch I bought at the back end of last year.  If I remember rightly they were incredibly good value in Tesco if you bought large boxes, so I did, then stewed and froze them.  The cooking apples were uber cheap in Aldi last week so I couldn’t resist a fruity pudding opportunity.  I’ve already used a couple of them in some Apple and Cinammon muffins I made last week so they really are the gift that keeps on giving.

Plum and apple pie

Plum and apple pie

Plum and apple crumble

Plum and apple crumble

I hope you’re all having a very blessed and peace-filled holy week in this lead up to Easter Sunday.  For me it’s a time of reconcilliation to my faith and a drawing closer to God.  May you all experience renewal during this most important and exciting week in the Christian calendar.

Pax

Sharon xx

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Good Friday…??

‘Good Friday’ always feels a bit like a mix between an oxymoron and a misnomer ~ an ‘oxynomer’ maybe or a ‘mismoron’?? 😉  I always wake with a heavy heart and find it hard to gain any enthusiasm for the day generally.  Today being no exception, and in an effort to motivate myself, I thought I’d take a closer look at why we call this momentous day in the Christian calendar ‘Good’.  Surely it should be called ‘Heroic Friday’ or ‘Salvation Friday’ or something similar to reflect Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation?

Hmmm…maybe I’m being too narrow in my view, too focussed on the brutality of the crucifixion itself and the [seemingly] untimely death of my/our beautiful Lord.  If you take a metaphorical step back and look at the much bigger picture and the prophecy leading up to it then it is possible to see things more clearly and yes indeed there is a lot of ‘Good’ hiding among the folds of all that sadness, humiliation and excruciating loss.  It was the inevitable and unavoidable fulfillment of  Old Testament scripture.  Christ took the pain and sin of the whole world on his shoulders and, at a time when we deserved to be punished, he took all our transgressions on himself through that heroic and selfless act of submission to crucifixion.  Through that he gave us salvation by God’s grace through faith in him, and that salvation is still available today to anyone who turns to Christ, accepts him as their saviour and follows him.

The other thing I’ve always found strange is the image of the cross being the main symbol of the Christian faith and the Crucifix being the choice of the Catholic church ~ I wear a crucifix myself.  Why would I/you want a constant reminder of Jesus’ suffering?  Why does it bring such comfort when it was, in fact, an instrument of torture and death?  I suppose it’s not what it is that brings comfort and solace but what it stands for.  It stands for unconditional, unending love.  It’s a reminder that I am never alone, not even in my darkest hour.  It tells me that someone loves me enough to make the ultimate sacrifice.  It is a symbol of hope, of fidelity, of strength and courage.  A promise of the wonderful life to come . . . .

So if, like me, you’re often confused and overwhelmed by the sadness of Good Friday then take heart because it wasn’t the end but merely the beginning of all things wonderful; a day that should leave us with feelings of anticipation and excitement.  Because, unlike Christ’s followers on that bleak day, we know without doubt what is to come and there was no greater sacrifice made, no greater gift given than the one on that first Good Friday…

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The other day I mentioned in passing something that I was ‘giving up’ for Lent.  A friend made noises about how ‘good’ I was to do that.  I was embarrassed.  I’d not said it for glory or praise or for recognition of pious deeds.  I had mentioned it because giving this thing up will impact others so they needed to know but, in making it public it did indeed feel like I was trying to big myself up.  

I replied that I often felt like I was struggling rather than being good.  “Maybe,” she said, “you are struggling in the right direction!?”  I have thought about that and decided isn’t that what all people of faith are trying to do, struggle along through life in the hope that they’re heading in the right direction at least some of the time?? A bit like the photograph at the top ~ we journey on in hope and trust, not always being able to see our destination; being guided [protected?] on all sides by something solid and reliable [God] with opportunities to reassess and reflect along the way [the little stone seat on the right].

It always interests and amazes me when people say nice things about me because often I feel anything BUT nice on the inside.  However, it’s proof that Christ lives in me and works through me because the good ‘they’ see is not me at all but Christ.  I alone am nothing much at all.

Todays scripture conveniently consolidates yesterdays thoughts: ~

   31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

    32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

    1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 NIV ~ UK

Verse 33b sums it up perfectly “for I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that THEY  may be saved.”  Couldn’t [and didn’t] put it better myself :).

Photo courtesy of:~ Lynda Chalmers/Spiritual Direction

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