Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Private Vows’ 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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

 

Read Full Post »

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]

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Caring. . .

You just have to care 2” But of course I care!!”  I can remember people saying this to me in my misunderstood teen years when I felt no one cared.  I’ve even said it to my children in the same way.  But saying it and showing it are two different things.

What is caring?  Is it an emotion?  Is it a physical act?  Maybe it’s both?  I would describe myself as a caring person, but does that mean I actually am? 

I care about my family, my wonderful husband and children.  They know I care through the things that I do for them; cooking, cleaning, nursing them when they’re poorly, making sure they have what they need when they need it.  I also care for them emotionally through the things I say and by just being there to hug them and listen when all seems rubbish.  These are ‘symptoms’ of caring.  It’s almost impossible NOT to care for them, I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing when there are things that they need.  With family though, caring is intrinsically linked to love.  It’s my love for them that drives me to care for them. 

What about other people though, those outside of our family?  Friends and neighbours, strangers in the street?  Should we care for these people too?  I find my desire to care for people overwhelming at times regardless of whether I know them or not, especially if I’m aware of suffering, unhappiness, distress or illness.  Some of my jobs have historically been based on caring for ‘strangers’ ~ Nursing, Teaching Assistant.  It’s actually really easy to care for people who are vulnerable and obviously in need.  But what about the people we don’t like or who don’t appear to ‘deserve’ our care?  Should we still care for them?   Well yes, I think we should, if they’re receptive to that.  I remember nursing people with quite severe dementia, they really don’t want your care most of the time and can make that very clear in quite an aggressive way.   It doesn’t stop you caring for them though, you just have to be sneaky about it.  I wonder if caring for those outside of our family is still linked to love.  For me it is, however it’s not so much my love but the love of Christ working through me.  It’s simple, God loves me and I share that love around. 

Caring is what makes the day tick really, I care about my house and appreciate what I have so I like to look after it and keep it nice.  The same goes for our planet, it’s caring that makes us recycle, reuse and reduce.  In fact, if we didn’t care we’d never get out of bed in the mornings, well I probably wouldn’t.  It’s caring about the day ahead and the people in it that motivates us to face the day. 

Do I care about God?  Hmmm that’s a biggie and does He really need me to care about Him?  I suspect He probably doesn’t.  What He needs me to do is to love Him and to show His love to others through the things that I do and say.  What God needs from me are my faith, my fidelity, my thanksgiving and my worship/prayers, He doesn’t need me to look after Him.  All that said, I do care very deeply about my faith [my relationship with God], about how it shapes and defines me, and what it says about me.  It’s very important that what people see reflects that side of me and shows God in a positive light.  This is becoming increasingly important in a time when religion per se is getting a pretty bad rap.

The one amazing thing about caring for others is that anyone can do it.  As the image above says, you don’t have to be rich or talented you just have to want to.  It’s a daily choice and it’s one I make willingly.

Sharon xx

 

Read Full Post »

simplicity

I like to think I live a simple life but in reality what does that really mean?  This is something that I’ve been pondering extensively during Lent this year.

I’ve said before that we, as a family, try to be frugal in what we buy, the things we use, while looking closely at our needs versus wants.   We very rarely buy clothes, we wear what we have until it falls apart.  We grow a few fruits and veggies in our little garden and we try to only buy things that we really need, things that we’ll actually use [so not taking advantage of a bogof offer just because it’s there].  This avoids wasting resources and money.  We have this beautiful planet to care for so we each need to try to do our bit, and I suspect that very few of us actually do all that we can.   Surely it’s all relative though right?  What I see as frugal, someone else might view as actually quite extravagant.  It’s also dependent on where you live, here in the UK my life is relatively simple and non materialistic; drop my lifestyle and my little house into the slums of Calcutta however and I’d be living like a queen in comparison.  There is a selfish element to our frugality too, the less money we need the less pressure there is on us to earn huge amounts so we can take simple jobs and work to live, not live to work.

Does living out a life of simplicity just stop at what we buy though?  My lifestyle would probably seem really boring to those looking in, however we view it as simple, not boring and we live this way through choice.  We rarely go out socially except very occasionally with immediate family.  We neither of us smoke and I don’t drink except for a cheeky cider on special days.  Our idea of heaven is to be at home together, so going out is not all that enjoyable for us.  We are both real home birds and although not anti-social by any means, we tend to keep to ourselves. 

As a couple, our whole approach to life is quite simple; slow down, enjoy the moment, appreciate what’s around you even if it’s howling wind and teeming rain.  I love listening to the wind howling and the rain lashing the windows, especially if I’m just drifting off to sleep.  If you’re busy rushing around [which is unavoidable sometimes] then it’s really easy to miss those simple beauties. 

What about simplicity of thought?  From a faith perspective I have also found it really useful to keep that simple to.  After all God simply asks us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and [very importantly] love ALL others as ourselves.  I’ve noticed that this only becomes tricky when I allow other stuff to get in the way.  Things from my past, things that are man-made and not God given, expectations of society etc.  All of these can create a very negative thought process in me which takes up way too much head space.  While I’m busy doing the, ‘I’m not worthy’ number on myself I’m not being the woman that God wants me to be.  So, I’ve learnt to keep it simple; to remember God loves me, that He sent His son to save me[us] and that His mercy and grace are freely given through faith and love.  It really is that simple.  People want to make it more complicated but seriously, it really isn’t. 

I’m a bit of an Ignatian woman at heart, and I love the simplicity of their charism, primarily to, ‘Find God in all things’.  He’s there in the beauty of the Mass, he’s there in the amazing sunrise, but he’s also there while you’re washing the dishes or sorting the laundry.  It’s simple, you walk with God, He walks with you….all the time and everywhere, not just on Sunday and not just in church.  That fits nicely with my other favourite saying by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  Let’s be honest, that’s most of us.  We’re not all going to be doing earth shattering deeds each day, not all going to be saving lives or finding a cure for cancer.  However, we can all do those simple small things, smile at someone in the street, chat to the person next to you in the queue, hold open a door, hold a friend’s hand while they share a sadness or a worry.  These are not big things on the face of it, but to the old lady who sees no one all day your smile or friendly word is everything, your friend will never forget that time you spent listening to them with love and concern.  These are HUGE things to them but they’re simple to us.

 

On the face of it, living a life of simplicity probably doesn’t seem very exciting or worthwhile until you look closely at who benefits from it.  If we slow down, lift our faces to God and give our hearts freely to all those around us then everyone we meet benefits.  We benefit too from the lack of stress and self-imposed pressure.  The planet benefits because, hopefully, we give back more than we take.  I love this way of living.  In this fast-paced materialistic world I need to be reminded of who I am, where I’m going and why I’m going there.  Simplicity in life and faith is the perfect foundation for that.

Sharon xx  

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: