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We left off yesterday with a new plan for my returning to Mass with a view to trying out a new [to me] local parish where I wouldn’t know anyone. I think I had forgotten, or possibly never appreciated, that my faith is between me and God.  I’m not answerable to the church or to a priest, just God. Once I took that onboard going to Mass seemed easy and finally felt right!

So that’s exactly what I did.  Just a couple of days after speaking with Sr M I plucked up all my courage and went to an early morning, weekday Mass.  It was perfect.  No more Mr Nagging Doubt, just me and God.  That was about six weeks ago and I’ve been going regularly ever since.  I’ve also managed a few Sundays when family commitments allow and I go to the weekday Mass as often as possible, which can be up to three times a week and I’ve not really looked back.

Back to the original question of why I go to Mass at all, especially as finding or ‘hearing’ God there is rare, the answer is multi-layered.  Superficially I go to Mass because the Catholic faith expects that of me and it’s kind of what I signed up for, but we already know that’s a flawed and potentially flaky reason at one level and there has to be more driving you than obligation.  There is also the joy of worshipping alongside like-minded folk.  Sharing your faith through group worship is lovely.  We, the people, ARE the church, without the faithful there can be no church.  The church is not just a building or a priest.  As the bible states in Romans 12:5 “We are one body in Christ”.  

I love the physical and spiritual beauty of the Catholic Mass, the rise and fall of the faithful, the bells and smells, the joyful message of the Psalms especially, and the comforting repetition as the liturgical year rolls round reliably and predictably.  I am a girl of routine so, for me anyway, this is all a plus.  Also, given the choice between a swanky new auditorium or an older atmospheric church with stained glass windows etc., I’m going to choose the latter every single time.  It just does it for me.

On a deeper level it’s probably unfair to say that I rarely, if ever, find God in the Mass.  It’s truer to say that I don’t ‘hear’ Him so clearly there, it’s busy with all that standing, sitting and kneeling lol.  However, I often get echoes of previous encounters through the Gospel or the Psalms.  I hear a familiar piece of scripture and I’m instantly transported back to a time when God placed that scripture on my heart during a time of struggle or in response to prayer.  For example, I cannot hear the start of Psalm 138 [Hebr. Ps 139] “O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising,” without breaking into a smile, because that was the Psalm I studied at St Beuno’s [more of that next time as promised] and that message comes back to me afresh each time.  The Homily [Sermon] occasionally gives up gems that feel like they’re meant just for me.  Not so much during weekday Mass as the whole service is shorter and devoid of music or hymns, but Sundays are longer and more time made available for the Priest to share his thoughts on the scripture of the day or a relevant issue.  You can be in Mass and just feel wrapped in a warm presence of love and comfort…surely that must come from God?

Going to Mass is also an act of fidelity, an act of faith.  It’s part of your relationship with a God you love and who loves you, a bit like a marriage.  I never show up and find that God is late or AWOL, He is always there waiting for me.  It’s a two-way thing.  I think people sometimes assume that we do all the work and get nothing back, nothing in return but I have never found it to be that way.  The more time I spend with God the more He does in me and through me.  We’ve come a really long way, God and I.  He has transformed me into someone I actually quite like. 

Sunday Mass is officially the start of the week for catholics, a place to renew and refuel for the week ahead and hopefully you take God with you when you leave.  Faith is not just for one hour on a Sunday morning, it’s really the other six days and twenty-three hours that are the most important otherwise what’s the point?

Finally there is receiving the Eucharist.  The thing that gave me the most angst and heartache in the beginning and for so many years.  Well, what can I say.  It’s a simple process with the most complex meaning.  It comes from The Last Supper and we get to share that meal with Christ every time we go to Mass.  It calms, renews and sustains me.  It’s probably the thing I missed the most in other denominations.  It’s the thing that draws me back because I can’t find that anywhere else.  It’s the culmination of Mass, we show up and so does Christ.  Perfect!

To wrap this up if you’re looking for a place to worship and you’ve no idea where to start then start with prayer and an open heart.  Think about practicalities too, can you get there easily, do the worship times suit your availability?  Don’t set yourself up to fail by choosing a church that you have to drive forty miles to or take three buses ‘cos chances are you’ll always find a reason not to go.  If you’re surrounded by a young family then look for somewhere that caters and welcomes little ones.  Is there a crèche facility and a sunday school?  Is there a ‘Messy Church’ being run near you?  If you go a couple of times and think it’s not a good fit then try somewhere else.  However, remember above everything else, it’s just between you and God and He loves you!  He isn’t really at church at all, He’s there in your heart, always!

 

Sharon xx

 

 

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between-you-and-god1

So, following on from yesterday’s post about church and possible reasons why people do or don’t attend, I thought today I’d write a little about my relationship with ‘church’ and how that has changed over the years.  Yesterday’s post might make some people wonder why I go to Mass [church] at all if I rarely find or ‘hear’ God there so I thought an explanation was in order.

Naively I always thought that people of faith just went to church and that was that.  Easy!  They might attend a church they always went to with their family or they might find a new one if they moved, but either way it seemed pretty clear and straightforward.  Hmmm lol the reality turned out to be a little more tricky than that.  To recap I received my Calling in June of 2006.  I didn’t live in MK then, I lived out near Banbury, in a little village called Sulgrave.  For three years after my calling I remained purposely non-denominational.  Partly because I was unsure what the next step was and partly because, in the May of 2007, I moved to MK.  Once here I tried lots of churches and denominations on for size.  I’d mostly worshipped in Anglican ‘pointy spire’ churches as a teen and in my twenties, which encouraged me to give that a go here.  I also tried the Quakers, the charismatic evangelical Happy Clappys and the Baptists.  All were lovely, all were welcoming but none felt like Home.  

2008 found me still without a spiritual home but there had been some defininte and persistent nudgings from God towards catholicism which horrified my mother who was a lapsed, pre-Vatican II, cradle Catholic.  Taught by nuns and raised in “fear for her immortal soul with the distinct possibility of burning for all eternity in the fiery pit”.  You can see her point but I felt things had possibly moved on by 2008 surely?  They had indeed, I found an amazing Priest in Fr J, told him I was a divorcee and he told me, “God meets you where you’re at” and before I knew it I was attending Mass every Sunday and yes, finally I felt I’d found my spiritual home.  During the Easter Mass of 2009 I was received into the Catholic church, it was beyond wonderful!!  My mother didn’t attend. 

All sorted you’d think wouldn’t you?  Well things change, priests you didn’t realise you relied on so much move to another parish.  You listen to dogmatic people and read dogmatic literature which tells you that divorced catholics aren’t allowed to take Holy Communion.  You doubt yourself and before you know it you’re not enjoying Mass anymore.  You stand there feeling a fake and a fraud.  You try a new parish and all seems fine but eventually Mr Nagging Doubt comes back and starts pecking away at you again.  Let me be clear, no one in my parish ever said anything negative or unkind to me, it was all about my own self-doubt and feeling like I should ‘come clean’ which is ridiculous given that I’d ‘come clean’ at that very first meeting with Fr J.  Admitedly there were some priests that I felt wouldn’t have given me the time of day but, for the most part, all the clergy were lovely and supportive.  What I didn’t realise was that this was between me and God, not me and the Church. 

Fast forward to 2017 and the death of my mother in the July followed by the life-threatening complications after my surgery at the end of October, and suddenly there were more emotions flying around than I could deal with.  I certainly wasn’t up for the weekly self-imposed emotional torture of Mass.  So I stopped going and the certainty about my choice of denomination plummeted.  Not so much a crisis of faith, more a crisis of denomination.  If anything, my faith and relationship with God improved rapidly and drasticly once church was removed from the picture.  That was when I realised that church, instead of enabling and facilitating my relationship with God, was actually hindering it massively but I didn’t understand why and was still too all over the place emotionally to even begin to work it out.

In early 2018 I went back to a few of the denominations I’d tried before.  I also went to Mass very occasionally, but never in my own parish, only where no one would know me.  Nothing felt right anymore and I was very lost at this point and quite sad that I’d got it so wrong.  In early June ’18 I found myself on the St Beuno’s website looking at retreats, I still can’t remember what prompted me to do that. [my photo’ at the head of the page is one I took of St Beuno’s at sunset]  It was one of those moments when everything aligns; I had the money, despite it being close to the retreat there was still a space, it fitted with Simon’s schedule, I bought the very last train ticket for that day…it just all fell into place effortlessly.  Clearly meant to be. 

That weekend was truly fantastic and marked a huge turning point. I would do it an injustice to try and talk about that here so I’ll save it for another post but suffice to say I had an amazing Spiritual Guide in Helen and I left there feeling back on-track and with a promise to be put in touch with a Sr who lived locally to me here in MK so I could talk further about my issues with attending Mass.

True to her word I had an email from, and consequently a meeting with, the aforemetioned Sr M who was just lovely.  Such a down to earth, compassionate lady with a super twinkly smile.  Very intouch with real life and she put me straight very quickly.  What the Catholic Church teaches and what happens in reality and practise are not always the same thing.  Reading a lot of dogmatic literature can be damaging.  My relationship is with God first and foremost and the church second.  The church teachings and the recent papal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia clearly state that it’s down to your personal conscience regarding receiving Holy Communion at any time.  In my heart I think I knew all this but it was so good to hear someone actually say the words.  I felt lighter suddenly.  We also discussed the possiblity of Mass and, at her suggestion, I would try a different parish still close to me but not with people that knew me, a fresh start.  It also offered weekday Mass which was super handy for me as Sundays are often homework heavy and, if Si is on-shift, that just leaves me to help Ethan if he needs some support.  I do like a plan!!

This feels like the perfect place to leave part one.  I will carry on tomorrow. 

 

Sharon xx

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As the Church of England announces a £27 million growth programme to promote new Christian communities across the UK I am left wondering whether that is really going to help increase numbers long-term.  Is a lack of churches really the reason why people no longer go to church?  It seems unlikely as there are more churches than I can count, all within a stone’s throw or short drive even from where I live.  Not enough churches of the kind that people want to attend might be more like it.  Certainly there is a huge growth in membership and attendance at the more evangelical charismatic churches.  Here in MK it’s one of the few church types that continues to grow in huge numbers.  Professional looking band at the front playing contemporary worship music and songs with smoke and strobes pulsing in time.  Concert style dimmed lighting in the auditorium [yes, I did say auditorium].  Great visual graphics and words on screens to avoid the need for books or sheets.  It’s actually totally fab as atmospheres go.  It really is like going to a pop concert.  I can see why it attracts a younger audience and that’s definitely one area we should be focussing on because that’s where the future of Christianity lies.

I personally struggle to find or ‘hear’ God in that setting.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a rousing hymn and a good jig around praising the Lord, but due to the vast numbers I also feel very lonely and insignificant.  It’s quite impersonal and difficult to feel part of things although there are ‘Welcome Teams’ and areas set aside purely for newbies to grab a coffee from the ‘in house’ coffee shop, and have a chat with existing members.  There are smaller Cell Groups that meet weekly to make things more intimate and personal and courses and workshops offered for those new to the church and/or new to the faith.  But despite all of that, there’s still something missing for me.

I’ve always ‘done’ faith on my own.  I was taken to Sunday School as a small child, left, then picked up later.  I was attending the Anglican church on my own as a teenager.  It’s no surprise therefore that my call to religious life at eighteen received a big fat ‘no’ from me due to my revelation being dismissed out of hand by my parents.  As a result I’ve done most things on my own so my lack of ability to be sociable is probably why I find the Happy Clappy [no disrespect meant] charism so lonely and difficult to fit into; it’s way out of my comfort zone.  It clearly suits the spiritual needs of many people though, especially in our multi-cultural city.

I need to be still and silent to ‘hear’ God.  I ‘hear’ Him loudest in places like Turvey Abbey, St Beuno’s, up a mountain in The Lakes.  Not in a church, in fact if I’m being honest rarely in a church.  My retreat to St Beuno’s [a Jesuit community in North Wales] in June of this year was singularly responsible for reviving my lacklustre faith which took a horrendous nosedive after the terrible events of last year; losing my mother to Lymphoma in July’17 and coming close to death myself due to complications after my hysterectomy in October’17.  I had a real crisis of denomination and I really needed that weekend of complete silence to listen, pray and discern what God had to say and where He wanted me to be.  It was an amazing and very emotional weekend!! 

Interestingly, even in the very beginning I didn’t find God in a church.  I found him in the bible stories I read as a child and many years later He found me in my LOUNGE!  He held out His hand and invited me to follow Him.  No pressure from Him and no answer from me either, at least not straight away.  However, a Call that profound is hard to ignore.  A privilege afforded to few but still no church you notice.

I worry that Ethan’s generation will never be still or silent for long enough to ‘hear’ such a call.  It will have to be heard over a cacophony of electronics and devices and will have to compete with and be more desirable than eight hours on the Play Station!!  There is something amazing about hearing God speak straight into your heart, I’m sad to think that he may never experience that.  Hence my concern that all this funding is brilliant but will it actually make any difference?  Church is central and important in uniting the faithful but there has to be more to it than that, it has to be desirable and inviting, more interesting than the instant hit of social media.  If people don’t have either the time or the desire to read that flyer or leaflet or spend ten minutes over a cuppa with their Christian neighbour who is full of enthusiasm about the new church in the town, then no amount of new Christian communities are going to have the hoped for impact.  Their curiosity needs to be piqued, they have to want it more than what they have already.  That’s going to be tough, really tough.  The priests and clergy will also have a large part to play and I pray that they’ll be warm, welcoming and Christ-like.  There’s nothing like a ‘hell and damnation’ speech and a large dose of dogma to put a soul off instantly and forever.  I also worry that people no longer want or need a faith, that they don’t realise how important their spirit is, that it too needs to be fed and nourished.  I’m praying that God has a plan and that He will use this new initiative in ways that I can’t fathom. 

So, where do you ‘hear’ God the loudest?  Do you listen for Him in those quiet moments?  Do you spend time in silence just waiting to see what comes back? Maybe you ‘hear’ Him in church.  We’re great at looking after our health, our families and our homes but what about your spiritual life?  You don’t have to be Christian or of any faith to get something valuable from being in silence for ten minutes or so a day.  No devices or demands, just ‘being’….quietly and comfortably, maybe with a cuppa or a flickering candle or maybe both.  Rest in that presence.  Surround yourself in the silence and renew your soul.  Try it, it’s truly amazing what you ‘hear’. 

Every Blessing

 

Sharon xx

ETA ~ Silence – Ignatian Spirituality

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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

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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]

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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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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

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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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Home 04.03 (7)

View of the paddock opposite my house today ~ you can just about see the horses.

Good morning lovelies xx

It’s sunny, it’s Friday and it doesn’t get much better than that.  The horses in the paddock opposite are looking very chilled as you can see.  I’m just back from celebrating a wonderful Mass with the equally wonderful Fr Peter, who is a retired priest from a nearby town.  We don’t have a parish priest in residence at the moment as our last one moved on and he cannot be replaced due to the general lack of men taking up the priesthood.  Sad times but hey…we get Fr Peter on Fridays and he’s just lovely.  I can’t get to Mass fast enough because he is so welcoming, charismatic and funny too.  He’s obviously seen a lot of life and it really shows in his relationship with us, the faithful.  We are truly blessed by him…even if he does tease us by mentioning bacon sarnies on days we’re meant to be fasting 😆 x

Anyway, I’m waffling…I’m sat here with the standard cup of frothy coffee on my desk, Honey at my feet and a few things to share as it’s the end of the week.  The week got off to a great start with Ethan’s excellent secondary school offer [see previous post] on Tuesday, but sadly that same day he was sent home having passed out three times in class.  He is incredibly squeamish and we think it was something they were reading about in their group reading session [it was nothing massively graphic but, in the story, someone had just cut their head].  Anyway, poor little guy went down like a stone.  Luckily his teacher caught him as she could see he was going by his truly dreadful colour.  He was out for a while and fainted twice more before they could actually get him out of the classroom and down to the medical room at which point I was called.  The school did a super job of looking after him.  Ethan’s become very squeamish over the last couple of years but never actually passed out, until now.  Something worth watching I think just to be sure that’s all it is.  The children in his class were amazingly well behaved during all this which was most impressive as I would think it must have been quite scary for them to see Ethan out for the count on the floor.  He was very quiet and subdued for the rest of that day and had a bit on an adrenalin hangover on the Wednesday but was back at school and is fine now.

As I said in my last post, I’m a bit of an early riser.  It’s a habit formed when I was working and, so far, I haven’t been able to break the 5.30am wake up.  I do love the early morning, the silence while everyone else is sleeping.  The calm.  Time alone with God who feels very tangible somehow during those early hours.  I’m also loving the lighter mornings, aren’t they just wonderful?  The sky is just beginning to lighten at half-five with a hint of a bluey-grey tone…the light of the day to come, slowly creeping into the house, gently embracing each room.  Perfect!

Something silly to make you smile or possibly groan.  I ordered a book from Amazon, a small book.  It was delivered yesterday by Amazon Logistics [whoever they are] but I was out.  Okay, no biggie you say but strangely they delivered it to a neighbour of mine…then emailed me to say it was with my neighbour.  Yep…clear so far.  Then Jill, said neighbour, posted it through my letterbox…….hmmmmm.  So, if Jill could fit it through my letterbox why couldn’t the Amazon delivery guy??  No, it wasn’t, ‘to sign for’.  Yes, it’s a very obvious letterbox.  Not one of these fancy black jobs with an opening the size of a gnat’s whisker….  I’m left wondering…….but it made me smile. 

Finally, some crochet.  As most yarn addicts will appreciate I have a few projects on the go or WiP’s as they’re called [Works in Progress].  Here are a few photo’s of one that I’m very close to finishing.  If I’m honest I’m not sure I’m all that happy with it as it stands, but I know from experience that once you add the finishing touches such as a border etc., what was once a dismal failure can turn into something quite lovely.  So, here’s hoping.  This is my Cosy Patchwork Granny made using this yarn pack from Wool Warehouse .  I did buy an extra 100g of the Claret though because that’s what I’m edging each block with and I’ll also use that colour to join them together.  Might even use it for the border but not certain yet.  I’ve got about another five blocks to finish.  I’ll post an update when there’s something worth seeing.  I loved the colours in the pack as they had a lovely cosy, autumnal feel but hmmmm this might not be the blanket that does them justice.  We’ll see. [click on each photo’ to see it enlarged]

 

That’s me for this week I think.  Tonight my little lad and I are having a film night [at home], we’re going to be watching the new Avenger’s film, ‘Age of Ultron’ with the usual supply of popcorn and nachos close at hand, it’s gotta be done :).  I’m off to help at church tomorrow and then Mass again on [Mothering] Sunday. 

I wish you all a blessed and peace-filled weekend. Sending love  . . .

Sharon xx

 

 

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Sparrow's Fart

Sparrow’s Fart

I’m just back from the school run and sat here with my cup of frothy coffee.  The rain is battering the windows and the horses in the paddock opposite look mighty unimpressed, although some of them are wearing some rather fetching overcoats.  I’ve been up since sparrow’s fart [5.30am] because, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today is D Day regarding secondary school place offers here in the UK.  Now, I knew that the offer would probably ping into Si’s email just after midnight and yes, I was originally going wait up and read it.  However, as the fated hour drew round I realised that A) Si was at work as he works nights only in his new job so I was alone to face any potential disappointment, and B) If the offer was not what we’d hoped then I’d probably be awake for the rest of the night worrying.  So, I decided to NOT open the email and go to sleep.  Which surprisingly I managed to do.  Whoever said Essex girls don’t have self control??  Ha!

So, there I was at 6.20am with the farting sparrows; the tablet fired up; a cuppa in the pot and suicidal cats wondering where their food was; waiting for Si to come in from work.  [Honey, our Basset wasn’t ‘up’, she really doesn’t do mornings lol] He was equally as amazed as you guys that I’d not opened the email lol.  The good news is that we got our first choice of secondary school for Ethan!!  **does victory dance around the lounge**  However, we also know how lucky we are and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who will undoubtedly not have got their first choice and quite possibly  not even got a school that was on their list of choices, this does and has happened.  Ethan’s off to the only catholic secondary school in MK.  I think relief was actually our overriding emotion to be honest.

Enough basking in glory then and onto to something else ~ clarification.  Hmmm I was thinking last night, during my long wait until midnight, that although I did historically have regular followers on my blog who ‘knew’ me well, there might be new readers [due to the change in focus to crochet etc] who don’t know anything about me at all.  The bit I’m thinking of here is faith…. I don’t want people to think I’m all pious, that Catholicism is the only way forward and that I’m bigoted or dogmatic about my choice of religion.  I just want to put this out there and make it crystal clear that yes, I’m catholic [converted in 2009], Ethan is being raised a catholic and we love our faith.  My husband however is not religious and no, that does not cause us any problems.  Most of my friends are not religious and among the few who are some are Muslim, some are Hindu, some are Christian [and of many denominations] and some are just spiritual.  I celebrate and appreciate all religions and faiths, I don’t choose friends on the basis of their faith or beliefs.  I am not judgmental and have a past that is cringe-worthy at best [sounds of skeletons rattling in the cupboard] and I spent many years not being of any given religion, and in fact was Buddhist during the years leading up to my conversion to Christianity in 2006.  I don’t tend to talk about my faith anywhere except here and sometimes at church.  If anyone asks me about it I’m absolutely happy to share but it won’t be me who raises the subject first.  This blog started back in the day as a means to record my faith walk and it [the blog] has changed focus and direction many times along the way.  I no longer feel the need to record that journey in quite so much detail but it is nice to have somewhere to write about the ups and downs that come with being a woman of faith.  To be honest, it’s really hard to find anyone to talk to properly about religious issues because it is such a taboo and inflammatory subject so this blog can be a good outlet for that occasionally.

Okay, I just wanted to put that out there before people think, “Ay we’ve got a right one ‘ere.” and never darken my blogstep again. . .

Right, I’m going to wake-up Si who is off tonight and we’re going out for brunch…have a lovely day all…stay warm and dry XXX

 

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