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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

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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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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  

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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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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…

Without Him I am nothing!! 

“Behind every crucifix, hidden, for we cannot see him, stands our Risen Lord.  Hidden in every suffering and pain is the joy of closer union with Him.  His is the victory.  He invites us to share it.”

“Mystery of Love” by Cardinal Basil Hume p76

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Third Sunday of Lent…

It’s 7.30am and the house is in silence.  The clocks went forward an hour overnight so somehow we’ve ‘lost’ an hour and my body-clock is still saying it’s 6.30am.  It is of little consequence in any event because I have already been awake an hour and a half.  Sleep has evaded me these last two nights.  No problems drifting off but then around four or five I’m suddenly wide awake with no chance of anymore sleep.  So, today I gave up and decided to put the kettle on and welcome in the dawn on this first day of British Summer Time.

The house is always lovely at this time of the day ~ very conducive to being at-one with God.  I’m the only one up as everyone else is still on yesterday’s time frame ~  Ethan [and his spots] are still snoozing as is Si [he is without spots though ;)].  There is no sun yet, quite dull and gray out there actually.  The window by my PC looks out over the meadow but the horses are nowhere to be seen, they’re probably down the far end under the trees.

Today is going to be flapjack making, pantry cupboard tidying, ironing and sewing day.  Oh with maybe a bit of gardening thrown in.  All that inbetween playing with Ethan.  Not sure if I’ll make Mass today.  Mum has asked to come to Mass with me one Sunday which is wonderful.  Usually I only attend every other Sunday as she visits on the Sundays inbetween and [as I’ve said before] that clashes perfectly with Mass times.  So, as it’s Mothering Sunday next weekend I thought it might be nice to take her to that Mass.  This might mean I can start going every weekend which would be great.

Today’s Gospel reading is one that has had a huge influence on me and my spiritual life [John 4:5-42], it is the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar.  When I was first called to Christ [2006] I very much was this woman and the first time I read this passage it was like finding myself in the bible.  It was quite strange and, if I’m honest, terrifying and comforting all at the same time ~ it’s not always a good thing to come face-to-face with yourself especially not in a slightly dodgy bible character.  Today when I read this passage I realised how far I’d come and how much I’ve changed in these five years.  It’s quite incredible and I no longer recognise the person I was.  I look back and know it was me but [still] cannot understand how I strayed so far from the path and got in such a mess for a while there.  God showed up not a moment too soon and I’m living proof that He really does prune and tend his branches for the greater good of the vine [John 15].  I still have such a long way to go but I feel it’s appropriate to say that hey, I’m heading in the right direction with the help of a pair of heavenly secateurs……😉

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Saturday of the First Week of Lent..

…also the feast of St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Life ticks by as normal here in wonderfully sunny MK and suddenly we’re at the end of the first week of Lent.  I’m feeling very tired this weekend.  Didn’t sleep well last night as I have something [petty] on my mind.  It’s funny how we give far too much air play to the silly stuff and yet I can watch Japan crumbling into despair and chaos with huge loss and suffering and don’t give it a thought after ‘lights out’.  Kind of ridiculous really.  [By the way, that doesn’t mean I don’t care, I’m just amazed and rather frustrated at how my brain works sometimes 😦 ]

I am still keeping to the path of silence, simplicity and solitude.  Trying hard also not to multi-task as I read on ‘A Nun’s Life’ that just being present to one task at a time is a great way to reduce distractions and aid focus.  I’ve tried it and it’s true.  So, no reading whilst watching TV and eating lunch [yes, I do that 😆 in fact reading and eating at the same time is my idea of absolute heaven on earth] , no blogging whilst trying to cook the tea and so on….I am the worlds worst at leaving one job half done to move on to the next so this ‘rule’ has stopped that too.

That’s the joy of blogging; we can all share our Lenten journeys and the thoughts and ideas therein, such a mine of inspiration and a great sense of community.  One is never alone in Blogville……

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Wednesday of the First Week of Lent…

… in my Lent devotional today our benedictine pilgrim Br Albert is visiting Fatima where, in the summer of 1917, Our Lady Mary appeared numerous times to Lucinda [10] and her young counsins, Francisco and Jacinta.  During her final apparition to the children on October 13th of that year Our Lady asked that a chapel/church be built there in her honour.  Br Albert notes that the chapel is there as requested but rather than it being some amazing basilica full of gold and marble it’s actually quite a humble affair.  A tiny structure that would probably only hold eighteen or so people at best.  He wonders as to whether the people misunderstood her request possibly??

As he sits there pondering this Br Albert realises that we are all asked to build ourselves into a dwelling place for God so with that in mind he realises that the people of Fatima understood Our Lady perfectly.  Knowing that Mary was ‘just’ a ‘simple’ country girl from the village of Nazareth, they used the materials they had to hand in the sure and certain knowledge that Mary would not have any unrealistic expectations of their meagre funds and resources.  Br Albert finds this realisation quite comforting when he considers how little he has to offer regarding making himself  ‘a sanctuary for God to dwell in’ [p31] ~ build your church with what you already have.

So, thinking about the church that we’re supposed to be building for God with our lives and with what we have and are, what would your church look like?  A humble little chapel, a stunning basilica or something inbetween?  What would it have inside?  What would it be made of?  I know that I too am building a humble place of worship with quite a lot of irregularities that I doubt the Building Inspectors would ‘pass’ as suitable for the job ;).   Sited in a remote part of the Lake District I think my chapel would be a simple wooden structure, more of a hut really with no embellishments save for the bare essentials plus a wooden cross and a sanctuary candle.  The walls would be decorated with love and compassion and the air would be scented with prayers ~ a homely feel would embrace all who visited.  The roof would be studded with my emotional strength and sense of fair play.  The rug on the floor woven with lessons learnt along the way.  All design faults would be a ‘work in progress’, all blemishes filled with good intentions.  However, good or bad, it is all for God’s purpose with plenty of room for others to come and join with me in the spirit of fellowship and goodwill.

Enjoy ‘building’ your own church for God this Lent and filling it with all that you are ~ God loves you because He made you, warts and all, so you are no surprise to Him.

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First Sunday of Lent…

Ah so here we are, the first Sunday of lent and with that comes all that is normal and regular here on a term-time weekend…

We had next to no sleep last night as Ethan is hatching something that I hope is just a heavy cold.  He slept feverishly between us whilst we clung madly to the six inches of bed he left each of us on either side 😆 .  The day started at 6am and was full of the usual rounds of laundry, ironing, sewing, rubbish out ready for tomorrow, Mum coming for a coffee etc.  I was spared too much cooking as Ethan’s appetite is poor and quite frankly Si and I were too tired to eat so ended up with soup for tea which was minimum effort.  This has meant that whilst cuddling Ethan on the sofa during his endless viewing of DVD’s today I could do alot of reading which was such a luxury even though I kept nodding off every now and then. 😉

Lent is still a hiatus from chaos [that could be a sound bite eh??] for us here, a real breathing space, and the whole family seem to be enjoying the calm and tranquility that has descended.  Even Mum commented on how lovely and peaceful it was being with us this morning.  I’m not sure if I’ll be at work tomorrow, it depends on how much sleep we get tonight and how Ethan is when he wakes tomorrow.

I have no amazing things to share today ~ the Japanese earthquake has knocked everything else into insignificance and it’s all I can focus on spiritually speaking.  The news footage is still very sobering and I suspect that the loss of life will far exceed anything being quoted to date.  I find watching any film footage of it very difficult because I’m aware that I’m watching people die ~ it seems macabre and intrusive.  I’d rather just pray now……

My picture today is of some Japanese Cherry Blossom because it is Japan’s unofficial national flower and in the dying words of Katsumoto in the film ‘The Last Samurai’ ~ “I spent my whole life searching for the perfect cherry blossom but finally I realise that every single one is perfect.”  We should all appreciate God’s perfection each and every day because we never know if our lives will be cut short.

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After the sad events of this week I am very glad it is Lent.  This natural pause in our Liturgical year gives me time to reflect, pray and think and I need this quiet space very much indeed just now to give these massive events the attention that they deserve.  The silence and simplicity that I have imposed on myself and my home [family] during these days make it so much easier to feel and hear God; so much easier to talk [pray] to Him.  I can totally understand why many denominations and cultures embrace silence and/or simplicity in their lives in order to walk closer to God.  Amish, Plymouth Bretheren, Monastic communities and no doubt plenty of others that I can’t think of right now all use these simple rules and a disciplined approach to outside influences to help them focus on God….

This may be a habit that I can’t [or don’t want to] break because we’re all really enjoying the peace and tranquility that removing TV, radio and computers  from the bulk of our day has given us.  I’ve also noticed how much calmer my thoughts and feelings are too.  Not so many chaotic thinking processes going round in my head all the time as my brain has stopped leaping from ‘what shall I cook for tea?’ to ‘what time is it?’, ‘gosh that shelf is dusty’, ‘do I need to fetch Ethan yet?’ and so on……

It’s nice to be able to hear other things ~ you turn the TV off and assume that you’re sitting in silence but you’re not, up until now you’ve just blocked out other sounds with all that psycho babble.  Now I can hear next door occasionally moving around and closing a door, I can hear the horses whinnying in the meadow outside my house, the heating whirring away and the radiators creaking as they warm-up; so many sounds previously missed but very comforting and very real……

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