Advent Candles...

 A long time ago, in a state far, far away...

My Pilgrims, how I miss you. I have been keeping an unbelievable pace since my trip back East at the end of October.  Each and every activity has been filled with many joys... I thought I would take this third week of Advent to share them with you.

Some people call the third week of Advent, "Pink candle week," but its actual name is Gaudete Sunday. The word "Gaudete" comes from Latin which means simply "Rejoice". That seems like a spectacular idea for this post. To offer some hope, some joy and to just rejoice this Advent and Christmas season.  Here are a few of the times thus far, I've been able to "Rejoice" and see the Divine this Advent.

I remember telling Jeff before we had the Beauties, that we wouldn't be "Santa" parents. That we would be raising our children so they would understand that Christ was the ONLY reason for the season. Ian was born in August, the first Christmas card we sent was a photo taken at home with Ian in his baptismal gown. (The gown made by a dear friend from the fabric of my wedding dress.) First year was amazing, I patted myself on the back.

Then along came year two, when Ian was a chubby toddler. I put him on the back of a little tractor with a Santa hat and Christmas tree.  I fell down the Santa hole and haven't turned back.  Both my Beauties believe Santa brings their gifts and that Jesus is what we are celebrating.  Since the second Christmas card, Santa and Christ have been a part of every Christmas... The greatest lesson I have learned with time, and Jeff's patience, is that you can create the Season that offers a multitude of gifts. Not just the ones that you thought you needed. Once again, with the grace of the Divine, I have learned their are oodles of reasons to rejoice this Gaudete Sunday.

As a family, we like having the traditional southern Sunday afternoon dinner, just like the one my grandmother used to host. While I will never master her friend chicken and gravy.... If only. We have created a space where Sunday is for God, family, a little football, and dinner at 4:30. That is Sunday in sunny Cali. Last weekend we were a disaster, all of us going in different directions, and Jeff made the executive decision that what I needed was hot tea, a bowl of soup and my bed. So in lieu of Sunday dinner, Jeff whipped up a kiddo dinner. Our rental cottage is tiny. You can roll over in your bed and all of us can hear you. I was sitting in the living room and Ian was in the kitchen and I heard Ian singing. He was singing the closing song from the family Mass. And he was something! Belting it out from the kitchen. You can hear in some churches the clapping, and swaying and just belting out in song... Ian offered us that from the kitchen.

"Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

We are going to see the King."

I said Ian, you sound great. Ian's reply was a classic. "Mom, I've got an ear-worm and when you have an ear worm... well you just need to sing." An ear worm for all of you who don't know, is that song or commercial that gets stuck in your head and you can't shake it.  As a mother, nothing is more gratifying that hearing that your child has a religious ear-worm stuck...

A classic Advent moment to rejoice.

Last Monday, Norah and I were invited by our dear friends to light the second nights candles of Hanukkah. Norah's classmate and her family are our soulmates, we share the beauty and love of God. Norah and I each got to light the candles of the menorah and to celebrate with joy the miracle of God's unending love.  It is so affirming to share the deep love of faith with good friends. The children singing, playing with the dreidel and of course the yummy food! Our friends were gracious and loving hosts, opening their home to us to love and worship together. It will always be a special part of our Advent season to rejoice and celebrate Hanukkah with such dear friends.

Friday, I met with my prayer group, I made a simple box lunch for each of us and we had some egg nog and prayed together in our special little room at the Mission. Whenever I'm with my little prayer group, it is never lost on me that this was how the early Christians gathered. They ate, prayed and celebrated the joy of small faith communities. Having never visted the Holy Land, living in Santa Barabara often makes me feel closer to the world Christ lived. With our sunshine, the ocean, the terrain filled with fruit and olive trees. Many of my friends who have visited have also commented on the similarities.

But even more, I'm left to realize that in all parts of the world, individuals just like us are gathering to light the candles of Hanukkah, or light an Advent wreath and pray. Many of us take for granted that we can worship in the open.  But, across the globe, far too many worship in places that are not safe, where persecution is the norm, where safety is not guaranteed.

A powerful reminder to be the best of your faith tradition. Don't hide it, wear it with love, honesty and be willing to share your faith, your traditions.  Less fear, more love.

That friends is what is at the heart of a stable in Bethlehem.

My prayer for you is simple, may your face be washed in the love and light of the Divine. May you recognize it and rejoice in all the moments.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.



PilgrimageGal as Speaker and a Green Sofa...

Happy to get rid of the green sofa...

Many years ago, I twisted Jeffrey's arm and bought a stupid expensive green sofa. It was beautiful, and went perfectly in our great room. I LOVED this sofa. But, often as a mother I have these

House Beautiful

moments and forget two important things. First, we are not independently wealthy, nope my husband provides for us beautifully as a dedicated federal employee, where he daily answers the call to public service. More importantly we have wolverines that double as our children. So this sofa has seen nearly every kind of my Beauties' bodily fluids.

More significantly, it was the sofa that I lived on for 5 years. I took meals, slept, watched the Beauties play and grow, watched countless movies and too many cheesy T.V. shows to count. It is where I started this blog. It all started with me typing, "The pilgrimage of the green couch: one gal's journey of faith, health and life, all from her very own sofa."

But, over time I realized that it had become my sick bed and it was draining my spirit. So in preparation for Norah's First Communion, I wore Jeff down, explaining we needed a new sofa. The old sofa had bad karma, gu-gu or whatever you want to call a dysfunctional inanimate relationship. I was so over that sofa, I stopped sitting on it!

We were not able to get the sofa before the Communion, which worked out for the best, but two weeks later we did. We scored a practical Ikea sofa, keyword practical.  In just a couple of weeks, we already have paint, Sharpie and popsicle stains on this brand new sofa. But I'm fine, because I can buy a new slipcover for $100 for special occasions. You really can't keep the children from being children and I'm so fine with that...

Now I know many of you are wondering how the sofa goes with the Pilgrimage! In some ways, I'm like the sick man who was lowered into the house to see Jesus (Mark 2:4). That sofa was my bed and my blankee, I wasn't moving and growing like I needed with that sofa. So no surprise, that as I prepared to remove this albatross from my home, new opportunities have emerged.

This past Saturday, in a hot church basement, over 30 women joined me for my first official PilgrimageGal talk and reflection on creating: "Exquisite Everyday Moments of Faith." The talk was filled with a group of inspiring women aged 26-93. The Spirit was present and moving in this diverse and incredibly faith filled group of women. I learned more from them, their richness, their depth, their openness to share their truth. Talk about empowering and moving! We were laughing, crying and sharing in a way that only happens when you recognize what Matthew 18:20 reminds us;

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

I loved this day, it was an opportunity to hear and see the Divine moving in women that I have known for years and some I met for the first time. That is why this journey inspires me daily. I grow, change and develop a deeper appreciation for the gifts of daily life. The 30 women who joined me were kind enough to let me share my truth, to listen and provide insights. I'm forever humbled by the participation and love.

So just as I got rid of the old sofa and welcomed in the new. I have removed another layer of myself and shared myself in a new format; that of public speaker...

And in doing this, I now have even more to do!