Advent 2015 – December 1

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!”
Says your God.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
That her warfare is ended,
That her iniquity is pardoned;
For she has received from the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God. – Isaiah 40:1-3

Advent is a time for preparation, a time to reflect on the meaning of the child in the manger, a time to stop and think about how the God of the Universe gave up His glory for a time and came down to Earth. I hope to spend a few moments each day this December, meditating on Christ’s love for us at Christmas and preparing my heart and my spirit to receive all of the gifts He has to share with those of us who are His children.

Instead of merely joining the frenzy of shopping and baking and wrapping and parties, why don’t you take a minute to think about the glorious truth that Jesus, the Son of God, came down from Heaven to Earth to be our Emmanuel, God with us, to be the best possible gift God had to give us—Himself.

First Sunday of Advent (a day late)

  
The First Sunday in Advent is Hope. The hope of light in darkness, of joy in sorrow, of life in death, of a Savior to take away the sins of the world.  

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.   – Book of Common Prayer

Blogs that I love – Modern Mrs. Darcy

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Several months ago, I discovered that I was reading articles from a new (to me) blog: Modern Mrs. Darcy (MMD).   First of all, those of us who are Jane Austen fans can’t possibly resist the name, Modern Mrs. Darcy!   Add to that, Anne, the owner of MMD, is an engaging writer who covers so many topics I’m interested in.  From book reviews to articles about Myers-Briggs personality tests** to organizing life the Kondo way  to introducing services like ePantry, there is always something of interest.  Add to that, a weekly round up of favorite links and lists and lists of good books to read, and I was hooked.

While I read some blogs for moral or theological edification and others to help me organize or learn things I need to know for work, school, or my home, there are a few blogs I read just for the sheer fun of it.  MMD is one of my fun blogs.  I hope you all enjoy it, too.

Here are just a few articles to get you started:

Books worth binge reading

3 time management rules I wish I’d learned 10 years ago

My accidental capsule wardrobe

The perfect summer reading for every Myers-Briggs personality type

Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying

 

**I adore taking Myers-Briggs personality tests.  Even though I rarely deviate from the expected result, I still can’t resist taking it again, just in case I’ve changed, and then reading all of the various personality quirks, perfect jobs, and people like me articles that go along with my personality type.  It’s fun.  Give it a try.

Blogs that I love – Homemaking

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Last week, I talked about a blog that I just recently started following. Today I want to share a blog that I have been reading for about five years. It’s a blog by a mother and her daughters called Like Mother Like Daughter. I don’t remember how I found it. It was probably from another homemaking blog as I was always looking for more inspiration and wisdom on how to make and keep my home.

The mother, Leila, has a terrific sense of humor and her mantra of “if I can do it, so can you” is very encouraging. I’m pretty sure I started around about the time she talked about the importance of meals and laundry. She then proceeded, over the course of a couple of years, to outline exactly how to plan meals, cook on a budget, get your laundry under control, and keep a reasonably clean house (Don’t you love that idea! Who has time for a perfectly clean house, and how is that possible when you have children under your feet all of the time? I’m telling you, this woman is a gem. She gets the reality of what our lives are really like rather than the Pinterest perfection lives which we all aspire to and feel guilty about when we fail miserably to achieve them).  She also talks about raising children, marriage, families, and books.  Every once in a while she will post an “Ask Auntie Leila” post, answering a reader question.  I think most of her regular readers think of her as Auntie Leila. I know that I do.

Over the years I have learned much from Leila’s wisdom, enjoyed “watching” her daughters get married and have children, and laughed over her wintertime woes, the crazy DIY projects, and her wry sense of humor, and generally have enjoyed  myself every time a post lands in my inbox.

Leila is Catholic, and her faith is evident in most of what she writes. Although I attend a different church, I can still appreciate so much of what she includes about her beliefs and how they impact her every day life. In fact, she often inspires me to think about how my own faith can and should influence my days, even though they are often different than hers.

You can literally spend days reading her blog and all of the back posts, but here are some of my favorites, the ones I go back to again and again for inspiration, wisdom, and comfort:

Beginnings: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/01/can-your-new-years-resolutions-take/

Homemaking: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2014/07/housewifely/

Dinner: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/01/make-dinner-every-day-and-like-it/

A reasonably clean house: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2010/01/reasonably-clean-fairly-neat-and/

Order and Wonder: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/03/order-and-wonder-or-most-frequently/

Affirmation: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2013/11/affirmation-in-thick-of-things/

Bad Days: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2012/10/10-survival-tactics-for-rescuing-bad-day/

Sundays: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/03/let-me-tell-you-one-thing-about-order/

The Library Project: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2013/06/the-like-mother-like-daughter-library/

I could go on and on and on, but I instead I will let you go dive in for yourselves.  When you lift your head in a couple of weeks, hopefully you will thank me for sending you over there.

Blogs I follow

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I have a variety of interests and therefore tend to read books of many genres and follow several blogs that touch on different topics. Some of the blogs I have been following for years and some I have just recently discovered.

I thought that I would share some of these precious little islands of blessing in the vast sea that is the internet. I’m going to start with one that I just recently found and subscribed to because the author is writing a new post for each day of October. Every single one has spoken to my heart and soul and I wanted to share her wise words with you all:

The posts that have most resonated with me this past week are here and here.

The first one on solitude was especially timely as I have been listening to A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in which she talks about the importance of finding an hour a day of solitude and silence in order to maintain the wholeness that is so difficult to find in the midst of the many, many requests for our time and energy each day.

“Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.”

“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”

“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

I have personally found that without at least a few minutes of contemplative time for prayer, reading, and thinking, my mind and heart can easily crumble in the onslaught of the mass of “to do’s” and “oughts” each day. However, when I take that hour or even fifteen minutes to stop, to think, to pray for strength and wisdom, then am I able to meet the onslaught with grace, knowing that my Good Shepherd is leading and will supply my every need in the midst of life’s demands.

Let me encourage you to carve out a few moments of solitude today to think, to pray, to read Scripture, to life your heart in thanksgiving for all of the blessings in your life. Even if the only solitude you can get is the three minutes in the bathroom while the baby and toddler are in the playpen (I remember those days!) it will be worth it, I promise you.

Linda also had posts on Scripture reading plans and journaling, which were thought-provoking and wise. I hope she speaks to your heart as she has to mine.

Things I love: Planning and Organization

For many years I eagerly anticipated September, not just because it meant a new school year (like Hermione in the Harry Potter books, I was a confirmed know-it-all), but also because I loved all of the organization paraphernalia that went along with a new school year. New pencils, blank notebooks, perfect binders, a new box of crayons, etc. All of these things made my heart sing with joy.

When I graduated from college, I had to replace those lovely paper products somehow and turned to planners and calendars to scratch my paper/organization itch. I started with a fairly straightforward planner I found at a office supply store. Several years later, as a new mother, I found a lovely bound book for Christian women. One year I used a calendar I had bought at a museum shop, several years I used a Franklin Covey planner, and another year I downloaded one and put the printout in a binder for that year.

Then came the electronic age and a new smartphone. Suddenly I had a calendar that went everywhere with me and had multiple apps to keep track of my schedule, my task list, and notes. So last year I decided to go paperless. I downloaded Evernote for note-taking and a calendar app, which combined my two google calendars (personal and work) and my iPhone calendar as well as my task list.

I wish I could say that I am now proudly paperless, but I didn’t last very long without paper. I found myself writing down lists on the backs of envelopes (and promptly losing them), taking notes on pieces of paper that then floated away into a stack of loose paper, taking sermon notes on the weekly bulletin and sticking it in my Bible until I could hardly close it, and generally being completely disorganized.

Last spring I heard about bullet journals from a friend and since I had an extra blank notebook, I created a bullet journal. Some things I really liked about it: I could put anything I wanted in it—task lists, books to read, blog post ideas, sermon notes, work notes, menus, etc. However, I didn’t like the fact that I could never find anything without going to the index in the front and then turning to the page. It was annoying. I decided that I really liked the binder idea because I could put tabs in for different categories, but I didn’t like a full-sized binder.

My problem was solved when I discovered the Arc notebook system at Staples. I found a 9 x 6 notebook on sale and bought it. I can print out my own pages (there are numerous sites with free forms although I could also create custom forms in Word, if I want something I can’t find), put tabs between sections, and only have the categories I need without a bunch of things I will never use.

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The best part is that since it is completely customized, I was able to start using it immediately rather than wait until January 1—a definite plus. In addition, it has that new paper and notebook smell that is uniquely tied to Fall and the beginning of the school year. This new planner pleases me in so many ways that I’m bound to use it, if only to have the privilege of writing on a fresh page each day.

How do you like to plan? Do you use paper, electronic, or a hybrid?

Counting my blessings

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One of the ways I have learned to feel the contentment I talked about the other day is to count my blessings.  No matter how difficult my circumstances have been, I can usually find at least one thing that warms my day.  I call them simple pleasures, and if you begin to look for them, you will find that your life is full of them.  You only need to develop the habit of noticing.

I would also sing the hymn Count Your Blessings as a way to remind myself to be thankful and content:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

—Johnson Oatman, Jr.

Today’s blessings are a cup of pistachio almond tea, a batch of homemade applesauce, loaves of oatmeal bread rising in the oven, a new Charles Todd mystery to read, and a rainy Saturday afternoon in which to enjoy them. 

What are your simple pleasures and blessings today?