Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Blitzing by Advent to Christmas

Here we sit at what is, in the secular world, the end of the year; yet for those in the Christian faith, it is the beginning of a new one. These worlds collide at Thanksgiving, when the secular world explodes into the frenzy of the holiday trifecta (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years), and the Christian world begins its preparation for the Advent of Christ Incarnate.

I have noticed in these past years that even the Christian world blitzes right into the joyous season of Christmas, totally bypassing the preparatory weeks of Advent. Christmas lights go up on houses, trees are purchased and decorated, parties and gatherings are crammed into those few weeks before December 25. What a pity.

Advent is a beautiful time of year. The season is heralded in by the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30). As it continues for four weeks before Christmas, the season is filled with both a call to joyous hope of mercy and deliverance, and an introspective call to penance.

Advent connects the Biblical past of Old Testament prophecies to the birth of the promised Redeemer. The liturgy throughout these weeks is rich with reminders of patient suffering and holy hope. It is a wonderful time to tap into activities to broaden our understanding and place our focus on the upcoming Christmas season. In fact, there are so many activities it can be difficult to choose one. Many can be done as individuals; some are better suited for family or church community consideration. These are some of my favorites:

The St. Andrew Novena (Christmas Novena)
St. Andrew's feast day on November 30 begins the Christmas Novena. A full discussion and the novena itself can be found here. I like this novena as it encompasses the entirety of Advent - a daily reminder of how Our Lord was born into this world. It helps me cope with many of the problems I encounter each day.

Advent Wreaths 
One of the most popular activities to bring the sense of Advent to life is the Advent Wreath. Greens arranged in the form of a wreath and adorned with four candles, three purple and one rose, are lit one week at a time beginning the First Sunday of Advent. A new one is lit each Sunday, with the rose candle reserved for the Third Sunday. Another terrific explanation of the symbolism, as well as the prayers for the ceremony can be found at this website. The Advent Wreath and the prayers bring the family together in preparation for Christmas.

The Jesse Tree and Advent Calendars
The Jesse Tree is another one of my favorite Advent activities for families and communities. There are many different kits available for purchase, but I made my own from felt and is displayed as a wall hanging. It is a favorite because it ties the Old Testament prophecies to the Birth of Christ, as well as tracing Christ's ancestral roots, beginning with Creation. Symbols are placed on the tree each day starting December 1, and is accompanied by a Scriptural passage. has a nice discussion about it, as well as directions for creating your own Jesse Tree. Click here to explore this site.

Along similar lines to the Jesse Tree is the Advent Calendar. This Advent activity, in my opinion, has been co-opted by the secular world to the point that it has really lost its spiritual significance. Google "Advent Calendar" and a host of options are at your fingertips: from children's Lego versions with a Star Wars theme, to an adult version involving alcohol, the Advent Calendar is my least favorite activity.

There are many choices we can make as individuals, families and faith communities to grow and deepen our preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. If any of these activities pique your interest, go for it! Lessons learned along the way will make the Christmas season - which begins on December 25 - more profound.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Living Intentionally

I had the best of intentions when I started a blog three years ago. As a matter of fact, I had visualized an amazing career as a blogger, writing hundreds of interesting stories about everything in life. I envisioned my daily routine: up each morning early, laptop at the ready, my fingers flowing easily and quickly across the keyboard creating stories, opinion pieces and thoughts to be shared to the hundreds, no, thousands of readers who would eagerly await my next post.

I even pictured myself going through all the comments people would make for each article, taking the positive and negative feedback, you know, being totally professional in addressing replies. It was going to be great as my voice joined other prominent voices in cyberspace to enlighten and delight the world.

Reality quickly set in as I discovered that few, if anyone, bothered to read my posts. Even my closest family and friends managed to find other things to do than read my blog. I will admit that I was consistent for one month only; not enough time to build much of anything, I know. Somehow I had just expected overnight success. When it did not happen, I became frustrated to the point that I was ready to give it up.

It is little wonder then, that my posts for 2015 averaged one every other month. Not ready to throw in the towel, I recommitted myself, so that by the end of 2016 I had published a whopping 30 posts, thanks in part to a writing challenge I joined. This sort of thing was a nice prompt for me, but it became a source of anxiety and frustration mostly because I didn't care very much for some of the prompts (write about the first object you see, which happened to be a salt shaker), so writing became less fun and more like a chore.

Here I am at the close of 2017 and this post on "Living Intentionally" has yet to be completed even though I began it in March. What happened? Where did I get so far off track? I still got up early, but wasn't writing. Instead, I had subscribed to countless personal development, writing and career sites, all of which were well and good, with the intention of using the information to move my career forward faster than I had been seeing it move. I downloaded books, signed up for courses and I still was not getting anywhere. What I discovered, though, was at the end of two hours - very early hours - my mind had been bombarded with strategies, hints, inspirations about creating a better me, as well as a better writer. What it didn't do was move me to action.

Half way through the year, with no successes to bolster me, I managed to find ways to not even get out of bed early. It wasn't that I didn't think about it - goodness knows I was awake - I thought about getting up to start writing or working on priorities for my health coach business, but then thought it was pointless because I had nothing to write, and it was far too early to deal with my health coach business. I convinced myself that I would be able to write later in the day or reach out to my clients -when I might be more inspired.

Rather than focusing on how this year has been a waste and that I am an utter failure, I have been thinking about what needs to happen to get me out of this funk. As a health and wellness coach, I know that there is a strong, almost indestructible connection between the body, the mind and our financial states. There are times when we just need to take that step back (or outside of ourselves) and figure out where the derailment occurred.

For me, it is that I had no clear idea about what I expected from myself. I had these great visual dreams but didn't believe that they could ever be realized. I know now that my dreams of being a successful health coach, joining with other coaches to truly "Get America Healthy," as well as an exceptional writer are within my grasp. I just need to do the work. The first thing is to create consistency in my actions that lasts longer than a month.