#ADVENT ILLUMINATION

During this season holiday lights brighten up our surroundings. As we see the lights, why not take a moment to contemplate what having light in the darkness really means?

Take a moment to turn off your lights – all of them (including smart phones, iPads, laptops and anything that glows.) Then turn on one light and see what a difference it makes.

Illumination. Light illuminates.

It also shows what’s smudged. Advent is a good time to empty out internal closets cluttered with fears that dilute the Light.

Advent is about letting the Light of Christ in – and out.

Light of Christ illuminate us … that we may be Your light in the night of this world.

grace, peace & Advent Illumination

    Virginia

“Arise and shine for the Light of the world is come…”  Isaiah 60:1

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#ADVENT: The Potter’s Divine Artistry

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our Potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

“It is not you who shape God; it is God who shapes you… If then you are the handiwork of God, await the Artist who does all things in due season. Offer the pottery of your heart, soft and tractable, and keep well the form in which the Artist has fashioned you. Let your clay be moist, lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of the Potter’s fingers.” Saint Irenaus

Heavenly Father, WE are the clay, YOU are the Potter…

grace, peace & Divine Artistry

Virginia : )

p.s. Artisan pitcher and bowl pottery made by Carmelite nuns in Bethlehem

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A Little Advent Humor…

On this Advent Wednesday, how ’bout taking a quickie time out to laugh? It has been said laughter is like medicine. At the end of the day laughter may not heal our sore throats, but it sure can help heal our souls.

Virginia prescribes several daily doses of laughter, but even more is better.

For today’s initial dose, here’s a napkin my friend Ann set out at a luncheon years ago. Too funny to use, this napkin was carefully transported home and promptly framed. It stands next to my desk where it makes me laugh, especially on indecisive change-my-outfit-four-times days.

“So, what are you wearing tomorrow?”

grace, peace & Advent Humor

Virginia : )

“Humor is a prelude to faith, and laughter is the beginning of prayer.” Reinhold Niebuhr

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#ADVENT: BE NOT AFRAID!

God tells us many times in Scriptures “fear not” and “do not be afraid.” Angel Gabriel also told Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” (Luke 1:30)

Be not afraid! But there’s so much (so very much) to be afraid of these days. Freaky global viruses, conflicts, economic woes and whatever is turning our personal landscapes into frightscapes…

…with rivers of fear obstructing our tranquility.

Years ago amidst tough times a friend shared verses from Isaiah that have become treasured comfort when frightscapes loom large for this redhead.

“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

No matter how rough the rapids facing us, God our Creator calls us by name. God is with us, so we don’t have to be overwhelmed. (Handing over our fears to God’s safekeeping helps in that regard.)

We may splash around and take a tumble into our fears, but God’s good in the “let go and let Me rescue you” department.

If we ask, God provides courage and rafts of fortitude to cross the rivers of our fears (and often throws a little sunshine in as a bonus!)

On this third day of Advent, BE NOT AFRAID!

grace, peace & Advent Courage

Virginia : )

Photos: Bow River, Banff National Park (Canada)

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#ADVENT: LOVE MULTIPLIED

A big part of this season is the giving of gifts. This year our Christmas may look different with few in-person gatherings and fewer resources than normal. We may be rethinking our giving strategies.

To that point, here’s something to ponder from one of my favorite spiritual writers.

“What we give away multiplies…This is the way of God. The way we are called to live our lives. The little love we have, the little knowledge we have, the little advice, the little possessions… are given to us as gifts of God to be given away. The more we give them away, the more we discover how much there is to give away.” Henri Nouwen (“The Road to Daybreak”)

Never forget the most important gift we can give is the gift of LOVE

…and God multiplies it!

grace, peace & gift multiplication

Virginia : )

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#ADVENT: Watching, Waiting, Welcoming

And so it begins…Today is the First Sunday of Advent. This morning our senior pastor Msgr. Joe laid out a litany of 2020 woes (a long list!) Global pandemics, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, conflict, and strife – the world as we knew it last December has changed irrevocably. Into such a world the Light of Christ came 2,000 years ago.

Advent is a season of waiting and watching for the Light of Christmas. It’s a time to wake up, be attentive, grow hope, and be the love of Jesus to others.

Msgr. Joe said just as we observe 3 W’s for COVID-19 (Wear a mask, Watch social distance, and Wash our hands) we need to observe 3 W’s of Advent: Watch, Wait, and Work.

Watch: Keep our focus on Christ and watch our behavior. We need to be awake to what’s going on around us. Take stock of our neighbors’ needs. Guard against selfishness and indifference.

Wait: Don’t hastily push panic buttons or give into despair. We need to slow down. Wait on those who are alone, suffering, and need encouragement.

Work: Labor to make right what is broken. Be ever ready to respond. Use gifts we have been given. “Be busy without being busybodies. That means no whining, no groaning, no belly-aching, no sitting on the sidelines.” (Msgr. Joseph Lehman)

To Msgr. Joe’s list your humble blogger Virginia adds a fourth W: Welcome. Advent is a season of opening our hearts wider to welcome in the Light of Christ. As we welcome Christ, we welcome the joy of Christmas: God incarnate in good times and bad.

“When we are riddled with fear just as the sun sets, Christ the Light of Heaven illuminates the night, calling us into the radiance of God’s presence. May the Morning Star inspire us to keep love bright today.” Fr. Guerric DeBona

A blessed First Sunday of Advent to all!

grace, peace & Advent grooves

Virginia : )

p.s. As in years past Blogger Virginia will attempt a post-a-day Advent gig. (A quote, picture, song, brief reflection, something Christmassy…) I realize many friends and bloggers come from different faith traditions, but I hope everyone will be blessed with a bit of seasonal peace, joy and understanding. All are welcome to join Virginia on this journey!

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#Thanksgiving: A Gratitude Workout

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder… When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”  G.K. Chesterton

Thanksgiving arrives tomorrow in the U.S. For many of us this year’s holiday will differ greatly from years past. It may not be the Thanksgiving we hoped or planned due to the current escalation of COVID-19 in our country.

Things are difficult right now. It may take a bit of doing to be grateful.

This week we may not be together in person to share celebratory feasts, but we can still partake with thanksgiving by giving our hearts a gratitude workout.

It’s easy to be thankful when good things fill our lives, but an attitude of gratitude goes a long way when life is hard. Perhaps because it’s difficult, we can appreciate the good in our lives even more.

Living overseas this redhead missed many Thanksgivings – it was a workday, not a holiday. One year in Tanzania after a long day of meetings I picked up Indian take-away at 9:00PM, partaking with gratitude when my parents called to wish me “Happy Thanksgiving!” All those Thanksgivings away from family made me appreciate their love and presence in my life even more.

Maybe this year we can’t be with loved ones, but we can give thanks for their love. We can also thank God for constants in our lives, what keeps love and hope growing in our hearts.

Papa gave thanks to God every day for Mama!!

My (in-pain-24/7) bedfast quadriplegic papa began every morning by giving thanks. Papa couldn’t even wipe his nose, but he always said: “My blessings outweigh my challenges.” Every morning he counted his blessings then asked God for help facing his challenges.

Taking a lesson from my papa, why not pause and give our hearts a gratitude workout today? Thank God for Heavenly paintbrushes busy around us and within us, the provision of vibrant grace to face our challenges, for our loved ones near and far, and for the presence of Eternal Love in our hearts…

We are never alone!

grace, peace & gratitude workouts

Virginia  : )

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.”  Tim Keller

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Fall (Gasp-Gorgeous) TREES and LEAVES!

Last week Virginia and her brother Dwight enjoyed another staycation daytripping close to home. We had plotted driving several hours to the mountains to see fall leaves, but found plenty of fall colors right outside our front door.

One of our dogwood trees clapping with color last week…

Instead of spending a whole day in the car we decided to drive down the Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile scenic cobblestone-ish road maintained by the National Park Service that connects Jamestown to Yorktown. It’s a beautiful drive in any season, but truly gasp-gorgeous last week as fall leaves peaked here in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Colonial Parkway (a fall peak view)

With a plethora of gasp-gorgeous trees on display, it felt like we were driving through Tolkien’s Lothlórien.

Even on a cloudy day, yellow leaves took my breath away!

We enjoyed our Parkway crawl last Monday so much that on Tuesday we drove down the Colonial Parkway, again! On Monday we journeyed across the York River to points further afield in Gloucester, VA, while on Tuesday we traipsed about Yorktown, VA.

We were glad to be visiting Yorktown on Tuesday when we saw the Coleman Memorial Bridge to Gloucester open for a Very Long Time as a big ship passed through.

Later in the week we meandered around the streets of our hometown Williamsburg, catching trees like these on every corner.

A peek at fall trees “peaking” in Colonial Williamsburg

Gasp-gorgeous trees in Colonial Williamsburg

grace, peace & gasp-gorgeous trees

Virginia : )

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

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Quickie Quote: In This Moment

As turbulence continues to shake our world and knock our serenity down a few notches, here’s a timely reminder…

“God is God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.” Henri Nouwen

 “Be still and know that I Am God.” Psalm 46:10

grace, peace  & present moments

Virginia : )

Photos: James River (James City County, Virginia)

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VERVE AND NERVE

Virginia’s definition of verve = Guts. Gumption. Courage to have at it.

Virginia had verve in spades at various times in her life, but these days hesitation has done something to her nerve, a vital requirement for verve.

Why hesitate? The question, “What will others think?” (a nerve blocker of calamitous proportions) usually tops the list.

Putting ourselves out there the possibility of rejection exists. When rejections pile up their weight crushes our nerve and verve to try again.

Another nerve-and-verve crusher? Apathy. Sometimes we put ourselves out there and there’s no response. We pour our hearts into our art (or whatever we are putting out there) and there’s nothing. Nada.

Sometimes it’s not our art, it’s us. We put ourselves out there for new relationships and BANG, the door of rejection slams in our face.  Or, once again, apathy leaves us feeling unsettled in our innards.

When our verve and nerve desert us it’s hard to keep on going – to be brave, to give it another go. (Trying again is verve’s specialty.)

It’s easier to wall ourselves into finite fortresses. Constrained by walls, our verve and nerve slip into stagnant pools of resignation. We isolate ourselves and give up on our dreams that demand verve and nerve.

But, here’s the kicker: If we give up, we will never know how far we can go. “Fall down seven times get up eight.”

Yes, people can be mean and unconscionable. Yes, rejection is painful. Yes, apathy hits us hard in our innards.

But, if we don’t try, we’ll never know how far we can go.

Thomas Edison tried 1,000 times before creating a workable light bulb. Madeleine L’ Engle received 25+ rejections before her now famous book “A Wrinkle in Time” found a publisher. That’s heaps of failure and rejection to manage.

But, they didn’t give up.

Here’s the deal. If your verve and nerve reservoirs are in low ebb at the moment, just do it. The next step, however small, take it. Let nerve and verve out of their finite fortresses, polish stagnant stuff away with courage, and try again.

Now is the time. Don’t give up. Learn from your mistakes. Let nerve strengthen your verve to KEEP ON GOING.

grace, peace & nervy verve

Virginia : )

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.” Madeleine L’Engle

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