Quiet Contemplations

Susan Branch January 2014

“Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.” — Henry Ward Beecher

:: living the liturgy

I wonder why so many stop celebrating the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, when we still have twelve more days of Christmas to follow. Christmas is still unfolding with the anticipated visit from the Three Wise Men. The three who represent the Gentiles, everyone else in the world who are not Jewish and are welcomed into the family of God. The three who do not go back to report Christ’s location to Herod. Herod who is evil and plots to kill the Christ-child. Thus, the three turn away from evil, turn away from a past that they no longer wish to follow, and, instead, begin their return home via another route. The route that will lead them eventually to their heavenly home.

This beginning to a new route home is a gift we are given each New Year. This is the time that I look back at the year past and take note of all the mishaps and miscommunications and misapplied good intentions, and then turn around to look forward to starting anew, to strive to not repeat all those misses, and to not let offenses against me, big or small, mar this clean start to a better year.

:: listening to

We Three Kings” and grasping the story told of how each gift the wise men bring heralds the coming of each stage of Christ’s life: Gold for the birth of a King, Frankincense as He grows to preach of the Kingdom and teach us how to pray, and Myrrh, the bitter perfume, that will anoint Him in death.  If it’s been a while since you’ve listened, REALLY listened to this hymn, click here and bask in its depth of meaning.

Thinking back to the choir director singing THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF EASTER and the MOVEABLE FEASTS today at Mass. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

:: loving the moments

Attending Mass with our grandchildren; knowing that we are another avenue God uses to bring them to Him.  We are not financially well-off and we aren’t retired like some of their other grandparents. All we can truly offer to our grandchildren is our rich faith and the modest lifestyle we work hard to maintain.

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:: giving thanks

For the creative community of writers and artists that I have found in online classes, and enriched through Facebook groups, who mentor, inspire, and rally me, along so many other women, towards finding our voices and giving flight to our talents.

For the occasional quiet Sunday afternoon that allows me the time to work on my writing, while enjoying a view of a clear day of blue skies, sun-dappled trees, and mountains outside my upstairs studio window.

For opportunities given to adult children enabling them to relocate and start fresh.

For cousins, in all generation groups, to be able to get together and share good times together beyond the holiday gatherings.

:: carefully cultivating

The cadence which I wish this year to walk to. Choosing classes to enhance and expand my creativity, and balancing those with simpler crafts for the home & kitchen that I can share with my grandchildren.

:: planning for the week ahead

Getting back into a rhythm at work and at home. Preparing to take down Christmas decorations next weekend and for the wintry-quiet that usually follows when the house is stripped bare of sparkly things. Finding new pockets of time to go to the gym. Resuming yoga classes and the possibility of belly dancing. Looking forward to going out next Saturday with one of my good friends to a musical and dinner — just us gals.

Waiting for my first volume of THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS to arrive this coming week, so that I may begin to incorporate this prayerful practice into my daily routine.

Quotes on how much it will cost to trim our trees — especially the Liquid Amber growing so majestically in our front yard. While I do not like the idea of trimming any of its branches that reach up and honor God, I do not want any of those lovely branches to break off and land in our neighbors’ yards as these wintry California days bring winds and rains.

:: begging prayers for

Adult children who are following opportunities that will move them farther than my heart wants them to be from our home. For grandchildren who are struggling and trying to find their niche in middle-school or high-school, so that their communications with difficult teachers will be smoother and much more constructive; resulting in better grades and new-found enthusiasm to keep learning.

For those hit hard by natural disasters throughout the world: New Orleans and the southern states affected by Katrina, Haiti, Indonesia, China, Japan, New Jersey and the east coast hit by storm Sandy, and the Philippines — all of whom are still in various stages of recovery and need.

:: currently reading

Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine, along with A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson. Still plugging along with Hugo’s Les Miserables.

:: watching

Resuming seasons of “Parenthood,” “The Originals,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and “Blue Bloods” {to name a few of the series we DVR regularly}.

Anticipating Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” debuting tonight.

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“I prefer winter..when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” ~Andrew Wyeth

This is but a loll in the days of the year where soon the calendar will begin to fill up with both the celebrations and rememberings of life. This life. Take a deep breath and, at least for THIS year, try to live this life well.

Blessings, my friends.

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