December 24, 2016 – Silence

Words cannot describe how excited my children are for tomorrow. Their eyes are glowing and they are twitching and bouncing all over the house. While we aren’t experiencing many “Silent Nights”, their joyful energy is filling the house with special emphasis on our nativity scene.

Advent Prayer Reflections - Christmas Eve.
Traveling Mary and Joseph – Fontanini Nativity set. CC Kate Taliaferro 2016.

Last year for Christmas Ben gave me a “traveling” Mary and Joseph. Mary is pregnant and sitting on the donkey while Joseph walks beside her. I love the realism. Mary looks exhausted and is barefoot. Joseph also looks weary but still shows the way. They have been traveling to the manger scene since we set up the nativity. We put up the the more traditionally posed Mary and Joseph along with Baby Jesus and the kids know that today Mary and Joseph will finally arrive at the stable. At first, they kept asking “Where are the real Mary and Joseph? The ones who sit by Jesus?” It was interesting to see how even at 5 and 4 years old they already have impressed in their minds the image of the Holy Family peacefully sitting in the stable.

This got me thinking about our past 4 weeks of Advent prayer experiences. We exposed ourselves to a variety of prayer forms, reflections and methods. Prayer is so many things! It is preparation and petition. It is reflection and listening. Prayer has the power to transform and stabilize. Ideally, prayer is our relationship with our God.

Look at Mary and Joseph on their journey. Because of their relationship with God they were open to His divine presence working in their lives. When the angel came to both of them (Mary at the Annunciation and Joseph in his dream) they were given the opportunity to say “yes” to God’s Will for their lives. They continued to say yes each day that followed, all the way to this day, the day before the Day.

We, too, have been preparing our hearts and minds this Advent to welcome the Christ child. We have shouted with John the Baptist, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” and we have quietly offered our own yes to God’s Will. For today, I’d encourage you to spend your 3 minutes in silent union with the Holy Family. Spend your time in silence, finding the tension between peaceful trust and anxious anticipation that Mary and Joseph must have felt on this morning.

It is the last day of travel and unbeknownst to them, the last day of Mary’s pregnancy. They probably shared their breakfast together and I would bet they prayed together. Ahead of the them the road was probably becoming crowded and noisy. They may have been worried about where they would stay that night. Would today be the day their precious baby, God’s son, would be born?

In the midst of all the excitement, noise and celebration today brings, allow yourself a few minutes to be united with Mary and Joseph as they awaited the coming of their Savior, their son.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.


December 3, 2016 – Keeping Chaos Away

In case you don’t remember, this whole Advent series was inspired by a new cleaning routine I’m trying to stick with.

A load a day keeps the chaos away.

As most stay-at-home parents will tell you, laundry can be very quickly become a mounting tower of terror especially with small children around. If things get out of hand it can be a daunting task to regain control. The FlyLady’s solution is simple. Do one load a day. Start it in the morning, move it in the early afternoon, fold and put away in the evening. One load, start to finish, every day.

We can apply this concept to our prayer life. I’m not going to promise that a prayer a day will keep the chaos, the whining, the broken sink, the traffic or work deadlines away. However, a habit of prayer will help us to handle these unavoidable situations in a more humble, gentle, patient way.

St. Paul encourages us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I believe wholeheartedly in this pearl of wisdom. However, I also know from experience how intimidating a task it can be. Rather like that mountain of laundry. For just starting out on a prayer journey, I find St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians to be a little more manageable:

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:6).

Still a challenge to be sure and definitely similar, but it’s more concrete. Giving all things to God in prayer and most importantly, doing so with a spirit of thanksgiving. I have found that I am a more thankful person when I talk with God every day, even if it is only for a few moments. The longer I go between prayer, the harder it is to find that thankful spirit. Instead I have an attitude of “Why me?” or “Where were you when!” or “I’m just too tired, talk to you later.”

After only one week we already have a few tools in our prayer preparation toolbox. We have a few periods of time each day that are conducive to focused prayer. We have the Sign of the Cross. We have our guardian angels. Let’s add one more inspired by St. Paul’s advice about our disposition regarding prayer. Thankfulness. Instead of begrudgingly giving God those three minutes, let’s offer them with a joyful spirit. The Psalmist tells us

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever (Psalms 118:1).

For today, really hone in on these words, they are full of opportunities for reflection during your day.

Give thanks to the Lord….for what? What are you thankful for today?

For He is good…God is always good, even in the midst of a struggle or hardship. Regardless of what is happening in your life today, where do you see the goodness of God? It may be in a place you haven’t looked yet.

God’s mercy…We are wrapping up a whole year dedicated to the mercy of God. God’s mercy is present for us each and every day. What’s more, we are capable of being agents of God’s mercy to one another. Where have you felt God’s mercy? Who showed you God’s mercy? Who have you shown God’s mercy to?

Don’t sit down and expect to answer all these questions in 3 minutes. Wait for your prayer time, say the Sign of the Cross, ask your guardian angel for wisdom. Slowly repeat this verse once or twice and consider just one or two of these questions or one of your own making. Talk to God about it. Ask Him questions, offer petitions, seek reassurance or guidance. Before you know it, your 3 minutes will be up. Pray more if you want but regardless of when you close your prayer, continue your day with a renewed spirit of friendship with God.

If you gain nothing else from these reflections, hopefully some part of this prayer experience will be meaningful enough for you to try and continue it everyday. A prayer a day…

***What other Scripture passages do you like to use for prayer? Have you ever used a specific passage to focus your prayer? Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook page.Daily Graces.


Advent Prayer Experiences – 2016

We begin another Church year very soon! Who would believe another year has flown by and it is time once again to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we are settling into our new “home” aka vacation rental for the next 5 months before we move again to our next “new home” I have decided to try out some new cleaning routines. Nearly 3 years ago I commented to a friend of mine “You’re house always seems so decluttered and clean! I don’t know how you manage to keep everything in order, it always seems so overwhelming for me and I just give up.” She told me about the FlyLady’s system of cleaning and lent me the book. Basically, a woman (the FlyLady) started working in her own home to establish routines that would help her declutter, clean and generally regain control over her chaotic household. Today, she has multiple books plus an app. Needless to say, I flipped through the book and thought it was too much work because I am an all or nothing kind of person and it was too many changes at one time. I thanked my friend, said it was a really neat idea and maybe one day I would try it out. The notion stuck with me though and one day is finally here (I’m using this app)

At its most basic, the FlyLady’s routines and objectives are very much in line with my Lenten observance this year: to be a good past self. She divides your home into zones and each week focuses in depth on one zone. Every Monday has an additional “home blessing” where you spend 10 minutes in each zone sprucing it up without getting stuck in the weeds, or cobwebs, or legos, or whatever dust bunnies are slowly forming under your couch. What I am loving about this system (well, I think I’m loving, it’s only been a week so far) is that each day’s task that I have completed has not taken more than 15 minutes and I still feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Rather than saying to myself, “Today I need to clean the kitchen. The whole kitchen – shudder, dread, find other things to do, oops now it’s too late I guess I’ll work on that tomorrow.” I am saying, “I can definitely double check the refrigerator and make sure nothing is expired and wipe down the front and fronts of the shelves in 15 minutes, no problem.” Some other daily routines include making sure you clean up after yourself, immediately, and eliminating excuses by getting dressed right away (so that if the garbage needs to go out at 7am you don’t have to scurry about in your pjs or robe or choosing to live with a smelly garbage until you get around to it at lunchtime).

It’s doing a little everyday, rather than burning yourself out in one day and then not cleaning anything for the next 3.

“Your home did not get dirty in one day, and it will not get clean in a day either” to quote the Flylady.

So what does all this have to do with Advent prayer? As I was wiping down a bathroom this morning (yes, I’m cleaning bathrooms! In the morning! Shocking, I know. Right your seat and continue reading). I was thinking about the above quote and realized that a disordered, lacking or non-existent prayer life works in a similar way. We can’t expect to go from nothing to a full blown prayer routine overnight. Trust me, I’ve tried it. Many times.

For this Advent, I have decided to break up the 4 weeks into 4 types or themes of prayer. Each day will have an idea to ponder, a Scripture to meditate on, a prayer to recite, or some other kind of short activity that will guide you to a prayer experience. This is not supposed to be long, arduous or in any other way taxing. 5 minutes of your time, 10 if you get really into it. My goal is to offer a variety of prayer opportunities that will help all of us gain a deeper understanding of Advent and also learn what kinds of prayer brought us to encounter Jesus during our day. What better way to prepare yourself for the coming of Jesus at Christmas than by spending Advent discovering what ways you communicate with Him best?

Every day there will be a new post. I am planning on posting the night before so that you early risers don’t have to wait for the day’s prayer experience. Posts will be linked on the page “Advent Prayer Experiences – 2016” along the top toolbar as well as on the homepage.