Peggy Writes

First Christmas As A Grandma – Guest Blog

This a guest blog from Barb Perry a fellow spiritual director with her thoughts on preparing for her first Christmas as a Grandma.   Can you relate as a parent or grandparent?

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I became a grandmother in July this year.  A Gammy, to be exact.  I’m a third generation Gammy.  As I remember that moniker and think of Christmas, I know the bar is high.  My mother and grandmother shaped my Christmases, and now, just a few days before my darling granddaughter Cora arrives at our house with my daughter and son-in-law, I aniticipate my path.  What direction will this Christmas take?

            I must admit I’m a bit unsettled at the moment.  A friend’s death last week and another friend’s cancer’s reappearance has brought sadness to my days.  Could this malaise open my heart to greater joy at the sight of darling Cora?  I hold onto the hope that it will.  The shortened days remind me that the solstice is coming and I’m grateful for the imminence of Christmas.  We need the brightness of Christmas when the nights are so long.

            As I wait, I keep busy by wrapping gifts, preparing the house and making soup, all quotidian tasks that calm my heart and occupy my mind in a gentle way.  I’m preparing for the arrival of a baby 2000 years after Mary and Joseph readied their lives for the arrival of Jesus.  Their example of honoring their babe will guide me.

            My daughter loves Cora by spending all her days and nights with her.  She feeds her, she sings to her, she bathes and dresses her. She takes her everywhere she goes.  Cora’s dad’s life happens to be extremely busy with work these days and isn’t home much.  He loves her by providing for her, taking naps with her on the couch on the weekends and delighting in her presence.  When they come to stay with us for a week, they’ll break from their routine, settle into our house, spread out their stuff and share little Cora with us.  How will I love Cora and her parents for the week of Christmas?

            My preparations help me focus:  get the house organized and make the beds, wrap presents, clean and cook, think about and make plans with family and friends so all can welcome Cora to her first Christmas.  I’ve planned a brunch, a Christmas dinner and a game party to gather with family and friends.  And what about my heart?  How can I prepare my heart for this holy arrival?  What do I hear as I still my soul for the busy time ahead? Clear the clutter of too much activity.  Allow for open space and open time.  Put a puzzle together, drink hot cider, dig out the Christmas music, dust off the guitar and sit down at the piano.  Allow time to just sit around or get up and do yoga.  I’m grateful for our spacious house, which gives us room to gather a crowd, sit for an intimate conversation or find a tucked-away corner to be alone.

            As I ponder the week, I wonder what place Christmas morning will take. Cora’s great-grandmother knit her a stocking with her name on it.  We’ll fill it with gifts and Cora won’t understand, but she’ll see us having fun opening presents from each other.  She’ll reflect our joy.  I sometimes worry that I put too much stock in Christmas morning.  Every moment is important and it’s unrealistic to strive to have all of life like Christmas morning.   I love it, it’s a magical time, sitting around surrounded by presents to and from the people I love most in the world, now including Cora. But this year I will remember those who are experiencing a less joyful day.  I will think of those who have lost loved ones recently.  I will think of my own father, who died this year, of my mother who made Christmas so special for me, and of my Gammy whose love I always felt. 

            Whether I consciously think of those sadder times on Christmas morning or not, I will have them in my heart.  Cora will get passed around from the loving arms of her parents to those of Dadoo, her grandfather,  and her Uncle Doug and back to me.  Little Cora, surrounded by and filled with love.  How grateful I am.

 

Sandy Hook Mom, Nurturing, Healing, Love

I published this back in November and wanted to support this mom and the memory of her son Jesse.

This morning the Today Show featured an interview with Scarlett Lewis, a mother who lost her son Jesse, at the Sandy Hook school last December.   His memory is living strong in her new book “Nurturing, Healing, Love.” .  She writes about his brave act of love that saved the life of his classmates.   I found this interview about Jesse touching, his mother is an inspiration of strength and faith.  She demonstrates amazing amounts of love and forgiveness.   The link below is the interview with Matt Lauer.   I plan to buy this book for a few friends and even a few teachers.

http://www.today.com/news/todays-takeaway-newtown-mom-finds-solace-dylan-marches-osu-8C11498310

They have also established a foundation “Choose Love” in her son’s memory that partners with organization that will support and educate children.

http://www.jesselewischooselove.org/

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual
director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Who Is Listening?” and “Why Clean Your Garage?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at
www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com.

Top 10 List of Advent Activities For Children To Prepare Christmas

Every Christmas our family tries to keep Advent at the center of Christmas. Advent allows us four weeks to prepare for the birth of baby Jesus, which we experience through Hope, Joy, Peace and Love. Here is our top 10 list of Advent activities that have become our tradition.

10. Set up a nativity scene in the living room and play with the figures.

9. Place our Advent wreath at our dinner table, take turns lighting the candle and reading the scripture.

8. Attend a Living Nativity at a local church, especially ones with animals.

7. Watch the Nativity Story on DVD (Breath of Heaven is the theme song).

6. Adopt a child or family from our church.

5. Prepare chocolate turtles for teachers and loved ones.

4. Read the Nutcracker at night and ponder simple gifts from years ago.

3. Host our extended family for Christmas Eve celebration.

2. Attend Christmas morning mass.

1. Enjoy our 5 children as they delight in the magic of Christmas.

Sending blessings to each of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You may also enjoy this post from Adiel Booker, as she has so many more ideas. http://adrielbooker.com/family-advent-activities-christmas-countdown-fun/

Remembering Those We Have Lost

Poppie Girls

This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for my Dad.   He passed away in February after 12 years of suffering from Alzheimer’s.   Have you lost anyone special this year and how are you entering into the holidays with their memory?     Remembering the great lessons that he shared is soothing for my soul.   The greatest lesson he taught me was that church is not simply a building with four walls.    He would say “church is a community of people who serve together with a generous and thankful heart”.     He would have been so proud of our neighbors who came together last Friday night to collect and donate supplies to the families in Washington Il, who were impacted by the tornado.    An entire crew of Downers Grove individuals loaded 8 busses.  It was cold, backs were sore and yet their hearts were warm.

Sending Thanksgiving blessings to everyone and especially those who lost someone special this year.     May their memory bring warmth and love to your Thanksgiving celebration.

LISTENING IN AN EMPTY NEST

This is a blog written by a women I admire, who is also a spiritual director.   I feel all parents with young children and those who are grown will be touched by this thoughtful perspective.

Empty Nest

 My children are launched. They’ve both left the nest and don’t depend on my husband or me to tuck them in at night, make dinner for them or even pay their bills. It’s a good thing. We’ve been blessed to give them roots and wings. Now what?

That time of rushing around when Allison and Douglas lived at home with us is a blur. No wonder! We had a lot surrounding us in those days: education, lessons, church, friends, sports, grandparents. You know what I mean; you could make your own list. 

I remember how my mother, a woman of great faith, encouraged me to slow down during that time.  She wanted me to spend more time with her and she encouraged me to do things that would take care of myself, but I had places to be and work to do!  I often did heed her advice, but I still felt that gentle pull, or more realistically, a constant nagging, that urged me back to my family.  I knew my kids were growing up quickly and soon they’d be gone. They needed me, I needed them.

So in 2010, nine years after my sage mother had died and Allison and Douglas were out of college, I quit my job that had helped to pay for their college tuition and had kept me out in the world. Blessedly and suddenly, I found myself at home alone a lot of the time since my husband is still working downtown Chicago and traveling about one day a week.

My spiritual director, who listened to me all through my kids’ adolescent years, my mother’s death and other sacred journeys, suggested something when I retired that I took to heart.  “Don’t commit to anything this first year,” she said.  I felt my body relax.  Psalm 46:10 told me to “Cease striving and know that I am God.”  I take a deep breath and began to truly understand what that means.

So instead of busying my life with volunteering and joining lots of groups, I ceased striving.  I stay home and mine the clutter that has accumulated in every corner of the house. I fossick and learn new words as I read what I want to read.  I wrote a first draft of an autobiography that may become something someday, but just as likely, it may not. I enjoy the introverted side of myself.

And throughout all this homebodying, my husband supports me.  He calls me a kept woman. He’s my patron.  This doesn’t sound very modern, but aging and moving to the second half of life isn’t new.  This new way of life allows me to listen better to the voice of God inside me.

I am gently finding my way into this second half of life.  My daughter has a beautiful new baby girl, sharpening my ability to see the holiness in the here and now.  Through my own spiritual direction practice I help others to live in better awareness of the presence of God.

I hope my husband will be able to join me before too long in the way of this empty nest.  When he does, I pray I’ll be able to encourage him in the way I’ve been encouraged on my journey.

Barbara Perry is a spiritual director and writer who lives, works and plays in her empty nest in Glen Ellyn.

frustrated-mom

Overscheduled & Overcommitted?

Do you know anyone who feels overcommitted in their life or overscheduled with their family? Have you laid your head down at night and thought, “I need to find more time in my day.”? Matthew Kelly, a best-selling author and international speaker on both business and Catholicism, explains how our culture has shifted: “We have taller buildings and shorter tempers, we have bigger houses and smaller families, we can go to the moon and back again, and yet have trouble crossing the street to visit our neighbor, we have more conveniences and less time.” Many people begin their day before the sun rises and continue running until late into the evening. Regardless of how effectively we manage our day, many of us still often go to bed with the question of how to squeeze more time out of a 12-16 hour day for precious people in our life.

A few years ago the film “Race to Nowhere” called us to challenge our current thinking about how we prepare our children for success. It featured the heartbreaking stories of students across the country who have been pushed to the brink by over-scheduling, over-testing and the relentless pressure to achieve. Over the last 13 years, as I have stayed home to raise my children, I have seen this in my own community. Friends and family who are doing so many wonderful activities for their family are still searching for more time to do the things that matter the most to them.

Many of us find a rhythm to our life. Our daily, monthly, and annual routines are tied to the clock and set by the calendar: the rhythm of the 4 seasons, school year, holidays, sport seasons, quarterly sales goals, and the list goes on. Our lives can feel like the movie “Ground Hog Day,” stuck in a rhythm, reliving the same scenarios over and over again, not knowing how to change our situation. Etching into the schedule a date night with a spouse, an afternoon with an aging parent, or one-on-one time with a friend or child can be a challenge. Spending that quality time with those we love often gets the least of our attention, as does making time for our own physical health and spiritual well-being. This was my inspiration for Creating Space: helping individuals create the space in their life for the people and things that matter the most to them.

The first step with launching my new ministry was introducing it to the world. My goal was to discover a way to talk to people about God without “talking to people about God.” In order to begin this process, I knew that my marketing and web development would be best left to the experts. Cindy Tschosik, a local business woman and friend, did an outstanding job defining my business plan, implementing the website and integrating my social media. Another friend, Leanne Lally, owner and creative director of SeaHaus Studio (www.seahausstudio.com), is a marketing and brand expert. I was excited to see how her gift for design and her overall creative vision would help me communicate my message.

The concept of Creating Space was easy for Leanne and Cindy to identify with—as wives, mothers and business women, they were familiar with the challenge of “not enough time.” They intuitively began working with images, colors and logos that would complement and communicate the concept of Creating Space. The logo was the first to be developed; each element of it has meaning: the box represents our life, the pattern within the box is the rhythm and movement of our daily routine, the color blue conveys serenity. The white space in the middle of the box is the solution I foster: creating space in the rhythm of our life.

Creating-space-logo

In my ministry, I help clients create space to explore the core of their happiness. For some, that happiness may be a deeper relationship with their spouse or children. Others desire a greater awareness of their life’s purpose, and want to explore their faith through their gifts, talents and even their personal limitations. And still others have simply wanted to create space for grieving a loss. Each of us usually needs to create space for something in our life, and in doing so we gain a greater sense of “being”.
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The second image Leanne conceived of for Creating Space was the pier surrounded by water. Vacations at the beach or time at a lake house commonly bring a sense of peace. Our life journey is always winding and can often lead us to places that are unknown. Without a roadmap, we may struggle with ineffective routines, or not know which way to go. Through a one-on-one Creating Space session, clients intentionally carve time out of their month, if only 1 hour, to explore their life journey. Like time at the beach, our session together is a vacation from the busyness of life, a mini-retreat, to reflect upon the day, relationships, career, faith, and find direction for what’s most important to each individual. Taking time out to discover what makes us happy isn’t a new concept, but it is hard for many of us to do. I hope my writings (or one-on-one sessions) will help you with this mission.

My writings are due in part based on the gifts and talents of Karen Crowe who has done an outstanding editing several of my projects. Thank you, Karen.

So, do you know anyone who feels overcommitted in their life or overscheduled with their family? How might their life look or feel if they carved our time for those who are precious, including themselves?

This blog is based on the personal experiences and opinions of Peggy O’Flaherty. Any reproduction of the material in this blog may be used with written consent of the author by e-mail at peggy@creatingspaceinyourlife.com. Peggy O’Flaherty, is a certified spiritual director, public speaker, blog writer, wife and mother of five children. Her recent writing projects include “Who Is Listening?” and “Why Clean Your Garage?” She is the Founder & President of Creating Space, LLC., a ministry helping people enrich their faith. Follow Peggy at www.creatingspaceinyourlife.com

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