5 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

(Advent is only a couple of weeks away so I thought I would get a head start and give you some ideas to think about before it officially begins.)

Do you ever take on too much during the Advent/Christmas season and then feel overburdened? If so, I can totally relate. I wanted to make Advent so special for my family that I would get completely overzealous about it. It was “go big or go home” for me! I would make all sorts of resolutions and added all these prayers and activities; however, instead of making Advent meaningful, they left me drained or guilty for not fitting in all the things I had planned. Indeed, these activities became ‘just one more thing to do’ before Christmas.

Image by hansjoergrichter50 (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Over the last few years, I started learning my lesson and I’ve scaled way back in how I celebrated Advent. It has become a time for revisiting the basics. Therefore, rather than  adding on tons of prayers or activities, I am only adding on a couple of things and doing them as well as possible. My goal is to spend Advent in a way that truly prepares my heart for the coming of Christ. And I want that for you, too. If you are looking to making Advent meaningful this year, consider trying a tip or two from this list.

I. Take Care of Most of the Material things early.

Every year I say I am going to get everything done early so that I can focus on the spirit of the Season but I never actually follow through. This year, I am actually using the Christmas Planner I created last year and it is already making a difference.

Of course, you don’t have to use my Christmas planner. You probably know what you have/want to do. Why not start now and put a dent in your to-do list? Can you order your Christmas cards now? How about getting started with your Christmas shopping? Maybe you can create your cooking/baking shopping list now and start buying any needed ingredients?

The point is, do as much preplanning and doing now so that once Advent/Christmas really goes into high gear you will be ahead of the game.

2. Go to Daily Mass Twice a Week (or more).

In years past, I would commit to going to daily mass and would fail every year. As much as I would love to make daily Mass, it just isn’t realistic for this time in my life. Therefore, I have decided to commit to going to daily Mass twice a week. That is definitely doable.

Seriously, if you don’t do anything else for Advent, do your best to make it to Mass – even if it is only one extra day a week. I have said it before and I will say it again because, as Catholics, there is no greater thing we can do than to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Holy Mass is the summit and center of our faith.

3. Go to Confession.

I won’t lie. I love going to Confession. 🙂 I know that sounds crazy but I feel for light and free after going to Confession. But, as much as I try to go regularly, life happens and I don’t make it as often as I could. Truly, Confession is good for the soul, so even if you don’t love it like I do, please try to make Confession at least once during the Advent season. I promise, you won’t regret it!

I am not sure about your area but there should be several Advent penance services going on during the Advent season. If you can, why not try to attend? The services are usually beautiful and knowing others are making Confession as well can be an incentive. If you can’t make a penance service, check your Church’s bulletin for their regular Confession  schedule. If that doesn’t work, most priest offer confession by special appointment. Cleansing and strengthening your soul is a wonderful way for preparing for Christmas! (Need a little help going to Confession? Here are some tips on How to Make a Good Confession.)

4. Use an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe.

If you have young children, they usually love the Advent calendar because they get to eat a piece of candy every day! Believe it or not, though, they have Advent Calendars for adults too. What is nice about these calendars is that they usually include a little scripture verse to reflect on and they don’t take up a lot of time. A minute or two at most.

The same goes for the Advent Wreathe. It is only a matter of lighting a candle and maybe adding a little prayer. It is a no-brainer. it is a small thing but it can make a big difference in appreciating the reason for the season.

5. Journal.

If you know me, you know writing is in my blood and I journal regularly. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started creating journals in the first place. It may sound crazy, like my love for Confession, but having my own little space to write out my thoughts, dreams, and struggles is important to my spiritual welfare. In fact, writing is my preferred way of communication and it is how I best “talk” to God. Can you relate or is it just me?!

That’s why I created an Advent journal a while back. Once can never have too many journals and I like having a separate journal for Advent. Unlike my regular prayer journal, which I use as a “regular” journal too, I use the Advent Prayer Journal strictly for prayer and reflections about the scripture readings throughout Advent. It helps me to go deeper into the mysteries we are celebrating during this holy season.

Whether you use my journal, or creat your own, or just use loose-leaf paper, journaling is a wonderful way to make Advent meaningful. There is something therapeutic and special about handwriting your thoughts and prayers out on physical paper. Who knows, maybe the habit of journaling will extend long after the Advent season and that would be wonderful, too!

Bonus Idea!

If you have some extra time to spare, why not join in on a virtual Advent retreat? I will be “conducting” the retreat via Facebook Live and doing weekly short meditations on one of the readings from the week. It may be from the Sunday readings or the daily readings, depending on where the Holy Spirit leads. I will also be including a complimentary copy of the pdf version of the Advent Prayer Journal (normally $10) and other guides and goodies. Best of all, it is free. The only “cost” is being a member of my Facebook Group where the retreat will be held. 🙂

I pray that this Advent/Christmas season is the most magical, beautiful, prayerful, and wonderful season you have ever had. May God bless you and bring you ever closer to His merciful heart. And may our dear Blessed Mother intercede for you and all your intentions!

I’m not Making Goals This Year and Here’s Why

If you are a regular reader here, you know that a few years ago I switched from making “resolutions” to making “goals.” It was more of a mindset and perspective thing but it made a difference for me. I made those goals specific and measurable and I made great strides in accomplishing my goals.

I'm Not Making Yearly Goals This Year

Nevertheless, I sometimes got overwhelmed looking at the whole year and everything I want to do. (Anyone else?) Last year in 2016, especially, was a challenge for me. I struggled physically, emotionally, and felt like failure when I feel behind in my goals/plans. Some goals, like the making videos, were dropped altogether.  By October, I knew I needed to make a change but felt stuck.

That is why I decided not to make yearly goals this year, and instead, I made an outline. As a writer, I often read or hear about the importance of using outlines to guide authors in their writing endeavors. Thus, I sat down and wrote a broad outline of the things I want to accomplish for 2017 and used my calendar to fill in deadline dates. As the year progresses, I will readjust monthly and quarterly.

How does this look like?

For example, I want to write/create a lot of books in 2017. Thus, I  made an outline of how many books I want to write each month for January, February, and March. Then, I took my calendar and picked a “due date” for each book. Then, at the end of each month, I will re-evaluate and see if my goal is realistic or needs tweaking.

For January, I want to create a planner and a short grammar guide (for my carolda.com website). Thus, I took some time during the week between Christmas and New Year’s to fill in the blanks: I created a working title, scheduled writing time, and made a bare-bones outline of the books themselves.

Basically, instead of making goals this year, I am scheduling this year. 🙂

I am really excited about this plan and I can’t wait to see what the New Year will bring. I am ready to take better control and be more intentional with my life and business! How about you? What are your plans for the New Year? What are you doing to take control and make 2017 your best year yet? Do share!

P.S. Don’t worry, I won’t bug you will posts every month and/or quarterly with updates!

It’s Your Last Chance!

Reminder: today is the last day to get the eBook version of the Advent Prayer Journal for $5 bucks. 🙂 Tomorrow, the price goes back up to $10.

Advent Prayer Journal for Women Cover

You can find out more about the book here. Also, if you are looking for other ideas for Advent, I have 5 ideas to help you get the most out of this Advent Season.

I pray that this Advent Season is a grace-filled, prayer-filled, and peace-filled time for you! God bless.

Are You Ready for Lent?!

Can you believe that Lent starts next week with Ash Wednesday? It seems strange, especially since technically the Christmas season (for us Catholics) just ended February 2 which was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Well, ready or not here it comes! Now may be a good time to think and pray about what you want to happen during the Lenten Season.

For most of us, the focus of Lent becomes focused on us. Or, at least, I’m guilty of focusing too much on me. What am I giving up for Lent? What will I do for almsgiving? What prayer practice am I going to do this year? Then when we fail or mess up we blame ourselves, get frustrated, and sometimes give up. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fasting, almsgiving, and extra prayer are all good things. I’m not saying to abandon them!

What I am saying, for me, is that I want to switch focus this year and put it on Christ. I am still going to “do” those Lenten practices but I am going to try and keep my eyes fixed on Christ and really enter into the mystery of His suffering, death, and Resurrection.

One way I am going to do this is to make a greater commitment to journaling and to use it as a form of prayer. Journaling is a wonderful way to pray. Why? It is a type a freewriting where you can pour out your heart to God without thought. Or, if you have a definite thing to say, putting it into paper makes it “real” or tangible.

I started journaling a few years ago for Lent and it made a huge difference for me. Once Lent was over, I sort of let the practice fall by the wayside. Oh, I still continued to journal every day but it was, again, more of a “me” thing as opposed as a tool to connecting with God.

Lenten Prayer Journal for Women

To help me using journaling as a prayer aid, I created the Lenten Prayer Journal for Women. Each day has a short quote from one of the Mass readings for the day and lots of lined and blank pages. My plan is to use these pages as an opportunity to do a sort of informal reflection on those quotes. Of course, many days I will probably use the pages to pour out my heart to God in other ways too and that’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to use a prayer journal!

I’ve also made the journal available to you in hopes that it may help you kick start your prayer this Lent, too. If you are looking to refocus your mind and heart on Christ – if only for a few minutes! – I pray that this journal will help you do just that. 🙂 May it be your best and most fruitful Lenten season yet!

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