Let Prayer be your Refuge this Christmas.

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For all you Americans… This is a Christmas pudding. We Brits like to pour brandy all over it and set it on fire when we bring it to the table. It’s awesome! (you wouldn’t understand ūüėČ )

Depending on your situation, Christmas can be completely overwhelming in different ways.

As a mother of 3 young kids it can get pretty hectic. In years passed I have literally been exhausted to the point of tears – which was a stupid position to let myself get into. It would take one wrong look from my husband and we would end up having a blazing row. I’ll never forget the time about 7 or 8 years ago he ended up calling me a b**ch at 11.30pm on Christmas Eve! I refused to open my presents for 3 DAYS!!! Lol! Thank God those days are over! We survived it, and came through, and the marriage carried on. Anyway it couldn’t have been that bad because I fell pregnant 4 weeks later with our 2nd!

Now we do less, have less, expect less, and Christmas tends to be a much happier time for everyone.

All I’m saying is that Christmas tends to amplify everything – including marriage issues. So just be aware of this and try to give each other a break. Don’t allow Satan to use this time to steal your joy, or use you to steal others joy.

Louis and Zelie Martin pray for us.

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This is a Yule Log. It is totally pagan but it has chocolate and cream so I allow it in our house!

And what about relatives? Find them difficult?! Yes. Everyone does. And the worst thing about it is that your job as a Christian is to try to share the Good news of our savior’s birth with a bunch of lousy atheists who insist on staying in your house, eating your food and telling your children that Christmas is all about the birth of Santa!

I guess the only thing I can say here is to pray to God for patience and charity! Remember that God made them, and wants them to come into a relationship with Him, and He may well be using you as the link to accomplish that. Try to understand that you have no idea what the Holy Spirit might doing within them right now, and that your prayers for them all this year will sure to be making a difference – you have been praying for them all year, right? Now is a good time to start ūüėČ

But what if you don’t have a family? or you can’t be with your family? The other thing that people often find overwhelming at Christmas is loneliness.

Having never been alone at Christmas I can’t really comment on this other to say that I do know what it is to be in a room full of people, and be the loneliest person on the earth. Loneliness doesn’t just strike those who are physically alone. It can strike anyone at anytime of their lives, in any given situation.

What I used to detest here is when I used to pretend. On the outside everything was just fine and dandy, but on the inside I would be lost in the dark, drowning in a sea of lonliness. Those dark days are thankfully over, and it is only now when I look back that I see that that loneliness was from God. He was allowing me to enter deeply into the emptiness  of a society without Him, to see that what was being offered to me by the world would never, ever satisfy me. He was teaching me that I needed Him more than I needed air. Through the agony of my secret silent internal isolation He was preparing me for a relationship with Him.

That loneliness, that longing, was soon to start dissolving with that peace that only He can give. The peace of knowing where you belong, of being truly loved and valued. It is the same peace of a sleeping babe in the arms of its mother.

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This is a pantomime dame. It is the only time of year when parents pay to let their children be entertained by a old man in a dress pretending to be a woman (unless you subscribe to SKY TV and watch “I am Cait” – which I know none of you do of course. Apparently it’s hilarious (the pantomime I mean).

What ever you situation this year let prayer be your refuge. Allow God to use your situation to draw you deeper into relationship with Him. An hours meditation on Luke’s Gospel, 5 mins when you get the luxury of escaping the kids to go to the bathroom! Or just a simple glance up to God – a surge of your heart towards your infinitely powerful creator who comes to you today as a tiny helpless baby born to a teenage girl in a stable.

Mary has known chaos at Christmas entering Bethlehem on a flipping donkey for goodness sake!!! She has know longing and loneliness. She had a complicated marriage situation! Her husband was not the father of her Child. She had relatives some of whom no doubt did not understand her faith. But she also had Jesus.

As she held Him for the first time, as she look into the face of God, and kissed that little sweet face, everything else must have just melted away leaving her with the awe and wonder and glory of a newborn baby, and above all, Love.

I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas this year. Know that I will be remembering you all in my prayers – especially all you priests, giving everything and working so hard! Try not to get overwhelmed, and I look forward to hearing how Christ has made Himself known to you all this Christmas 2015. xx

Suicide, Tattoo’s and Baptism

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The sad news of Robin Williams death this week brought back memories for me of 6th January 1998 – the day i tried to take my own life. It was the worst and the best day of my life.

As an 18 year old almost sick to death (literally) with depression i had¬†been prescribed Paxil Seroxat¬†which was later banned in 2003 for under 18’s because it was found to¬†increase¬†risk of suicide.

I was begging God for mercy. My parents had had Mass said for me even though i had not been to mass for the last 5 years. I had no idea what was going on but can only describe it as a body-spirit split in which i was experiencing the most utter desolation and despair to the point in which it actually physically felt like my soul was being burned alive. This went on non-stop for 3 weeks.

“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” No profanity was to great to the God i had always believed in – but just hated for the last 5 years or so. Finally, not being able to withstand the torture i was experiencing any longer i felt i had no choice but to end it.

“I’m sorry, i don’t want to kill myself, but i just can’t live in this pain any more.” And after a failed attempt with a bottle of paracetamol, and knowing i was beaten, i turned to God and just surrendered.

“Clare, I’ve never forced you to believe in me” were the words i heard. I was aware of Jesus standing next to me, and behind Him was His Mother. And behind her were hundreds of saints all routing for me to come back to the faith.

“After everything i have done over the last 5 years, you still want me?”

“I love you.”¬†

And that was the first day of the rest of my life. The day of my conversion. The day i returned to the Catholic church. I guess you could say that i had some sort of an Epiphany (6th Jan – get it? Boom-Boom!!) Straight after that experience i felt the utter desolation lift and i was then able to cope with and slowly recover from what i would describe as ‘normal’ depression.¬†

Sometimes you have to come completely undone to discover who you are in Christ. Whatever it was that happened to me back then, however painful it was, it was pure grace. God knows where i would be now if i had not gone through that. It was so life changing i had no idea how to cope with it, so i did the normal 18 year old thing and got a tattoo. It is a picture of an electronic heart trace to remind me of the day my heart almost stopped beating, and then beat again for the first time as a new creature in Christ.

Interestingly, this evening i was just going through a box of old paperwork and discovered my baptism certificate. It seems that the date of my baptism was 6th Janurary 1980. Who would have thought that the Lord would use this date 18 years later to bring me back into His church? Unbelievable!