Christmas 2013: My First Christmas with Jesus

Merry Christmas, friends!

I am currently sitting around with the family, listening to Beyonce, having just said goodbye to the extended family, waiting in anticipation for my father’s quality cooking. I hope everyone is having a good day with their families, or if they are not, are coping well and have support to get through the holidays. Much love, darlings. 

I went to Christmas Eve mass last night, my first in six years. The last one I went to triggered six months of paranoia and panic attacks that God was in fact going to smite me down at any given moment so I tended to avoid it from then on. But 11 months after rejoining the Church, Christmas rolled around again. The Mass was the third Christmas-Church-related thing I went to this week, and also the most different (as a non-Catholic, I don’t generally frequent the Mass.)

Because of translational things, the responses and liturgy of the Mass has changed since my day, so I wasn’t participating to the level that my Catholic friends would, but I still came away with some observations, some about our society, some about the Church, but mainly about myself.

1. Since entering a Bible based evangelical Church, I am now better able to appreciate the Mass. So much of it is prayer (good) and Scripture (great), so my experience of it was one of quite focused and intense prayer, to a level I would struggle to attain at home (I definitely wouldn’t have the discipline to pray for an hour in my room.) As a whole, I found the service spiritually fulfilling, wonderfully festive (I sang along loudly to hymns, as is my way) and overall, lovely.

2. I find myself at a loss in a society of cultural Catholicism. My reading, and learning, and church teachings, all lead to Matthew 22:37 – “He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” – and James 1:22 – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”. So I struggle to understand the point of going to Church twice a year – it’s not Church attendance that saves you after all. It also bugged me how not about Christ this holiday appeared even in the Church, and after stewing in my own self-righteousness for about five minutes, realised what a hypocrite I was being. I have no right to judge anyone. But it did help me come to the true realisation – I don’t want everyone to act like me, but I do want everyone to know Jesus like I do.

3. I find that throughout the holiday season, I am better able to appreciate what I have, and do my best to be helpful and humble (although this is a skill I am still working at!) Scripture, prayer, devotionals – all reminding me that Christmas is not about the spectacle, the food, the gifts (although these are a perk). The season is to remind us that God decided to come to earth to redeem us, and not only that. He came in a manner that allows us to connect with Him, and He with us. The Lord had to deal with parents and childhood and teenage problems and having a job and everything we have to deal with. His family were refugees, He was born into poverty, He was rejected and suffered and died. If Christ can make Himself humble, if He can continue to thank the Father in all circumstances, why can’t we?

So like every year, I am taking great joy in the Christmas season. However, I feel it is a deeper feeling, more spiritual, less material, not quite so fleeting. And I pray that this may continue for me (and for others) in the future.

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Christmas 2013: The First Year Walking With Christ

A little background context: it is 00:14, I am not tired at all, I had cliche-ed emotions at the airport this morning due to the departure of the American, and I have wanted to recommence blogging, and particularly to start writing more about Christianity. I became a disciple of Christ in February 2013 and because of this Christmas season, I want to get into it a little. I have ideas for the new year, but this is going to be a quick background into how I became a Christian, some musings on my first Christmas as a believer, and some seasonal scripture. For previous writings on faith, see here, here, and here

I started reading the Bible in February 2013, declared myself a Christian on Ash Wednesday, and had found my church home by chance within ten days of that. I spent the next six months attending Sunday service, going to a weekly study/discussion group, and power reading my way through the 66 days of the Bible, a task I felt I had to complete before getting baptised. I was baptised on September 1 2013.  My baptism was one of the most exciting, nervous, laughing-tears days of my adult life. I could wax lyrical about my journey to baptism, my life before Christ, and my love of Jesus, but it is summed up pretty well in the video below.

I will explore my thoughts on Christmas more tomorrow, but what I want to leave you with today is this. Amongst all the hype and the money spending and the sparkles and lights and such, we get to celebrate that a little boy was born into poverty, to teenage parents, who had to travel hundreds of miles, and then escape to another country to avoid slaughter, and in spite of all of this, was the Son of God. We see purpose and planning and perseverance, a feat truly worthy of worship.

Happy Christmas!

Well, kids. Seasons greetings. Clearly, I hate making eye contact. And I am experimenting with new sound recording so that explains the quality. But I do love you all, and I say so in a horrendously lame manner. Beaucoup d’amor 😉

The Absurdity of the New Year, or Resolution Shmesolution

It is apparently impossible to make even the slightest of turns at this time of year without being harassed, either through the internet or print media, to change one’s sinful and damaging ways. A plethora of information on how to quit smoking, lose weight, run 5 marathons and create world peace seems increasingly inevitable to invade the consciousness. And whilst promoting all these wonderful things is equally as wonderful as their respective results, it is all a little absurd. Let’s take weight loss.

I’d assume about 75% of people, in between their third helping of turkey and ham and the obligatory half bottle of wine at some point between Christmas Eve and New Year’s day, waylay any possible guilt with the simple phrase “I’ll lose it in the New Year.” Then January 1st hits, the house is stocked with Weight Watchers and Slimfast, the gym membership securely attained and the resolution of two simple words “Lose Weight” firmly embedded in one’s mind. That new diet plan to lose 20 lbs in two weeks, or whatever other unfathomable promise was floating around in any other number of magazines, has been memorised and intention is set. Surely this is enough.

It is also around this time of year that I start avoiding the gym. Claustrophobically full, it is too easy to get frustrated with the ones strolling along for twenty minutes before stuffing themselves with Cadbury’s finest (assured that they have indeed burnt all the necessary calories) or even easier to become overwhelmed with discomfort, unease and terror as some or other first timer boots a treadmill up to 14kmh and you wait for the sickening moment where they go flying and you simultaneously forget all your first aid training. Luckily, most people have given up by February and the gym resumes its usual atmosphere.

I seem unreasonably harsh and judgemental, an embodiment of Ms. Listen-to-Me McHolier-Than-Thou. Don’t worry, I am still the neurotic chocoholic up-and-down mess you all know and love (who herself wouldn’t hurt from a few changes this season) but I just find the entire concept of New Year’s Resolutions just a tad pointless. There is a reason why resolutions don’t last – they are vague, impulsive, non-commital and entirely dependant on the New Year to make a start. And just as quickly as one embarks on a new endeavour, something or other takes precedent and all good deeds fade away as quickly as the December frost. I mean, really, if something is that important, why wait until January to start? Goals such as losing weight and quitting smoking and what have you are lifestyle changes, not short lived fads to be played around with for 6 weeks before reverting back to your old ways. So this January, don’t think up some random resolution to “Get Firmer* in 4 Weeks”  or vaguely “Learn a musical instrument.” Set a goal, be specific, make a plan and commit!

My Goals For 2011

  • Be Kinder To Myself – this involves maintaining a healthy weight (without binge or starve,) getting enough exercise (without killing myself) and getting a serious hold on nasties like fat talk and body checks. Here’s to a healthy 2011!
  • Run the 10K in the Great Limerick Run – Pa is supposed to do this with me (He traded off doing a mini-triathlon with him, which I also have to see to believe.) If not, I always have my sexy new micoach pacer.
  • Climb Croagh Patrick – Supposed to do this last summer but didn’t. I figure I just need to nag Dad back into the gym with me. Hint hint.
  • See more of family and friends – I actually go months without seeing some people. That is just not right. And I am aware that this has that horrible vagueness which I was talking about. But I can’t seem to be more specific…
  • Get my music act together. This involves making a set list, getting that set list to a performable standard, convincing someone to hire me and getting some well needed experience. I will post as this progresses.
  • Blog/Journal/Meditate at least twice a week – I will do this if it kills me. For it is good for my soul.

What are your goals for the new year?

*As a sidenote, I hate, loath and despise the word “firmer” for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it has something to do with a seemingly healthier approach to the more controversial “skinny” without the rather negative model-diet connotations. But in the context of January’s obsession with losing pounds and inches, its essentially the same insane message of thin=happy. Make health your goal people.

**As a second sidenote, the ridiculous and self indulgent pomposity of the writing today comes to you courtesy of Kate: Obsessively reading Stephen Fry’s Autobiography for the last seven days.

 

The Post Christmas Hangover

Today was the day to get back on track. And not in the “oh no, I’m getting too faaaat!” way that I would have usually, but more like, four solid days of eating non-stop sugar and ham (not together) is making my body scream out for mercy. I suppose that’s what I get for eating 2 selection boxes, a very large portion of a tin of roses and keeping a fairly constant eating-on-the-hour routine going on. So I complied. 14 hours of sleep later, porridge for breakfast and salad for lunch and I feel mighty better. It’s nice to get an endorphin hit without the sugar coma that follows.

I also went for a run (my first bit of exercise in 4 days!) Accompanying me was my sexy new micoach pacer. I think I’m in love. Whilst I love the buzz of running and getting outside and moving, there is quite a sense of satisfaction in knowing how far you went (a short 2.2 miles) and how fast you were going (avg 6:55 min/km (not good) but there was walking involved in the interval workout). Just the thing to get me out of my rut 🙂 Yoga was also on the cards and I am nicely refreshed to go see Gulliver’s Travels with my mom in a while. Laters alligators 🙂

Christmas Eve

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the eve
Calamities occuring you wouldn’t believe,
The shower was frozen, the front door was stuck,
But Kate didn’t mind (she got off early from work.)

The pipes were all frozen from sub zero degrees
But nobody cared because Elf’s on tv!
The oven is buzzing, the heater’s making an odd sound
But who would notice with the smell of cooking ham all around?

The car wouldn’t start, our feet frozen to the soles
But all was made better by Milky Way Crispy Rolls 🙂
So anticipate surprises and trousers too tight
So from my laptop (in my onesie) to all a good night!

Christmas Cookies and an Accidental Mile

Yesterday I baked my own body weight in Christmas cookies. Three types of dough: gingerbread, chocolate-dip chocolate-chip dough balls and various chocolate dipped sugar cookies (in festive Christmas shapes.) The family were pleased to say the least. And I got one hell of an upper arm workout. If there is one thing I have an edge on, it is baking cookies. Hope they were well received 🙂

In running news, Monday was the most horrible run I have ever embarked upon. I was excited to go for my run and started out on my usual 2 mile route, same as always. Then about a mile in, I had to stop. Okay, I think, quick walking break and I’ll be fine. Then I start and have to stop again. Eventually I am so disheartened, I plod home, fit to cry. Because all my black and white brain could think was “You can’t run anymore. Fail on you.”

Yesterday I was afraid to run, lest there was a repeat incident. So I made do with an hour of intervals. Today, I wasted half my morning just trying to make myself do something, anything, because I was in one of those moods where everything seems like too much effort. I though about going to the gym but the thought of walking there seemed excruciating. So eventually I plucked up the courage to go out for another run. But this time, I would do a new route. Basically, I ran to the very back of the industrial estate and back. In-there-abouts of three miles. In what Dad later informed me was -10 degrees. Lovely. My face couldn’t move. High on endorphins, I sealed all the goodness in with an hour of yoga before I got ready for work. 🙂

So I suppose the lesson here is not to give up so easily. Or maybe, one should change their running route before the thought of the old one makes you want to die.