Women's Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way

Wise Women Also Came
Image: Wise Women Also Came © Jan Richardson

Happy Epiphany! You might already know that in some parts of the world, Epiphany (January 6, which brings the Christmas season to a close) is also celebrated as Women's Christmas. Originating in Ireland, where it is known as Nollaig na mBan, Women's Christmas began as a day when the women, who often carried the domestic responsibilities all year, took Epiphany as an occasion to enjoy a bit of respite and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

Whether your domestic duties are many or few, Women’s Christmas is a good time to pause and take a break from whatever has kept you busy in the past weeks or months. As the Christmas season ends, this is an occasion both to celebrate with friends and also to spend time in reflection before diving into the responsibilities of this new year.

It has become a tradition for me to create a retreat that you can use for Women's Christmas—or anytime you're in need of a space of reflection. Posting this year's retreat in the wee hours of Epiphany morning, I'm squeaking in just under the wire; this has not been a season that made it possible to post the retreat farther in advance of the day! But I cannot imagine beginning the year without offering this gift to you, and I hope you will use it whenever it fits for you.

This year's retreat is titled "Home By Another Way." As I continue to find my way in the wake of my husband's death, I have been doing a lot of thinking about home—what it is, how it happens, where we are called to find it and to share it. This retreat offers an invitation for you to do some reflecting, wondering, and dreaming about what home is for you, in the many senses of this word.

The retreat is very flexible, easily adaptable to your own purposes. You can do the retreat anytime you wish, by yourself or with friends near or far. It includes an introduction with some thoughts about how you might use these reflections.

Clicking the link below will take you to a page on this Sanctuary of Women site where you can download the retreat as a PDF file. There's no cost; think of it as my Women's Christmas gift to you! You are also welcome to make a donation in support of the retreat; contributions will be shared with the A21 Campaign (thea21campaign.org), which is devoted to ending human trafficking and providing sanctuary, healing, and home for those rescued from slavery.

Download the Women's Christmas Retreat

You are welcome to make copies of the retreat to share with friends. I would be delighted for you to spread the word about the retreat by sharing this blog post; you can use any of the social media icons at the bottom of this post or simply forward the link to others.

The retreat opens with a blessing I've included for you below. As we celebrate the day and enter into the year ahead, may you find wondrous shelter along the way. Merry Women's Christmas!

The Map You Make Yourself
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

You have looked
at so many doors
with longing,
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.

For today,
choose the door
that opens
to the inside.

Travel the most ancient way
of all:
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.

No map
but the one
you make yourself.

No provision
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim’s way.

Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.

Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
Welcome detours
as doors deeper in.

Pray for protection.
Ask for guidance.
Offer gladness
for the gifts that come,
and then
let them go.

Do not expect
to return
by the same road.
Home is always
by another way,
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you

but by the star
that blazes inside you,
telling you
where you are
is holy
and you are welcome

—Jan Richardson

[The Wise Women Also Came image is © Jan Richardson from the book Night Visions. To use this image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

45 Responses to "Women's Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way"

  1. Cynthia says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! May you know God's love in new ways this year!

  2. Brenda Holliman says:

    Thank you for this gift! Presently I am going through some changes and the title was certainly intriguing in light of those changes. As I search for my place within the ministry of women- I pray that we all find our sweet "Home" spot. May you find this year to be enriching and surrounded by His Love and Grace and Peace……..

  3. Nancy says:

    My first time visiting your website/blog. Looking forward to exploring it further!
    Love the image!! Fits right into my ideas for this week's PW CT meeting in Delaware. I hope that I may be able to use it this Saturday. Thank you!

  4. Maria says:

    Thanks for this gift, Jan.

  5. Rachelle says:

    Thank you for this lovely poem, Jan. And also for your beautiful artwork. Thank you mainly, however, for being a faithful witness to the experiences of your life as you share them transformed into beauty through your creations.

  6. Jane says:

    Thank you so much, Jan! I've been feeling rather "homesick" lately and this speaks to my soul. Blessings on the new year.

  7. ruth says:

    A bounty of blessings! Thank you. You cannot know how often your words speak so appositely into my life. Thank you is not enough, but it is all I have, apart from to bless you in return- for this day, this week and this year as you travel onwards, Homewards.

  8. Deb Nondorf says:

    Humble bow of gratitude to you, Dear One.

  9. Heather McVoy says:

    Jan, thank you so much for sharing this so generously. I am looking forward to sharing it with a friend. Love and blessings to you.

  10. Deborah says:

    Jan – Your work continues to allow my soul to sigh & be present immediately upon the reading and/or listening. This is bright gift & centering in the midst of the urgencies of modern life. I have shared your work with patients, colleagues, friends, and family which I will do again today in our Epiphany ceremonies.

    Bright blessings as your inner star guides, comforts, and inspires you in the year ahead. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Pastor & Hospital Chaplain

  11. Laurie says:

    Thank you for this generous gift. I cannot wait to get started!

  12. Laurie says:

    After a brief perusal of what you have written, I want to add that I am very sorry for your loss. I have spent the past many years mourning the deaths of significant people in my life, including my 30 year old son. I very much appreciate your energy and effort in offering this gift of A Retreat for Women's Christmas. I know that it is right where I need to be!

  13. Robin says:

    Thank you, Jan. You are a treasure…

  14. Shauna Gill says:

    How lovely…this is my first meeting of you Jan, through a friend who sent me this link. We are fellow sojourners for sure…I too a widow – and one finding home in my heart and the heart of Christ.


  15. Jody says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey… you've given me a new idea for putting even more meaning in the season in a creative way!

  16. Judy says:

    Thank you so much for this, Jan! I am so looking forward to the insights and comfort your words always bring me. May God bless you in this year 2016 in all the ways you need to be blessed, dearest one.

  17. Mary says:

    Thank you so much Jan. May the waters of baptism nourish all of us!

  18. Mimi says:

    Many blessings to you, Jan! The Theme: Home by another way is so meaningful to me at this time!Mimi

  19. Gerrie Bransby says:

    I too am in the wake of my husbands death and find myself excited by this page. I shall download this and travel with it. Thank you.

    I had never heard of women's Christmas before and shall pass it on. Pax.

  20. Lucretia says:

    Our "Writing in Faith" Group at St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish, Acton, MA, will be focusing on this retreat for our January meeting, as we did last year, and we thank you for your generosity in providing it once again. As a Wise Woman once said to me, "All timing is of the Lord," and your timing was perfect for offering this gift. May you be blessed deeply and well on this "Women's Christmas / Feast of the Epiphany",

    Lucretia Yaghjian and Writing in Faith Companions, Acton, MA

  21. Luise says:

    Love to you Jan. Sending healing light and ongoing prayers. Thank you for this gift

  22. Jan, I am so grateful to have found you this Christmas season! Through Christianne Squires, I found your book of blessings and now, through my pastor friend in Ohio – Becky Pryzbylski, I've discovered this retreat the book from which your opening blessing comes. Such rich gifts. Thank you, thank you.

  23. Friends, thank you so much for your beautiful comments! It is such a gift and a blessing to me to share this celebration with you. Deep, deep gratitude to you for making my day on this Women's Christmas!

  24. Patty says:

    I have so enjoyed your book through a difficult Christmas season. Looking forward to this retreat. Blessings and peace to you!!

  25. Deborah Lorentz says:

    Thank you, Jan, for sharing your heart with us and, through your personal experience of pain, make room for us. May you be blessed in this New Year 2016.

  26. Lynne says:

    Thank you Jan for opening your heart and soul with us. Experiencing a loss is one of the hardest things we have to face. The absence of our loved one is huge and changes our daily routine. Whether it be a loss of a spouse through death or a loss of a friendship due to differing paths, Home by Another Way is a journey that has touched me to the core and one that I hope will offer opportunities for healing and for growth.
    I am truly grateful for this journey with you.
    Blessing to you!

  27. barbara says:

    As a result of finding your book, Sacred Journeys, maybe 20 years ago at the Conference Bookstore I have been led to experience the holy in many different ways through your paintings and writing. It has taken me from being an "over-churched" person to one who has the new name of "once churched". I treasure the book, dog-eared and coffee-stained as it is.

    I remember sending a note at the time of your husband's death. I cannot imagine how you still feel. My husband and I have been married for 56 years. Life without him is something I cannot visualize. Again, deepest sympathy.

    Thank you for the Epiphany words and art. I know it will help me on my newer non-churched journey.

    Deep blessings for the new year,

    Barbara Kiser

  28. Debra Kidd says:

    My dear Husband,friend and soul mate also passed away in October and I'm searching for the new normal.Your poem brought me such comfort.Thank you

  29. Laurie Reinhart says:

    Thank you, Jan! Your work is lovely and it is a wonderful gift. Blessings to you!

  30. Joanna says:

    As I stripped + took.down the Christmas tree by.myself today, I felt a new path calling, marking the years of children's making ornaments and now today it felt simply a chore to.accomplish…gone some of the depth of a family close @ hand.
    What is this beautiful occasion saying? Home by another way…
    Your poem stilled my being + reminded me I am home as I am, within my being, following my star. Thank you so.much.

  31. Linda Pearson says:

    Thank you so much for this whole generous giving. I love the idea and will come back to the retreat another day. All good wishes to your own coming home. I made something of a retreat for myself yesterday to balance the huge heart felt responsibilities of caring for ailing parents who weren't in their turn able to care for me as a child – like managing a torrential river :).

  32. Mickie says:

    Grace and peace and blessings as we all begin, anew, the journey home.

  33. Maxine says:

    THANK YOU! It has been a tough few months. Losing my mom HURTS'! This blog TODAY has given me hope that I will survive. That He is with me, I feel I have found hope through you and my beautiful friend that posted this!

  34. Gina says:

    Thank you Jan for sharing your creative gifts that speak to the heart and soul. I just discovered your website/ blog, and artwork and have already shared your beautiful expressions of living in the Spirit with my mom, sister and close girlfriends. You have inspired me at a point in my life that demands redefining. I am grateful to you and celebrate what you share of your own heart's journey. I am certain your husband's heart beats on, accompanying you in your work.

  35. Nancy says:

    This is a beautiful testament to love and courage! Thank you so much for creating this retreat and for sharing it with us! I felt like you were sitting here with me, and talking me through the hard times of deep winter. Thank you, Jan!

  36. Rev. Pat Underkofler says:

    On a retreat.a friend shared her copy of "Circle of Grace." I was so struck by your poems, I began reading selections to those around me. I have finally have found a poet who has the words and images that affirm so much within my spirit. Thankyou for sharing your gifts. I will order your autographed book next. Your poetry has inspired me to reconnect with my own poetry that has been dormant for years. Blessings to you.

  37. Rev. Pat Underkofler says:

    Jan, I'm not as tech savvy as I'd like to be, so I wanted to see how this comment appeared before adding more. I too lost my husband of 45 years a year ago September. I'm getting comfortable in the view from where I now stand, and looking down the path. What a blessing and confirmation to discover you,your.books, this format! Clearly, your beloved is a big part of what you offer to others now. Peace be with you.

  38. Jan, The retreat is beautiful. I'm taking it slowly, one picture and passage a day. Rereading the previous as I go along, and enjoying the experience of "living on a prayer." Even in my early retirement years I still don't have the answers to the questions asked, but I have learned from the poet, Rilke, "to love the questions and hopefully someday live into the answers." I feel the spaciousness of many rooms, the leisure and quiet of January kairos time, and the newness of 2016, my 65th year. Thank You.

  39. Carole Day says:

    This is just what I need. I, too, lost my husband in October. We had just shared our 52nd anniversary. Your inspiring words will help me find a new way to "come home". Bless you.

    Thank you,

    Carole Day

  40. Angie Miller says:

    As I read this I feel it was written just for me. Thank You and many blessings to you.

  41. Louise Young says:

    Thank you so much for "Home by Another Way." The poem speaks a truth to me that I've known for many years, but with confidence that it is the right way, rather than fearing that my return to home will be impossible. You help me to see that home is inside of me and is reachable by always moving forward spiritually.

  42. Tabatha says:

    Lovely, thank you.

  43. Yes, many thanks for sharing. This post shines with love and light.

  44. Laura Starr-Houghton says:

    Thank you very much for this lovely piece. I was introduced to it during a Quiet Day last weekend and was so taken with it that I used it for an art piece as well as a meditation.

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