Women's Christmas 2017: Walking the Way of Hope

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

Friends, it is that time of year when I get to wish you a Merry Women's Christmas and share a gift that I've created for you in celebration of the day!

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 any time you're in need of a space of respite and regathering.

This year's retreat is titled "Walking the Way of Hope." As I continue to make a life in the wake of my husband's unexpected death, I have found myself thinking a lot about hope. I have learned how persistent hope is, how stubborn. It keeps finding me and inviting me to engage my life and this world. This retreat offers an invitation for you to do some reflecting, wondering, and dreaming about how you experience hope in your own life, and what invitations it holds for you, especially when it becomes hard to hope.

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 is no cost; this is my Women's Christmas gift to you! If you wish, you can make a donation in support of the retreat; contributions will be shared with the A21 Campaign (a21.org), which is devoted to ending human trafficking and providing sanctuary, healing, and hope 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 offer this gift to others 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.

This year's retreat opens with a new blessing that I've written for you, which you can find below. As we celebrate the day and enter into the year ahead, may you walk with hope. Merry Women's Christmas!

How the Stars Get in Your Bones
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

Sapphire, diamond, emerald, quartz:
think of every hard thing
that carries its own brilliance,
shining with the luster that comes
only from uncountable ages
in the earth, in the dark,
buried beneath unimaginable weight,
bearing what seemed impossible,
bearing it still.

And you, shouldering the grief
you had thought so solid, so impermeable,
the terrible anguish
you carried as a burden
now become—
who can say what day it happened?—
a beginning.

See how the sorrow in you
slowly makes its own light,
how it conjures its own fire.

See how radiant
even your despair has become
in the grace of that sun.

Did you think this would happen
by holding the weight of the world,
by giving in to the press of sadness
and time?

I tell you, this blazing in you—
it does not come by choosing
the most difficult way, the most daunting;
it does not come by the sheer force
of your will.
It comes from the helpless place in you
that, despite all, cannot help but hope,
the part of you that does not know
how not to keep turning
toward this world,
to keep turning your face
toward this sky,
to keep turning your heart
toward this unendurable earth,
knowing your heart will break
but turning it still.

I tell you,
this is how the stars
get in your bones.

This is how the brightness
makes a home in you,
as you open to the hope that burnishes
every fractured thing it finds
and sets it shimmering,
a generous light that will not cease,
no matter how deep the darkness grows,
no matter how long the night becomes.

Still, still, still
the secret of secrets
keeps turning in you,
becoming beautiful,
becoming blessed,
kindling the luminous way
by which you will emerge,
carrying your shattered heart
like a constellation within you,
singing to the day
that will not fail to come.

—Jan Richardson

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

35 Responses to "Women's Christmas 2017: Walking the Way of Hope"

  1. Sr. Marie Therese Sherwood, OSF says:

    Your retreat arrived this afternoon at a time when I really needed it. Thank you so much. I have shared it with some of my friends.


    • Sr. Marie Therese, thank you so much for the gift of your words. I'm glad the retreat arrived at a useful time. Thank you also for sharing it with your friends! Sending much gratitude and many blessings for you this Women's Christmas and beyond.

  2. Kathy Plourde says:

    Just in the nick of time… Thank you

  3. Barbara Riddle says:

    Jan, this link was passed along by another sacred sister who walks the journey with me. I have shared your newest book and am so grateful to enter into this Epiphany experience. With thanksgiving, Barbara

  4. Katherine says:

    Thank you, Jan. I have been following you – mostly quietly – for a long time. This year, especially, I can use the retreat. I will definitely be sharing it.
    Blessings now and always.

    • Katherine, thank you! I'm very grateful and wish you many blessings as you use the retreat and as you travel through this year. Thanks for sharing it, too! Deep peace to you.

  5. Sylvia McCorkindale says:

    I loved your materials last year. When I click the link, I don't get Walking the way of Hope, I get last year's. Can you help, please?

    • Thanks so much, Sylvia! Refreshing your browser should do the trick. Sometimes browsers have a long memory—when we go to a web page we've been to before, the browser doesn't always recognize the page has been updated, and it might go to an old version. If you refresh the browser (by clicking the circle-shaped arrow in the browser window), or use a different browser, that should get you to the 2017 retreat. Do let me know if you run into any more snags, and I'll be happy to help! Many blessings to you.

  6. Rachel Nafziger Hartzler says:

    Thank you, Jan, for again offering such a gift! I will use the retreat materials and I know I will be blessed! I must also thank you for your wonderful book _The Cure for Sorrow_. I have just ordered my fifth copy to give to bereaved people–some are personal gifts and some are on behalf of my congregation. I am an ordained Mennonite minister and, now in early retirement, I serve as a volunteer bereavement pastor in my congregation, College Mennonite Church. I was widowed in 1999.

  7. Deb N says:

    So grateful for this gift…
    I am too excited to get to open it now.
    Love you!

  8. Beth says:

    Dear Jan, "How the Stars Get in Your Bones" opened a space for me to weep for our children's 16 year old classmate and friend who was killed on New Years Day by a troubled teenage boy who then took his own life. This poem and your "Blessing When the World is Ending" give voice to the pain we're all feeling but also to the hope that whispers in spite of the horror. Both pieces will be included in our notes to Charlotte's and Sean's families. Thank you, thank you.

    • Oh, Beth. I am so sorry about your children's classmate and friend and the horrible grief that has come to Charlotte's family, to Sean's family, and to all their community. I'm grateful for your words and am sending prayers and many blessings for you and all whom this tragedy has touched. I am with you in grief and hope. Deepest peace.

  9. Dear Jan, thank you for sharing your art work and for sharing your heart. I look forward to using this beautiful gift and sharing it with others. with appreciation, April

  10. In 3 hours I will be facilitating a women's group called the Awareness Salon. This is a monthly group and we average about 40 women. Your offering is exactly the last piece I was looking for to share with the women. Thnak you for your generosity and faith,

    Blessings to you,

    • Joanna says:

      Dear Marge….just read the comment to Jan above….what is this group 'Awareness Salon'? It sounds like something I may like to start with a community of women?

  11. Linda says:

    Sharing with my mom and sisters. Blessings,

  12. Teresa says:


  13. Thank you so much for the gifts of Love, of Beauty and Tenderness, Jan.
    Blessings to you upon your journey, and thank you for being the Loving Kindness embodied.
    I am sharing this lovely retreat with my women friends.
    Thank you, thank you….

  14. Kathy Lamont says:

    Thank you Jan for this wonderful gift of Women's Christmas Retreat. I will share it with many of the women in our Women's Cornerstone group (northern NJ). We are so blessed to share in your gifts. (These are the women who read Gabriel's Annunciation at the Cloisters during Advent).
    Hope does not disappoint!
    Peace and blessings to you,

  15. Susan B Dheedene says:

    Thank you for all the sharing. I will share this resource with my daughters and friends.

  16. Allison Dean says:

    Dear Jan:

    I too have followed you very quietly for several years and have so enjoyed the yearly Women's Christmas Retreat. It has come in the nick of time after a very difficult year of transition in a new position – the poem is beautiful. I shall be sharing your link on our deanery Facebook page and tweet it out as well so others may experience some peace and hope. Thank you for your continued ministry during the past couple of difficult years for you. You continue in my prayers and thoughts. Allison

  17. Kitty Cavalier says:

    Positively GORGEOUS

  18. Jennine Lennox says:

    Greetings and Epiphany blessings from Down Under, Jan! Thank you for this beautiful gift of the 2017 Women's Christmas Retreat. I wait for it each year and am always enriched in body and soul. HOPE is such a fabulous theme this year! So glad it is making a comeback for you in the midst of your deep grief. May its star shine brightly for you in 2017!

  19. Jan, we just finished hanging an art exhibit to support and benefit survivors of human trafficking when I opened your email and downloaded this years retreat. I was just astounded. The name of our exhibit is Crossing the threshold–out of the shadows of human trafficking and into the light of hope"
    And to find that all your donations are to benefit this cause. We truly are all one! Thank you for all you do! Your writings are just wonderfully inspiring!

  20. Lindsey says:

    Dear Jan,

    Your art and your writing has long been a gift to me personally and professionally. For many I know and for myself, 2016 was an incredibly challenging year, with many deaths. It has felt like a weight I cannot get out from under. This post feels hopeful to me. Hope is such a gift. Thank you so much.

  21. Christina Wyman says:

    What a gift! Sanctuary of Women is one of my favorite spiritual books. Jan, your words and art continue to touch my soul. I have shared your book and wisdom with friends.

  22. Jan, thank you for this lovely gift, which always catches me by surprise, even though I know its a beloved tradition. This year it is so needed…a Christmas with loved ones crossing over, three old, one too, too young and sudden. So I am so very grateful for your deep sharing, your poet prayers, your blessings and art shining in the night. I will be sharing with our entire community here. Dee Dee

  23. ev says:

    Powerful poem, thank you!

  24. Cindy Clark says:

    I have also quietly followed you for many years, since before Gary died. So many others have already beautifully expressed their appreciation for your work; I will simply echo them here. This poem, How the Stars Get in Your Bones, has touched me deeply. Thank you so much.

  25. Glynn says:

    When I click the link here, it takes me to the 2016 retreat… is there another way to access this year's? Really looking forward to sinking into a retreat weekend this weekend…

    Many thanks and blessings for the gifts you give, Jan! Happy Women's Christmas!

    • Thanks, Glynn! Refreshing your browser should do the trick. Sometimes browsers have a long memory—if we go to a web page we've been to before, the browser doesn't always recognize the page has been updated, and it might go to an old version. Or there might be a different browser glitch. If you refresh the browser (by clicking the circle-shaped arrow in the browser window), or use a different browser, that should get you to the 2017 retreat.

      Please do let me know if you run into any more snags, and I'll be happy to help! Many blessings to you.

  26. Wendie says:

    Thank you Jan for another beautiful offering. I have carried these Women's Christmases around with me for years and found them very meaningful! We recently shared your "Table Blessing" prayer at one of our dinner church gatherings and it was well loved. Peace to you this Christmas.

    • Wendie, thank you so much for your lovely words! I'm very grateful for your thoughtfulness. And it's great to hear you shared the "Table Blessing" at one of your dinner gatherings.

      I'm looking forward to releasing the new Women's Christmas Retreat early in January.

      Thank you again! Many blessings to you as Christmas draws close.

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