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.
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
who can say what day it happened?—
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
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,
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.