Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

Women’s Christmas Retreat 2017 – A Gift for You

January 5, 2017

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

Happy New Year and Merry Epiphany, almost! In celebration, these three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) 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 set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need some time for respite and reflection, alone or with others. This year’s retreat is titled “Walking the Way of Hope” and includes readings, art, questions, and blessings. You can download it as a PDF.

There is no cost for the retreat. It’s my Women’s Christmas gift to you, with such gratitude for your presence on my path. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas 2017: Walking the Way of Hope

I would love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

In this new year, I pray that you will know the gift of hope, especially when it feels most elusive. I am so grateful for you and for the hope you provide for me. Deepest blessings to you. 

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany, plus a few days! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Extended through January 9. Click Subscribe to sign up.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image or order it as a print, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

Epiphany Day: Where the Map Begins

January 3, 2017

Image: An Ancient Light © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany Day: Matthew 2.1-12

“We observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.”
—Matthew 2.2

Friends, Happy New Year! I am grateful to be opening a new chapter of The Painted Prayerbook with you as this year begins.

With Epiphany approaching on January 6, I want to share a blessing with you that I first offered here in 2010 (in this post, which includes a reflection on the story of the journey of the Magi). Like so many blessings that I wrote before Gary died, this one rings differently for me now. As I work to make a new path so altered from the one Gary and I had dreamed together, it comes as a grace to remember the story of the wise ones who set out with only a star to guide them.

If you are feeling mapless, if you are needing light for an uncertain path, this is for you.

Where the Map Begins
A Blessing for Epiphany

This is not
any map you know.
Forget longitude.
Forget latitude.
Do not think
of distances
or of plotting
the most direct route.
Astrolabe, sextant, compass:
these will not help you here.

This is the map
that begins with a star.
This is the chart
that starts with fire,
with blazing,
with an ancient light
that has outlasted
generations, empires,
cultures, wars.

Look starward once,
then look away.
Close your eyes
and see how the map
begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates,
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.

You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral,
cannot perceive how
the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
and belly
and lungs.

But step out
and you will know
what the wise who traveled
this path before you
knew:
the treasure in this map
is buried
not at journey’s end
but at its beginning.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “An Ancient Light,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Advent special! During this season, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up. (Extended through Epiphany!)

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Women’s Christmas 2016 – A Gift for You

January 6, 2016

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

Happy New Year and Merry Epiphany! In celebration, these three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) 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 set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need some time for respite and reflection. The retreat, which you can download as a PDF, includes readings, art, questions, and blessings. This year’s retreat, titled “Home By Another Way,” was inspired by my search for home in the wake of Gary’s death.

There’s no cost for the retreat; it’s a Women’s Christmas gift especially for you! You can do the retreat anytime you wish, alone or with others. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way

I would love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

Blessings to you, and Merry Women’s Christmas!

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany, plus a few days! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Extended through January 10. Click Subscribe to sign up.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

Women’s Christmas 2015 – A Gift for You

January 2, 2015

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

Happy New Year and Merry (almost) Epiphany! In celebration, these three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. You might know that some folks celebrate Epiphany (January 6) 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 set aside time to enjoy a break and celebrate together at the end of the holidays.

It’s become a tradition for me to create a new retreat each year that you can use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need a space of respite and reflection. The retreat, which you can download as a PDF, offers readings, art, and blessings that invite you to listen to your life. This year’s retreat explores the theme of thresholds, those betwixt and between places that emerge when we have left what was familiar but have not arrived at what lies ahead. Sometimes chaotic but full of possibility, thresholds are a great place to pray, imagine, and dream. The retreat is designed to help you do this.

There’s no cost for the retreat; it’s a Women’s Christmas gift especially for you! You can do the retreat alone or share it with friends. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas: Illuminating the Threshold

I’d love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

Blessings to you as the new year begins, and Merry Women’s Christmas!

P.S. Our festive Advent discount on annual subscriptions to the Jan Richardson Images site continues through Epiphany/January 6! An annual subscription enables you to download any images for use in worship during the year. Advent rate: $125 (regularly $165). Visit Subscribe to Jan Richardson Images.

[To use the Wise Women Also Came image, please visit this page at Jan Richardson Images.]

Epiphany: This Brightness That You Bear

January 2, 2014


Image: This Brightness That You Bear © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

They set out; and there, ahead of them,
went the star that they had seen at its rising,
until it stopped over the place where the child was.
—Matthew 2.9

Many of you know that my amazing husband, Garrison Doles, died unexpectedly at the beginning of Advent, after experiencing complications during what we had anticipated would be a fairly routine surgery in mid-November. (I invite you to read this remembrance and blessing I wrote for Gary, if you haven’t seen it.) I am so grateful for all those who encircled us from near and far while Gary was in the hospital, and who are continuing to encompass our family during this time of stunning heartbreak. Every prayer, every word, every good thought has been such a tremendous gift in this dark season.

Gary and I are astoundingly fortunate in our families, who in these past weeks have held the light for us in ways that I can barely begin to thank them for. But this Christmas, I wanted to make the attempt, to at least try to offer up some words to honor the extraordinary lengths they have gone to in order to walk this journey with us. I wrote a blessing for them; today’s image is for them as well. I gave these to them on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day I also shared the blessing and artwork with those who joined me in the online Illuminated Advent Retreat, by way of thanks for how they traveled with me through a season that was so different than I had anticipated. For Epiphany, I want to share this with you. For the light you bear in this world: thank you. If you are in a dark season of your own, or know someone who is, may this come as a gift and a prayer that you will receive the light you need.

Blessings and gratitude to you as Epiphany draws near.

This Brightness That You Bear
A Blessing for My Family

This blessing
hardly knows what to say,
speechless as it is
not simply
from grief
but from the gratitude
that has come with it—

the thankfulness that sits
among the sorrow
and can barely begin
to tell you
what it means
not to be alone.

This blessing
knows the distances
you crossed
in person
in prayer
to enter into
days of waiting,
nights of long vigil.

It knows the paths
you traveled
to be here
in the dark.

Even in the shadows
this blessing
sees more than it can say
and has simply
come to show you
the light
that you have given

not to return it
to you
not to reflect it
back to you
but only to ask you
to open your eyes
and see
the grace of it,
the gift that shines
in this brightness
that you bear.


P.S.
I come bearing a few more Epiphany gifts for you…

CELEBRATING WOMEN’S CHRISTMAS
At my Sanctuary of Women site, you can find a brand-new retreat that I’ve designed for Women’s Christmas, which some folks celebrate on Epiphany. To learn more about Women’s Christmas and download the retreat (at no cost), click the image or link below.


Women’s Christmas: The Shimmering Hours


OTHER EPIPHANIES
For previous reflections for Epiphany, including “Blessing of the Magi,” click these images or the titles below.


Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi



Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel



Epiphany: Where the Map Begins



Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House


AND A FESTIVE DISCOUNT
In celebration of the season, the Advent discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit:


Jan Richardson Images

[To use the image “This Brightness That You Bear,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

A Women’s Christmas Gift for You

January 4, 2013


Image: Wise Women Also Came © Jan L. Richardson

These three wise women are stopping by with a gift for you. In celebration of Women’s Christmas, which is observed in some parts of the world on Epiphany/January 6, I’ve created a retreat for you. Designed for you to use on Women’s Christmas or whenever you need a space of respite and reflection, the retreat (which you can download as a PDF) offers readings, art, and blessings that invite you to take a pilgrimage into your own life.

There’s no cost for the retreat; it’s a Women’s Christmas gift especially for you! You’re welcome to share it with friends. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, visit this page at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Women’s Christmas: The Map You Make Yourself

A Merry Women’s Christmas and Blessed Epiphany to you!

Almost Advent

November 21, 2012

It’s almost Advent! As we prepare to cross into the coming season, I am especially excited about what Advent holds in store this time around. At the top of my list of things that are inducing Advent excitement is the online Advent retreat that Gary and I will be offering. Here’s the skinny:

ILLUMINATED: An Online Journey into the Heart of Christmas
December 1-29

Travel toward Christmas in the company of folks who want to move through this season with mindfulness and grace. This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your holiday schedule. It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into this season that shimmers with mystery and possibility. This retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity, much like the one created in my Advent book Night Visions. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this four-week online retreat provides a distinctive opportunity to travel through Advent and Christmas in contemplation and conversation with others along the way.

This is an Advent retreat for people who don’t have time for an Advent retreat (and for those who do!). You don’t have to show up at a particular place or time, and you’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish. You can do this retreat in your jammies!

We’re excited that the retreat is already drawing folks from around the world. We’d love for you to be among them. For more info about the retreat, visit Illuminated Advent Retreat.

I have other treasures, treats, and resources designed especially for your Advent path; I invite you to stop by The Advent Door to find out more. During Advent, that’s where I’ll be posting new reflections. I look forward to journeying through the season with you there, and returning to The Painted Prayerbook for Epiphany.

Blessings and gratitude to you as Advent approaches!

Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

December 31, 2011


Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

Merry Christmas to you, still! Because Advent is always such a wonderfully intense time for me, with offering The Advent Door and being engaged in other holiday happenings, I usually arrive at Christmas Day quite spent and ready for a long winter’s nap. I am grateful that instead of being over on December 25, when I’m finally able to take a breath, Christmas is a season—a short one, to be sure, with only twelve days, but a season nonetheless, with its own rhythm and invitations.

This year, the days of Christmas have been for me a time of resting, connecting with family and friends, long walks in the beautiful Florida sunshine, and doing some dreaming about the year ahead. Though the coming months are sure to be marked by surprises, I want to enter the year with some sense of what I’d like for the path to look like, and where I’m feeling drawn to go.

The Christmas season ends with Epiphany, a feast day in which the early church celebrated Jesus’ brilliant manifestation (epiphaneia in Greek, also translated as “appearing”) not only to the Magi but also to the world through his birth, baptism, and first recorded miracle at the wedding at Cana. Eastern Christianity maintains this multifaceted celebration of Epiphany, while we in the West focus primarily on remembering and celebrating the arrival of the Magi, those mysterious and devoted Wise Men who traveled far to welcome the Christ and offer their gifts.

As we travel toward Epiphany and savor the final days of Christmas, this is a good time to ponder where we are in our journey. As we cross into the coming year, where do you find yourself on the path? Have you been traveling more by intention or by reacting to what’s come your way? What direction do you feel drawn to go in during the coming weeks and months? Is there anything you need to let go of—or to find—in order to take the next step? In the coming months, what gift do you most need to offer, that only you can give?

Blessings and traveling mercies to you as we approach Epiphany and the year to come. I look forward to walking with you.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

P.S. For previous reflections on Epiphany here at The Painted Prayerbook, click the images or titles below. Also, the special holiday discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship and education) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit Jan Richardson Images.

Epiphany: Where the Map Begins

Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House

Feast of the Epiphany: A Calendar of Kings

The Feast of the Epiphany: Magi and Mystery

[To use the “Epiphany” image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Epiphany: Where the Map Begins

December 30, 2010


An Ancient Light © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

I love this time between Christmas Day and Epiphany. Although the prospect of moving beyond the holidays is always a bit poignant for me, I take comfort in knowing that the festival of Christmas lasts not for one day but for twelve, and there is still cause for celebration before we leave this season. This year in particular I am grateful for the opportunity to rest and reflect, and to do some dreaming as well as playing before I dive into the coming year.

In these blissfully quiet days, I have spent time curled up with a few books. One that I am especially savoring was a Christmas gift from my parents. Mapping the World: Stories of Geography, written by Caroline and Martine Laffon, is a beautifully produced book that traces some of the history of how we humans have sought to chart the universe, and our place within it, over millennia. With images of maps from ancient to contemporary times, the book reveals how maps are never neutral documents: they provide a glimpse of the beliefs, myths, legends, and sometimes prejudices of those who created them.

I have spent much time this year thinking about maps. In retreats, workshops, worship, and conversation, the question has surfaced again and again: In a world that we enter with no map in hand, no blueprint, no book of instructions, how do we find our way? In the Wellspring service, the contemplative worship gathering that Gary and I lead, we recently finished a five-part series titled “Mapping the Mysteries of Faith.” As we explored this theme and the questions that it stirred, the conversations we had at Wellspring were rich and refreshing. We didn’t leave with many answers—that’s not the point of the Wellspring service—but I found myself reminded once again of how crucial it is to have the company of wise travelers as we make our own maps.

With Epiphany on the horizon, I find myself thinking of the magi, those ancient travelers who went in search of the Christ. Wise to the heavens, they still possessed no map, no ready-made chart that laid out their course.  As Matthew tells it, all that the magi had to illuminate their terrain and guide their way was a star. This was where their map began: with a burning light, with a step taken, with the company of others gazing in the same direction.

In that spirit, here’s a new poem. Composed while I was curled up among the books, it’s for Epiphany, and for you.

Where the Map Begins

This is not
any map you know.
Forget longitude.
Forget latitude.
Do not think
of distances
or of plotting
the most direct route.
Astrolabe, sextant, compass:
these will not help you here.

This is the map
that begins with a star.
This is the chart
that starts with fire,
with blazing,
with an ancient light
that has outlasted
generations, empires,
cultures, wars.

Look starward once,
then look away.
Close your eyes
and see how the map
begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates,
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.

You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral,
cannot perceive how
the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
and belly
and lungs.

But step out,
and you will know
what the wise who traveled
this path before you
knew:
the treasure in this map
is buried not at journey’s end
but at its beginning.

As we travel through these Christmas days toward Epiphany and the coming year, where do you find yourself in your map? What are you giving your attention to? Are you looking in a direction that enables you to see possible paths? Is there a turn you need to take in your map? Where might you begin? Who can help?

As we travel toward Epiphany and beyond, blessings and good company to you.

[For previous Epiphany reflections, visit Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House; Feast of the Epiphany: A Calendar of Kings; Inviting Epiphany; and The Feast of the Epiphany: Magi and Mystery.]

[To use the “An Ancient Light” image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House

December 31, 2009


The Wise Ones © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

In the rhythm of the liturgical year, the season of Christmas comes to an end with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The word epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning manifestation or appearance. In Western Christianity, we observe this day primarily as a commemoration of the wise men who journeyed to see Jesus. In the East, Epiphany is a major feast day that celebrates not only Christ’s manifestation to the world through his birth and to the magi in their visit but also the way in which he showed himself forth in his baptism and in his first recorded miracle, the changing of water to wine at the wedding at Cana.

In doing some reading about the Feast of the Epiphany recently, I’ve been intrigued by a custom that is often mentioned in connection with this day of celebration: the blessing and chalking of the house. Many versions of the ceremony that I’ve come across include these elements:

-The reciting of a blessing upon the house (or other dwelling) and those who inhabit it

-The blessing of a piece of chalk that is then used to write a formula above the entry of the house. The formula incorporates the current year with the initials of the wise men (whose names are not recorded in scripture but were given by tradition as Caspar [or Gaspar], Melchior, and Balthasar). This coming Epiphany, it would be written this way:

20 + C + M + B + 10

(Some folks note that “C M B” can also stand for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat,” which means “May Christ bless this dwelling.”)

-The sprinkling of the door with holy water

Although it seems to be an ancient practice, I haven’t found any explanation of the origin of the custom. I suspect that, like many rituals, it has several layers of meaning and that its origin has more than one source. Certainly it has much resonance with the visit of the wise men to the home of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the manner in which they blessed it with their presence and their gifts.

So I’ve been thinking about house blessings as Epiphany approaches, especially since Gary and I will soon be in search of a house of our own. We’re engaged to be married next spring, and I’m daily praying that God will lead us to a (spacious) abode that will welcome two adults, each of whom needs a studio at home (and a copious measure of personal space), and Gary’s teenaged son. (Did I mention we’re looking for something spacious?)

At the same time that I’m thinking of (and praying for) a physical dwelling that we will inhabit and bless, I also find myself imagining the coming year as a house—a space in time that is opening itself to all of us. How will we inhabit the coming year? How will we enter it with mindfulness and with intention? How will we move through the rooms of the coming months in a way that brings blessing to this world?

With these questions in mind, I offer this blessing for you.

The Year as a House: A Blessing

Think of the year
as a house:
door flung wide
in welcome,
threshold swept
and waiting,
a graced spaciousness
opening and offering itself
to you.

Let it be blessed
in every room.
Let it be hallowed
in every corner.
Let every nook
be a refuge
and every object
set to holy use.

Let it be here
that safety will rest.
Let it be here
that health will make its home.
Let it be here
that peace will show its face.
Let it be here
that love will find its way.

Here
let the weary come
let the aching come
let the lost come
let the sorrowing come.

Here
let them find their rest
and let them find their soothing
and let them find their place
and let them find their delight.

And may it be
in this house of a year
that the seasons will spin in beauty,
and may it be
in these turning days
that time will spiral with joy.
And may it be
that its rooms will fill
with ordinary grace
and light spill from every window
to welcome the stranger home.

Wherever you make your home, may it be blessed, and may you enter this Epiphany and the coming year in peace.

[For other Epiphany reflections, please visit my previous post. If you’re working with the lection from John’s gospel for this Sunday (Christmas 2), please see this reflection.]

[To use the “Wise Ones” image, which is from my book In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. For all my artwork for the Feast of the Epiphany, please see this page. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]