Category Archives: Faith

Learning to be the light

elsaWinter brought her worst this year. From November on, she unleashed blizzard after blizzard and peppered us with sub-zero blasts – and one poignant Polar Vortex that literally froze my hair. I have pictures.

When we realized Winter had no plans of relenting, we battened down the proverbial hatches. We loaded up the wood-burner night after night and counted our blessings that our John Deere neighbor had the horsepower to dig us out. Sure, the first weeks were an adventure – both for us grown-ups and our wide-eyed children who knew this frigid wonderland would usher in the reindeer. Then came January, and things became…less fun. Then February, when the lack of reprieve seeped into my bones, and for the first time I understood the concept of Seasonal Affective Depression. It’s a thing. When the Big Storm hit in March, we began to wonder whether Spring had forsaken us.

I’m learning that each one of us has our own Winter, our own time of cold and darkness, which threatens to choke out the hope of Spring. Just when we think we’ve made it through a blizzard of illness or broken heart or broken home…another threatens to bury us.

I’m slowly learning how to face the threat of an unending winter. I’ve learned that you do your part, and He’ll do His. You stock up the wood-burner. You lift your eyes to the brightest part of the sky and you don’t look away. You believe that Spring will come, even when – especially when – all evidence points to the contrary. Because when you choose to believe, then little by little you will become Spring. You’ll ignite from within and your warmth and your life-giving words and your kindness and your hope…and you begin to realize that Spring was never the thing you really needed.

Let the storm rage on.

The Constants of Christmastime

ChristmasHi everyone.  It’s been a long time.  Too long.  Thought I’d share the piece below, which I wrote for a small local paper a few weeks back.  Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving, and a blessed holiday season…

* * *

They did it.  That radio station, which shall remain nameless, flipped the switch and flooded my minivan with Christmas music.  My son’s ninja costume is still sprawled across his bed.  There’s nary a turkey in sight, and yet everywhere I go I hear jingle bells.

The hustle-and-bustle ramps up, and the premature jolly runs the risk of wearing out its fur-trimmed welcome long before Christmas morning.  That’s the way of things now, isn’t it?  The stores are open on Thanksgiving this year so we can duke it out for the “it” toy.  Because nothing says gratefulness like an elbow-check to the kidney. 

Still, each of us is eventually and inevitably enchanted by the only holiday that still holds magic.  That got me thinking.  What is it about Christmas that continues to cast its reindeer-dust spell?  For all the commercialism we’re plagued with, for the must-have toys and the ever-changing technology that demands to be updated, how is it that that undeniable, unspecified merriness…that je ne sais quoi (pardon my French) never fails to take hold?

I think it’s because, no matter what excess we tack onto the holidays, it’s the Christmastime constants that hold us fast.

It’s the memories.  It’s the sharp pine scent or the rich taste of eggnog that whisks us back and, in that moment, it’s as if we’re reliving every Christmas all at once.  The flash of tinsel or the sound of sleigh bells brings on a heart-swell, and for a breath we’re certain Santa is still creeping down the chimney.

It’s the children.  For us grown-folk, it’s a time of stress and checklists and gift receipts.  But when we watch little ones’ wide-eyed wonder as we recite T’was the Nite Before Christmas, or retell that age-old story of the Star and the Wise Men and the manger, the birth of a single, fate-changing child…we can’t help but feel it, too. 

It’s the spirit of outward focus.  We give.  We pause for a visit with the neighbor and we realize it’s been far too long.  For a time, we forget ourselves, and it feels heavenly.  Why?  Here’s what I think.  When some big-time skeptics tried to trick Jesus into choosing the most important of the ten commandments, He had this to say:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind…the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  I’ve often wondered, even if you’re a non-Christian, how can you argue with that second part?  If we all got just this one thing right, if we all shunned our respective selfishness gene, imagine how different the world would be. 

It’s the silence.  If you haven’t noticed it before, pay attention this season.  There’s always a silence.  The first snowfall.  The hush that follows the last bow on the last wrapped present.  The moments of shimmering twilight on Christmas Eve, or the quiet of Christmas morning.  It’s a soul-soothing silence of quiet reflection, when you feel all the good in the world, both real and potential.

These things are Christmastime constants.  Never changing, they will always be integral to a life well-lived.  No matter what the media or the government or the Joneses cast our way, we strengthen ourselves with these timeless truths, and our hearts are anchored through the years by the things that matter most.

Merry Christmas

 

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

On lilacs and time travel

lilacThere’s something about scents; the way they fuse to moments.

The lilacs are finally in bloom.  When my husband and I built our house, my beloved grandmother gave me a little lilac bush, its lavender blossoms trimmed in white.  She’s gone now, and I see that her gift was two-fold.  I have a perennial reminder of my Mema, but I also have that scent.

Oh, that scent.

One enchanted breath, and I’m whisked to my childhood yard with its maple and pine and black-walnut canopy.  I feel the sweet spring breeze on my face as I race to that giant lilac bush with its ancient blooms that envelop the old quonset hut, which I’d claimed as my own.  I hear the rain soft on its roof as I settle in with a book and a blanket.  I hear my mother’s voice calling me in for an afternoon snack.  I see my father on the front porch, where he waits to share his iced tea with me and teach me opposites.

They say we can never go back, and that may be true.  But if, even for the length of a breath, all my thoughts and senses exist in 1980…then I say I’ve achieved time travel.

I cherish my childhood memories, but as I approach middle-age I realize that even the dearest ones begin to fade to shades of gold.  I find solace in the knowledge that, if (God willing) I make it to ninety like Mema and my mind grows tired, all I’ll need is a lilac.

Who knew ice cream could be funny?

I was recently elected Vice President of our school’s PTA.  The “passing of the torch” transpired yesterday, and one of my first official duties was to help coordinate the annual spring ice cream social.  We held the event last night, which consisted of serving ice cream and all the trimmings to about a hundred families.  It’s really pretty cool (ha!) to see the community come together to celebrate spring.

But that’s not the funny part.

When I put Brynn down for her nap yesterday, I told her all about the ice cream social and how she and her daddy and Big Brother Alex would go and stuff their respective faces.  I woke her up two hours later, and she sat bolt upright and said, “Mommy!  I can’t wait for my ice cream facial!”

Waiting to breathe

As I write, I’m toggling between this page and a live news feed of law enforcement officials as they surround a home that allegedly holds the second Boston bomber.  Vests and Hum-vees and helmets and guns line the streets on what would have otherwise been a gentle spring day.  There are reports of more explosions.

No more explosions.

Our world has shifted, unlocking frightening questions for which no easy answers exist.  Along with the rest of our nation, I won’t breathe again until they get him, this human who holds no regard for human life.  And then…

And then we must move on and remember that there is still so much good in the world, and that we can work together to replace darkness with light.