Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Well, I'm certainly setting no records on posting frequency unless it is one on how long you can go before coming up with something new to say. But whatever. The point is, I have just written something and here it is...

It’s Christmas season again, and all the old carols are filling my world with an invasive nostalgia I’ve both both loved and hated most of my life. For me, they’ve represented so much longing and so much hope spread over an underlying pain. But this year, I think I finally understand why. 

Growing up for me was pretty much a semi-lethal mix of moments of intense connection and equally or even more intense loss of connection. Like the proverbial little girl with the curl, “...when it was good, it was very, very good, and when it was bad, it was horrid.” Christmas was one of the rare times when the good seemed to stabilize and prevail. We’d make all sorts of lists, treats, and shopping trips, eyes sparkling with excitement, and Mom was happy. That was really the key, though I didn’t recognize it then. 

And we went caroling. It was just what we did. She was the orchestrator, and when she created an event, it felt exciting and complete. In the back of our old farm truck loaded with clover-scented hay, we’d nestle down against the cold Montana night while snow like a blue-white blanket softened field and fence. And oh, the stars! They were like a thousand thousand twinkling Christmas lights on a vast black canvas stretched above as we laughed and sang our way down empty country roads, unloaded en masse, and tramped up neighbors’ walks to knock on doors.

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie,
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by…”

I loved to watch my mother’s joy as she sang with us, she who made this whole experience happen. Oh, and I adored whatever treat the neighbors shared afterwards--cocoa, fudge, or popcorn balls. I reveled in the cold of the wind on my cheeks as I cuddled next to my siblings and later on, next to my sweetheart in the back of that same old truck. Every moment breathed connection, shared wonder, and beauty of dear old songs and familiar harmonies blending as if this was how our everyday life really was.

“Yet in thy dark street shineth
The everlasting light…”

Our voices rang out, sweet sweet bells in the night, our laughter like honey and wine, and every year it was just as magical for me. Between the caroling, classic movies with their I’ll-be-home-for-Christmas vibe, and the excitement of planning and executing the “perfect” gifts for each person, the whole month seemed steeped in connectivity. My mother was at her creative best, and the annual Christmas Eve program we put on for each other was only one step less anticipated than Santa himself. I loved it all.

“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.”

And when we went caroling, I poured all my longing into those songs at every neighbor’s back door. Joy of the moment. Fear of loss. Hopes for connection. All mingled with my voice and rose as prayers to that Savior whose birth we celebrated: prayers that the heart-healing connection woven into the warp and woof of Christmastime would transfer into the rest of the year with the same solid sustainability. That somehow the joy in my mother’s eyes would remain after Christmas, rather than draining away to the bare survival level of “okay-ness” she maintained for most of the rest of the year.

I don’t need to figure out why it was easier for her to be happy during the Christmas season. That’s her journey. But at last I understand my own why. Why the bittersweetness surrounding Christmas music, and why I was always hoping I could get my kids and hubby to go caroling with me or sit around singing those old sweet songs. Clearly it is not about the singing or the songs. It’s about the connection that always happened as we snuggled down in the sweet-smelling hay on those star-spangled, snowy Montana nights. 

“The morning stars together proclaim Your holy birth,
And praises sing to God our King, and Peace to men on earth.”

And here’s the thing I also now understand: I don't need us to go singing door to door to experience that connection. It is enough just to be with the ones I love and who love me. We are always connected, through the good and the bad. It’s all I ever really wanted all those years ago, but didn’t know how to experience. So no, this year, let’s not go caroling. Let’s just let those wonderful Christmas songs play as we experience being “with.”

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Making a Difference

 I often wonder how to make a difference in this beautiful yet struggling world. I also wonder if the world needs one more blog entry or if my words just add to the onslaught of minutiae that hits the world wide web every day. But on the off chance that it's really true that the pen is mightier than the sword and that one raindrop, be it ever so small and ordinary, does indeed raise the sea, I write.

In the stillness of a cloudy morning while the trees and birds and croaking frogs wait for rain, I feel guilty. Guilty that my little universe is currently at peace. Yes, I have my dilemmas, my concerns, my disappointments. But then there's Mozambique, where entire villages are flooded to the treetops and thousands of people are unaccounted for. I can give money, and I will, but I wish I could do more. Give more tangibly. See into the eyes of the people there and tell them that we who are safe really do care and desperately want them to be safe as well.

In some ways it feels as detached as when our mothers used to tell us to eat everything on our plates because kids were starving in China. Now as then, I'd gladly share my liver and onions with all takers! But really, how? And perhaps the brooding question below that layer is whether one unknown person going about her routine activities as best she can could add a big enough contribution to the collective need that it is actually felt? Because that's what most of us are: unknown. Lacking a huge footprint. Though our hearts may be as big as Desmond Tutu's, our spheres of influence and our resources seem woefully inadequate to ease the pain around us.

And yet--if we were able to see with the eyes of another realm, perhaps we would see spots of beauty glowing gold around the edges, slowly expanding until they touch and mingle with each other. Maybe as we--you and I and all the others who long to make a difference--do all we can to release love in our unknown sphere, it will circumnavigate the globe like a grid of light. Together, we will cover the earth in kindness.

Will it make wars go away? I don't know. Will hurricanes and droughts and earthquakes still happen? I'm guessing yes. But if we can see with other eyes that greatest of gifts--love--and give it wherever we are in the world, people will know they are not unseen. Not dispensable or insignificant, but loved and longed over, and it can comfort their hearts in the midst of whatever disaster they may be facing.

Adages abound--"Bloom where you're planted." "Light your corner of the world." Either those who penned those words were also hoping that the way they live their life would make a difference, or they actually knew that it would. I'm banking on the latter, because that's what I feel, too, if I drill down below the surface doubts and the guilt that follows on its heels.

And one thing I do know--that small though my sphere may be and limited my reach--if I do not live and love and try with all my heart, the world is the poorer for it. I may be just one small light, but if all the small lights decide they make no difference anyway and decide not to shine, the whole is diminished.

John Donne's immortal poem comes to mind:

No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls:
It tolls for thee."

In the same way, if any man's death diminishes mankind--us--then one person's life enriches it. One small light reaching out and uniting with other small lights increases the shining. Tiny raindrops you and I may be. But let us cast ourselves wholeheartedly into that great ocean, confident that no matter how little we may be, one raindrop really does raise the sea.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Musings 2017

I've always  loved Christmas, but as it's changed through the years, I haven't always changed with it. So the last few years, instead of trying to recreate "the perfect Christmas," I'm more interested in capturing the present iteration. Because really--comparing the present to past will by necessity show one as lesser. Beyond that, it is only today that exists in real time, and I want to be fully present in the present.

I've also been experimenting with a type of poetry called an American Sentence. 17 syllables, and thus this Christmas Musing:

Can anything ever feel like Christmas? And by that very phrase fall short
Of cumulative childhood magic where fantasy and reality
Blur together in nostalgic haze--enchanted mists built of giggles
At midnight, Santa visits, cookie crumbs on his plate proving him real.

Months of dreaming culminating in twinkling tree and presents beneath.
We grew up, and in place of past magic created Christmas dreaming
For our kids, thus breathed the wisps of wonder once again. Then they grew up.
And there is no capturing of past twice removed, so I surmise...

Christmas is not a magic to create. It's a moment to live.
Let us live it fully, freely, dimmed by no taint of comparison;
Lessened by no impossible longings of childhood reminiscing.
Complete in itself. Perfect for the one-off event that each day is.

Oh yes. We shall capture Christmas this year, and it will be beyond compare.

Blessings on your Christmas and may it be not what once was, but steeped in the richness of today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Empty Nest Season: Last Child

Well, clearly I've been doing other things than keeping my blog updated. Sorry! But thankfully I doubt that anyone has actually died or even been caused to have a bad day because my last entry is stalled in --gulp!--December :-/

But anyway. I just posted a YouTube video about a poem I wrote when my last child graduated from high school, and wanted to put it here in text so it can be read without mistakes and for further pondering, should that help your heart in your own parenting journey.

Last Child

Last night was the last time
I'll sit on hard metal bleachers
Eyes searching through hundreds of red-robed graduates
For that one familiar face.
My child's.

Last night was the last time
I'll brave thousands of parents on the field
To find that one precious person surrounded by all the others someone else loves as much.
There she is and she's smiling.
My child.

Last night was the last time
I'll have a schoolchild of my own
And all those years of ABCs and schedules and catching buses by the skin of teeth
Are over with one last march to measured music,
And I wonder if I should laugh or cry
For this last child.

We've loved and nurtured and taught these dear ones and now that they are fully fledged, it's time to let them fly. No, not just fly. Soar. Soar to new heights, exploring their lives and what they are capable of doing and being. Their journeys are their own. We have ours, in which they figure large.

But they are more than just part of our journey, and that is one of the challenges of an empty nest season: rejoicing for their journeys even as our paths divurge. It is good. But it's not always easy.

More later on the Empty Nest Season...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Today has Never Happened Before

Last year I struggled at Christmas time, and I think it boiled down to the fact that despite my best efforts, I was not able to recreate what we'd had in prior years. Despite the traditions we held to, despite the constant chorus of carols, it fell short of magic for me. I wrote a poem. A lament of sorts.

But then it began to dawn on me that I was looking at this all wrong. So I wrote yet another post: Fresh Christmas, and I felt better because I had a plan. But I'll be honest--it felt thin and unsatisfying, because I came to it barely in time to give it a try.

However, now that another year has sprinted by, I'm having a chance to practice in real time what I glimpsed last year: to add to my collection a newly minted, never-happened-quite-like-this Christmas. And I'm glad to report that the sadness of last year is not gnawing at me like a hungry shadow.

Instead,  I'm finding that this year, I want Christmas to be whatever it will be, and what it is--a day, a season that has not happened in quite this way before. Rather than trying to make it fit a pattern I absorbed when I was a child and then have tried to re-capture every year since pretending lost its realness, I am watching Christmas 2016 unfold.

This is not a lesser season for the fact that members of our family are halfway across the country, and others halfway across the world. It is not a lesser season because gift giving this year looks different. It is not lesser because activities are not as group oriented as on other Christmases. Something can only be lesser by comparison.
And how can we judge as lesser a day that has never happened just because it doesn't mimic one that has?

To re-create Christmas is an impossible task. Even if every piece matches, we're older, changed, and it's not the first time. In the act of re-creation, the magic of discovery is replaced with the damper of comparison.

And it is not by comparison we discover new treasures. It is by viewing each day, including this Christmas as a one-of-a-kind event, a day, a season that has never happened before and will never happen again in exactly this 2016 way. We can do familiar things with an eye for the unfolding of the new day, and let each variation and repetition of traditions be part of a unique occasion.

In holding too tightly to Christmas past, we can miss the wonder and the gift in Christmas present. In measuring this day against others, we risk missing the wonder it holds, risk not being fully present or fully enjoying what is. So I don't know what Christmas 2016 looks like.

I'm  going to find that out, one new discovery at a time. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Eyes to See

In a world of information, where every other new blip is negative, it's easy to feel discouraged about the state of the earth. But the truth is that all around us, common every day people are carrying on their lives with courage, perserverance, and kindness.

I've been thinking: what if there was a Good News Gatherer--a person who ferreted out all the acts small and big that separate humans from inhumanity? What if we could begin to hear about all the good stuff? All over the world there are brave and wonderful things happening. Inventions. Breakthroughs. Grandmas and grandpas that know their grandchildren are the best thing ever and who celebrate these little and big people with delighted eyes.

I'd also like to see the truth about high schoolers
featured, these up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow who despite their ubiquitous electronic devices are sweet and savvy and full of dreams. They have a high value for loyalty and belonging, teamwork and equality. I'd love to hear more about what is right with them and less about what is wrong.

Seriously, how many more scary stories do we need about all the bad things that can, are, and have happened?!--so much so that this beautiful, precious world of ours feels more like a war zone than the cradle of creativity that it really is.

Yes, there's bad stuff out there. Yes, there are people who do bad things, and I'm not advocating we pretend otherwise. But what about the tragedy of going through the gift of each day in fear, in battle armor, scaring ourselves and our kids about possible catastrophes and things to fight against,
while being blind to the unwavering beauty of the people and the world around us--hunkered down in preparation for the apocolypse when all around us eternity unfolds?

It's easy to be scared: Vaccine disasters. Isis. Polictical bashing, failures, and "what's our nation coming to?" is plastered everywhere. But what about the good news? People rescuing, caring for, empowering other people. Helping. Feeding. Loving. These things are newsworthy, too. Good things are happening in this old world of ours. The next generation of mothers and fathers are having
children and loving them as fiercely and wisely and with as much passion as previous generations. Sure, there are different challenges and different philosophies. But have you watched a young mom cudddle her baby lately? That's a timeless beauty unfolding right before our eyes.

And then there's the everyday bravery of farmers in the field, up before dawn planting, cultivating, harvesting. Mothers and fathers coaching soccer. Brothers and sisters laughing and loving and playing together. It's happening all around us in big and small ways, and if the truth were known, more frequently than the bad stuff.

Fear is invasive, but it doesn't stand a chance against hope and joy and love. And here's some more good news--we get to choose where to focus. That's not living in denial. That's living in balance. Evil is not greater than good. One tiny little candle causes darkness to flee, and we need to be reminded of that. Why live in fear when you can live in hope and love?

So I'm thinking we need a revolution of good news gatherers. What if each of us set out to discover one brave or beautiful or precious moment out of each day, and flood our world with the proper ratio of good to bad. I'm not talking about instagram moments that present an unreal picture, as if every moment of our lives is amazing and photo-worthy, but the true riches in the everyday-ness of life. There's so  much good news and so many great people around us, like gold and silver and precious stones laying right in  plain sight. We just need eyes to see them.

Check out some good stuff happening: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/

And here's another good link: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/the-america-i-know-the-humanity-i-know/

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Being Known

We all want to be known, don't we?
--Known for who we really are. Our essence, the real us under all our socially acceptible or unacceptible behaviors and herculean efforts to do--and be--that which others will value. I find this exhausting: rather like a merry-go-round that is spinning way too fast to jump off from without sustaining injury, but from which I cast longing eyes to the stillness of the ground beyond vertigo and white-knuckled hanging.

I suppose that's rather dramatic for a quiet July morning. Certainly my current oasis of trickling stream, hot coffee, and cool mountain-morning air seems the exact opposite. But in this quiet moment I'm wondering why we keep that inner merry-go-round whirling. We want to be known, and yet--

Ultimately, I think it boils down to fear.

Fear that if we are seen--really seen for who we are with all our bumps and baggage and not just the good stuff we hope people see--that they will not find us worth knowing. Doesn't that phrase just put a weight on your chest and a twist in your gut? It does in mine. But here's what I'm finally understanding on a more than intellectual level:

I'm just me.

That includes all my bumps and baggage. And while I'm seeking to systematically chuck that baggage and grow more whole, if someone cannot look beyond it and find the real me--mistakes, shortcomings, and all--then I will never be completely safe with that person. If I am only "safe" as long as I don't scare them by my thoughts, choices, or actions, then I am not truly safe. It's merely a momentary lull.

But to be known and safe--now that is a rare gift. 

If we're casting about in our minds trying to think of even one relationship where that level of peace exists, I've got to say, the good news is that every one of us has at least one; God knows us each completely. Loves us with our bumps, baggage, and beauty, though these have absolutely nothing to do with why He loves and values us, and I find that in the face of this level of acceptance, fear dissapates.

He sees the real us. The us that He created and called very good. It is said that we are not born afraid. We learn fear. Well, I'm thinking it's high time we unlearn it. Hop off that whirling round of performing to get love, and find out how amazing it feels to be as happy about the real us as He is,.