The Chaos After

We’ve been cleaning and sorting and breaking down Christmas this past week, like you do.  Epiphany is my self-imposed start date (not deadline–that’s an ugly word, people) for putting away the decorations.  We play treasure hunt on the tree for the ornaments and put them back in boxes for another eleven months.  The boxes stay in the house for a few days, which is a very good thing, since today I found yet another decoration on a shelf that had been forgotten.

I know.  January 10th.

It’s whatever, y’all.  I refuse to stress about this.

Much.  I refuse to stress much about it.

Because until it’s all stacked and stored away, yeah, I’m gonna stress a little bit.

Yesterday I was putting some of my heirloom Christmas decorations up in my closet, as well as tucking a couple of 2016 presents (yes, already, because sales, people!) away, and what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Presents.  Christmas presents.

For the folks I love who live right here under the same roof with me.

This.  This is why “What you didn’t get for Christmas” Day was born.  Well this and delayed deliveries.  But just as often it’s this at the root of it.  I hide it so well that…..well, yes, even I can’t find it.

So today became an unofficial WYDGFC Day celebration.  I had said we weren’t doing it this year because I don’t want my people focusing on the getting.  They were quite surprised and full of smiles when I came out of my closet and interrupted their lunch with the little treats.

I guess now Christmas 2015 is officially over.  Gifts have all been given, and all the decorations are tucked in their tubs and ready for storing.  Oh wait…..what is that over there?  How did we not notice that one before?

*sigh* Back to it.

Somebody please tell me I’m not the only one.  Even if you’re just humoring me.  Please tell me I’m not alone in this, the chaos that comes after the holidays.

Love and happy putting away to all.

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The Beauty in the Different

Today I got to do something that I love to do.

Paint.

I love to sit and paint.  Under the direction of a teacher or on my own–both are fun.  Both fill my soul.

Only I rarely make time to do it.  Today that changed.

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My version of Miss J’s Red Barn in Winter painting 

I guess it’s because I fell in love with this painting.  The red barn.  Or maybe it’s because it’s January and it’s always been a hard month for me, for whatever various and sundry reasons.  Or maybe it’s because I’m tired and I really just needed to get out of my head and create.

Whatever the reason, I made time for it, and all of the people I love and live with did what needed to be done for me to go.

Thankful.

When I sat down in the group of maybe fifteen people, our teacher, the fabulous Miss J, announced that none of our paintings would look alike in the end.  She told us that we would put our own spin on her original, and that was okay.  It was more than okay–it was desired.  Different was great.

As we painted the sky and then the snow, the trees in the front and then the evergreens in the back, Miss J never sat down.  She walked around the tables, helping and offering suggestions but mostly praising.  Always praising.  When doubts crept into our voices, our questions, she encouraged.  “You can’t mess this up,” she said more than a few times.  She also kept noticing the differences in our works.  “Every one of your paintings are different.  I love it!  You are all doing so well.”

Her kind words were empowering.  Maybe, just maybe she was right.  Maybe we couldn’t mess it up.  Maybe we could make something beautiful.  Maybe my wonky tree line isn’t so bad, even though it looks nothing like anyone else’s.  Maybe, just maybe, I can create something worthy of praise.  Maybe–could it be?–I’m worthy of praise?

As I left the class with my painting (which is still a work in progress, I’m not quite sure yet what, but it needs a final touch), I felt a lift in my spirits.  Miss J is like that–her buoyant, beautiful way of living just overflows and touches all around her.  Her positivity is a gift, her encouragement a treasure far richer than gold.  She created a lot more than one painting that we all copied today.  She created the heart of an artist in each and everyone of us.

Each heart looks different, but that’s okay.  That’s perfect, in fact.

Tonight I’m thankful for those who remind us different is okay–that we can be ourselves and stay true to that, and that we are worthy of praise.  Worthy of being loved and cared for.  Worthy of making time for.

Miss J is right:  different IS good.

May we all have a day of seeing the different in others as something to encourage and celebrate.

Love to all.

 

 

where it hurts

when my children were little
I could ask them
“where does it hurt?”
and they would point or nod
or tell me
and I would doctor it up,
cleaning it,
putting on the ever-magical
bandaid

and kiss it all better

which would usually end in giggles and
all would be fixed

but now, as they grow,
when they come to me with
pain in their eyes
and hearts on their sleeves,
sadness weighing them down,
and I ask where it hurts
it breaks my heart when they shrug

unable to pinpoint the source

of the aching pain
that has them curled up in a ball
forlorn, in tears,
and lost

no amount of bandaids or kisses
can fix some of the hurts
of goodbyes or harsh words
or not knowing

and so I sit and clench my fists,
angry that there is so much broken in our world
and that little ones, young and old
have to feel all the things
that are hard

I hope for comfort and peace
when all I can do is tell them to breathe
and rest
and hang in there

and gently rub their backs

because there’s no bandaid big enough
to cover
where it hurts now

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By DedeBandaid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Truth

I took one of those quizzes like you do that spins a little circle around and then somehow reads the very depths of your soul and comes up with an answer to an intriguing question in thirty seconds or less.

Ahem.

The question was “What is your word for 2016?”  I took it, shrugging and laughing.  I had already chosen MY WORD for the year, but sure, why not?  So I hit the button and off it spun and then–there was my word.

Truth.

Sure.  Okay.  Whatever.

My word/phrase is so much better.  I moved on and didn’t think about it again.  Until yesterday.  And today.

Truth.

And it has become apparent how much this word is already playing into my journey, just seven days into the New Year.

It has also become apparent how much people work not to be transparent. It’s not NOT telling the truth, it’s just keeping the truth under wraps.  So yes, not being truthful.

Oh, for the love.

Perhaps it’s the stage of life I’m in, but I’m really tired of all the cloak and dagger, undercover, in the back room, under the table, under the cover of darkness stuff that goes on.

It’s everywhere.  And I’m just as guilty as the next person.

We work to keep from being transparent.  It starts with our insecurities and worries and fears.  We mustn’t, we can’t, let anyone see them.  We aren’t even comfortable telling folks we care because what if they don’t reciprocate or what if we get hurt or what if we go out on a limb and then…..nothing…..

Yes.  There will be pain.

But what if there isn’t?   What if those feelings are returned?  A thousandfold?

We aren’t comfortable telling someone about the mistakes we made.  Mistakes of commission or omission–we are terrified of saying “Hey, look, I was trying my best, but it just didn’t work out, and here’s what happened, and I’m sorry, and I will work to do better and to make amends,” because what if the people we share this with are only seeking to condemn and point fingers and get revenge for all that has happened…..

Yes.  It could end up badly.

But what if it doesn’t?  What if there’s forgiveness?  Grace?

We aren’t comfortable being truthful because we worry that others might shudder when they see our flaws, our wrinkles, the ugly bits of us that we think are best left untouched and hidden away forever.  We are so scared of someone seeing the real us, because they might recoil in horror.

It would be devastating.

But what if they don’t?  What if there’s acceptance?  What if we find a kindred spirit?

The truth is one of the scariest things out there.  It can take our stories from merely entertaining to provoking and hard and inspiring and broken and powerful and life-changing and something really beautiful.  It can take a relationship that is good and make it the best.  It can turn a mistake into a learning opportunity and a space to heal and make something even stronger.

The truth can destroy doubts and questions and anxieties and loneliness and pain and worry with a single blow.

Taylor Swift  (y’all know I think she’s a philosopher) wrote: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

She’s right.  We don’t.  But when we have the courage to speak the truth, we know that we are putting our whole selves out there–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and we are opening the door for the possibility of healing, acceptance, grace, and love.

I’m all about opening some doors, y’all.  Let’s open some together.  Y’all in?

Truth.  Huh.  Who knew that little thirty second quiz could pack such a powerful punch?

Love to all.

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Epiphany

I wrote this to share at Coffeehouse Carols Sunday a week ago–these thoughts that stayed close to my heart after a phone conversation with a dear friend.  May this day of Light and Love give you hope during this darkest season.  

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“The visit of the wise-men” by Heinrich Hofmann – Postcards thebiblerevival.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_visit_of_the_wise-men.jpg#/media

 

“We ask for the light.  But then we can’t handle what it shows us.”

When I heard the words of my friend echoing across the phone line, my breath caught and I was silent.

“I’m going to have to sit with this for a moment,” I told her when I found my voice.

And then I sat with it for many days, for the whole ten days before Christmas.

During this time of Light and Love and candles and twinkle lights on the trees and houses and storefronts and all the lights in all the places, during this time of celebrating the Light that broke through the darkness—how could I begin to contemplate the hard things that the Light brings?

We all seek the Light.  Like the shepherds and Magi and all who followed the shining light to find the Messiah, we look for it; our souls crave the Light in the darkness.  Hope in the brokenness. We see it as Good and Holy and Perfect and Emmanuel.  God With Us.

And yet, we’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?  The pain of the light piercing the darkness?  Sleeping in a dark room and the curtains are open to the full sunlight of the day?  We’re outside or riding in the car and the sun comes out from behind the clouds and our sunglasses are nowhere to be found?  Sitting in a dark theater and the lights come up at the end of the show?

It can be abrupt.  Jarring.  Startling.

When the light shines suddenly in a place of darkness, in those first moments we can see things that are quite unpleasant.  Things scurry and run quicker than our eyes can discern, seeking the cover of darkness once again.  When the Light first came into the world as one of us over 2000 years ago, then too, the Light shone brightly and showed us things that were not okay.  Things that had been under the cover of darkness for so long—injustice, poverty, condemnation, evil thoughts and deeds, wickedness, deceit.

The Light did not bring beauty to the world in the most conventional of ways.  The One Who Came brought beauty by shining a spotlight on all of the things hiding in the dark and showing us how to live in such a way as to end those things that were scurrying for cover.  To follow in the dust of the rabbi and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  To LOVE and never let the darkness cover up all that is hurting our world ever again.

It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s exhausting.  As exhausting as trying to pick out the perfect gift on Christmas Eve or as frustrating as trying to return the shirt that didn’t fit on the day after Christmas.  Even more so.  To carry all of the things that are hurting and painful and broken in one’s heart and mind, and to seek to find ways to end them, to heal them, to relieve them—it’s just hard.

So Christmas.

The Coming of the Light.  Hope in New Life.  Joy in the sound of a cry joining the soft lowing and stirring of the animals surrounding the newborn child.

The dawn will come and the days will pass, and it will become apparent that the coming of the Light did not suddenly change the way things are done.  In fact, His coming only emphasized just how wrong things had been for far too long.

And yet—imagine being in the darkest place imaginable.  Maybe this doesn’t take much thought for some of us—for those for whom this is a very real reality.  So the darkness is so dark and thick and heavy, not only can you not see but you can feel the darkness in every fiber of your being.  It is oppressive.  You feel alone, disoriented, lost.  And hope is fading fast.  The silence is deafening.  Or the worries in your heart and mind clamor for attention, and it is dizzying.

And then one night, in one moment, the Light shines through.  And while that can be quite disorienting and scary at first, once you get your bearings, you look around.  And what the Light shows us, blesses us with, is that there are OTHERS.  We are not alone.  He gives us the gift of drawing others close to His grace, and we gather together and share the journey, all of the journey.

My Mama used to say, “Joys multiplied, sorrows divided.”

For me that is the beauty of the Light. Of the gift we are given at Christmas.

We gather together around the baby each and every year and we sing our praises and we look for some sign that our Hope is not in vain. If we take a moment and look around at all who are in the glow of the Light, we can see that we are not alone.

There are others there to help us up when we fall, to help us find hope in the situations that break our hearts.  There are those who will point out the good in the midst of even the hardest of things, and those will carry on when we just can’t.  They show up with casseroles and love letters and kind words and hand-drawn pictures and cups of hot chocolate with candy canes for stirring.  And they show up, again and again, because, for all of the hard things the Light shows us, the most important things that He shows us is that we are a part of something really, really good.  We are a part of a community.  A group of folks who choose love.  Who care.  Who seek to find the things that scurry for cover and bring them out into the open so Love and Light can bring the beautiful and powerful transformation, through our passion and love and efforts to follow in the dust of the child who was born so long ago and stays at our sides still today.  Our steps might be clumsy at times, but we are on the right path and we are together.

My folks used to remind my siblings and me, whenever we would go anywhere, to stick together.

I think that’s the most beautiful part of the Christmas message.

Stick together.

Look out for each other.

Hold hands when crossing the street or walking through the hard things.

And no matter our differences in any given moment, love each other.

God With Us, and we are With each other.  Standing in the Light.

Merry Christmas!  And may Epiphany and Light be ours today and everyday.

Love to all.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas…..

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By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland (Christmas is almost over) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

as I prepare to break down Christmas and pack away the ornaments, I sift through the memories made this Christmas season, and my heart is full to bustin’.

There are so many precious moments, big and small, that I have tucked away to keep me warm this winter and in the ones to come, but these twelve stand out for me tonight:

1–The first night that we were all under the same roof for the first time in several months, and I took that sweet, deep breath of thankfulness.

2–Listening to Christmas music while baking Mama’s cookies in the kitchen, using her very own cookie cutters.

3–Taking the Zoo Crew up to Wesleyan on a cold, wet afternoon to hear the Washboard Band play and hear Aub in her percussion debut.

4–The joy of sharing St. Lucia Day festivities with friends and family at Evening Prayer as my writerfriend D and I shared our stories of light for the second year in a row.  It’s a tradition now, y’all.

5–Attending “White Christmas” at a local theater with youth actors and actresses.  Seeing their beaming faces at the end for the curtain call–they were so pleased with the job they had done.  As well they should be. I fell in love with the place, the young people, and the story all over again.

6–The joy of sitting next to One I Hold Dear as I watched my littles perform for their Christmas programs.  When folks do things they don’t have to do out of love and just because they want to, that is a beautiful gift.

7–Hearing Christmas songs played live in my own home. As we wrap up our first year of piano lessons, it has been so much fun to hear the littles playing Christmas carols for us.  I am anticipating even more songs in the coming year to brighten our holidays.

8–The musical offerings talented and beautiful folks shared at Evening Prayer both before and after Christmas.  So much time, talent, and dedication went into those evenings.  I love each and every one of them for making my holidays truly special with their music, smiles, and laughter.

9–Seeing the faces of children, young and old, as they saw Santa Claus when he visited us at Bare Bulb Coffee.  So many precious secrets whispered in Santa’s ear.  The smiles were bright and everlasting.  My heart will never quite be the same again.

10–Hearing “Silent Night” in the candlelit church on Christmas Eve.  I choked up and couldn’t sing all the words.  I felt so connected to the ones who are no longer with us who also sang those words on so many Christmas Eve nights over the years.  I felt surrounded by a host of those I love.

11–Those precious, quiet moments in the wee hours of Christmas morning, when I sat there by myself in the midst of gifts and love, and I was excited, worn out, relieved, happy, and filled with wonder and peace.  And as I sat there, loathe to leave the sweet twinkle lights and their golden glow and the love that filled the room, I thought about how all of those emotions were probably present that very first Christmas morning.  That’s when my heart filled with gratitude, and I found myself weeping as I headed to bed for a few hours of slumber.

12–One of the very best moments was seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes and hearing the anticipation in their voices as they wrapped and then gave their Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. They were more excited to give the gifts they’d chosen than they were to open up the ones with their names on them.  That was a huge gift to me, and I am so thankful for their giving hearts.

Y’all, I was just kidding.  Twelve?  All the little moments.  Cups of coffee with friends.  Surprise visits with folks I haven’t seen for far too long.  Painting with my little friends and watching them focus and work so hard to create their own masterpieces.  Sitting around a fire with precious people as the sun went down and the stars came out.  Watching the children play with their friends as the excitement of Christmas came closer and closer.  Wrapping up in warm, colorful afghans and talking late into the night.  Hallmark Christmas movies.  Watching my brother teach my Aub how to make “Maemae’s” biscuits.  Phone calls and Christmas cards.  Hugs galore.  Cousins who make me smile and laugh.  Oh the joy and peace that passes all understanding!

All of that.

May each and every day of this New Year be filled with just such gifts for all of us.

Love to all.  Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas!

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By Grover cleveland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas…..

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This was not one of my selections. My Mama was not a fan of this song, especially after she became a grandmother, so yeah. Not on my list of favorites. I’d still rather not upset my Mama even now. “Dr. Elmo (Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer) with John Pinette 12-11- 106” by PamWendell – Own work. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

I think of the eleven songs I love the most during this holiday season.

1–“Nothing But a Child” by Steve Earle
My Daddy loved Steve Earle, so of course I do too, but this song is very, very special.

2–“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid
This song makes me tear up every single time. “Throw your arms around the world…..” Yes. Let’s. I think we could all use a hug.

3–“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
It is nigh unto impossible to be in a bad mood when this song is playing. Pretty sure you will find yourself dancing. At least tapping a toe or something.

4–“Christmas Time’s a Coming” by Bill Monroe
Bluegrass. You just can’t go wrong with that. I love this song.

5–“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
I loved the song years before I ever saw the movie, but after seeing the movie, OH YES. What a great movie–and song.

6–“Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby
A great song and everything, but then there’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” making it an awesome song. Who hasn’t dreamed about a pool in the middle of winter? (Well, some in Georgia this past Christmas actually did get in their pools, but that’s another story.)

7–“Sleigh Ride” by Johnny Mathis
Another happy song. My finger tends to dance along and direct the band to this one. (And also the medley of this song with “Jingle Bells” in “Sleepless in Seattle”–loved it. “Harses, harses, harses, harses, harses…..”)

8–“Dominick the Donkey” by Lou Monte
It’s just fun, y’all. All the children (young and OLD) like to make the donkey sounds.

9–“Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page
This is my favorite version of this song. Yes, I’ve heard all the issues with regards to the song. I still love it. I’ve tried not to, but every since I saw Thora Birch and Lauren Bacall sing it together in “All I Want for Christmas,” I’ve found it delightful.

10–“Last Christmas” by George Michael
Other artists have recorded this, and we have discussed this at great lengths in our home. Other artists “speak” the lyrics. I think George Michael is the only one who actually sings the words. But mostly, I chose this one to make my Cousin smile. Because I love her, and because I know she will miss George over this next year. (or maybe not)

11–“Twelve Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser
Seriously, this version right here. If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself. Great entertainment, and I laugh out loud every time I watch it.  Check it out here.

Okay y’all, as I was composing this list, I realized there are a whole lot more than eleven Christmas songs I love.  I really, really love holiday music, and tonight I’m thankful for the music services where I can play this music that brings me joy whenever I want.  I’m not ready for the season to be over yet.

May you all have all the music you love to listen to and lift your spirits.

Love to all.