“…..with every Christmas card I write…..”

On our way home this evening, the song “White Christmas” came on the radio.  Aub and Cooter were in the car with me, as I was humming along without really thinking about the song.  The song continued, and the lyrics played:

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry…..”

and then I heard Cooter hollering at the top of his lungs from the very back seat–

“WHAT?” Palm to forehead.  “What?  I’m supposed to write Christmas cards too?”

*sigh*

Poor little guy.

Poor all of us.

How many folks have asked you, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  “Do you have it all done?”  “Have you planned your menu for the day?”

How many times have you asked those questions in an effort to make conversation?

*guilty*

All the pressure.  All the expectations.  We create list after list.  Shopping lists.  Gifts we’re giving lists.  Parties and dinners we are invited to.  Parties and dinners we want to throw.  A baking list.  A grocery list.  A list of errands.  And yes, Cooter, even a Christmas card list.

One of my sweet friends was all but apologizing to me today that her Christmas card wasn’t going out until after Christmas.  There was just too much to do and not enough time.

Bless.  Her.  Sweet.  Soul.

I remember the year I didn’t send out cards until Valentine’s.  It worked.  It was kind of fun.  And I’m guessing our card didn’t get lost in a stack with everyone else’s Valentine’s Day cards.  Just a thought.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves–scratch that.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to create the perfect Christmas full of all the perfect little moments in a clean, tidy home with lots of festive decorations and ornamentation and all of the joy and fun and laughter and contented sighs.

Yeah.

I’m betting I’m not the only one.

We have one week left, y’all.  To take it back.  To take a moment to rest and cuddle and read a Christmas story together piled up on the couch or chair or bed underneath the colorful afghans that bring me such joy with the people that make my soul glad.  Savoring the moment without worrying over the perpetual clutter or unwrapped gifts and all the other things we carry on our shoulders.  To simply be in the precious moment of NOW.

We have one week left to change our question from “Are you ready?” to “How are you?” or “Where are you finding peace and Light today?”  or “Where AM I going to find peace and Light today?”

We have one week left to change it. Even if we only take five minutes a day to step away from all the expectations and Hallmark commercials (doggone them for making me cry and wanting to create all the moments myself) and hustle and bustle and lists and pressure, and we just sit down and breathe.  And laugh.  Or listen.  Or sit next to the people we love or the people we’ve just met and BE.  That’s the goal.  If we can even take five minutes a day to welcome into our hearts the presence of Peace, we’ve come a long way from all of the things weighing on us, all of the lists we carry around, and we’re one step closer to that quiet night of reflection and Love beneath a bright star listening to the quiet, steady breaths of the little one newly come to us.

Go ahead.  Add THAT to your list.  You deserve it.  And *takes a deep breath* so do I.

Love to all.

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By Jon Curnow from London, United Kingdom (Christmas To Do List) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Peace

Today our family joined a dear friend who has a photography business and had her take our family pictures.  In the past week, this talented young woman and I have tossed around ideas about where would be best to take them. I was thinking I would love for us to go to Wesleyan, because there are so many beautiful places on the campus for pictures.  As we talked, she mentioned a place new to me, Amerson Water Works Park, where she has had shoots on more than one occasion.  She described it, saying there were many different beautiful spots there good for taking pictures.  I decided to try something new.  Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty I saw today.  The wooded areas, the trees, the pathways, the trails, and then there was this.

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In the words of my little friend from so many years ago, “Good job, God!”

And I felt peace within my soul.

Funny how that can happen when I step outside my comfort zone and try something new…..

May peace be with you.

Love to all.

One Thousand

About a week ago, I happened to notice my blog post count.  It’s not something I’ve watched since around number 500 or so.  So imagine my surprise when I saw the number and then counted on my fingers to discover that I would hit Post 1000 tonight.

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This is post 1000.

I’m smiling at the timing of this.  This, if you will pardon me, momentous occasion.  I set out in April of 2013 to write.  Everyday.  I thought maybe six months would suit, proving to myself I could stick with something.  But something unexpected happened–it became a habit.  One I grew to depend on.  A companion every evening, with whom I would sit down and share my thoughts or stories or woes.  There were a few evenings I would have rather been left alone, but I pushed through and my soul was better for it.

This has been good for my soul.

So after the six month mark, I continued, and then one year and two and two and a half, and now…..1000.

I have loved sharing my stories because in doing so, many of you have shared yours with me.  Stories are the very fibers of our lives, and I thrive upon them.  I love to sit and hear folks’ stories, just as I enjoy sharing mine.  When we listen, we learn and one of the most important things we learn is that we are more alike than not. WE. ARE. ALL. CONNECTED.

And so it is that the timing of this is so perfect.  For the first time in 103 days, all of the ones I am most connected to are all under one roof.  The Fella, who has been away for work for all this time, is home. Home!  (The fact that I bought a special bag of sweet potato chips just for him might tell you how excited I am.)  My Aub is finishing up the semester and tucked away in her room HERE studying.  Home!  I don’t dare interrupt, but knowing my girl who is one of my dearest friends is right here warms my heart.  All of my people.  Home.

I have big things going on–good things and wonderful things and challenging things.  I have a project that I’m going to put some loving hands to.  I have a coffee shop that I and others who love it are working to save.  I have a family who would probably like to eat something other than yogurt and blueberries or chicken wraps or cheese quesadillas for supper.  (Not that those are leaving the menu entirely, just so y’all know.)  In this season of chaos and all the busy things–good things–I seek a time of Advent.  Of preparation. My soul craves it.

During this season of Advent and reconnecting and rebuilding and recreating and remembering, I’m going to change things up a little bit.  Some days will be writing and sharing stories, but some days it will be 1000 words.  As in a picture is worth a…..

I’m no photographer by any means, but there are moments and things during the day that touch my heart, and I look forward to sharing those with you.

Tonight I am thankful for all of you–my friends and family and others whom I’ve never formally met who take the time to read the stories, to hear the words, and to feel all the things along with me .  For those of you who share my words with others, thank you.  I give thanks for the stories you have shared with me which touch my heart and make me laugh or weep or think.  Thank you.

And tonight I’m thankful for the Fella being home safe.  Where he belongs.  Not just because I need someone to tell me Miss Sophie is okay or haul off the recycling or help us move the scarecrow and pumpkins so the nativity can be put up in the yard.  Because he is loved and as Cooter put it, “Daddy is one of my shining lights.”  I’m thankful this semester is almost over for Aub, who has worked and studied and performed and written and volunteered and made beautiful music.  She amazes and inspires me.  I look forward to cuddling in front of the fire with my littles and reading stories of Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien and making all the merry memories.  I am excited about my project, and I am hopeful for our coffeeshop.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to quieting my soul and listening.  Listening to hear the whispered stories of my past and the story of where I am meant to go, and dreaming of what may come.

Thank you all for sharing the journey.  I look forward to continuing onward with you however it may look, sharing the light and love and laughter.

Love to all.

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Preparing

As this week moves along and people all over are preparing for Thursday and Thanksgiving in all different kinds of ways, I too am preparing for the day.

Grocery list, baking, cooking (they are two very different things, you know), cleaning up, planning the timing around the parade *ahem*, and things like that.

But I’m also, just a little, working on preparing my heart.

An attitude of gratitude is something my Mama drilled in us.  Be thankful.  In all things.  I think she really liked what that guy Paul in the Good Book said about that.  She took him at his word.  And wanted us to live it too.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving, I am looking towards next Sunday as well.  The first Sunday in Advent.

To be honest, I didn’t really know much about Advent until maybe twenty-five years ago.

And I have continued to learn more and more since that time.

I love the rituals, the lighting of the candles on the wreath.  The getting ready.  The settling of the soul.  The quiet meditations and devotions.

Oh, the quiet.

Each year for the past four, I’ve hoped to start our school year early enough that we can take some time off from our traditional lessons to step outside the box in December and go in another direction.  And each year, for whatever reason, that has been torpedoed, and we’ve worked right up through the third week in December.

But this year?

*shhhh* Don’t tell anyone, lest the universe find out and totally mess this up for us, but I think it’s going to happen.

I want for us to have time to read Christmas stories, learn about holiday traditions from different cultures, watch Christmas movies, sing songs, make cookies, play, and not have every single day structured.

That’s my holiday wish.

I am very happy that we are heading in that direction.  I already have some books picked out to share with my littles.  I have a couple of “read every day” books that we will start on Sunday or Monday (it being the first and all).  One really sweet one that I’m looking forward to reading with them for the very first time is Advent Storybook  by Antonie Schneider, Maja Dusikova, and translated by Marisa Miller.   We haven’t read any of it together yet, but as I looked over it today, it touched my heart and made me smile.  I think we will all enjoy it.  It’s the story of a little bear who wants Christmas to come fast, so his mother agrees to tell him a story each night until then.  So there are twenty-four stories about another little bear and his trek to Bethlehem.  Very sweet.

Embracing the magic of the season, we will again pull out our copy of Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Yes.  That guy.

It’s a collection of the letters that were sent to the Tolkien family home over the many years his children were small and home.  The stories will make you laugh and want to hear them all over again…..and so we will do just that.

I came across the books The Jesse Tree: Daily Readings for Advent and Gobsmacked: Daily Devotions for Advent by Thom M. Shuman a few years ago.  These are both beautifully written Advent devotionals that I dearly love.  I ordered them as downloads, e-book style, from this website, as hard copies were not available at the time.  I love everything Mr. Shuman has ever written.  If you haven’t read any of his poetry before, please take the time to do so.  Powerful and grace-filled.  Beautiful.  You can find it here.

This time of year can be so wonderful in many ways, but it can also be hard.  For many the darkness is not just because the sun is going down a little earlier.  Many people struggle with loss and pain and brokenness that doesn’t go away magically, despite the wonder and brightness of the season.  It can be very hard when you feel like there’s a party going on all over and you’re the only one who doesn’t feel like going.

I am thankful for my writerfriend and friend, Dena Douglas Hobbs, who has written a contemplative book, “Lighten the Darkness: An Advent Journey Through Hope,” in which she walks with each one of us in that darkness.  She says it’s okay and is an encourager.  As November finds her way to the door and takes her leave, leaving behind only the memories, some harder to bear than others, Dena reminds us in her book that we are not alone.  and that the advent message is one of hope.  She writes, “God comes into our broken world to be with us, to heal us, to save us from not only our enemies, but even ourselves.”

Oh me.

Yes.

If any of you are local, you can purchase her book at Bare Bulb Coffee in Kathleen and a portion of the proceeds will go to support hunger missions.  If you are not, you can order her book here.    It is available as an e-book as well.

I also look forward to reading Dena’s latest work, a devotional for the littles, with my crew.  I can’t wait to hear their laughter over the antics of Father Christmas and the North Polar Bear.  And I just know we will be drawing pictures from the adventures of the little bear on his way to Bethlehem.  The story just lends itself to good conversation and good thoughts.

I am thankful that, as this season and so much hurries and scurries on by me, I can shut it all off for at least a few minutes everyday, and sit and have coffee with my friend Dena (which I’ve been lucky enough to do in person as well), and with Mr. Thom– quieting my soul in the midst of the chaos and darkness and looking forward to the Light that is coming.  And while I love my twinkly lights in my “roost” so much, they are nothing compared to the Light of Love and Peace.  That’s what my favorite thing about Christmas is–feeling my heart fill with both of those things.

May we all find that to be true–hearts full to bustin’ with love and light and a peace that passes all understanding.

Love to all.

A New Tradition, FunGiving

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday

English: Advent wreath, First Advent Sunday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was the first Sunday in Advent.  Advent means “coming,” and this season is for quiet reflection and waiting for what is to come–the birth of Jesus.

I have decided to try and enjoy this season.  This time of year when the days are the shortest and the darkest of the whole year could be the hardest yet.  However, as a wise one told me today, “If you don’t have enough fun in your life, you’ve got to go out and make your own.”

It seems like the children started talking about Christmas early this year.  Maybe it started after Aub’s birthday in September.  I can’t remember exactly, but it for sure started in earnest after our Princess’ birthday two weeks ago.  I know it’s part of being a child, dreaming and wishing, but I could only take so much.  I don’t like all the “I want” talk.  I especially cannot handle the lists changing ten days out.  Enough is enough.  And we have enough.  So I started a “new tradition” last week.  On Wednesday I told my crew to write their letters, finalize their lists, whatever it took.  Wednesday was the last day to pick their three things to ask for.  They are allowed to put three things on their lists.  They might get other things, they might not, but the three is a good guide to let them dream and not go too crazy.

Wednesday.  Now there will be no more talking of wish lists and “what I want for Christmas.” That’s the new rule.  Shhh.  Tight lipped.  Tick-a-lock.  My thinking was get it out of the way and then let’s enter the Thanksgiving season, with an emphasis on Thanks as well as Giving.  So now we are in the waiting period of Advent in our home, but I’m also going to challenge us to celebrate a time of Giving.  Each day I want us to think of something to do or give (not necessarily bought–we’re gonna get creative here) to surprise someone.  How much fun could that be?

Yes, I know, it could be stressful, but I’m going to do my best not to let it become so.  As Mama would say, “It’s all for the fun of it.”  And it’s time to make our own fun.  Because you are never too old to run and hide and play games with your siblings or your children or surprise someone out of the blue.

Tonight after I talked with the littles about our plan for GivingFun, I heard Cooter as he walked out of the room, sharing his thoughts in the only way he knows how to–loudly.  “I think we should go out and sing Christmas songs and raise money to help our friends who are homeless.”

For the love.

So if you see us standing around somewhere singing Christmas songs with a baseball hat on the ground in front of us, “Will you please put a penny in the old man’s hat?”**  We may be out of tune, most likely will, but just know we are having a blast and it will go to a good cause.  It’s the season for waiting and quiet reflection and, as our family’s new tradition dictates, a time of having fun with the Giving of the season.  (So it might not be so quiet around here.)

It’s all about sharing the Love and Light and Hope in the darkness.  Wanna join us?  It’s bound to be an Adventure for sure.

**from the song “Christmas is Coming” Here.  Take a peek.  And yes, it’s the Muppets version.   Focusing on fun here, remember?