First Sign of Spring Tradition

This afternoon, a lovely warm “teasing us with the promise of spring” day, our Princess came bouncing in from the backyard, where she and Cooter had been playing with Miss Sophie.

Bounced.  Yes.  She hardly goes anywhere that she doesn’t bounce. Or skip. Or dance.

I think walking might not be quite joy-filled enough for her.

She had something behind her back.

“Mama, do you have a little vase or jar?”

I shook myself out of the fog that the migraine had me in.  “A jar? Ummm.  Maybe.  Why?”

“Because!” and with a “tada” flourish and a great big smile, she held out a handful of purple flowers picked from our backyard.  A little bouquet of them.

Bless it.

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I knew where the perfect little jelly jar was and when she had them all arranged, oh how lovely!

And so filled with memories.

These are the same little flowers that she has picked every year when Spring starts pulling out her best dress and showing off a little, giving us a little taste of what we can expect when she decides to move in and stay with us for a while.

The same flowers I remember Aub and then even more years ago, my baby brother, picking for Mama.  She always ALWAYS put them in the little vase and set them in her kitchen windowsill.

And the same flowers I picked for her way before that.  And for my Granny.  And the same ones I believe I might have seen yesterday in a bouquet picked for my Aunt on her birthday by her sweet grands.

Picking those purple flowers has become quite the “first sign of Spring” tradition in our family.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy of young ones in finding just the right bundle of flowers for the ones they love.  I’m thankful for the sunshine and the warmth and the thawing of toes and fingers and noses and–here’s hoping–of hearts.  And I give thanks for the Artist and all the ways the color purple is used to bring joy and Light, and how that reminds us that the cold darkness of winter will soon pass.  And the birds will keep on singing.

Love to all.

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epiphany

light

light bulb

realization

a new knowing

stars

Star

traveling

seeking

wondering

finding

treasure

knowledge

Love

Light

 

over the years so much written about light

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”*

“blinded by the light”

“you light up my life”

“this little light of mine”

“Light of the world”

 

but in the dark of night

so long ago

it took no words,

only one star, one Light

to lead the way and give the journey purpose

not just for the three

but for all

 

so on the Twelfth day we gather

and celebrate

and look for the light in our own lives

and tarry not for long as we move

towards it

with an Epiphany

that the Light is always there, waiting,

guiding,

a beacon of love for all

 

 


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

*Shakespeare’s words from “Romeo and Juliet”

 

Love and Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas to all!

 

 

 

Peeking Out the Window in the Middle of the Night

Women of a certain age like me often get up during the night.  Some nights more than once.

What we do is our own business, but suffice to say it’s a good thing we do actually get up.

The past couple of winters when I woke up in the middle of the night, fumbling my way in the dark, I would peek out our bathroom window and see a small Christmas wreath with lights shining from the back porch of a neighbor one street over.  They hung it up and left it.  The first winter without my Daddy they turned it on every single night.

And left it on all through to the sun rising the next morning.

The funny thing is their back porch faces my neighbor’s backyard.  In a weird, “I think the developer wasn’t completely sober when he mapped this out” kind of way.  It doesn’t face a house, just their backyard–and my bathroom window looks out over his backyard as well.

And so I saw the lights.

During those cold, dark nights of learning to live without the man who made me and molded me and loved me, I found comfort in those lights.

They gave me hope.  They told me I wasn’t alone during a time of night, of my life, when I felt most alone in the darkness and heartbreak.

They were always there.

Those neighbors, whom I never really met, moved some time during this past summer.  I didn’t think anything about it until a few nights ago.  I got up, like I do, and I peeked out the window and it hit me how much I miss that wreath and those lights.  Always shining, always there.  Always a beacon of hope.

Tonight I give thanks for folks who shine their lights–for days and weeks and months on end.  The gift they give to those of us stuck in the dark is greater than they will ever know.

If you are discouraged that you are doing your best and being kind and not hiding your light under a bushel-no!-and wondering if it even matters, please know this. There is someone who sees.  Someone who notices and gives thanks for your light.  You may never meet them or hear their story of how you rescued them and showed them hope and gave them comfort by all that you do, but rest assured, your light is a gift to this world.  If you save only one from the sadness and brokenness and darkness, you have made the world a more beautiful place.

And for those grace-filled souls who do just that, I am especially thankful.

May today be a day of shining your light for all–or One–to see.  And if you are in the dark, look for the light.  It’s there, you just might have to get up in the middle of the night to see it.  Or peek out your window.  But it’s there.  I promise.  You’re welcome to come walk with me–we can look for it together.  That’s the beautiful thing about light.  The more who gather around it, the more it is magnified and reflected.

Love and Light to all.

 

Lucia and the light

there was long ago a girl named Lucia

whose faith and beliefs were so strong

that she refused to falter

and when they tried to move her

they could not,

even with all those men and oxen pulling

 

imagine that,

a little sprig of a girl,

barely old enough to be an adult

in today’s world

standing up, standing strong,

brave, unwavering, adoring

 

she traveled on the darkest of paths

with candles on her head

lighting the way

so she could carry more in her hands

to take to those in need,

those who were imprisoned,

lonely

 

she gave what she had,

selling her dowry to have

more to help others

 

and when her time came

to leave this world

at the hands of her accusers,

she only said a word of prayer

and let go

 

this day is her day

a day of sharing light,

the light that leads us down

untraveled paths

and through the darkness

of this season and of life

and fills us with compassion

and love and hope

 

we shall bake her cookies,

in the tradition of St. Lucia Day

in Scandinavia, and

we will share them with friends

 

and the light from within–

just as the brave young girl’s light did so long ago–

will ignite the light within others

until the darkness and brokenness

are edged out and

no longer have a place in our world

 

#because Elvis

 

I love the song’s lyrics in English that I found on this website:

Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent,
Now hear its gentle wings,
In every room so hushed,
Whispering like wings.
Look, at our threshold stands,
White-clad with light in her hair,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon,
From earth’s valleys.
So she speaks 
Wonderful words to us:
A new day will rise again
From the rosy sky…
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

I find comfort in these words–“Darkness shall take flight soon…..”  Yes.  This.  We are all a part of sharing the light that will have the darkness hightailing it out of here.

To read more about St. Lucia, you can go to this website or you can check out this book among others.

To read “Love, Light, and Cookies,” my own story about Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies and an unusual and special St. Lucia Day we had, you can download “A Cup of Christmas” from Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Cup-Christmas-Barbara-Barth-ebook/dp/B00QB6F35E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418443486&sr=8-1&keywords=a+cup+of+christmas&pebp=1418443487651

 

Thankful for the legacy of love and light left by those who have gone before us.  Remembering.

Love and light to all.  Pass it on……

The Little Girl and Her Books–A Fairytale About Dreams Coming True

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved books. She loved them so much she practically gobbled up each one she held in her hands.  Her Mama took her to the library, and she still remembers signing for her first library card.  She would choose a half-dozen or more books and bring them home, laying them all out open to the blurb–which she had already read before selecting each one–and reread each summary.  Sitting there on the gold carpet in the open doorway to her bedroom, she’d make the difficult choice of which one to read first.

It was only natural that she work in a library, I suppose, which she did.  The same one where she got her first card–she worked there all through high school.  Books helped pay her way through college, I guess you could say.  The girl loved the smell of books and the feel of them and the way they lined up so neatly, alphabetized by author or organized according to the Dewey decimal system.  A world where everything made sense and words were magical, bringing stories and people and worlds to life.

The little girl, who wasn’t so little anymore, had always loved writing stories.  And she dreamed big.  She hoped that one day, maybe just maybe, crossing her fingers for luck and wishing on every star–that one day her name could be on the cover of a book.

As the years went by the girl was busy with life and stuff, and though she still loved books and read as much as time allowed, the girl wandered away from her pen and paper for a while–until one day when the sadness was overwhelming, she heard in her heart her Mama, whom she loved and missed so much, saying, “Write your stories.  Tell it all with your words.”

And being the girl who always (umm, well, no)–mostly tried to do what her Mama said, she sat down that very day to write the stories in her heart.  The ones that made her laugh, the ones from growing up, and the ones that made her cry.  All of them.  And with the encouragement and love of her dear friends and family, she kept on writing.

Then one day her Fairy Godmother came along sharing delicious fried bologna sandwiches and said, “There will be a book published, filled with Christmas stories.  You should think about writing something and send it along to see what will happen.”  And with a wink and nod and a promise to come back when it was spring planting time, she left, reminding the girl to be mindful of the deadline.  After the clock struck twelve, all chances would be lost.

So the girl went to see the Queen, who was gathering the stories, and she was welcomed in and encouraged.  The girl knew just what story to share.

On an afternoon filled with light, sitting in her Nest, looking out at the birds and the trees, the girl wrote her story.  As she typed the last words, her heart was full. Oh, the precious memories attached to one little 4 by 6 card!  Delicious ones too–her heart was light because her spirit was filled with the joy of sharing a sweet memory.

Before the clock struck twelve, the girl hit “attach” and “send,” and all was good. The kind Queen nodded and said yes!

And now, the girl awaits the clock striking midnight on December 1.  For on December 2, the book will be available for all to read. Stories, poems, and recipes from 31 different writers all together in a cozy read–“A Cup of Christmas.”   It is an e-book, easily sent to wish all a merry Christmas and happy holiday season.   And it’s the beginning of the girl’s dreams coming true!

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Y’all, the above fairy tale is a true story.  I am thrilled to be one of the 31 writers who contributed to “A Cup of Christmas,” conceived and put together by the lovely Barbara Barth–the Queen of making dreams come true.  I appreciate her allowing me to be a part of this great book.  I am also thankful to my Fairy Godmother, Renea Winchester, who is one of my favorite authors, and who also has a story in the book.  Talk about exceeding one’s wildest dreams–my Aub was so excited for me, she didn’t even bother to spellcheck her text message!  (oh wait, am I the only one who does that?)

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My text from my college girl after she found out that Renea Winchester has a story in the book too. Note the ALL CAPS–she’s yelling with excitement!   I feel loved. And yes, special.

 

 

So beginning December 2, please go to Amazon and download the book.  Tell your friends.  Send copies as gifts, and check–just like that–your Christmas card list is DONE.  (You’re welcome, but it was really Ms. Barth’s idea. You can visit her and thank her here.)

After a couple of days, the price will be $1.99.  Don’t despair though–all proceeds from the book will go to First Book.  From their website:

“First Book is determined to see that all children, regardless of their economic conditions, can achieve more in school and in life through access to an ongoing supply of new books.

With the help of our partners, donors and dedicated volunteers we have provided more than 120 million new books to schools and programs serving children in need. Yet millions of children are still waiting for our help.

Together we can make a difference in children’s lives. Together we can provide new books and critical resources that elevate the quality of education for children in low-income families.”

I just know my Mama is smiling right now, as children and books and children’s books were her most favorite things in the whole wide world.  Maybe THIS is why she told me to start writing my stories.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Thank you all for reading and sharing my stories.  It would mean a lot if you could make the time to read one more–the one in “A Cup of Christmas,” along with all the other wonderful stories and poems.  I can’t wait to read them all myself.

And now, before I go–

A hint about my story.

It includes all of these things–

 

Candles, cookie cutters, a special recipe, and a girl who shared light and love long, long ago.....

Candles, cookie cutters, a special recipe, and a girl who shared light and love long, long ago…..

 

Love and happy reading to all.

 

Updated:  The book is available now!  http://www.amazon.com/Cup-Christmas-Kimberly-Brock-ebook/dp/B00QB6F35E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417496246&sr=8-1&keywords=a+cup+of+christmas

Fingerpainting, Pulling Weeds, and Getting Our Hands Dirty

Today as we pulled up to Daybreak for Sister Circle, there were two young men pulling up weeds in the yard. I sat there a moment and watched, lost in thought. This was timely, as I thought about their hands and what we were going to talk about today.  As we walked the path to the entrance, I heard them talking to each other. It seemed almost effortless, their bending over to pull a weed and moving across the yard. As they worked in tandem they talked and kidded around and laughed. We waved hello and went inside.

Today I found some fingerpaint to share with my Sisters. It wasn’t what I was looking for but it turns out it was exactly what I needed. Life is messy. If we are doing it right, we are going to get our hands dirty. A lot. And that is what will bring beauty to this world. Getting our hands dirty. Just like those young men. I can only imagine the dirt and the green grass stains of those reaching-for-spring purple flower weeds on their hands. And yet what is the result? A beautiful yard and the satisfaction that can only come from hard work and a job well done.

So we talked. About messy lives. About broken relationships and utility bills being so high they just can’t be paid and worries over illness and children and parents and friends and the world. And we painted. With our fingers and hands. They got dirty. It was interesting to see the different levels of discomfort with actually touching the paint.

Cooter painted his paper and then continued to paint the plate his paints had been on.  His hands were covered.  It took a little while and a bit of scrubbing to get them clean again.

Cooter painted his paper and then continued to paint the plate his paints had been on. His hands were covered. It took a little while and a bit of scrubbing to get them clean again.

And then there was Cooter. Who put his whole hands in and even painted his paint plate after he had finished his painting. He does not mind getting his hands or any part of him dirty. At all. And I think that’s pretty cool.  This is the same child who, when he found out that they are going to put housing in that cleared area beyond the woods behind our house, blew out a huge puff of air, threw his hands up, and said, “Well good! Maybe now our friends with no houses can move in there. FINALLY!!” Precious. Rambunctious perhaps too. But precious. I hope he never loses his love of getting his hands and his life dirty.

Because it can be scary. And hard. And exhausting. We talked today about how we have to pull the weeds in our own lives before we can even thinking about helping someone else. Truth. We are all works in progress.

Tonight I’m remembering my Mama’s hands.  She was never afraid of getting them dirty.  Those little hands were strong, even in the later years, suffering with arthritis in the cold as she did.  She fileted chicken herself from a whole hen.  She snapped and peeled and shelled and shucked and kneaded and patted so many meals’ worth over the years.  She dug in the dirt and planted and helped many plants and children to bloom.  Mama’s hands were full of taking care of others.  It seemed to be her life’s work.  In a broken world where special needs adults need guardians and elderly family members need someone to look after and stand up for them, Mama’s hands were there–for signing paperwork, holding hands, changing mussed clothes and bedlinens, and for sharing love.

I have a writer friend who uses her hands to care, to inspire–she writes her words by hand, words that touch hearts and souls, impart wisdom, and carry us back in time.  She also uses her hands to find little rays of sunshine in fields and woods and give them a new home–sharing light with the world.  Today her hands and arms are covered in a reaction to one of the plants in the “poison” family.  My heart and arms ache for her.  My fingers are crossed and prayers are said for her discomfort to be eased and her body to heal quickly.  And that’s how it goes, isn’t it?  We are in the midst of the brokenness, trying to make things better, to help others who are there, and we often wind up hurt and broken ourselves.  With our hands dirty.

And that’s where the beauty can be seen.  In the darkness.  In the midst of pain and sadness and hurt and feeling lost.  The beauty is that despite all those dirty hands out there pulling weeds, finger painting, touching hearts, holding hands with the sick and the tender-hearted–despite all of that pain–each one would do it again.  My Mama would care for her aunts and her cousin and my Daddy and so many others all over again.  Because of love.  I’m guessing here but I suspect my writer friend would go and rescue those little flowers again tomorrow.  Those young men will pull weeds again, possibly before the grass stains from this time have faded completely.

Beauty is in the strength and courage to walk into a mess and come out with dirty hands and hearts that will never be the same again.

Our Princess loved the finger painting too, but she didn't get quite as messy.

Our Princess loved the finger painting too, but she didn’t get quite as messy.

Miss N's paintings.  The top one is of her and her Mama, who is one of her heroes.

Miss N’s paintings. The top one is of her and her Mama, who is one of her heroes.

Tonight I am thankful for our Sister Circle, for women who share their stories with each other in the hopes of letting others know they are not alone.  I give thanks for the enthusiasm of my littles who were quite thrilled to be included in the finger painting.  I pray they will always be so joyful about getting their hands dirty.  And I give thanks for women like my Mama and my writer friend and so many others, who inspire me to throw off my cloak of fear and walk into unknown territory to dig, to plant, to guide, and to love.  And to get dirty.

May it always be so.

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Please, if you have a few minutes, click on the link above to my writer friend’s blog.  This story is a special one.  She gives us a way for us to walk into heartbreak and shed some light.  Many thanks to my friend for sharing Robin’s story.  Love to all.

Light + Love = One

Last night at Evening Prayer we were asked to move around, sit with people with whom we had never had a conversation.  After folks moved around, we were asked to come up with things we had in common with the folks at our table.  It was interesting because our table wound up coming up with the most on our list.  (I know it wasn’t a competition–I’m going somewhere with this.)  I don’t know what the other groups came up with, but here’s an example of a conversation:

My young friend, after being encouraged to share something about herself, “Well, this isn’t probably anything anyone else does, but I do Tae Kwon Do.”  Turns out one other young man had taken for a while.  No one else had.  So instead we asked, “Who in the group can respect Tae Kwon Do and all that it is?”  Everyone nodded.  We found similarities in appreciating what was different.  I think we might have been on to something.

Until.

Later in conversation, someone at the table mentioned something about “The New Testament.”  A young man, high school age, responded, “Oh yeah, see, I can’t do that.  I don’t like it.” (I almost spewed my water.  Wait.  What?)  He kept on talking without pause. “Yeah, see I only like the King James Version.  That’s the only true word.  I don’t like any of that new stuff.”

Oh.  My.

Reminds me of a Twitter feed from “Things Bible Students Say.”  If you have Twitter and enjoy reading things that make you shake your head, follow them.  If you don’t have Twitter, it’s okay, it’s a lot of what you just read above.  From Bible students.

To the credit of all who were sitting there, no one argued or got defensive.  His opinion was respected; he has a right to his opinion and to speak his mind.  That’s what is beautiful about our service.  What broke my heart is I really don’t think this young man came up with this opinion, this line drawn in the sand, on his own.  About the King James Version, I mean. We’re just going with a communication breakdown on the whole New Testament thing.  I could be wrong, have been and will be again, but I’m betting he heard this from someone–a parent or another adult he respects.  Friends, they are listening and they are taking it all in.  For the love of what is good and right and makes common sense, please be careful what you are putting out there. (Ya got that, Tara?  *hanging head* Yes.)

I read a poem by Thom Shuman yesterday and today that touched on this.  The whole poem can be found here, but here are the words that punched me in my stomach and my conscience:

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Heartbreaking and TRUE.

Even among those who claim to have so much in common, such as the people at our table, there are lines being drawn, things we will and will not accept, things that we lay out there that keep us from being ONE.  Unity.  Community.  Communion. Respect. That’s what we are called to do, isn’t it?  Be with each other.  Love each other.

It breaks my heart to hear how those of us who claim to follow someone who was Light and Love personified are so filled with darkness and doubt and, in that, we hurt rather than love.  Like a father who chooses things over his children, all the while assisting in leading worship.  Or a family who tells their daughter her classmate and friend is not welcome in their home because she has different beliefs. Or the young woman in my Sister Circle who said she was stared at and felt uncomfortable when she walked into a local church–said she guessed she wasn’t dressed right or made folks ill at ease.  Or a kind-hearted and funny young man who insists nothing other than the King James version is acceptable. (If only he had said it’s the version he preferred–this would have turned out so differently.) The lines being drawn are only hurtful and confuse those looking to us to help share the Light and Love we follow.

I just read something my daughter wrote tonight.  It made my heart leap with joy.  (Literally, I’m skilled like that.)  As she wrote about her friends at college, she gave everyone a charge at the end of her post:

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Yes!  This.

If we could do this instead of backstabbing folks with our judgments or slamming doors of intolerance in their faces or just plain ignoring folks–if only we could do this.  Be the defensive tackles or running backs or tight ends and tackle folks with Love and Light, then, oh boy, THEN the pieces of our broken world could start healing, and maybe just maybe we could, in the words of Thom Shuman, we could be one.

(Boy that would have been so much better if I knew football positions worth a flip, huh?  Grace abounds, people, grace abounds.  Go tackle somebody. Love to all.)