MERRY CHRISTMAS: HALLELUJAH
The word hallelujah means “God be praised in worship”. As we prepare in the last few hours before Christmas morning dawns, let us take a few minutes from our schedules and countdown of final touches to reflect on the reason we have this day of celebration with family and friends who gather with us to share a meal , our gifts, joy, laughter, and the making of memories.
One of the most meaningful pictures I saw on social media during this season was the picture of a huge Santa with his hat off, bended on one knee, head down facing the manager where the Baby Jesus lay. The caption was something to the effect of let us not forget the real meaning/reason for Christmas.
I realize that some of you who read this blog today may not have much celebration to look forward to during this season; some may have experienced serious illness, new diagnosis that are scary; some may not have enough money to buy gifts or perhaps even to purchases enough food for breakfast let alone dinner; some may have not been able to find work and struggle to support their family; some may be experiencing the loss of a loved one and being alone; and some may be in the chains of addiction to one thing or another. For all of these sad challenges, I will add you to my prayers whoever and wherever you are. The message to you though is that Jesus was born for ALL of us; He is there in the quiet of your worry, concerns and struggles. He will never leave any of us for any reason. Our hearts just have to be still and listen for His comforting whisper.
In my own family, we are experiencing several of the things I have talked about in the above paragraph. Yet, we hold each other dear; we console each other; pray for healings; and trust that God will see us through to the other side.
JOHN 3:16: “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE”.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND BLESSINGS OF PEACE AND JOY TO EACH OF YOU!
Busy! Busy! Busy!
It is that time of year that we find ourselves either in chaos or bordering denial that the holidays are less than a week away. How did we get here? Most likely it is because we have scheduled and over scheduled ourselves with commitments and the ‘to do list’.
One of nicest things I did for myself this holiday season was to NOT make a ‘to do list’ and to reduce my purchasing to a reasonable level (rather than 6 gifts for each grandchild, I did a special 3 for each), and I shared with my family that I wanted this Christmas Season to be about family experiences rather than ‘how much can we could get done to get ready’.
As you can see from the picture, I am enjoying a cup of tea at a holiday high tea with my family. Last weekend, we all went out to dinner by the lake and on a Santa Cruise, complete with Santa reading the names of all the ‘nice kids on the list’ at the end. We have had fires after dinner and the reading of Christmas stories to the kids several nights. The Nutcracker was also a ‘want to see’, but the timing was off for our family…..next year for sure. Last but not least, I have spent quality time taking each set of the grandkids, older and younger, out for dinner with just me.
It feels different this year, but quite good. I am pleased with my choices and will definitely continue this tradition of experiencing rather than doing during the Holiday Season.
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind” from Valentine Davies, Miracle on 34th Street.
The ‘season of giving’ is here as we move toward the Christmas festivities. Of course, we all enjoy getting gifts, and not just at Christmas. However, CHARITY does not always need to come in the form of tangible gifts. I believe that one of the greatest gifts of CHARITY is that of our time. Time is precious and there are only so many moments in our lives! Life keeps us all pretty busy, so time becomes a precious commodity. Sometimes, it can be difficult to allot time for other’s really in need of assistance.
So, in keeping with the season of giving, I offer some suggestions about how we might give of our time…….making a sacrifice for those, who perhaps just a few minutes from us, can make a significant difference for them.
We could offer some of our time:
- To those in a nursing home who have no one to visit with them, or to read a special story of the season for their pleasure.
- To those we work with who might need childcare so they can finish their ‘Santa’ shopping.
- To those in hospice who could use a cheery greeting or a song of the season.
- To those in our family who may be in need of our time to cook them a great meal that includes some old family recipes they haven’t had in a long time.
- To those who are our partners/spouses who could benefit from our time, giving special attention that has gotten lost in the relationship due to busy schedules, like a date night or their special home cooked meal.
- To those of our friends or family members who have lost loved ones and would appreciate our time of a handwritten note expressing our care and concern for them.
- To those who have no transportation to doctor’s appointments, our gift of time to take them to the appointment and see that they return home.
- To any one who is in need of our time of a listening ear to show that we care and we understand.
“Time is non-refundable, use it with intention”. (I have heard this many times but it is always listed as anonymous) .
To whom in your life will you give the charity of time this season?
PREPARING AND WAITING:
Today marks the first week of Advent for Christians and the Jewish Holiday Hanukkah starts tomorrow. During Advent, we prepare and wait for the coming of Jesus on Christmas Day.
For all important events in our lives, or those that we think are important, we plan, we create, we strategize, and prepare so that everything is relatively perfect!
So, let us begin our time of preparation with thoughtfulness about how to make this period of waiting for Christmas meaningful, peaceful, and filled with JOY!
One way to think about preparing is to think about creating new traditions with our families or friends. My new tradition is reading a Christmas short story to my grandkids each day. I found a wonderful book on Amazon, 24 Christmas Stories to Welcome Jesus, various authors are the contributors. We are all enjoying this new tradition.
How will you prepare?
THANKSGIVING AND SEEING……
A couple of weeks ago the homily at our Mass was about ‘seeing’, really seeing others in our life. We often take those in our life for granted and fail to ‘really see’. It is so easy to overlook the myriad of things that our partner/spouse or family member does that do not even come up on our radar because we are so busy watching for the things they do not do, according to our expectations.
That is the operative word I think….expectations! It certainly is important to have realistic expectations of those in our lives, for that is how they can be accountable to themselves and to us. Vice -versa, if we have unrealistic expectations of the important people in our lives, we will constantly be disappointed and fail to ‘see’ their good, setting ourselves up for a less than JOYful life.
As we celebrate this special day of giving thanks for family, friends, and the many blessings bestowed upon us, let us take a moment to ‘see’ at a deeper level……to see the good in someone’s heart that perhaps we have overlooked; to see the value of those we may have neglected because we were too busy; to see the ways our friends support us, both in big and small matters, and to see ourselves and act accordingly in the true light of who we were made to be.
Wishing you Blessings and the gift of seeing.
Even at 8:00 in the morning, chocolate can pull me into its web! I LOVE CHOCOLATE!
At the end of my life, I am sure I won’t be saying “Oh, I should have eaten more chocolate”. There will be other regrets I am sure because it is part of life….opportunities missed, a little time wasted here and there, perhaps a friendship that has receded, activities or events that you were afraid to engage in, or perhaps lost moments with dear family members. Even though at the time, we may think we have good reason not to partake of a particular activity.
Perhaps, the goal is to start now, wherever you are in your life journey to ferret out what you really don’t want to miss and include those things that you ‘think’ you could or would never do. It isn’t about how all encompassing the item is, rather, it is about your heart to heart with yourself about wanting to be a part of it and why. What pulls you toward it? How will you feel once you have checked it off the conscious brain? Maybe, just maybe, you will want to engage in the activity again. Better yet, maybe it will open a new path on your journey. What have you got to lose? I say: nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“We do not get unlimited chances to have the things we want. Nothing is worse than missing an opportunity that could have changed our life” quote from Marina Boteva: Marina’s Books.
Why should we forgive? Forgiveness is more about you than the other person. It is a conscious decision one makes to ‘let go of hurt’ and move on, but not necessarily forget (this depends on the severity of the action taken against you). Some studies have found that those who forgive “had less anger, less stress, less rumination and lowered reactivity in comparison to those who held onto their anger and pain” . Harris, A. H., Luskin, F.M., Benisovich, S.V., Standard, S., & Thoresen, C. (2001). Effects of Group Forgiveness Intervention on Perceived Stress, State and Trait, Anger, Symptoms of Stress, Self-Reported Health and Forgiveness. Journal of Clinical Psychology 62 (6), 715-733.
Forgiveness does not always involve an outward action toward the one who hurt you; sometimes the other person in the event is no longer here or is not accessible. Rather, forgiveness might include a heartfelt conversation with yourself about your feelings of resentment/anger, a reflection on the specific experience, a willingness to mentally forgive the person and then sticking with that forgiveness and not slipping back into the hurt. This is not easy to do, especially for the big things that really wound us to the core. True forgiveness may take several attempts for the steps to be effective. Patience is a virtue in this instance for sure.
I think Dr. Allen Hunt, a nationally known author and speaker, says it quite well. “Forgiveness produces healing and a path forward. The key to forgiveness opens the door to a new future”, from his book Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody.
Who do you need to forgive? Can you take a step forward today in the process so that you can begin the healing process?
The picture of this full moon doesn’t really convey the absolute beauty of the night, but the idea is there. I just had to stop, get out of the car and capture the image. My day had been a little off kilter, but seeing the beauty and magic of this moon capped my day with a tender feeling that all was well.
Isn’t it funny how something so simple can do that for us? I wonder in any given day how many instances of beauty we miss? It is a lot like GRACE that I wrote about earlier…..we have to open our hearts and our minds to beauty and GRACE.
So, how do we get an ‘open heart and mind’ to see and feel these moments? I think it begins with a POSITIVE approach to life rather than being negative. This means we have to ‘ditch’ the old mantras of self-bashing and the recreating of unhealthy past scenarios. These two negatives will block one from being able to see, feel and fully experience the wonders of beauty and GRACE. For sure, other’s words and behaviors can be hurtful and sometimes we love to hang on to them. (How dare he/she talk to me like that!) However, this only serves to wound us and distort our thinking in negative ways. Cognitive behaviorist’s suggest that we engage in consciously using positive mantras/remembrances each time the negatives we are holding pop up.
For me, another important approach to an open heart and mind is being grateful for what I have and accepting myself for who I am in this chapter. After all, I am still a work in progress! Being able to accept yourself for where you are and how you got there gives you ownership and blaming others will not be a part of who you are. Gratitude for what I have been given and not pining away for what my friend has, or I think he/she has, leaves one’s heart and mind space to see, feel and experience those moments of beauty and GRACE. I spend a few moments every morning verbalizing what I am grateful for and asking for the GRACE to remain grateful.
This is one of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
At the end of your day, think about any moments of beauty you experienced and how it felt in your heart.
SEASONS CHANGE: ENCORE YEARS
Just as the change of seasons usher in new temperatures, colors and general weather, so also are the seasons of our lives. The season of youth is a time of great experimentation and learning, hopefully, gaining wisdom as we move toward adulthood. Adulthood brings its own challenges as we learn to navigate the world we live in without constant supervision and guidance. We learn to make our own choices and suffer the consequences, be they positive or negative. Live and learn becomes the motto.
We have a season of career where we stretch ourselves to become the best that we can be, continue learning, and gain upward mobility, possibly recognition for our contributions. Most importantly one would hope to find a peace with their career choice and a true love of what they do each day. At the end of this season, we move into our retirement years, or as I like to call them, Encore Years. For me, it means that once again I stretch myself to learn new things, experience events I have always wanted to do, learn more about the world through travel, grab as many moments as I can with family, and sit with my morning cup of tea.
For me, ‘sitting with the morning cup of tea’ includes prayer, meditation and reflection, thinking about living in this present day and letting tomorrow take care of itself. Sometimes present moment living is easier said than done and requires some contemplation and practice. I am still a work in progress on that one!
Here are some other things that show up for me in this new season of Encore Years:
- Breathing in the wonderful smells of nature as I do my slow walking.
- Chewing my food slowly to discern all the wonderful flavors.
- Taking in the gifts of my grandchildren in their smiles, hugs and their beings.
- Basking in sunshine any day I can for at least 20 minutes, even if it is cold out.
- Smiling at as many people as I can each day.
- Not cooking everyday, but when I do, relishing the recipe and the challenge.
- Being able to take days of ‘retreat’ to sort of disappear from life and drive to a new destination of a place I have always wanted to visit.
- Reading a great book every night instead of preparing for work the next day.
- Changing how I dress from the corporate look to a casual, comfortable but sometimes elegant mode.
- Last but not least, counting my blessings daily and being grateful for each and every moment in the day.
“Change is one of God’s greatest gifts and most useful tools” from Shauna Niequist, author.
Where are you in the season of change? What do you want to do next to enhance your current season?
There are several meanings of the word GRACE, one of which is ‘unmerited Divine assistance given to humans’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It is freely given and filled with numerous blessings. It cannot be earned, stolen, nor is it based on our worthiness. GRACE …. just is simply GRACE with no attachments, surrounding us, waiting for us to be aware of GRACE, experience it, and use it.
I recently had lunch with a dear friend and we were talking about prayer and how we have developed our prayer life and changes we have added/deleted over time. She reminded me that we should include asking for GRACE in our daily prayers. As I pondered our conversation on the drive home, I realized that I have sort of been taking for granted that I am praying for GRACE automatically in my prayers, that it is an all inclusive deal in prayer. However, as I thought more about this, I realized I am wrong about that. I need to specifically ask for GRACE …….and so I started doing just that. It has been interesting to me to note that a few things have happened in the last couple of weeks that I believe were the direct result of the Lord answering my prayer for GRACE.
Our response to GRACE is to live our days here on earth showing GRACE to others with a sense of gratitude, generosity and kind gentleness with those we come in contact with. Our heart and soul can be filled with as much GRACE as we can be aware of. There is no limit. But we must indeed return it to others in our world and beyond in all ways.
“Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of grace” ( Carly Fiorina, American business woman and author).
Write down your moments of GRACE each day for five days and then review at the end of that time. I am sure you will find “Amazing Grace”.