Friends, Religion, Uncategorized

Silent Night, Holy Night

Last night we went with friends to a Christmas sing-along at Wolf Trap, where we sat outside on the lawn, bundled in blankets and coats to sing Christmas carols with thousands of other people who came to kick off the holiday season.

lawn

With all the bad news of the world swirling around us, it was a gift to be in a peaceful place with a massive group of kind, generous people singing songs of joy.

At the end of the evening, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band led us in singing Silent Night by candlelight.

While violence and fear have been pressing down on us, for a couple hours on a Saturday evening, peace and comfort reigned as a crowd of strangers huddled together in groups of families and friends holding candles in the dark sang about a silent, holy night when all was calm and bright.

IMG_5798

I was reminded again today that despite the horrific news and worldly strife, we can find peace when we seek it.

wolf trap

A dear friend, Ann, gave me a beautiful and precious book by Charles Dickens called “The Life of Our Lord” written for his children during the years 1846 to 1849.

This was a personal book that Dickens never wanted published. It was meant as a tender gift for his children to teach them about his love of Jesus Christ.

book

His great, great grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens finally decided it needed to be shared with the world in 1934 because it shares his grandfather’s faith, “which was simple and deeply held. And, “Above all else, it tells of his relationship with his family — my family,” he said.

If I I were to write something of singular importance to my family, it too would have to be based on my belief in the reality and power of our true Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Charles Dickens wrote to his children, “I am anxious that that you should know something about the history of Jesus Christ.

“For everybody ought to know about him.

“No one ever lived who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in any way ill or miserable…”

Dickens recounts Christ’s birth, life, miracles, parables, death, resurrection and ultimate hope He embodies and stresses what seems to matter most to him.

While explaining Christ’s miracles, he said, “I wish you would remember that word, [miracle] because I shall use it again, and I would like you to know that it means something which is very wonderful and which could not be done without God’s leave and assistance.”

“For God had given Jesus Christ the power to do such wonders; and He did them that people might know He was not a common man, and might believe what He taught them and also believe that God had sent Him. And, people, hearing this, and hearing that He cured the sick, did begin to believe in Him; and great crowds followed Him in the streets and on the roads, wherever He went.”

He told his children how Christ chose disciples from among the poor so that he could show that “Heaven was made for them as well as for the rich, and that God makes no difference between those who wear good clothes and those who go barefoot and in rags. The most miserable, the most ugly, deformed, wretched creatures that live, will be bright Angels in Heaven if they are good here on earth.”

Never forget this when you are grown up,” he urged them.

Never be proud or unkind, my dears, to any poor man, woman, or child. If they are bad, think they would have been better if they had had kind friends, and good homes, and had been better taught. So, always try to make them better by kind persuading words; and always try to teach them and relieve them if you can. And when people speak ill of the poor and the miserable, think how Jesus Christ went among them, and taught them, and thought them worthy of His care. And always pity them yourselves, and think as well of them as you can.”

Let us never forget,” he wrote, “what the poor widow did.” In other words, give all you can even if it means you have to sacrifice something for yourself.

Remember! — It is Christianity TO DO GOOD, always — even to those who do evil to us.”

As we enjoy the Christmas season, I hope as we can follow Dickens’ personal pleas to his family to Never Forget and Remember Jesus Christ — our true gift .

 

 

Uncategorized

Ho Ho Ho

I started to write a Christmas blog but as I wrote, I felt like I’d written it somewhere before.

A little search of my blog pulled up this timeless beauty.

So, instead of rewriting, I’m reposting…

My mom called me last week to see what I want for Christmas.

When asked that question, I instinctively think, “What do I need?”

Then nothing comes to mind.

I don’t need anything.

But what do you want? Mom asked.

Doug’s Dad says you should never buy people what they need.

Instead, he believes you should give impractical, unexpected gifts.

(Note: This comes from a man who also believes you should fall asleep every night savoring a piece of milk chocolate because “There’s nothing like sleeping with your throat coated in chocolate.” He also has false teeth, so take that into consideration before following his advice.)

So, what do I want for Christmas that I don’t need?

I couldn’t think of anything I wanted that could be presented to me in a box on Christmas morning.

I decided I wanted my Mom to buy a beautiful wreath and place it on my Dad’s grave with a note that said, “Merry Christmas, Dad. Thanks for teaching me the joy of giving.”

She resisted, saying that wasn’t a “real” gift for me.

But, today, when I talked to her, she told me she gave me my gift.20121210-194105.jpg

She went to the cemetery and displayed my wreath, and will go back tomorrow to attach my note.

And, I believe, somehow, my Dad will know it’s there, and he will appreciate it.

When I was a little girl, my Dad was the Jaycee president.

I thought he was famous because everybody in town knew him and he always seemed to have his picture in the paper.

He also managed to orchestrate the most amazing, magical arrival of Santa Claus I’ve ever seen.

Whether it was really all his doing, I don’t want to know.

In my mind, my dad had Santa land in the middle of town in a helicopter.

One night before Christmas, Dad came home and gathered our family around the kitchen table and told us about the Sub for Santa program.

He had a piece of paper with the name of a family on it and listed the gender and age of all the children and what they wanted for Christmas.

“We need to help Santa this year because this family can’t afford Christmas gifts.”

I will never forget the feeling I had that night as I listened to him tell us about that family.

I loved the idea that we could secretly help Santa Claus and make another family happy.

We all excitedly talked about how we could help.

I went into my room and found a brand new doll.

I ran back downstairs and showed her to my Dad.

“That’s a great start,” he said.

He showed me the little girl’s wish list and said she was my age.

He asked if I could go shopping with my mom to get the other gifts she wanted.

I couldn’t wait. The idea of helping Santa made me want to burst with excitement.

Sub for Santa became a tradition in our family, and one way or another, we always found ways of giving to others.

The first thing my Dad did on Christmas morning was make secret deliveries to people in town who said were “down on their luck.”

We waited for him to come home and then ran into the living room to see what Santa left for us.

My parents taught me that the best gifts are often the good feelings that come from our own giving and not just from the gifts we receive.

I’m happy my Mom agreed to my Christmas request and delivered the wreath and a note on my Dad’s grave.

That is a true gift to me.

And proof that the best gifts don’t always come in a box.

Family, From the News, Parenting, Relationships

Trying to Find Words of Comfort

Last night I heard on the news that a post office box has been set up to receive condolence letters for the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

I felt like I should send notes to the grieving parents. But, what could I possibly write?

What words of condolence could I share that could uplift these heartbroken, bereaved families?

On September 11, when I heard that terrorists had attacked our nation, I immediately drove to the elementary school to pick up my children.

The principal met me at the door and asked me to let them stay in school because it was the safest place for them. The school was in “lock down” mode and the principal wanted the children to stay in classes and return home on the bus as usual. Then, parents could explain the events of the day to them after they’d had time to process it themselves.

I saw the wisdom in the principal’s words and went home without my two daughters. They were in the safest place for them at that time, I kept telling myself.

Those words have haunted me for the past week because the children in Sandy Hook Elementary were thought to be in one of the safest places for them. Most children spend the bulk of their time at home or in school, and both places are supposed to be safe havens for them.

Parents worry about their children every time they walk out the door — even when they leave for school. But, for most of us, school shootings of the magnitude experienced in Newtown, Connecticut are beyond our fears because they are so utterly evil that we can’t let our worries even go to that extreme.

So when I think of those bewildered parents in Connecticut, and see them on television or read their words in the newspaper, my heart literally hurts. I know what it’s like to have your normal breathing pattern halted, and I wonder when they will breathe normally again, and when will their goals of survival stretch beyond a mere second at a time?

I want to console them but I am lost for words.

We went to the Kennedy Center Monday night to see “An Enchanted Christmas” performance by The Choral Arts Society of Washington.
As we sat in the Concert Hall listening to and singing Christmas carols, I thought of the peaceful feelings and the spirit of warmth that enveloped that beautiful roomful of strangers.
IMG_1741

Then I thought of the people in Connecticut and wished I could transport the sweet serenity that fell upon us in that Hall to Newtown, and just wrap the entire town up in a cocoon of safety and love.

Yesterday, we went to the White House and marveled over the gorgeous holiday decorations and listened to a children’s choir sing “Still, Still, Still,” one of my favorite Christmas songs – “Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow…”
IMG_1790

As we left the White House, we noticed all the flags at half-staff, and again I wished so deeply that just one of the peaceful still moments I’ve experienced this week could float in a cloud to Connecticut and hover there for months to come dropping heavenly dews of tender mercies on the heartbroken, devastated people there who are just trying to get their bearings.

US Navy 040609-F-3050V-009 The U.S. flag atop ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance…”

Deliverance is what I want for them.

I guess if I were to send a letter to the new post office box, I’d say something like this:

“To all the families, friends and loved ones affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy:

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I won’t pretend to understand what you are going through, but I want you to know, I love you. I pray for you. My heart breaks just knowing of your unfathomable loss and acute sorrow.

I know the deep, unparalleled love that parents have for their children, and that just the fear of losing them is unbearable.

So, my urgent and heartfelt prayers on your behalf are that during this time of sadness and bewilderment that God will swoop you up and cradle you like a child in his arms, just like he is cradling your little ones. And, that you will feel his love, warmth, understanding, and compassion and know that his heart beats in sympathy with yours.

I know your lives have been permanently altered, but I also know there is a God who lives and loves you, a God who can and will carry you through this, a God who welcomed your babies home and healed their wounds instantly, and one who will heal yours too.

While I’m sure you feel utterly alone, there are good-hearted people all around the world kneeling in prayer and pleading with the heavens on your behalf.

I wish my words had the power to elevate your grieving souls and to assure you that while your heads hang down in sorrow now, they will rise up in joy again. You will be reunited with your children one day and your joy will be exquisite. I hope you will all faithfully live for that day.”

Sometimes our words are all we have, and yet, they are so inadequate and can seem so empty at times like this. I can only hope that when I send my words skyward that God will hear them and send these dear families the healing balm that they so desperately need.

Check out this beautiful piece by Jeff Benedict http://www.ldsliving.com/story/71249-jeff-benedict-witnessing-grief-and-compassion-in-newtown

Family

The Joy of Giving

My mom called me last week to see what I want for Christmas.

When asked that question, I instinctively think, “What do I need?”

Then nothing comes to mind.

I don’t need anything.

But what do you want? Mom asked.

Doug’s Dad says you should never buy people what they need.

christmas-gift
(Photo credit: top10things)

Instead, he believes you should give impractical, unexpected gifts.

(Note: This comes from a man who also believes you should fall asleep every night savoring a piece of milk chocolate because “There’s nothing like sleeping with your throat coated in chocolate.” He also has false teeth, so take that into consideration before following his advice.)

Chocolate Kiss
Chocolate Kiss (Photo credit: alykat)

So, what do I want for Christmas that I don’t need?

I couldn’t think of anything I wanted that could be presented to me in a box on Christmas morning.

I decided I wanted my Mom to buy a beautiful wreath and place it on my Dad’s grave with a note that said, “Merry Christmas, Dad. Thanks for teaching me the joy of giving.”

She resisted, saying that wasn’t a “real” gift for me.

But, today, when I talked to her, she told me she gave me my gift.
20121210-194105.jpg
She went to the cemetery and displayed my wreath, and will go back tomorrow to attach my note.

And, I believe, somehow, my Dad will know it’s there, and he will appreciate it.

When I was a little girl, my Dad was the Jaycee president.

I thought he was famous because everybody in town knew him and he always seemed to have his picture in the paper.

He also managed to orchestrate the most amazing, magical arrival of Santa Claus I’ve ever seen.

He had him land in the middle of town in a helicopter!

Santa arrives in New Orleans
(Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

One night before Christmas, Dad came home and gathered our family around the kitchen table and told us about the Sub for Santa program.

He had a piece of paper with the name of a family on it and listed the gender and age of all the children and what they wanted for Christmas.

“We need to help Santa this year because this family can’t afford Christmas gifts.”

I will never forget the feeling I had that night as I listened to him tell us about that family.

I loved the idea that we could secretly help Santa Claus and make another family happy.

We all excitedly talked about how we could help.

I went into my room and found a brand new doll.

I wondered why I never played with her.

I decided it was because she needed to be saved for another little girl who might need her more than I did.

I ran back downstairs and showed her to my Dad. He agreed that maybe I’d saved her because someone else needed to have her more than me.

He showed me the little girl’s wish list and said she was my age.

He asked if I could go shopping with my mom to get the other gifts she wanted.

I couldn’t wait. The idea of helping Santa made me want to burst with excitement.

Sub for Santa became a tradition in our family, and one way or another; we always found ways of giving to others.

The first thing my Dad did on Christmas morning was make secret deliveries to people in town who said were “down on their luck.”

We waited for him to come home and then ran into the living room to see what Santa left for us.

My parents taught me that the best gifts are often the good feelings that come from our own giving and not just from the gifts we receive.

I’m happy my Mom agreed to my Christmas request and delivered the wreath and a note on my Dad’s grave.

That is a true gift to me.

And proof that the best gifts don’t always come in a box.

Uncategorized

Christmas Wisdom

Last year after Christmas, I wrote a list of things to remember for this Christmas.

christmas 2007
(Photo credit: paparutzi)

Today I pulled it out to remind myself what to watch out for this Christmas:

1. Don’t get sucked into the world’s view of Christmas. Christmas will never be cinema-land perfect and trying to make it that way will just end up making you feel exhausted and disappointed.

2. Don’t over decorate. Just because it looks Christmasy, doesn’t mean it needs to be displayed.

3. Don’t overeat. Have a plan for getting through the holidays without gaining weight.

4. Remember “stuff” fades, memories last.

5. Some people won’t have a gift to unwrap at Christmas. Think about who they are and give them a wrapped gift.

6. Some people need groceries. Put a bag on someone’s porch or place a grocery store gift card in their mailbox anonymously.

7. Give people fruit, a waffle mix, a chicken pot pie or some new dish towels instead of sugary treats.

Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie (Photo credit: Renée S.)

Golden peanut brittle ready to enjoy.

8. Remember that on Christmas morning, there will be a lot of crumpled wrapping paper, empty boxes, and ribbons and a few small piles of what, in the end, is just stuff.  Everyone will take their stuff, assimilate it with their other stuff, and it will become ordinary in a matter of minutes. What will linger will be the moments of closeness, laughter, and the time we took to remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Family

Goodbye Summer

Summer 2012.

It’s officially over.

My girls have returned to college.

The house is quiet.

The bedrooms are clean.

The junk food is tossed.

Tonight will just be dinner for two.

My house feels like one of those deflated Snowman decorations at Christmas time.

You know, the ones that stand all puffy and bright at night, and then collapse into a big heap at the end of the night?

It’s not a bad thing.

It just takes some getting used to.

So to cheer myself up today, I’m going to list some of the things I won’t miss…

(Brace yourselves girls.)

  1. “Dance Moms” blaring from the TV.  Who invented this show and what is wrong with them? Who wants to watch a loudmouthed dance teacher yell at pretty little ballerinas and make them cry? And who cares about all the melodramatic mothers that like to fight with each other?  The minute I hear those screeching voices in my house, I cringe, complain and ask, “Why do you watch this show?” Well, now that you’re away at college, watch away girls. Fill your minds with that uplifting, educational program all you want.  I will thoroughly enjoy never hearing those carping voices again…until Christmas, at least.
  2.  “Criminal Minds” marathons. I admit I’m fascinated by crime solvers, and enamored with Hotchner, Derek, Reid and Garcia, but watching shows about sick, twisted murderers for hours on end can be disturbing. And you know the addiction has gone too far when you accidentally come across a quiz online that says, “Find out which Criminal Minds character you’re most like,” and you take it. Just for the record, I’m most like Spencer Reid, who is a genius, just saying.
  3. Sweet Frog frozen yogurt runs. Okay, I really will miss these little outings but it’s time to stay away from that place. A woman my age can only have so much pomegranate or strawberry yogurt with bits of fruit and even bigger bits of candy.

Now that I’ve reminded myself of what I won’t miss, I’m feeling a bit more cheery.

So, now, I think I’ll erase all the programs from the DVR that I don’t like.

I’ll gaze at the carpet in the bedrooms that I haven’t seen all summer.

And, I’ll dream of going to the beach in a few weeks while both of them are hitting the books.

Ah, Carolina Beach Retreat is waiting…

I’ll get by just fine, you’ll see.

Being an empty nester has its good points.

I loved summer 2012, and I’ll miss having a full, busy house.

But when I have those lonely moments, I’ll reread this list and make myself feel better.