Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Well it’s over….almost.  Not the end of the world, as some had expected, but the end of another year nonetheless.  Like everyone else, I’m trying to figure where it went.  I’m really happy that someone thought to invent calendars (and also colanders, which can come in handy for lots of things, but that will have to wait).

Did you ever think what it would be like to live on Jupiter?  Besides always being blown about by that awful cyclone (perpetual bad hair days worse than Florida), you could only do the Auld Lang Syne song every 4,330 days. We’d be hearing things like, “It’s been a busy year. I graduated from college, got married, got divorced, gave birth to four children, moved three times and went through five jobs and three new cars.” Of course, some of you can say that now, but you are considered nutty. On Jupiter you would be accepted.

Or maybe if we lived on Mercury, where a year is only 88 days…. we’d only have to pay the rent three times a year (and report cards would come out only once!)  And if you didn’t get what you wanted for your birthday, oh well…..“I’ll just wait for the next one” (though I’d be something like 232 years old by now, which is not okay).

Twelve is a good number.  It’s long enough to accomplish something big, but short enough to get through if things are not going well. All in all, my year went extremely well and I hope yours did too. It ended with trips to Iowa and Georgia to be with friends and family. We grieved together, laughed together, held the babies, gained weight but didn’t care, slid on ice, sat by the fire, hugged, and wished we all lived closer together. I think my children and I traveled by car and plane about 4500 miles in December.

How far would that be in Jupiter miles?

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I’m sitting here watching Daffodil trying to open presents, waiting for Ted and Leah to arrive. Tomorrow morning we’re flying to Iowa to be with family and attend the funeral. I spent some time this weekend just vegging, thinking about the tragedy in Newtown, the loss of my children’s grandmother, the homeless lady who walks my streets, and (here’s a new one) the spot that was just discovered on my friend’s father’s lung.

I have felt the gamut of emotions, as I’m sure you have also.  Let’s name them:

Me:  Sorrow

You:  Outrage

Me:  Fear

You:  Confusion

Me:  Compassion

You:  Confusion

Me:  You already said that one.

You:  Oh….how ‘bout hatred?

Me:  That’s a strong one. What about shame?

You:  Why are you feeling shame?

Me:  I’m not exactly sure. I think I feel ashamed that I complain so much. Not out loud, but to God. I’m never satisfied.  I want all my dreams to come true. ALL of them. That kind of thinking seems vulgar right now, in light of all the pain in Connecticut……and the rest of the world..

You:  You’re right.  Have you considered counting your blessings and asking for contentment?

Me:  Duh!  But this weekend when I’ve tried to talk to God,  I’ve been kind of frozen. Unfocused, unable to speak to Him. I keep thinking of David’s prayer, “Search me O Lord and know my heart,” or something like that. So I’ve just been saying the same thing….Search my heart. I know He knows what‘s in there; the good, bad and ugly.  Words aren’t working, but it’s okay.

You:  I’ll be praying for you in Iowa.

Me:  Thanks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Gift

I love surprises…and presents…and presents that are surprises. The day of my Christmas party I heard the doorbell ring when I wasn’t expecting anyone. It’s absolutely glorious to open the door and see the UPS man driving away. He should have a sleigh with reindeer, but then I suppose Rudolf’s nose would have to be BROWN.

There was a little package on the porch floor……from Ten Thousand Villages. Do you know that place? It’s a fair trade company that sells hand made items from artisans in developing countries. I visited a retail store in PA  four years ago, but they have them all over the country.  I love that place! It has such interesting stuff!

Now who could be sending me an early Christmas present from one of my favorite stores?  Hmmmmmm…..the mystery was part of the present. I didn’t open the package right away. I wanted to savor the not-knowing. I let at least 30 seconds pass before I slit it open. There was a little box enclosed and of course the invoice which revealed the name of the sender.

I lifted the flaps of the box and found bright red tissue paper resting on my surprise like cardinal wings on a sacred nest.   I waited….. waited …. I found my phone and took a picture.  I imagined, I envisioned, I thought about how this was the last few moments in history I would not know what eggs lay under those feathers.  I would never have this experience again…about this one gift……this one suspenseful, beautifully agonizing point of time (btw, I have time for thinking like this. You don’t…if you’re married, have children, or work for a living, but you should think like this anyway).

I stared at it a while longer til I couldn’t stand it, then slowly lifted the paper. First one wing,  pause….. then the other.  A gift….delicate….non-pretentious….personal.  Nothing could have been more perfect at that moment.

Christmas is making me introspective and more emotional than usual.  And so is the waiting on news about my mother-in-law in Iowa.  Any day now,  the doctor says.  Her box has been opened and her trembling fingers have grasped the red paper. I know that even in her sorrow, she’s feeling anticipation and maybe even exhilaration to be leaving behind the mundane and familiar, and setting out for glory;  peeling back the last few layers, seeing the blessed hope take shape through the haze.  Wow!  Every other experience in life must pale in comparison (except maybe childbirth which is the mirror image).

We grieve our loss as she takes hold of the prize.  She knows the Giver and she is about to realize the Gift.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Party Surprise

Or homeless.....
There are two things that I think and pray about these days. Thing number one is a meaningful ministry that will take me outside myself, make me grateful for all I have, consume my extra time and energy, and keep me from thinking about thing number two…which is my aloneness.

When my friend Louise was single for several years,  she dated here and there (I think I set her up a couple of times but nooooooo!….she was hard to please!)  She finally told God that if He wanted her to marry, He should bring a man to her doorstep. And yes, just as you’re thinking, He did just that.  I’ll tell you the story another time.

So as I was praying this week I debated whether to be as bold as Louise.  I’ve dated a good bit this year, tried on some really nice guys (not literally, you pervert!) but none seemed to fit just right. I was thinking I should just stop dating until someone appears on my doorstep.

So imagine my overwhelming surprise last night when, as my Christmas party set out to carol in the neighborhood, there standing right in front of my house watching curiously and wanting to join in was………..a homeless woman!  (I know, you were hoping it was going to be a knight. So was I).

Anyway, we invited her to come along. She said we had made her day, which I suspect was an understatement. She took a songbook, told us her name and we all welcomed her warmly into the choir. No audition was required.

As we rounded the block, we noticed two young women watching from a second story balcony. We stopped,  circled up and broke into a chorus of  Hark the Herald…..or was it O Little Town? We called for the girls to come join us and one of them made a mad dash for the stairs and popped out the door.

Now get this………the young woman, a Christian who just moved in a month ago, knew three members of our group AND she knew the homeless lady. She had ministered to her at a homeless shelter in a different part of the county.

They both finished caroling with us then came back to my house for yummies and the Chinese (er…..guess I should say Asian) gift exchange. When everyone else went home, they lingered and the three of us got better acquainted.  We agreed we wanted to meet up again.  I’m meeting Sunday with the younger woman to discuss ways of helping the homeless woman.

I’m not trying to make too much out of this.  I’m just wondering and anticipating what comes next. And, at least for today, thing number two doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I cracked under pressure. I’m not proud of this and I don’t want to talk about it.   The old traditional decorations are still going to Leah (she asked for them), but I decided I’m not quite ready to be the eccentric old lady in the yellow bungalow who puts up a tree with no ornaments. So I went shopping for a new theme, a new idea for Christmas trees yet to come. First stop: Pier One. I was no sooner in the door but I had an epiphany.

BELLS!!!!! I love bells! I have always loved bells! Bells will be the theme of my new tree and my new Christmases.  My favorite carol is I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day. It’s actually part of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War. His wife had died, his son had joined the union army, all was dark and hopeless:

Then in despair I bowed my head.
“There is no peace on Earth,” I said.
     “For hate is strong
      And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
“God is not dead nor doth He sleep.
      The Wrong shall fail,
      The Right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Bells will have this meaning for me. Hope, Joy, Renewal. Bells in different colors, different sizes and shapes, from different countries or traditions. A tree ringing out a message! A few now, a few more next year, a vision for years to come.

And just when you think your troubles are behind you and you’re going to have yourself a Merry Little Christmas…. you get the phone call.

My beloved mother-in-law is failing fast. She was diagnosed with leukemia about the same time Greg got sick, seven years ago.  Her blood counts are too low to measure, her lungs have filled with fluid, she has a high fever. Her good fight is coming to its inevitable end. She will soon hear bells of unimaginable splendor….Hope, Joy, Renewal on a scale I can’t begin to fathom.

We are a family who often gets our grief delivered in December, never wrapped in pretty paper but always marked “Fragile”.  Greg spent the holidays of 2007 in Hospice, and my father passed in early December many years ago.  A part of me feels thrown to the ground, tripped up again by sorrow. Will it ever end? Is there really a point in trying to capture this Christmas Spirit thing with so much sadness everywhere?

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep….”  I just have to look on my beautiful
Christmas tree for the answer!