Thursday, December 23, 2010
Christmas is not just a magical time of year filled full of bright lights, candy canes and gifts we receive under the tree. Christmas is a sacred time of the year. Those who are not spiritual in nature still hold the Spirit of Christmas sacred. Even if you are not one to celebrate the birth of Christ most of us honor the meaning of Christmas, the spirit of this blessed season through the giving of ourselves and of our time. Sacrifice is the main ingredient in this season of holly and mistletoe and though we may not always have much to offer most of us find a way to make what we have go a little farther, to bring joy to others and those we love.
Christmas in our home has always been a bit of homemade love, sprinkled with joy and the opening of our home to those in need of hope. As a little girl Christmas was filled with wonder … dancing lights, a sparkling tree, a warm beautiful glowing star with outside lights paving the way for Santa. I have always loved this time of year and all the festivities that come with it. One of my favorite things is to place a wreath on our door, a welcome to all who enter our home, a symbol of our unending love for one another.
Looking back our hearth has never been much but it has always brought warmth, love and harmony into our lives. We have never turned anyone away because we did not have enough. In truth I grew up in a home that knew no stranger. My parents always felt no matter how little we had we had a responsibility to share with those who had no home. I grew up learning the real meaning of charity. Though my parents never gave away hand outs, they did give to those in need, many times doing without themselves. They rose to the challenge more often than not and yes they did go without many times, but they always gave with a servant’s heart.
Our home was always open, and no one was ever turned away no matter how little we had. I can remember many times giving my bed up so someone else who did not have one could sleep warm in a bed for the night. I grew up in a home with kindled hearth, warm and full of joy, where I was taught this love of life and charity should be shared. So as I look toward this Christmas, I feel am blessed to have my family by my side to share these beautiful festivities no matter how big or small with each of them.
We have had bountiful years and scarce years, yet through each of them I have never felt as if we did not have enough to share. I have watched my parents sacrifice and honor the Lord in their lives on a daily basis. I have seen them offer all they have including their home, their vehicles and the food on their table through the years. Yes I have seen some judge them, look down upon them and condemn them because they have not responded with an iron fist to those in need of God’s grace and mercy. Yet in spite of it all, I have seen the love of God in their lives shine through even the darkest night. Love, mercy , grace and charity, all fruits of the spirit, growing bountifully in their lives, bringing hope and joy to those whom many see as hopeless.
This year, in keeping with the tradition my parents began, we will open our home and our hearts to those we love. We will sit down to a bountiful meal together surrounded by family and friends we hold dear. We will offer our humble home and give thanks for the many blessings God has given us this year, including the roof over our heads, , the blessings of a table to gather around, the food offered upon the very same table, a place to rest our heads and the gifts under our tree, but most of all for the very breathe we take on Christmas day.
So this Christmas my friends, I offer up this prayer for you: May you find peace, happiness and joy in this season. May you know God’s peace, a deep, internal joy which comes from selflessness and sacrifice. May you rest in His hands, knowing each day we are given is a gift. May you hold the gift of the Magi in your hearts and embrace today my friend holding true to the Spirit of this Season each and every day of the New Year.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
When the Fates step in, they can bring many things our way...beauty, joy, sadness, death or a mixture of emotions for that matter. We may feel she has not been fair to us, given us the short end of the stick or maybe we are left standing on green pastures rather than infertile land. Maybe they bring goodness and kindness our way today rather than the fear and worry of yesterday. Either way, if we are relying on the Fate alone to chart our path, then we are gambling with our lives and with our joy, happiness and the inner peace we find in knowing our lives are in God’s hands.
Now does this mean we are always happy where God is leading us or some kind of angelic peace takes over the worry our lives create? Nope, not at all, life is tough. No one is given an easy road even if they are born into what appears to the outside world as perfect. Money, material things and beauty are not the answer nor are they the key to finding happiness.
Happiness, true happiness comes from another place, a deeper, sometimes darker place we don’t like to enter. Sometimes, we have to lose it all, feel the cold on our face to feel the warmth inside our heart burn. Happiness is not a place; you cannot set your sails in a set direction and expect to find her there. No happiness is a way of life, a way of looking past the harsh circumstances surrounding our lives and still finding a reason to smile.
Is this an easy thing to do? Oh no, it is most certainly not! I know because I often have to remind myself to stop daydreaming about the what if’s. I am not always thrilled with how my day has turned out or even how my year has gone BUT when I stop, take a moment to look at the love, the hope and the joy not only surrounding my life, but actively partaking in my daily living I realize how blessed I truly am.
Yes cancer has taken a toll on us. The beast has grabbed us by our throats and squeezed as tightly as possible. She has striped us of many things including the certainty of the future we thought we had ahead of us. Yet, this has not been such a rotten deal in all because what fate has allowed, God has used for the good. I am a blessed today to say I am a breast cancer survivor. I am alive, I have today, I have my family, and friends who stand beside me, a home, not just a house, and a life I was never guaranteed. Seriously friends if tomorrow does not come my way, if I did not wake to another day, I would meet my God, not fate, embracing His peace knowing I have lived in the fullness of His grace.
Yes when the Fates step in our lives are typically turned upside down, but with a little faith, hope and contentment our lives can turn around in ways we never knew possible. So my friends, when times get tough, when life seems to pull you along a bumpy road, when you wade through the mud, the muck or high waters know this: You are not alone! Yes the Fates may be weaving their threads, ready to cut what appears to be your life line, making every part of your life appear lost on the surface. You may feel hopeless but if you can step back, look a little further in the distance and let your heart burn strong, stroking the fire within your spirit and allow God’s grace to engulf your soul, you will find a personal peace like none else.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Over this last weekend my parents treated the whole family to Disney’s Tangled. After checking times and deciding which theater we were going to Johnny and I made our way with kids in tow to meet my parents at our local mall on Sunday. Truthfully it has been a while since we have all been to the movies so I was very excited about this little adventure of ours. You know how it goes… the giant movie posters lined up in a row, the smell of popcorn and the excitement of grabbing the best seats in the house makes going to the movies a real adventure for most of us.
So with our tickets, popcorn and drinks in hand we found our seats and waited for the lights to go down so we could be transported to a land far, far away.
Alright you are tangled up in Tangled right? You are asking yourself, with two boys, seriously, a princess movie? Well truthfully it’s not so bad allowing the men in your life a movie from time to time where the hero trips over his own feet, learns a little humility, some loyalty and finds sacrifice is worth the cost of finding your dreams along the way.
Honestly this was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Yes we could have been watching a shoot’em up, chase them around the block, knock’em out blockbuster, but why? Our little fairytale was just our speed in a day we were driving in the slow lane. As we watched the story unfold we were all laughing, giggling, and awing, though I was the only one crying at the end as I always do. Just one look in my boys direction and I got the “MOM” look and a tissue handed to me.
I have this knack for getting lost in movies. I get wrapped up in the emotion because no matter what the situation is I am able to apply it to my own life. I can see the parallel, the twist and the reflection in my own world. I can see how each and every story has something to teach me in my own life. So when the big scene came with the lanterns I was blown away.
I love this scene because it reminds me of all the lives touched by cancer, whether as survivor or as loved ones lost to us. The lights for me represented much more than a beautiful scene or a touching moment. No for me those beautiful lanterns called out to my heart, spoke to my soul, and shed light on the journey we take together as we work to overcome the beast. Each lantern was symbolic of hope. With each one lit and set free a journey was etched out across the sky, a loved one remembered, a hope which echoed throughout the night, lighting the darkness and a blazing a trail just for her, leading Rapunzel home. All this was for her, to guide her, to call to her and to ensure she knew she was not alone or forgotten… she just didn’t know it yet.
What about the rest of the story? Well as it unfolds we find our Princess, lost, scared, but she was still strong. She was told she could not rise to meet the challenges of the outside world and yet here she was walking around with a frying pan no less tackling the ups and downs of a world she had only glimpsed through a window. In her escape from the tower this princess had ceased the day, taken the night by storm, fought her guilt and grabbed hold of her own destiny. She didn’t know she was a lost princess, but she knew she was destined for greatness. She knew those lights in the night sky, appearing only one night a year, on her birthday, had a purpose and she was determined to find out what.
You’re asking how this movie can possibly apply to my life well this is how:
We all get tangled up in our own lives don’t we? We plan to go here, to do this, to save a little money for a rainy day or to pick up the phone and call a loved one… one day. But life gets in the way. We get caught up in the day to day living of life and before we know it we are locked away in a tower cooking, cleaning, reading and working while our hair (life in other words) keeps growing further and further out of control.
This poor, poor princess even after she escapes she still gets tangled up in trouble. Yet determined and while still dragging her 20 feet of hair behind her she continues to find hope and strength while overcoming the obstacles in front of her. The point is she doesn’t give up, she endures.
Life is a bit like Rapunzel's hair if you really think about it. We can swing ourselves from one branch of life to another or even help heal others with our tangled mess just like Rapunzel does after she has broken out of the tower. We can even get help wrapping it up; add decorations to disguise our tangled chaos as Rapunzel does later in the film but in the end doing all those things still does not take care of the real problem: a tangled up , out of control, chaotic mess!
Finally a moment comes which grabs us by our hair literally and we are faced with an impossible decision. We are forced to either give something away we love, to sacrifice what we think we need or continue on the path we are on. Cancer is a lot like this situation… take charge of it or let it take charge of you! Be drug off to serve the beast and suffer her wrath or allow your hair to be cut off in order to free yourself from the beast and her chains.
This is the real story, the back story if you like... filled with sacrifice, love and determination. So you ask my friend why Tangled? Well there is always more to a book than her cover is there not? So I would say to you the real lesson my boys took away with them from the theater Sunday was this very thing: hope endures.
So I ask you now my friend what about you? What will you do with your life, with the tangled knots keeping you from reaching the floating lights on the horizon? Maybe it’s time to see those old fairy tales and children’s stories through a whole new set of eyes.