Friday, December 24, 2010

STANDING HEART TO HEART AND HAND IN HAND



“God places the lonely in families . . .” Psalm 68:6a

I just returned from New York City. Neal and I spent a week enjoying the city in her Christmas finery.  If you want to see the world in one place, visit NYC. As I walked down the street I heard people conversing in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, several Indian dialects, Hungarian, and many other languages I do not recognize. And instead of the usual preoccupied rush down crowded sidewalks, people walked along the streets wearing their holiday faces—making eye contact and smiling— while carrying bright packages.

All seemed well.

However, as some of you know, this can also be the loneliest time of the year, especially for those of us who have lost someone we love through death or divorce. Maybe strained family matters separate us and this season magnifies that loss. If you know someone who is alone this Christmas and there is room at your table, why not invite that person to join your family? He or she may decline, but the invitation sends the message that this person is important and not forgotten. If you are the lonely one, maybe you can contact another person who is alone this season you and go out together.

I thought of another emotion of the season when I read a quote by Carol Nelson, “Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home.”

I get that.

Looking back when my children were small I remember all our fun traditions. We baked sugar cookies and ate most of them before they cooled enough to decorate. I’d make fudge and the kids crowded around me with spoons to “clean the pan.”  We always had a tree decorating party. While we hung ornaments — the majority of them winding up on the bottom half of the tree — we ate chips and dip, candy, cakes, egg rolls, sausage balls and drank eggnog. When the children went to bed, Neal and I enjoyed a glass of wine together and moved some of the ornaments to the top of the tree!  And then there was the many evenings spent drinking hot chocolate and watching holiday movies.

How I miss those bygone days. I could really get lonely for my little babies and our sweet times together. However, life goes on and I must move with it. I must realize the importance of making new memories with my children, children-in-love, and grandbabies.
I’m not the only one who could let nostalgia run my present. My kids miss their childhood, but they realize the importance of creating holiday magic for their own children and family.

However, there are those who cannot reconcile the joys of their past with their present. They are sad because things had to change and their regrets to rob them of opportunities to make new memories, my grandmother being one of them. How I wanted her to realize the capacity in her heart to expand with love, and not let it shrink with regret.

This is my Christmas wish for you, that you’d make this Christmas special for yourself and for others. Open your home and your heart. Let the 2010 holiday spirit of hospitality, warmth, laughter, and kindness offer hope. Dwell on the positive aspects of life and let this begin healing in your soul as well as in the souls of others.

I think Dr. Suess says it best, “Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand”

May this Christmas be a new beginning of hope in your life.

  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

THE GIFT EVERYONE REMEMBERS




“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I can’t remember what gifts I received for Christmas when I was six, but I do remember walking around the city square in Mexico, Mo with Momma and Daddy. We visited Santa and Dad told me that he believed that this Santa was the real McCoy! Not just a helper. I still remember the thrill that ran through me that night. We admired the storefront windows as well as the lights and decorations along the street. Then we went home and drank eggnog with nutmeg sprinkled on top.
Before going to bed, we all piled on the couch and sang Christmas carols. Our parakeet, Butch, bobbed his head, kissed his image in his mirror, and chirped “ack-ack-ack” with cheerful abandon.
This memory is one of thousands held in the treasure chest of my soul. It is a gift that came from a portion of my mother and father. They gave me their love, time and creativity. They also lavished me with toys, but I don’t remember anything about those. I remember our time together.
Toys and “stuff” break or get lost. What my parents gave me never breaks, gets lost, or grows old. In fact, my memories grow sweeter with time. And they remain inside me where I can play with them anytime I please.
This Christmas, remember the best gift you can give is your time. Make sweet memories for those you love. Spend time with friends and laugh a lot!
And when you do spend money on a gift, don’t forget those who are in need like the single moms and dads, those who have lost their jobs or the children who live in third world countries and only have muddy water to drink.
         This week give the gift that is priceless—yourself

Monday, December 13, 2010

THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS


“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas.” ~ Dale Evans

Christmas day is near! For me this is a joyful journey to the 25th and a springboard for the next eleven months. It is a season of renewal and a reminder of how I am to live my life throughout the year.
Every year in Northwest Arkansas Walmart holds a stockholders’ meeting. Stockholders from all over the world come to our area to attend lavish pep assemblies, visit the corporate offices, and shop the supercenters, which are decked out with huge and colorful displays in the parking lots where vendors hand out free food and small keepsakes. Celebrities are flown in to entertain them each night. When the gala is over, the stockholders are again reminded of why they have invested in the company and their loyalty is reinvigorated.

To me, this season accomplishes the same thing. Many have a negative view of this holiday saying it is politically incorrect, that it excludes all who are not “Christian.”

That is incorrect.

Actually, if we look at the origins of Christmas we will find that the early Christians didn’t celebrate it. In fact, this holiday wasn’t instituted until 2 centuries after Christ left this earth. Another thing we will find is that Jesus was born during the fall of the year, not in winter.

There are more eye-opening things about the origins of Christmas that I won’t go into here, but it is worth taking the time to study. Why? Because it proves the origin of Christmas isn’t important, it is the message that is important! Over the next few weeks, I’d like to explore the messages of Christmas and dismantle the wrong messages. 

Today I want to encourage everyone, no matter who you are or what you believe, to join in this celebration of love, generosity, hospitality, hope, and family.

 If Jesus Christ came to Northwest Arkansas to celebrate Christmas with us, I don’t think he’d expect a birthday party complete with cake. Nor would he bring celebrities. From my years of learning of and from Him, I think he would prefer to sit with us and encourage us. He’d look us in the eyes and see our souls. Peace would fill us and our ears would open. Then he’d say, “Feed the hungry, give to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help the children, open your home, love your neighbors, and love God.”

His words would penetrate our hearts and we’d feel the stress, the unrealistic expectations, and loneliness fall away. Our minds would clear and we’d recognize what really matters—people.

The colorful side of Christmas, the music, parties, food, sappy movies (I love them), sparkly lights and shiny decorations, are the fun, celebratory part of the season. It’s at this assembly of celebration where we are reminded of the message of Christmas. But it isn’t to stop on the 25th. It is to be carried out through the year.

Feed the hungry, give to the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help the children, open your home, love your neighbors, and love God.

That is something we all can do, no matter who we are or what we believe.







Monday, December 06, 2010

TIES WITH TRADITION


And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word! Tradition! ~ Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.

One of my favorite movies is Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye, the Jewish father of four daughters, suffers the inconvenience of poverty, the high drama of an all female household, and the changing times. But he tries to hold fast to the one thing that keeps his family glued together—tradition.

Tradition is passed from one generation to another through example and sharing stories. It is the golden thread woven in and through us binding us to our ancestors. We share their beliefs, social customs, and habits. That’s not to say that we never deviate or change from the beliefs of our elders, but when life gets shaky, deep within us there is a place where we find our “footing” in tradition.

I’m a southern gal who comes from a long line of women who believe food is the ultimate cure for anything. Feeding people is our tradition. Are you sick? Let me feed you. Sad? I’ll make it better with food. Happy? Let’s eat!

I remember my grandmother, a widow living alone, cooking a huge pot of soup. When it was ready, she would divide it into containers and pass it out to her neighbors.  In the spirit and from the example of my grandmother and my mom, there is always room for one more at my table.

When our children were small, Neal and I started a new tradition during the holidays. To keep them mindful that Christmas was the season for giving more than receiving, we had them choose a child’s name off an angel tree and take them shopping for that child. One year we shopped for an entire family and brought them food as well as gifts. I didn’t realize this tradition would mold my children’s characters, but it has.  They are all givers, and some are actively involved in social justice and feeding the poor.

The funny thing is that I didn’t consciously think, I’m going to teach my kids to care about the poor, the hungry, the outcasts, and the lonely. Rather, the tradition of giving and caring for others came from my grandmother and my mother. And now I see the compassion of my ancestors in my sons and daughters.

Traditions come in many forms in different families. Music, a craft, religious practices, scholarly pursuits, even the way we celebrate is all handed to us by tradition. Unfortunately, all traditions may not be good ones. The good news is that we can break with tradition, and begin anew.

It is the season when our traditions are openly shared. Take the time to participate in the traditions of others, invite them to join in yours. It is good to understand and appreciate those who are different from us.

If there is a cycle of unhealthy traditions in your life, break away and begin new ones.

Tradition—the foundation all generations can stand on. We all need them. Remember what Tevye warned, “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as . . . as a fiddler on the roof!