Thank you for stopping by my blog.

I write day after day because I discover extraordinary lessons from ordinary life experiences. I record my visual portraits of everyday life filled with something sacred in hopes that my reflections might bring an insight that blesses my readers.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

As Christmas Clears

     As Christmas Clears  
Each year I become a bit more melancholy at Christmas.  Perhaps it is a condition of age, but I realize how this season marks endings and beginnings.  I clearly recall the year my mom finally admitted there was no Santa Claus.  I was eleven.  I held on to the last little hope that Santa was real.  I believed my parents would never tell such a lie.
My friends on the school bus would chant, “ Santa isn’t real and if you believe he is; you are STUPID!”  Hearing this news caused my heart to collapse.  I got off the bus, climbed the long, hill to my home, and cried all the way. I burst into the door and asked, ”Is Santa real?” 
        My mother said her usual pat answer, “If you believe he is, he is.”  

“No, that is not an answer....tell me the truth.”  
       “ Sandi, Santa is a belief. If you want to believe, than do it, if not, don’t.”
Now that was not too reassuring, so I suspected the kids on the bus were the truth makers and my mom had lied to me all these years.
I went to my room and cried and cried.  I had lost a belief.  It was a horrible loss.  I then suspected my parents weren’t really my parents and God was not real. 
I realize most kids don’t have such a dramatic reaction.  With my personality, whatever I do or believe, I do it with vigor, intensity, and full commitment. It took my mom a couple of years to convince me that she was really my mother and the belief in Santa made Christmas more fun for children.  I asked her about God.
“Of course, God is real.  No one could make Him up,” she said.  That explanation just didn’t get it.  Doubting was my new middle name.  I listened to Bible stories at Sunday school and asked the teacher how she knew they were true.  My weekly inquiries must have exasperated her, but I just didn’t want to be bilked again.
This inquiring journey continued many years.  In fact, it is what saved me from a college professor trying to convince my Comparative Religion class that Creation and the resurrection of Christ were myths created by the Christian community. I doubted what he said and continued to seek the truth.  It was a long and difficult uphill path to discover my belief in Christ, His resurrection, the trinity, the presence of miracles today, the power of healing, and that Father God was truly my Creator.  It has taken countless hours of Bible study on my own and in groups.  It created the capacity to meditate and talk to God about what was real and what was not.  That false belief of Santa created in me the capacity to always have an inquiring mind.  
Here I am over sixty years later still confirming, studying, and inquiring.  I do know my beliefs and the reality of Christ Jesus. I chose to place little emphasis on Santa when the boys were small.  I think their grandma and neighbor encouraged their belief, but not me.  They seemed to have a healthy reaction when they discovered the truth.
       Santa suits are put to rest, and Christmas decor will soon find its place in boxes in the attic.  The rush of the holidays have calmed, and I savor the fun we had as a family coming together for tasty meals, cookies, and gingerbread men. We played card games, and sang to the melody of our youngest son strumming his guitar.  We giggled at the granddaughters’  “awe” as they opened their gifts.  At church on Christmas Eve, I dabbed at tears that rolled down my cheeks. These were grateful tears because I was sitting with my entire family.   As I listened to the reading of the holy story of the Christ child, I knew I had found the total truth.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finding Christmas

Finding Christmas
Each holy season, I try to focus on baby Jesus and not the commercialism.  Now, in America that is difficult.  As you read in my last blog, I tried to find Christmas at the mall with disastrous results.  So,as I sat early in the morning in my "Jesus and my chair", I began to pray and asked God to teach me. I have learned my faith needs daily bread to survive.  On this day, I was having a hard time staying still in the chair while I learned God’s word.  I asked God, “ How can I have a better holy season?”  Many times, I ask  God a question , then, pop out of the chair to make a cup of coffee.  My ADHD tendencies sometime make it difficult for me to calm down and focus.   Quiet meditation is a challenge for me.  Anyone relate?
As I passed one of my manger scenes, I felt an inward nudge to pick up baby Jesus from the nativity display.  I carried it back to my teaching, praying, learning chair, and held him.  I felt a warmth like a big hug or a soft ,velour blanket might give me.  I sat and looked at the figurine, but it wasn’t an inanimate object anymore.  Instead, I could see in my mind baby Jesus swaddled and resting in a manger.  As a mother and lover of new babies, I would have asked to hold him.  I know I would.  I would have cuddled his small body to me, touched his delicate hands and kissed his newly shaped head.  I would have held him close and secure so not to hurt or drop him and feel his warmth against my body.  This was my commission this holy season.
I am to hold baby Jesus each morning during my devotion time and meditate on all the times He held me in my life. I mean He watched over me through hardships, grieving, emptiness, or deep hurts.  In these quiet times with the Lord , He has revealed to me times when He went ahead of me and created safe paths, or had a certain person be somewhere so I could talk to them. I was unaware. Yet, he was always there. He has shown me how He has used certain babies to teach me love , grief, and compassion.  As I think on baby Jesus throughout my day, I can't forget the morning teaching.  It is a Christmas heart message that embraces me all day.
One of the strongest messages I realized last week was Jesus was born to be crucified.  As I hold new babies, I never think their destiny would be to be crucified.  Yet, God sent Jesus to and knew His mission on earth was to be crucified for our sins. That is pure love in a depth I cannot understand. That deep of love is in a spiritual realm that I am still learning.
            However, I have found Christmas.  Christmas is in the manger of our home.  Christmas is in the name of Jesus to whom every man and creature must bow.  Christmas is in every Silent Night that I hear and remember in my life time.  Jesus was there.  Jesus is here.  And the Christ child will be in every future Christmas if I just take the time to hold Him, to thank Him, and to meditate on how He has held me through my mistakes and my obedience.  Now, I truly have found Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Seeking Christmas

Seeking Christmas
     I just could not get in the Christmas spirit this year.  Neither Denny nor I were enthusiastic about decorating.  That is so unusual for me.  I generally am the Chevy Chase model, who embellishes every table top available.  Our sons have teased me through the years that our tree was so fully dressed it might topple to the floor.  So, I went through the motions and adorned the tree, mantle, bookcase, and yes, some table tops.  Still, no matter how loud I played the Christmas music, I just didn't feel the season.
     Since we have trimmed Christmas to simplify and make it more focused on Jesus, I had little Christmas shopping to do.  I decided I would go to the mall, see the lights, look at Santa talking to the
children, and feel the bustle in the air.  This would get me in the holiday spirit. Quite the contrary, as I walked to my destination,  a woman  approached me and asked, " Are these your natural nails?"
      "Look at them." I said. "They are pealing from the oils and mineral spirits I use to paint. Do you think I would have fake nails that looked like this?"
      Not even listening to my answer she took my arm and pulled me to her kiosk.  She began vigorously buffing my nails.  I pulled away, " That hurts. Please stop."  She continued and then I said," I don't want a community file used on me.  Do you hear me?"  I stomped away and went to Bath and Body.
      Mistake number two.  You will not find the Christmas spirit there.  You will find chaos.  So many specials, clerks, displays only brought confusion.  After standing in line, the register lady said I had not matched my items correctly. "You must buy six of the same product to get the special price."
    "O.K. I will try again."
     Back to the drawing board, I assembled more "needed" candles, lotions, and fragrance bulbs hoping to have assembled my purchases in the proper sales' categories.  The purchase was much higher
than I anticipated, but I watched her put a ten dollar coupon in my bag.
    I asked, " Can I use that coupon now?"
    "No, that is for a purchase of over thirty dollars the next time you shop with us."
    "Well, could you split my purchase?  Ring fifty on one bill and thirty on another?"
    The clerk said this could not be done.  That comment brought my blood pressure up as well as my voice.  I loudly announced, " Well, just take all the items back.  This is a return."  I am sure the ladies behind me were exasperated.  It was the principle of the thing I thought.  The store manager arrived on the scene.  She too tried to talk me into using my coupon on another day on new specials.
    Again, with no smile, no Christmas spirit, I said,  " Give me back my money."
    The manager said,” Let her use her coupon now."  This process took the patience of Job.The clerk laboriously unrang and rang again each purchase.  She messed up.  Again, unwrapping each candle to scan, she did the process again.  The manager reappeared and instructed her how to do this.  The seething clerk rerang again.  About fifteen minutes had passed.  I was sweating and the ladies behind me were shooting daggers into my back and head.  Finally, the girl split the bills successfully and applied the ten dollar coupon to the candles.  I am sure Denny will have a lot of Christmas spirit when he is trying to match all those return, buy, and more return slips to theVisa bill.
      The frustrated clerk handed me my packages and receipts and stared hard and long.  The well trained manager returned to the scene and thanked me for coming to Bath and Body.  Now, I wish this was the end  of the story.  However, the entourage of ladies behind me suddenly realized they too could insist on using their coupon if they had a large purchase.  Chaos began. I left hurriedly.  I walked briskly to my car and thought, "Nope, this plan didn't work too well.  I not only didn't find 
Christmas, I disappointed Christ."  I returned home and recounted my day's journey.  No Christmas spirit found yet.  However, if you read my next blog, I will disclose how I found Christmas.