Stille Nacht – A Small Miracle

From the very first time I heard this version of Silent Night, it has affected me as very few other songs have done.  There is something so pure, so holy, so other-worldly about it, that every time I listen to it, it seems to fill me with a desire that I can not explain in words.  Many times in my life, this song has reached out to me in varying places and experiences.

One of my most poignant moments was the year I was a sophomore at college.  My family had moved far away from me: from Utah to the Seattle, Washington area.  It was the first time I had ever lived away from them and homesickness hit me hard. I had moved into student apartments and had five female roommates.  Three of them seemed to dislike me from the moment I walked through the door and the bullying, snide comments and criticisms started just a few days later.  I did my best to just stay away from the house as much as possible and frequently only went home to sleep, shower and change clothes.

 

Because of this treatment, few students looked forward to their Christmas break as much as I did at that time.  When finals were over, I gleefully found a ride up to Seattle and anticipated a Christmas with my family, especially my parents and my sisters.  I daydreamed about the shopping, baking, wrapping and get-togethers we were about to have. All of my family would be there, along with in-laws and baby nieces and nephews. I relished the idea of love and kindness and fun to be shared.

But all family holidays have their difficulties and in the midst of so many people, children, illness and other unexpected challenges, I felt rather forgotten, lost and yes, alone. Though it was good to be with family, I still felt something missing. That joy I always felt at Christmas seemed to escape me.

Christmas Eve came and all the adults were hurriedly finishing the wrapping and cooking for the next day.  Everyone was tired and began to snap at each other.  Having just lived through months of bullying, I couldn’t handle it and I put on my coat and slipped out unnoticed for a walk. It was about 10 pm and not a soul was outside.  I walked slowly down the main street to the dock overlooking the harbor. It was so still that it seemed almost unreal…like a painting.

And then it came from a nearby house…the quiet notes of Silent Night.  Almost like the distant chimes of bells playing softly over the water, they were the only sound that could be heard.  It was then that I realized the song was for me…a gentle reminder that I was known and loved by the Savior of the world.  I was not forgotten, I was not lost, I was not alone.  By the time the song was finished, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  The thick snowflakes landed on my cheeks as I looked up at the sky.  I whispered “Thank you” and felt such love embrace me.  The sacred peacefulness of it seemed to fill and heal every part of my aching soul.  The miracle of Christmas had arrived.

The knowledge of His love gave me strength to view things in a different way.  Instead of it being all about me, it became about the Savior and His example of selflessness.  Did it mean that everything changed and the rest of that year was perfect?  No. But it gave me valuable insight into how much I was loved by the King of all Kings helping me to see others in that same light.

Dear friends, it is my wish this Christmas that the spirit of this season will come quietly into your lives and heal your aching hearts and lift your burdens…just as it did for me on that night so many years ago.  Merry Christmas to you all!

Random Acts of Kindness

I was in the vitamin aisle wondering if I had enough money to buy my vitamins or if I should wait until I had a secure income.  I knew I was going to have to borrow money to make rent and wondered if the vitamins went on the necessity list or the “want” list. Then I glanced over my shoulder and saw her.  She was sitting on the metal bench at the pharmacy.  She was in her pajamas, talking on her cell phone and trying her best to wipe the tears away so others would not notice.

It was the day after Thanksgiving and shoppers were rushing by trying to get the best Christmas sales.  There was a general air of jolliness as the people passed, scurrying to get their errands done.  But there was no happiness in her face.  Our eyes met and for that brief moment, I saw the pain, the sadness, that desperate air of wanting to do…something and not knowing what to do.  It tugged at my heart.  I recognized that pain and that look in her eyes.  I have known it all too well.

Feeling shy and indecisive, I turned away.  Wasn’t that the polite thing to do when someone was hurting?  I mean, you don’t just walk up and hug a stranger.  I turned and looked at her again and then made up my mind.  There are times when you need to reach beyond your comfort zone.

Walking over to the flowers, I purchased a bouquet and then quickly made my way back hoping she was still there.  She was pacing in front of the pharmacy waiting for her prescription to be filled.  Nervously, I walked up to her and handed her the flowers and said “Whatever it is, I hope it gets better soon.  Merry Christmas.”  And then suddenly feeling a great deal of love, I reached out and hugged her and she hugged me back.  “Thank you,” she said quietly.  I looked in her eyes and though there were tears, I also saw surprise and something else…hope.  I turned and walked away and as I did so, she called out “Merry Christmas!”  I smiled and disappeared. For the rest of the day, the memory of her brave smile and sudden “Merry Christmas” stayed in my mind and I felt as if my own worries and burdens had somehow been lifted.

I do not tell you this story to make myself look like something I am not.  I tell you this story as a reminder that the best thing we can do to feel better about our own situations in life is to reach out and offer love, compassion and service to others.  If random acts of kindness were the hallmark of our society, there would not be so much sadness, so much anger and so much hatred.

So when you feel as if despair has taken hold and you can’t see outside of yourself, do me one favor…look around, find someone who needs a hand of compassion and reach out with love.  I promise you that your own burdens will seem lifted in return. Love sent to you all…

His Song

This was written long ago and originally meant to be a song, but it turned out to be more of a poem. I might turn it into lyrics someday, but for now, I felt it should be appreciated for just being what it is.  I think there’s a metaphor in that somewhere…we should all be appreciated just for what we are.  🙂  Love to you all…

London couple in the snow

His Song

Turning, whirling, around and around
Painted masks dancing
To a chaos of sound
Dawn comes, your face fades away
The fantasy ends
In the cold light of day.

How is it possible
That you still invade my dreams?
You flash upon my life
Like an unwanted memory
An unfinished painting gathering dust
Still waiting on the edge of my reality…

Please let me go
Please let me mend
Tear your soul from mine
Please let this agony end

With you I first tasted passion
Embracing on the callous streets
Soulmates at our first caress
Strangers after lies confessed

But if I let go of my tight control
I will lose this mask of sanity
I have tried so hard to hold.
Even with the passing years,
You are still the
Broken part of my soul.

Please let me go
Please let me mend
Tear your soul from mine
Please let this torment end

When will your tender touch
No longer caress my skin?
When will your soft voice
No longer echo within?
When will your words fade from my mind?
When will I put your love behind?

Please let me go
Please let me mend
Take your bittersweet memories
And please, dear God, just let this love end…

For the Hopeless Romantics

5. Woman looks out on sea from cruise - 141670436 - Getty - 506x380_tcm3317-1018716I used to be embarrassed by the fact that I was a hopeless romantic. When I was a child, it was fine to believe in love at first sight, romance, soul mates, and happily ever afters.  I loved dressing up in old dresses pretending that I was Cinderella at the ball and my Prince Charming was about to sweep through the door.

In my early teenage years, I would sit quietly in the corner during class and lunch and devour romance novels.  My favorite author at the time (Emilie Loring) was a woman who had written more than 30 books from the 1920’s to the 1960’s.  I loved her characters: the heroines were always beautiful, graceful and elegant.  The heroes were always true gentlemen that would fall in love with the wholesome, positive and courageous women. The books were full of optimism and adventure and sprinkled with just enough romance that they thrilled my innocent heart. I firmly believed that my own hero would find me someday and I would have that relationship that I so yearned for.

Yet, as I grew older, I discovered from many of my peers that believing in these things were considered immature and childish.  It was fine to seek a relationship, but I had to do so with a sophisticated, cynical veneer.  I had spent so many years as a child being bullied that I was afraid of not fitting in, so I adopted the cynicism and mocked silly romantics with the best of them.  I found it was easy to do since so little romance came my way.  It was easy to make fun of it and pretend that it didn’t matter to me, when inside my heart was crying out for that tenderness, affection and passion that I had believed in as a child.

As the years passed and the gulf widened between my secret hopes and reality, I began to truly believe in the cynical viewpoint of relationships and love.  My own marriage had failed and I have never experienced the love I had dreamt of all those years before.  Did anyone have good relationships or was it all just a show?  My own graveyard of broken hearts had just about convinced me to give up altogether.  I found it ironic that the woman who had written a book about hope was feeling the complete opposite.

But then the universe stepped in yet again.  One night, as I watched a documentary regarding a motivational speaker, I felt a little tug at my heart.  He spoke of dreams and possibilities and the passion required to accomplish them. Facing my own stark reality, the floodgates in my soul opened and I sobbed.  Was there really a possibility that my dreams could still become reality?  I had buried those hopes so well after so many failures. But it was as if a little pixie dust from a passing star seemed to sprinkle itself on me reminding me of who I am.

I am a hopeless romantic.  I love flowers, nature, beautiful clothes and soft music. I love mystery, adventure, romantic movies and above all…happy endings.  I can honestly say that I still believe that my “one” is out there somewhere seeking for me and that one day I will have that relationship I long ago hoped for.  And best of all, I can say that I have found faith in my dreams again and in myself.

For all the hopeless romantics out there, embrace who you are.  We remind people to believe in magic and miracles and to hope again. Through music, art and words, we help others to find that indescribable “something” that lift souls above the ordinary.  And most of all, we believe in love and the power it has to change lives.

Keep staring at the stars, romantic one, and maybe…just maybe, one day you will finally be able to touch one.

 

 

 

 

A Call to Arms…

On Saturday night, I was privileged to attend a beautiful women’s conference.  It was focused on reaching out to serve others, especially the 60 plus million refugees in the world today.  It sunk deep into my heart.

I am a woman who has been greatly blessed in her life.  I have seen many amazing places in the world.  I’ve always had people who loved me and whom I loved.  I have never known intense poverty.  I’ve always had shelter, food and clothing.  I might have been poor by American standards, but not by other countries in the world.  I have always had enough.

Andrés Vanegas Canosa
Andrés Vanegas Canosa http://www.andyvc.com/exploitation-of-children/

My family was never forced to flee for our religious beliefs. I’ve never had to watch someone I love be killed because they chose to believe in a different God. I’ve never had to walk hundreds of miles just to find a safe place to call home. I don’t know what it’s like to watch your world torn apart as you become an orphan at a young age and must flee the horrors of war.

A young migrant's hair becomes stuck whiAFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEKATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images

kurdish-child-refugee(Photo courtesy of The International Business Times)

Yet I understand pain, sorrow, grief and tears.  I understand the shock that comes from having to start over again and feeling overwhelmed.  I have witnessed disaster, intense poverty, fear, hunger, deep grief, tragedy, violence and death. But I have also witnessed relief, compassion, unconditional love,  kindness, charity, and so much more.

As I strike out to go forth in the world on another adventure, this time I plan on giving back.  I see the tears of the children and adults and my heart aches for them. I have so much love in my heart to give, why can’t I give back to those who have so little?

And this is why I call this post “A Call to Arms”…it is time for all of us to give back a little more.  My situation is unusual as I will be able to travel to another country and do it there, but you can find grief, pain, fear and more right in your own backyard.  The best way to resolve some of your own problems is to get outside of yourself and serve others!

The lyrics and song below are my own call to arms.  Read and listen…let it sink into your soul…then PLEASE go out and help in any way you can…even if it’s just an extra smile and hug.  Together we can all bring more light and love into this dark world and just maybe, make a real difference in the lives of those who are hurting.  Let’s give back hope together.  “Can you hear the pleas of the refugees for safe harbors of the heart?”

Safe Harbors – Michael McLean14th_Dhananjay-_14_2546825e

“There are refugees among us
That are not from foreign shores;
And the battles they are waging
Are from very private wars.
And there are no correspondents
Documenting all their grief,
But these refugees among us all
Are yearning for relief.

There are refugees among us.image
They don’t carry flags or signs.
They are standing right beside us
In the market check out lines;
And the war they’ve been fighting
It will not be televised,
But the story of their need for love
Is written in their eyes.

FAITH LEADERS REFUGEES
A boy touches his crying father (CNS photo/Georgi Licovski, EPA) Nov. 20, 2015.

This is a call to arms,
To reach out and to hold
The evacuees from the dark.
This is a call to arms,
To lead anguished souls
To safe harbors of the heart.”

 

If you wish to find a place to start helping, the site below is a great place to start!

https://www.ldscharities.org/?lang=eng

 

Why I Love Les Miserables

les-miserables_1

(A note to why I rewrote this. I felt that my words sounded more like a literary summary instead of what I was truly feeling, so I rewrote it.)

Dedicated to my father, Robert, who loves this story as much as I do and who is the most unselfish, loving, and kind a man I know.

​I write this entry in dedication to one of my favorite musical/operas of all time: Les Miserables. I am but one of millions of fans (maybe even billions) around the world who have enjoyed the phenomenon that is “Les Mis”. If you have seen the story and heard the music, you will understand what I’m about to say.

There is a spiritual quality to this story that is hard to describe, but you can feel it. When I first heard the music more than 20 years ago, I fell in love almost instantly. It was almost as if I’d known the story and the music before, but not with my mortal ears.

Yet it wasn’t until recently why I understood that this story and the music struck my soul so powerfully. I realized it’s because it is a story of selflessness, humility, love and the ultimate sacrifice. There are many dramatic characters in the story, but it is Eponine and Jean Valjean that move me the most.

These characters have touched me throughout my life in personal and unforgettable ways. With Eponine, I understood all too well what it was like to feel the misery of unrequited love. Even now, my heart still aches at times for the woman who died in the arms of the man who was blind to her love.  Only in the last bittersweet moments of her life could she reveal the depth of her feeling.  But it was her love that, in many ways, saved Marius so he could live and marry Cosette.  It was the greatest act of love she could offer.

eponine

But I think it is the story of Jean Valjean that stays with me the most.  Here is a man who has had the cruelest of injustices placed upon him as he spends more than 20 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread.  As he finally gets to leave, he is met with disdain everywhere and just at the moment when he is about to give up, the compassion and kindness of a priest change everything convincing Jean Valjean to turn his life over to God.

To me, the most powerful and poignant moment of the show is when  Jean Valjean sings “Bring Him Home” (See link and note below).  It is the culmination of all that Jean Valjean has learned through living a selfless life.  And maybe this is why it holds me mesmerized every time I watch it or listen to it.  It’s a prayer that is sung with the most intense sincerity and humility someone can utter…to offer their life in exchange for another.  It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate gift of love. How appropriate that this post comes at Easter time reminding us of another who gave His all for us.

Jean valjean

Maybe that is why the story of “Les Miserables” has stood the test of time and why it seems more important now than ever before.  In this world today, where wars, terrorism, and hardened people spew out so much hatred, the unconditional love shown in this story is a hopeful reminder that kindness, mercy and humanity will ultimately win.

But I don’t believe anything I say will fully express what the music and story mean to me. Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe something that touches you to the core of your being. It’s so beautiful that it’s as if a small part of heaven reaches down and brushes across your soul.  For a moment, the veil lifts…and you remember what heaven feels like.

(A note on this version of “Bring Him Home” which is linked below. Alfie Boe sang this with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only days after the Sandy Hook tragedy where the lives of so many young innocent children were lost.  It is said in rehearsal, he couldn’t even get through the song.  Look at the tears in his eyes and you will see the emotion in them as he sings for the children who were lost that day.)

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Elusive

 

kiss

Like the emerald green flash

That appears for but a sweet moment

Across a jaded ocean…

As taunting and fragile

As a snowflake in spring

Disappearing in the air…

Like the fading memory

Of a perfect dream

Waking to a gray morning…

As brief as the heated glance

Of desire when your fingers

Callously brushed mine…

As fleeting as your last phantom kiss

On my lips

Wet with salty tears…

And as transitory as the shifting ground

Upon which your vows

Were declared…

So was the immortal love

You falsely swore would be mine…

Forever.