Christmas: A Season of Hope

Christmas: A Season of Hope

When I originally started my blog, it was a way to practice my descriptive writing. I never expected anyone to read it nor that it would develop into what it has. But as each inspired piece of writing has come out of me, I realized that most of what I wrote was about Hope.  As I have come through this 8 year journey since I began my blog, I have found many ways to endure difficult times and crises in small, everyday ways.

Every year for the past 9 years, I have had the same Christmas wish.  I won’t reveal what that is, because it’s too personal to me, but I will say that it has not yet happened. Yet every Christmas finds me gazing on that one star and making that one whispered wish.  Why?  Because Christmas is the season of Hope.  Hope that those promises made to us long ago will come to pass.  Hope that when we wake on that sacred day, that we will find some hint of our most treasured and beautiful desires coming true.

There are times I feel that it will never happen.  I lose faith…I lose hope.  Yes, it’s ironic that the woman who writes about hope sometimes feels it slipping away from her.  But we are all human, we all have our good and bad days.  And had I never experienced disappointment, how could I know the joy that comes from a hope fulfilled?

I can say that every time I come to the end of my rope, something happens to give me the strength to keep going.  It might be as small as a hug to something as large as an unexpected financial gift, but whatever it is, I see it as Heavenly Father’s way of saying “I’m aware of you, little one.  I know you’re struggling, but I am here.  I will not fail you. Be still and know that I am God.”

So here I am…still and quiet, listening, waiting and yes…hoping.

Merry Christmas my beautiful friends! May you all find your dearest hopes come to pass this New Year…

 

A Humbling Lesson in Gratitude

A Humbling Lesson in Gratitude

So yesterday, I was having a bit of a Grinch moment.  I was frustrated about several things and then while trying to go somewhere last night, my car got stuck in a snowbank in my driveway.  Frustrated and upset and tired of not having a significant other to help out, I slammed the door and went inside and decided to deal with it the next morning.  About 8:30 pm, I received a text from my landlady upstairs stating that someone was shoveling out my car.  I went up and it was my wonderful neighbor.  He had shoveled my entire driveway and then he helped me to get my car out of the snowbank.

Feeling very grateful to him and a bit embarrassed about my earlier complaints, I went back inside.  As I laid down, I pondered about many things in my life until I finally fell asleep.  It was then I had a humbling dream. I dreamt that I was getting ready to move to another city with my sister and my Dad and some other members of the family.  We were all going to leave at a specific time.  I had to run an errand to another section of town and promised I would be back before they all left.

This is where the dream took an interesting turn.  I had to drive to a part of town that wasn’t that safe when my car ran out of gas.  Knowing I was going to be late, I tried to make a call on my cell phone, but found all the data had been used up and there was no Wi-Fi.  I tried to borrow someone else’s phone, but it didn’t work.  Not long after, someone stole my purse.  With no money and my cell phone not working, I couldn’t call for help.

I wandered a few blocks into a neighborhood where hundreds of people lined the streets.  They were of every color, race, nationality and country.  Some had obviously been rich at one point as their clothing shown, but they had fled with just the clothes on their back.  I soon realized most of them were homeless locals and refugees.  I sat with one of the men asking if he had a phone and his phone didn’t work either.  I asked him why they were all waiting around and they said they were all waiting for places to sleep.  I looked around at the beds that had 2, 3 or sometimes 4 people to them and began to feel deeply humbled.  It was at this time that I found both my cell phone and even my shoes had disappeared.

Essentially, I was like these people.  I had no money, no shoes to walk anywhere, no car, no phone to call for help.  I was just like them and I realized how easy it was to have your life turn around so quickly.  As I partook of the breakfast food being served by volunteers, my sister came.  She had somehow found me and I knew I was going to be ok.  But as I left the building with the hundreds of refugees, I began to sing a hymn.  I don’t remember what it was, but it was a hymn of gratitude.  My sister joined me and soon, everyone there was singing this song.  For a moment, though these people were homeless, we were all grateful for what we did have.

I woke up from this dream and realized immediately the lesson that my Heavenly Father was trying to teach me.  We are all refugees in a way.  We owe our last breath to Heavenly Father for He has given us everything and can take everything away.  He does so to teach us powerful and important lessons in humility and gratitude and to rekindle that flame to serve.  How could we be grateful for an old car if we did not have to walk and take the bus?  How could we be grateful for warm shoes to cover our feet if we at one time didn’t have them?  How could we be grateful for our peaceful sanctuaries of home if we didn’t know the fear of losing that at one point? Once upon a time, even the King of all Kings was homeless as he was born and laid in a manger.

Mary and JesusYes, I am grateful.  I am thankful for the warm blankets on my bed and a warm home to sleep in, for the kindness of neighbors, for the love of family, for an old car that works and gets me to places I need to go, for a job that helps me pay my bills, for the food I have, for understanding friends, and most of all, for Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate at this wonderful time of the year.

As the song below says, there’s so much to be thankful for…

The Season of Light and Gratitude

The Season of Light and Gratitude

(There will be more installments of my adventures to come, but for now, my heart simply couldn’t hold the joy of the season inside any longer!)

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When I think of Thanksgiving, I also think of Christmas, because the two holidays are so completely intertwined.  Not in the materialistic or commercial way some people think, but because of the dear meanings they hold to me.

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Dealing with a bit of jet lag and waking up at 2 am, I couldn’t get my mind to shut off.  Having recently returned from England, I was already full of happiness after seeing my family again after a month. Though I laid there trying to sleep, I found myself humming a Christmas song and feeling like a child full of excitement. 

Nope, there would be no sleeping for me.  I threw back the covers, pulled out the Christmas decorations, put on the music (quietly so as not to disturb my upstairs landlady) and began to put them up feeling a bit giddy.

Season of Light

With each unwrapping, I couldn’t stop smiling.  Every ornament and decoration held beautiful memories of family and friendships and love.  I hadn’t opened this particular box for several years and I had forgotten.  I put on one of my favorite Christmas CD’s and the familiar music brought tears to my eyes.  I felt joy bubble up inside of me and could only describe it as pure gratitude and love.

The Savior and the child

Gratitude for nature in all of its glories.  Gratitude for my own small home and the peace I feel every time I open the door and step inside.  Gratitude for each and every miracle of love I have received over my lifetime from my family and friends near and far.  And most of all, gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ, whom I celebrate with joy and wonder this season.

How could Thanksgiving not be interwoven with Christmas?  A grateful heart finds joy in giving and a giving heart finds joy in selflessly serving with love.  For the recipient, the act of love warms their lives with gratitude.  The circle is complete.  So for those who wish to put up their Christmas decorations alongside their Thanksgiving decorations, you are really just celebrating the joy that comes from the Season of Light, Love, Gratitude and Giving.  What could be more wonderful than that?

Night and Thanksgiving

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…

I have a love of walking at night when the world is quiet, the darkness envelopes me softly and the moon hears my whispers. Many nights I have walked the streets, my soul restless as I struggled with various dilemmas. In the light of day, the details of life take up all my time, but at night, when the stillness settles, my mind once again takes up that endless litany of questions that seem to have no answers.

Yet it is often in those silent hours, when my soul is wrestling, that peace seeps in quietly. The pressing problems that drive me outside begin to slowly fade. As I pour my heart out to my Father above, seemingly impossible obstacles are melted away and I again find faith for another day.

On a recent night, I was again walking the streets. My heart struggled with sadness and loneliness. I questioned my decisions and inspirations I felt I had received. What was I doing in this new place far from anyone I knew right before Christmas? Why had I left my friends and family to go to a place where I was nothing but a stranger to those around me? No answer seemed to come.

Yet, in my melancholy mood, I stopped for a moment and looked up around me. The rains had just blown away and a small, bright moon lit the path. The wet pavement looked like silver beneath my feet and the air was warm and soft. As I stood there, the line “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…” came to my mind and I thought that the old Christmas carol must have been written on a night such as this.

The beauty of the night lessened my sadness, but I still felt my heavy burden as I walked home. The heavens seemed silent and the peace I sought did not come. I tried to distract myself by remembering the lines of the old Christmas carol, but I realized I didn’t remember them all, so I looked them up when I got home. Little did I know that there were more verses written than I knew. As I read this verse, it took my breath:

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
Oh, rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!”

I knew that these sweet words were my answer. Realization dawned…I was never alone. The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at this most beautiful season, was letting me know that I was being watched over, loved and cared for at all times. “Glad and golden hours” were coming “swiftly on the wing” and my weary heart had a place to rest.

It was a simple, tender answer and exactly what I needed. Sweet peace melted away my sadness and I felt loved. Since that night, Christmas joy, laughter, wonder at my beautiful, new home and the hugs of new friends have filled my heart. It has been a Christmas miracle and I have been amazed at the love that has surrounded me. At times, I feel as if I have known some of these new friends for years. What a gift!

To those “beneath life’s crushing load”, let your soul “rest beside the weary road” and remember that you aren’t walking it alone. He walks it with you and that is the best Christmas miracle of all.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Why I Celebrate Christmas Early

Why I Celebrate Christmas Early

winter-1927427_960_720As my family well knows, I am a lover of Christmas.  When I was younger, I used to drive my siblings crazy by playing Christmas music in September.  As an adult, I still do this at times.  By the time Halloween is over, Christmas is in full force in my house.  The twinkling lights are up, the soft, sweet music is playing, the warm glow of candles are flickering, the cinnamon cookies are baking and I am planning out the Christmas presents to buy.  I do not ignore Thanksgiving, for if you look, you will see my Thanksgiving decorations mingled with my Christmas, because I’m a firm believe that gratitude is in every way a part of this beautiful season.

But why do I do this?  Why do many people do this?  Others might have different reasons, but this is mine: because it is the season of light, of giving, of sharing, of kindness and love. beautiful hugs

When the daily news is filled with the most evil and depressing of acts (like the shooting last night in California), I want to counteract that with everything I have in me.  I want to spread more kindness, more love to strangers, more love to my family and friends…more light.  I want everyone to know they are loved.  I want to hold a friend or family member or even a stranger until their tears are washed away.

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I wish I could do this…I wish I could somehow get this message out to every person…You Are LOVED! How different it would be if all people understood this one thought: you are loved by the most perfect person who ever walked this earth.  If you are worthy of that kind of love, then wouldn’t that change your perspective about your life, your purpose and your actions?

The-NativityIt is the season to celebrate the Savior, the Son of God, and to remember not only His birth, but His life and who He died for.  I celebrate Him and his perfect life all year, but everything about Christmas from the lights, to some of the beautiful music, to the Star and the small manger scene under my tree…everything reminds me of His perfect love.

Love…to me that’s something worth celebrating all year long.

 

(My Christmas playlist for this year…sending you all long hugs and so much love!)

Sometimes It’s Just Air…

The other day while running errands, I noticed the tire on my car was a little flat and went to fill it with air at the gas station.  There was another woman there filling up her tire and as I waited, I noticed she stopped and would shake out and rub her hands as if she was in pain.  I paused, because some people don’t always like to be helped.  But after watching her shake her hands out a second time, I turned off my car and went and asked if I could help her.  She said “Yes, please!” And so I filled up her tire for her.

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She explained that she had neuropathy in her hands from cancer.  My mother had neuropathy in her feet from diabetes and I knew how painful it could be.  She used to describe it as sharp needles of pain. I was glad I could help and after wishing her a nice day, she thanked me and left.  I thought no more about it.

The following Sunday, while sitting in church, we were encouraged to get up and share our feelings about Jesus Christ and other spiritual subjects if we felt inspired.  It’s called Testimony meeting and we have it once a month.  For some reason, though I don’t normally, I felt inspired to get up and share what had happened and talk about service to others as a way to light the world in dark times.

After I sat down, another woman stood up and said “I have the second half to Melissa’s story,” and she went on to describe that it was her friend who had been the cancer survivor! They had met at lunch just after my experience with her and she had talked about how grateful she was for the woman that had showed up when she needed help.

jesus-healing-blind-man-1617342-wallpaperThe woman spoke about how our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are in the details of our lives.  I sat there in awe (as did most of the rest of the audience) and couldn’t help the tears from flowing freely down my cheek.  I realized again how important our lives and everyday cares are to our Heavenly Father.  I thought about the numerous times someone has served me: an inspired call when I was lonely or feeling discouraged, a gift of money when I was broke, a knock at the door with some Christmas chocolate when I was craving chocolate just at the moment…and the list goes on.

inspirational-teens-STUN-homeless-Christmas-giftsWhat better way to celebrate Christmas than with random acts of love and kindness?  You can be the angel to someone else if you just listen to that little voice inside of you.  Sometimes it’s just a hug, a smile, a kind word offered to someone having a hard day, extra change, a listening ear, a pair of shoes, a shoveled sidewalk, a conversation with a lonely person and sometimes…it’s just air in a tire.

Sending my love and hugs and Christmas wishes to you all! 

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We Still Seek Him…

autumn-leaves-snowIt slipped in softly and early this year.  It started long before the holiday decorations appeared in the stores…long before the carols began to play.  It began to appear when the first cloudy, cooler day came.  The barest drift of snow appeared on the very tops of the mountains and the autumn colors were changing all about me.  It whispered to me…but I didn’t hear it.

The noise of the world interfered.  I heard anger, hatred, wars, terrorist attacks, disasters and my own personal frustrations.  In some ways, it seemed almost all-consuming.  Even when I fought it with humor or other things, it was still there, in the back of my mind making me question many things about my life.

christmas-trees-in-the-snowy-nature-51961-1920x1200Then one day, while listening to quiet music, one of my favorite Christmas songs was suggested and though it was October, I listened to it.  The notes began to caress my spirit tenderly and quietly.  Like a warm hug that starts from inside and moves outward, I felt peacefully wrapped in love.  Once that song had finished, another one began to play…another gentle melody, another favorite song.  For more than an hour, I sat and listened to one tender, reverent song after another…and the darkness disappeared.

What counteracted the darkness?  The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, who is the very epitome of love and light.  It was a much needed reminder that while the world is in turmoil, we can find peace within ourselves if we seek it…if we seek Him.  For wise men still do.

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As a Christmas gift to you all, I have put together a list of those songs that brought me such warmth, love and peace.  I hope you all get a quiet time to listen and reflect on the peace that is still ours if we seek it.  Merry Christmas to my beloved friends and family and as Tiny Tim once said…

“God Bless Us…every one!”