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!)

thanksgiving-turkey

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.

girl and tree

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

The Peace of a Quiet Christmas

The Peace of a Quiet Christmas

The spicy aroma of Christmas cookies baking, feathery snowflakes falling outside in the gathering twilight, candles are burning next to me and quiet Christmas music is playing.  To me, this is perfection in winter.  I love all the seasons of the year for their different reasons, but there is something so wonderful about the quietness of winter.

Though there are often more parties, events and errands to attend to at Christmas than at any other time of the year, the peace of winter lies all around us.  Animals curl up and sleep away the cold months, the songbirds grow quiet, all of nature hushes as the silent snow covers.  It is a reminder to grow still…to listen to silence.

cozy christmas

One of my favorite winter memories was while walking alone on a quiet, snowy night. The only sounds were the little puffs of dry snow my feet made as I walked…pouf, pouf, pouf.  Even the wind barely stirred the soft snowflakes as they landed gently on my cold cheeks.

quiet-winter-night-winter-wallpapers

I paused for a moment and looked around me.  No one else was out on that cold night.  No animal nor human stirred.  I reflected on the calm and the peace and quiet of it all.  It was beautiful and sacred. I whispered “Silent night, holy night, all is calm…” and felt the magic of the Christmas spirit wash over me.  I felt cleansed, refreshed and full of a warm and peaceful love.  I swear I could hear the hushed echoes of angel voices join me in the “well-known refrain.”

Yes, listen to the silence. For it is often in the silence when the sweetest moments of life come.  When peace pervades our being as we hear a faint song from the heavens reminding of us our real home.

Merry Christmas my dear friends!  Peace to one and all!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men…”

YosemiteWinterNightPacholka950

From Prisons to Palaces

“Adventure” is one of my favorite words.  It is a word so full of possibilities, excitement and the sheer thrill of the unknown right around the corner!  But as you will see in this post, adventure most definitely has it’s ups and downs.

When I was very young, we lived in a small farming community in Washington state.  We rented a home on a farm out in the middle of several wheat fields.  It would seem like an isolated place to live, but I had four older siblings and my imagination to keep me company.  I had a generally happy childhood and was content with my life until one “fateful day”.  I remember being about 5 or 6 years old, standing in the middle of the wheat fields and staring at the hills and mountains that surrounded me. All of a sudden, I had this intense desire and curiosity to see what was beyond those hills and mountains.  And that’s when it began…the desire for adventure.

Since that time as a child, I have been fortunate enough to have experienced many adventures, both good and bad.  Have you ever heard of the phrase “Curiosity kills the cat”?  Well, that would be me.  Like a famous character out of my favorite book, Anne of Green Gables, curiosity regarding this world has thrown me into some pretty unbelievable situations.  This blog has described but a few of them.

Yet, adventure has also allowed me the incredible opportunity of seeing many parts of the world.  I have sweated profusely in the jungles of the tiny island of Palau and frozen in the bitter winds of a Northern England winter. I have reveled in the beauty of an ideal Hawaiian beach and basked in the warm, Autumn twilight on a mountaintop in the Rockies. I have awed at palaces in London and visited dirty, cramped cement rooms in a 3rd world prison.  I have walked on 500-year-old castle walls in Cartagena, Colombia and skimmed across gray waters on a Seattle ferry boat.  From each place I have been, I have taken away many beautiful memories, lessons learned and lifetime friendships.

I know that this sounds exotic and exciting and may even seduce you to leave your current life and travel the world, but the life of an adventurer is not always one to be envied.  One must remember that to be an adventurer, one must give up other things in life.  I have been lonely, poor and sad many times.  At times, I have felt like a will-‘o-the-wisp scattered upon the winds.  I have lacked the security that comes from a home in one place with roots.  I have lived out of a suitcase sometimes and have never owned my own house.  I have seldom ever had more money than what was needed to pay the basics.  I have never held my “dream job” and I have worked more temporary positions and done more boring tasks than I ever want to remember!

Traveling the world and visiting new cultures has been a dream come true and so for me, some of the sacrifices were worth the rewards.  But I am now at an age where my desire for adventure struggles with my desire to become established in one place.  I still yearn to see many places in the world, but my energy wanes and curling up at night with a book and listening to music is often more enticing than crossing distant oceans.

Though I know this world still has eventful experiences in store for me (because as noted above, I seem to have the curious habit of just “falling” into them) I have discovered that the greatest adventure of life is the adventure of love within the walls of your own home with your own family.  And that, my friends, is an adventure I want to experience over and over again. Not all those who wander

Perfect Moments – Dedicated to my family and friends

I have always been a planner.  Even at a very young age, I began to plan out what college I wanted to go to, what I wanted to be when I grew up and many other things.  I remember spending much of my childhood wishing away the years so I could grow up faster.  I often lived for the end of things: end of this boring class, end of the school year, or for the end of this trial or that problem.

But over the years, I have learned to stop living for the future, stop regretting the past, and have learned instead to live in the present and to live for perfect moments.  You know the kind of moments I’m talking about: that quiet moment when a new parent holds their infant in their arms for the first time or when you look into the eyes of the person you love across a room.  I have come to the conclusion that when everyone tells you that life is not a destination, but a journey, this is what they mean.

I have had many perfect moments throughout my life, many more than I could ever share in a blog.  But in this entry, I want to share a few, because I want to share with the people in my life how much they have touched me.

One such moment was standing on a hillside with my nephew, David, watching a lightning storm.  It was during a Fourth of July celebration and as we watched the awesome display of lights across the sky he said “I wonder if God is celebrating Independence Day?  Happy 4th of July God!” he called out.  I joined him in the salutation and we grinned at each other.

Once, when I was five, I remember walking away from the house to get on the bus with my sisters and brothers for my first day of kindergarten.  But for some reason, I couldn’t do it and I ran, crying, back to my mother’s arms.  She didn’t chastise, she just simply held me and loved me, letting me know that it was going to be ok and then later drove me to school herself.

Another moment was sitting with my two sisters and one of my nieces, Alexandria, sharing stories and laughing.  I remember looking at my niece who was twenty years old at the time and just feeling happy to see the fun, beautiful, intelligent and all-around great person she had turned out to be.  I rejoiced that I had lived long enough to watch her grow up.  I thought of all my nieces and nephews and just felt so proud at that moment to be their aunt.

Another perfect moment was while living in Cartagena, Colombia, I had an impression that my good friend and her family were in need of food.  I quietly took her husband to the market and we shopped for about a month’s worth of food for them.  As we arrived at her small apartment, she was cutting up her last potato to fry up for lunch for her daughters.  When she saw the both of us walk in with the food, she began to weep as she had just been saying a prayer to God asking for help for her family.  We hugged each other as she wept and I was thankful to a loving God allowing me to be of service to someone who had always been there for me.

There are so many other perfect moments: sitting in a restaurant with high school friends sharing memories; hugging my sisters when their words of wisdom again healed my heart; playing in an ocean in Cartagena with dear friends; having a picnic and playing baseball with my family; taking a ride on my dad’s foot when I was little; laughing with my students in class; dancing with my girlfriends, laughing with my missionary companion as we waded through ankle high puddles at night in the jungle; looking into the eyes of the man I loved while we stood on the streets of London; sharing long talks with an understanding friend on the phone; putting my arms around a niece or nephew to comfort them; and most of all, feeling peace while on my knees in prayer.

Smiles, laughter, and yes, even tears have made up my perfect moments in life.  But the one common factor I have found in all these moments were that I was sharing them with someone I loved.  That is what makes perfect moments . . . sharing life with the people we love.  And in the end, isn’t that what life is all about?

The following words come from the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked.  I dedicate them to all those people I have known who have touched my life and made me who I am today.  Thank you to my parents, my family, my missionary companions, my teachers, my students, and all of my many, many friends for changing my life for the good.

“I’ve heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn

If we let them and we help them in return.

Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true

But I know I’m who I am today

Because I knew you.

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

(But I do believe I have been changed for the better)

Because I knew you…

Yes, because I knew you…

I have been changed… for good.”

Love,

Melissa