Where can we get some Christmas spirit?

Have you felt the Christmas spirit this year, yet?

Don’t you wish we could go to Costco and buy some Christmas spirit in the freezer section (North Pole) and put it the microwave until it gets toasty and warm and then drink it up and we would feel that warm glow of Christmas.

Or, we could Google up Amazon and order it to be delivered (free shipping) to our house in a day and it will be on our porch waiting for us in a brown box with a smile printed on it, to unwrap and put on for the season. And we would feel warm and happy.

How about this idea…

Get out your phone.

Find your flashlight button and turn it on.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if we could push this “light” button that we carry around with us everywhere we go, and when we need Christmas spirit we shine it out, only a touch away. It’s always with us…

I’m choosing that one as the best idea yet.

But it doesn’t work like that does it.

Christmas spirit comes with some sort of feeling…of warmth, and participation right?

It comes naturally for kids, but for adults it ebbs and flows; up and down..or not at all.

The Christmas spirit is one thing we can’t order or buy, dang it.

So how do you get Christmas spirit?

I am going to tell you.

We have to want it.

We have to come to the big huge wonderful virtual Christmas door…

and we have to open it.

The key word is “COME.”

When you open that door, there will be a flood of senses which make you “FEEL” things. Your senses are intensely magnified. FEELING is a piece of Christmas spirit.

Do you know why we are distracted so much? It keeps us from “feeling.”

When you walk inside that Christmas Door you are choosing to be a participant of Christmas.

Here is how it works:

I am going to read a part of true story written by a man named Michael Drury which is called Christmas has a secret.

Story:

Outside a village church in Switzerland one cold winter night, a tired man waited for the evening service to begin. He had come a long way, and the church was dark. He began to wonder if any service was planned–despite the ringing of the bells that had lured him there.

 

But then through the forest he saw pinpricks of light bobbing and moving toward him. The congregation was assembling, each group carrying its own lighted lantern. After a few had arrived, the weary man followed them and sank down on a pew in the shadowy church. As more and more people came, each hanging his lantern on an iron hook in the wall, the shadows retreated and the church began to glow with light.

 

After the service the traveler stopped to ask the pastor about this unique method of illuminating the church.

 

“But it is the only means we have, monsieur,” the clergyman replied. “In the fifteen hundreds when many of these churches were built, it was too costly for the church to supply candles. It was usual for each family to carry a lantern. Our church has chosen to carry on the old custom. if someone does not come, we all feel it. The church is darker by one lantern.” He paused and looked sharply at the visitor. then he added, “We are called the Church of the Lighted Lamps.”

 

The traveler thanked his host and went away, knowing at last what he must to do to regain his joy in living. He had to light and carry his own lamp.

 

Those iron hooks can still be seen in the walls of the church in Switzerland…

(Mr. Drury goes on to say:)

Christmas is good only because we make it good–for no other reason. That is part of its message.  It is up to us.

It may sound absurd to say that anything so public as Christmas has a secret, but it does and this is it–the necessity to light your own lantern in the darkness. The customs must be kept guarded, cared for if Christmas is to take on life for us. The elements are there, but they must be given the breath of life–your life, not someone else’s. Your breath is what does it. (Unquote)

That is hard sometimes.

But it is the only way…

 

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Keeping Christmas

Christmas doesn’t just appear.

It happens.

With effort.

Keeping Christmas is more than pulling it out from the dusty attic rafters.

It is more than buying costly gifts or putting up that “darn” tree.

It is about doing something to make it live on each year.

We do it.

Or not.

We give Christmas life.

All of us.

It is an investment of spirit and effort.

We are the ones responsible to put oxygen in the believing.

That is part of Christmas’s magic.

That is part of the Christmas’s secret.

We keep it.

We preserve it.

We serve it.

We love it.

If we do,

Christmas wraps us up in its arms

and gives us back so much more then we give…

That is the real piece of the magic.

It is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I believe He has everything to do with it.

We have to keep Christmas or it will not happen.

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It’s coming…

Those three words give me a little thrill.

It feels like every single day more options become available to wait… less.

Instant info…

Instant speech…

Instant pictures…

Instant food…

Instant lights on…

Instant air freshener…

Instant communication…

Instant up and down tall buildings…

Instant parallel parking with no hands…

Instant shopping…

Instant entertainment…

Instant knowledge…

Instant intimacy…

We are training ourselves to become “instant fanatics.”

We are the I WANT IT NOW generation.

But, there is something about “the wait” that captures things inside our souls that we long for.

A simmering pot of chicken soup…

Lighting a candle menorah…

Warming up cold sheets with your feet…

Christmas Eve count down…

The first opening blossom of spring…

That first touch of a hand by new love…

A long ride to see loved ones far away…

We rush for convenience.

It’s a pain to wait!

But our senses miss

the process

of

waiting

and imagining

and thinking about

what

is

about

to

come.

There is so much

sensory filled happiness

in

anticipation.

Christopher Robin asks Pooh about his favorite things to do:

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best–,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

(Part of Joyful anticipation by Ingrid Fetell Lee)

Lee, I. F. (2018). Joyful. New York,  NY: Little, Brown Spark.

 

 

 

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Mental Sunshine feels good…

Do you feel…

overwhelmed?

Exhausted?

Depressed?

Out of energy?

Nervous for no particular reason?

Stress and depression give us “tunnel vision.” We sit in our challenges and spiral even deeper as our focus stays on the negative feelings. “We can get overtaken by a heavy, dark, feeling of despair.” But there is something that we can do to beat this, without the use of prescription medications.

It is simple. It is gratitude. “When we experience a sense of gratitude, we give ourselves a dose of mental sunshine.” Suddenly our focus shifts to what is right, not what is wrong. This gives us more options to experience our day. It gives us the ability to look outward instead of only inward.

Tom, a highly successful business man who was the best at everything he tried never felt happy. He finally went to a therapist. He did not want to take the prescription called Prozac that other depressed patients often were prescribed.  His therapist gave him a pill-free option and told him to try it for one month. Before work he was to ask himself, “What do I feel grateful for about myself? This reminded himself of his resources, strengths, and talents. Then, at the end of the day, he was to finish work by asking, “What did I do today, that I feel good about.” He discovered “Gratitude is a natural upper.”

When you feel blue, make a short mental gratitude list. Tell someone how thankful you are for them, give someone that serves you a treat, walk in nature and thank God for your senses, the list goes on…

The remarkable thing about this is it is free and it works

Mental Sunshine feels good…

(Stories and thoughts paraphrased by the book Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan. Pages 17-18)

Ryan, M.J. (1999). Attitudes of Gratitude. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.

 

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Incredible People

Last week I sat quietly tucked in a 100 acre wood of western Massachusetts with thirty something strangers. We came to a “retreat” away from the normal life we lived in Vietnam, Spain, Portugal, Poland, China, Jamaica, Iceland, Brazil, Bulgaria, Sweden, British Isles, and United States to find something to stuff in our pockets to take home.

I had never done anything like this before and came anxious and speculative. Of course we stared each other down that first breakfast in the cabin-like eating hall that smelled of brewed coffee and bacon, wondering who we would buddy up with. Many brought their own interpreters so people sat in small clusters in their “own whispers” of conversation. I bravely sat next to a woman from Vietnam and was relieved when she spoke English clearly enough for me to understand. We became friends that minute.

Then, the stories began.

Emotion, fear, exhaustion, tenderness, devotion, pride.. circled in and out of the groups as we shared our vulnerabilities as each day unfolded. The stories were different yet the same.

We all had come for someone we loved.

We were there to learn how to love them even more.

All week we were pushed to the depths of our fears. We were shaken into reality of how the world takes us away from being fully present. We dove deep inside and pulled out demons that self sabotage and keep us rigid and non accepting.

We learned how to love more deeply. We learned how to celebrate with sincerity. We learned how to connect because that is the most important thing of all. And we learned to accept challenges as blessings and not curses.

We came for autism. For our babies.

Their beautiful faces in photographs hung up on the wall in the common room for us to look at everyday. Everyday we cried. Everyday we rejoiced. Everyday we laughed. Everyday we were homesick for them.

We came to get a hand to hold. And now we hold each others hands around the world.

We came as strangers and left as family.

I will never be the same because I went…

 

(The “Son-rise” Program–

please pass it on to your friends who have autism in their life.

Love changes everything…)

Autism Treatment Center

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here and there

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I am a California girl; born and raised. It’s in my blood.

But until I moved to New England, did I learn how to truly celebrate the seasons.

Fall in California you never carve your pumpkin until the night of Halloween because it will get moldy. That’s a given.

Fall in New England you begin putting out pumpkins and Mums EVERYWHERE the minute the humid air turns fresh and dry. It is like heaving a heavy sigh the humid summer is over.

In California you rarely leave out lots of pumpkins or holiday decorations for a long period of time. When the holiday is over, it is done–clean up, move on. If you do your neighbors start to stare at your house and whisper.

In New England no one touches anyone’s pumpkins or holiday displays. They are left on rock fences, on entries of shops, homes, schools, post offices,…everywhere…until the next holiday replaces them… for a long long time savoring the season like a pot of warm soup.

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In California the leaves change, the blossoms come, and there is a slight difference in the air but fall, winter, spring…they all sort of interweave and feel sort of the same. The weather is glorious.

In New England every single season comes in with a shout, exclaiming “I AM HERE!…” for several months, and then gets pushed aside for the next season’s turn.

It is a big production! People take notice; hunker down and celebrate collectively.

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They celebrate every single detail…

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My eyes see much better now.

I celebrate along with them.

Seasons make me feel joyful and blessed.

 

 

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Queen

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the sheer beauty of a tree. I found one on a cool spring morning sitting on the top of a hill watching over rows of mischievous tiny crab-apple fairy trees enveloped in a yellow daffodil field.

She took my breath away. I would visit the spot most every week if not everyday during my walks, mostly to visit her. Other people and animals took in her majesty too. She was sat under. She was climbed in–her limbs were low to the ground and three-man thick. She was tattooed on with carvings of names, hearts encircling initials, and messages. Her branches spread out in a huge mushroom dome like a glorious hug. She had been the focal point for pictures even though you could not squeeze her enormous size into the photo frame. She was privy to secret conversations by lovers, visited by birds, stood as a focal point of sturdy goodness and beauty each year as the seasons passed time at least 300+ years. I called her Queen.

It was walking time this morning. It was 39 degrees and I was not excited to go out. My voice inside told me I must go to the trees. I bundled and drove to the place where Queen watched over the silly crab-apple fairy trees. When I arrived I burst into tears. On top of the hill where Queen reached out her limbs to welcome me was a precious icon completely broken. Queen was split in half.

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I had to honor her long, beautiful, giving life.

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Thank you dear Queen

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You shall be greatly missed by, Oh so many…

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