Tag Archives: Christmas

My family has been asking …

what I want for Christmas?

It isn’t an easy question to answer for most people, but for me, it is simple … I want socks, soap and candles.

That has been my go-to answer for years because I don’t really need anything specific and although I don’t want to sound rude, I don’t entrust my camera and electronic equipment into the hands of my family and friends.

This year’s answers were pretty much the same as all the others until a unexpected event occurred.

I didn’t expect, when I was making my Christmas wish, that Gatlinburg, TN would be so torn by wildfires that threatened to destroy them.

It changed my Christmas list.  I no longer wanted soap, socks and candles for myself, but wanted them for those who had suffered from the fires that raged through the Smoky Mountains for days.

I now ask for Christmas that anything my family and friends were preparing to give to me, they divert and send their gifts to those in need in the Gatlinburg community.

They have need of everything I’ve asked for and I would love for anything that was meant for me to go to them.

I bought way more than my nieces need or want, and know that with their their network, they will get more than they know what to do with, so, excepting for a few gifts, I’ve decided to divert my haul to Gatlinburg so that those who have lost everything will have something.

I don’t have bundles of money to give, but I can give what I have and I can give my time.  I’m not particularly great at anything, but I’m adequate in many things.

It is my hope that I can help those trying to rebuild in my own inadequate way.

Send my socks, my soap, my candles and any other thing my family or friends may have bought me for Christmas to people who can use it more than I can.

I’m going to go to the Gatlinburg area the first chance I get to help in any way I can.  I don’t always swing a hammer straight, but I can swing one.

I could photograph the damage and catastrophe, but that’s been done.  I have other talents and am willing to break my back to help my neighbors.

I have need of nothing, can not think of anything I can’t live without, but those who lost everything, and the Smoky Mountains that I love so dearly, and cry so hard for, have lost everything.

It isn’t just the people who lost something, the mountains lost something, too.  They lost so much, but there is nothing that I can do to replace the loss of wilderness and wildlife.

My heart breaks thinking about it and I’ve cried myself dry over the loss of the mountains.

I want to give back, not to be noticed by anyone, but to know that I was there when these people needed me.

Give my gifts to the shelters who are accepting them and know that there could be no greater Christmas for me than to know that my family and friends cared as deeply about the people in need as myself.

I am in need of nothing.  They are in need of everything.

No gift wrapping required.

 

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Sometimes, at Christmas …

people are sad.

They are lonely and grieving and sorrowful for things they can’t change.

Even happy people get sad during this time of year.  They start thinking about what they have or haven’t done.

Things they’ve said or left unsaid.

They look away from the homeless on the street and the hungry in their own hometown.

The look for friends where there aren’t any and find reasons to feel sorry for themselves.

I can say this because I live it.  I experience it.  I understand it.

I am an optimist, but sometimes, my smile is painted on and my heart is heavier than I think I can carry.

I look around at my life and take stock as Christmas looms on the horizon, as the New Year stares me in the face and I think “what do I have to offer anybody?”

And then, like the soft light rising out of a foggy Spring morning, I am reminded that Christmas isn’t about me.

It isn’t about trees or gifts or money or family or friends.

It is about something so magnificent, so profound, so incredibly huge that it leaves little room to be sad.

It is about a child that was born of a virgin.

Not just any child.

The child.

The Christ child.

Think about that for a minute.

In this sex-crazed world, think about a young girl who had never given herself to a man and yet found that she was pregnant.

If you feel crazy, imagine what she was feeling.  Imagine what was going through her mind when she told the man she loved that, although she had never been with anyone, including him, that she was pregnant and that God had told her that it was ok.

How insane would that sound?

How could Joseph possibly trust her?

He trusted her because he trusted God and God trusted Mary with His son.

It sounds complicated and weird and yet it is so beautifully simple.

Who among us would not want to be chosen to carry the Savior of the world and who among us would not want to care for and love the one carrying that child?

Who among us would not want to be an integral part in raising that child, in cherishing Him, wiping His tears, telling Him bedtime stories, hearing Him say “I love you” as He wrapped His little boy arms around our neck?

I find that, when I think of the reason that we celebrate, the joy and inexplicable magnificence of it all, it is difficult to be completely sad.

Not impossible, for we are human and as humans, we can always find things to complain about, be sad about, be mad about.

We can always find ways that people hurt us or make us feel unworthy, who leave us wishing for more and hoping that tomorrow will bring the fulfillment of our dreams.

But if we let all the human emotions crowd our minds and hearts, we will forget why we celebrate to begin with and if we remember why we celebrate, then there will Joy unspeakable.

Yes, there will still be sadness and loneliness and melancholy … There will be loss, grief and memories that threaten our sanity … but they will, if we put them in perspective, be in their rightful place.

Behind joy.

Behind thankfulness and awe.

Behind beauty and love that surpasses anything we will ever find if we only see with our human eyes.

And because the feelings that threaten to destroy us are behind the Joy of remembering why we celebrate to begin with, we will live through them, move past them, learn from them and be stronger and more resilient because we have hope in something bigger than who we are and what we feel.

With hope, there is nothing impossible.

With hope, there is always the possibility of another day.

With hope, there is the image of Heaven.

Sadness can’t hold a candle to that.

My hope is that each one I know, each person I come into contact with, each spirit that crosses my own will know joy and that, even for a moment, the sadness will become obsolete.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

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Luke 2: 7-14

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

On this, the first day of 2013 …

After The Storm

I haven’t left the house other than to walk to my mom’s for some sausage balls and homemade chocolate chip cookies left over from last night’s New Year’s Eve celebration.  But not leaving the house on such a dreary, rainy, wonderful day doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished anything.  I did a lot of thinking.  I thought about taking my Christmas tree out today.  Since it was, however, so rainy, cold and dreary outside, I decided I could handle looking at the lights for one more day.  I’m going to miss that beautiful old tree when it’s gone, but nothing can go on forever and while I love the tree, I have missed the view out the window.

Besides thinking, though, I got many things in the house done.  General cleaning, straightening and taking stock of my pantry.  It seems that I have some baking soda, a few bottles of spices and a bag of flour.  Not conducive to cooking anything of any substance.  I’d like to try to get back into cooking, otherwise, I may have to break my cardinal rule and eat a hot pocket.

Besides coming to the conclusion that there is no truly edible food in my house, I’ve been getting my hiking gear oiled and cleaned, ready to get back to weekends in the mountains.  I am confident that when I see the Orthopedists in a couple of weeks, he will clear me to get back to the trails and hard places that I love to go.  I was complaining a few days ago about the belligerent 9-year old I had to wrestle into submission in order to obtain a flu swab, but I think he did me more good than harm.  I actually believe he helped put that pesky, out-of-place bone back where it belongs.  Guess I owe the brat a thank you.

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I cannot even voice how much I miss nature, the mountains, the rocks and trees, the waterfalls, the arduous climbs and the smell of the earth in every season.  So far, I have missed Winter completely, but lucky for me, Winter really only officially began a few days ago.  I long for the bare branches of the trees as they stand sentry over a barren earth, biding their time until she blooms again, bringing forth life and a different kind of beauty.  She calls to me; Mother Nature, that is.  She calls to me as the light changes, shifting over the mountains, shadows forming and dissipating almost in the same moment.  I long for the adventure of what I will find at the top of the next hill, around the next turn, behind the thunderous sound of water falling for hundreds of feet.  I dream of standing alone with nothing but the glory of nature surrounding me and find myself nearly trembling with anticipation to get back to it.

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While I have been out of commission, I have exercised at home, keeping my legs and thighs strong and ready for the hikes and climbs that I so dearly love.  Yes, in a couple of weeks, I think I will be able to stop those mind-numbingly boring, in-home routines, strap on my heavy backpack without feeling like my shoulder will detach itself from my person, grab my tripod and head out with my trusty Pentax to see what I’ve missed while I’ve been gone.  I wonder if  my favorite places have missed me as much as I’ve missed them.  I’d like to think so.

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Christmas, to a Follower of Jesus …

is, second only to Good Friday and Easter, the singularly most important religious holiday that is celebrated.  It is true that Christmas, to the secular world, has been commercialized with thoughts of Santa, spending money and giving gifts that may or may not have any bearing on the holiday itself.  It has become a day about getting, getting more and then being disappointed in not getting enough.  But to those of who hold Christmas in our heart for what it truly means, it isn’t about getting at all, but giving.  It is the celebration of the Virgin birth of the Christ child.  Now, it is no surprise that there will be many who will scoff at this.  That is not unexpected or taken in offense.  I know, in my heart and soul, what I know in my heart and soul.  It brings me great pleasure to honor Jesus at the celebration of His birth.  To revere  Him for the Savior that I personally know Him to be.

It is a beautiful image in my mind to think of a sweet little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothing, lying in a manger that is normally used to feed farm animals.  As it has been taught to me by wise teacher, swaddling clothes were usually reserved for females in order to depict the suffering that they would endure through childbirth.  To find a male child wrapped in swaddling clothing was simply not done.  But Jesus, more than any woman bearing a child, would suffer.  And not only would He suffer, He would do it willingly.

I can think of none of the children in my life, not my daughter nor my nieces, that I would sacrifice for anyone, much less a sinner, a murderer, child molester, thief.  Not a chance.  I would sacrifice myself before I would offer up any of those little ones dear to me; and only then as a trade.  But willingly?  I cannot fathom.  Nor can I fathom knowing the day and the hour that I would have to turn my back on any one of them, leaving them to fend for themselves while I remove myself from from their suffering because that was the only way to obtain the redemption that their death would bring.   It would be hard enough losing a child unexpectedly, but to know, day after day, that the time was drawing near.  I cannot fathom.  Were it up to me, it is quite obvious that mankind would be doomed to die in their sins for at the last moment, I would balk.  I am, after all, only human.

I find it, therefore, an honor and privilege to revere the Christ Child and the Father who was willing to sacrifice Him for my sins.  I’ve heard it said that God is callous and cruel, but what an enormous amount of love it would take for mankind in order to make Him turn His back on the Son He loved just so that we might be redeemed.  Nothing callous about that.  It is, without doubt, love in its purest form and I can only hope that, as I go along this life I’ve been given, I can give as unselfishly as my Father and my Savior.

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Luke 2:1-7

2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered

.And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Procrastination …

is my middle name.  Deadlines mean nothing to me.  In my mind, they are made to be broken.  I used to think that they drove me, but realize now that they loomed more than drove.  This year, though, even I have given procrastinators a bad name.  For the past two months, I have done nothing but put things off.  Relationships, projects, issues … name it and I have procrastinated it.  It is four days until Christmas and I haven’t bought wrapping paper or tape.  I have considered putting the few gifts I’ve bought so far into Target bags and leaving it at that.  They are red and white, and festively the color of Christmas, so why not.

Each day I have told myself that I have things to do, shopping to complete, cards to send and a myriad of other tasks that I have put off, some forgotten completely.  I’ve done little to no shopping and haven’t sent a single Christmas card.  I am a greeting card designer, so that, in itself, speaks volumes.  I know that in times past, I have put things off until the last minute.  I’ve spent many times burning the midnight oil to complete a paper that is due the next day, one I started the night before.  I’ve been told it is because I am an “artsy” type, a dreamer and a writer that I do this.  I don’t know if that is true or not.  I know that when I was in school and had a creative writing project, I could take two or three words written on the board and  have a three page story written in twenty minutes; never made less than an A+ in that class.  Of course that was a few decades ago, but I was a procrastinator, even then, just not when I was writing.

I can’t even begin to imagine how crazy I must have driven my parents.  My sister, who is a singularly driven individual, is so different from me that if I didn’t resemble my dad so much, I would swear with blood and oath that I was adopted.  I can’t think of another person in my family that takes such a laid back approach to life.  In my mind, it will happen when it happens and if I miss it, maybe I’ll catch it next time.  Funny, though, how I always seem to catch  meteor showers, waterfalls after a rainy season or the high mountains when the rhododendrons are in bloom.

I can’t count the number of times every day that I have to remind myself to focus simply so I can complete the tasks that I have to complete in order to not be fired from my job.  That’s not to say I’m not good at my job, because I think I am, but it doesn’t come easy.  I talk to myself (out loud) and find that more often than not, I am behind on at least one thing.  Usually  more than one thing, but at least one.

In my heart, I am a photographer and writer.   As such, I find it a burden to march to the drum the rest of world beats, but in order to make a living, I have little choice.  The problem is that my own drummer beats louder than the world’s and I find that I’m following it and, as usual, procrastinating.  I could make a New Year’s resolution to change, but have been there and done that.  I just put it off.  Imagine that.  So, to all the procrastinators out there, you are not alone.  But, in my life, it seems to work for me, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing … I just think I’ll do it tomorrow.

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For the first time in years …

a Christmas tree is in my home.  I don’t really  know what to feel about it.  There are so many emotions swirling through my mind and heart that I find it nearly impossible to separate them.  There is, first and foremost, the pure joy of having a lighted tree in my house that I am moved to tears, over and over, moved to tears.  The smell of cedar permeates the very existence that I know.  The lights blink, fade and flash, making me wonder if perhaps I am having a spell of some sort.  I have only lights on the tree as anything else seems to take away from the beauty. I am enamored and find myself staring, nearly hypnotized by the purity of that which is before me.

I hadn’t really planned on having a Christmas tree.  It has been so long and the thought made me feel sad and anxious along with a myriad of other emotions  and to be perfectly honest, I was afraid.  Afraid of the thoughts it would provoke and the memories it would invoke … but as I look at and dream with the lights, I realize that it is not made of things past or memories best left unearthed, but perfect beauty.  I am  awed by what I see and know that the memories I am making are my own, not those that are carried over from time past, but mine.  I don’t know that I have, before now, had memories that didn’t include someone else, memories that, in my heart, belonged only to me.  But now I do, and so I will cherish them.  I can’t say for certain that when Christmas comes around next year, I will have a tree, but I hope I will.  I hope for many things and hope is a good thing … maybe the best of things.  As long as hope is alive, no good thing ever dies.  I am grateful.  I am thankful.  I am content.  I find that being content is, without doubt, one of the greatest feelings ever.  Yes, there are people I am missing in my life, friends that I seem to have lost touch with, loved ones who are far away, but contentment is something that comes from within.  It has little to do with the outside world and everything to do with how I feel when I am alone.  Being alone does not have to be coexistent with being lonely. I am not lonely.  I am, at times, confused, and possibly discombobulated, but not lonely.  I have everything I need right here.  Yes, I am content; a beautiful thing indeed.

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If you’re too sick to go to the doctor …

you probably have the flu.  It is that time of year.  Actually, it’s a little early, meaning that the season will be in full swing by the time everyone starts traveling to visit with family and friends during Christmas.  There will be many who will have a fever and feel as though they have been beaten nearly to death with a hammer, but will travel anyway because, hey, Great Aunt Ethel will be disappointed if she doesn’t get the pair of socks they spent two minutes picking out.  They will hack and cough, sneeze and sniffle, wipe their eyes and forget, at times, to cover their mouth, touch everything and leave their germs behind for dozens of others; kind of like paying it forward, but in a bad way.  Unless they are walking around in a bubble, they are going to give it to many unsuspecting people, who will in turn, give it to many other unsuspecting people.

Imagine yourself on a plane, closed in with a few hundred others, a third of whom may have or have been exposed to, the flu.  Breathing the air, touching the surfaces.  There isn’t enough soap or hand sanitizer in the world to protect you.  Now imagine yourself on the subway platform with all the same scenes.  Now imagine yourself on the train, or at the rest area, or in a restaurant, or at the mall … I could go on for pages, but first, multiply the  above by a hundred thousand or so.  If you or someone you know hasn’t yet tested positive, just give it a little more time.

The flu virus can live outside the body anywhere from a few seconds to 48 hours and on your hands for about an hour.  The vaccinated have a better chance of avoiding the flu than the un-vaccinated, but there are no certainties either way.  It is important to wash your hands or use sanitizer between every contact with every surface.  Will it make you feel like the skin on your hands is going to fall of?  Of course.  What can you do about it? Use lotion.  That will make  you even more susceptible, but at least your nails will look good.

Jesus is the reason for the season, but flu is the reason for the sneezin’.  Try to stay well everyone …