Where Do You Find Joy?

January is a long, dark month and finding joy keeps the heaviness at bay.

I always wish for snow in January because it brings me joy. I’m not talking about a lot of snow, just a couple inches. When snow is on the ground, the early darkness isn’t so bad and when the moon is shining, the night has a magical quality.

This little angel of joy caught my eye with the rainbows on the wall. I have crystals hanging in the window, and in the late afternoon rainbows cover the walls. It’s impossible to enter the room and not be filled with joy. Of course if I have rainbows, that means the sun is shining. Any day the sun shines is a joyful day.

One of my granddaughters called me yesterday to tell me she had used her birthday money to buy a new doll. Talk about joy! Her joy was contagious and as I listened, I smiled and shared her happiness. Later she sent me a picture of herself with her doll. More joy!

I was able to go to another granddaughter’s basketball game this week and the happiness I felt for being able to go can only be described as joyful. I’m so aware that time goes by so quickly that I want to be a part of her activities as long as I can. Graduation comes quickly. It was a joyful evening.

I wish all of you many moments of joy this month. I know if I bake chocolate chip cookies today for my husband, I will bring him joy. My mother used to say, It’s the little things in life that makes us the happiest. I think she was right.

What a Night!

Mary was chosen.

Mary was a young girl by today’s standards. This was her first child and to have been far from home when she went into labor would have been frightening.

I always thought how sad it was that there was no room in the inn until I had a baby. Now I see the wisdom in being sent to a stable. The inns were crowded which meant they were noisy and probably dirty. Who’d want to have a baby under those conditions? Not me.

Clean straw or hay and fresh air would have been better. Maybe Mary could see the star and concentrate on its beauty as she went through labor. I like to think the innkeeper’s wife was there with water and clean cloths to deliver the baby. I think God would have provided support for her.

I wonder what she thought when shepherds arrived telling her about angels announcing her son’s birth. Had she been surprised or had she just smiled realizing God was spreading the word that his son was born. The long awaited child that Isiah had prophesized was here at last. God was a proud father!

This was a joyous night that Christians all over the world remember. I can’t imagine the responsibility of raising God’s son. Mary clearly loved and trusted God or she would not have been chosen. She is a blessing to all of us who celebrate Jesus’s birth. Thank you, God!

A Snowy Path to…?

Where does this path lead?

A familiar story idea is about following paths. I always liked how Gretel tried to mark the path to her and Hansel’s home with bread crumbs. As they continued their way through the woods they found a house made of gingerbread and covered with candy. As they discovered, looks can be deceiving.

Teachers and parents also like to use paths in discussing which path children should follow when it comes to career, behavior or group of friends to follow. In short, the subject of paths has a lot of material for people to write and talk about.

In my mind, the path is leading to a barn that holds an old sleigh that has been lovingly painted and repaired. A sweet old man, who looks like Santa, lets me pet his horse that pulls the sleigh. I offer to help with chores if he will show me how to drive the sleigh. Mucking out the barn is worth the lesson. My fantasy ends with driving the beautiful red sleigh through the woods.

Christmastime is a magical season of lights and dreams. For me, the snow adds to the feeling that anything is possible. I would love to hear where your paths would lead. Happy imagining!

Advent Time

The first of four candles was lit on Sunday.

Advent is a time of preparing for Jesus’s birthday. People are encouraged to use this time to pray and to become more Christ like in our thinking and our behavior. A candle is lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas and they each have a different meaning.

The first Sunday’s candle is known as the Prophecy Candle. The prophet Isiah told the people a young woman would bear a son and call his name Immanuel. (Isiah 7:14) It is also known as the Candle of Hope. That is a word that we need right now. Hope that 2021 will allow us to return to what we use to call normal.

When my kids were little, the five of us put our names in a bowl and then drew a name each Sunday in Advent. We were to do acts of kindness for that person throughout the week. We weren’t to let them know what we were doing, but do it quietly as to not bring attention to ourselves. You can imagine this brought joy and frustration when the act wasn’t even noticed. For example, my daughter hung up her brother’s coat every day for a week and he didn’t even notice it was in the closet and not on the railing or the floor where he left it.

I have an easier suggestion and my daughter is doing it with her girls this year. Whoever opens the door of the advent calendar gets the treat and also the responsibility to do an act of kindness. The act of kindness is not limited to someone in the household. After doing the act, the person writes it on a piece of paper and puts it in a jar. On Christmas Eve, the 24 acts of kindness will be read. This is a gift to Jesus in that he said what we do for others, we do for him.

We are beginning December with snow, and I love it. It’s enough to make everything beautiful and not enough to cause a sore back from shoveling. It feels like Christmas and makes me happy and hopeful for better days to come soon. I have hope and faith. Which is good because next Sunday’s candle is the Candle of Faith.

Trees are a Gift that never stops Giving!

Trees are Inspiring!

One my favorite books is a Berenstain Bear book called The Spooky Old Tree. The bears have an adventure through the tree and encounter the Great Sleeping Bear. I asked myself what adventure I’d create if I went inside a tree. I’d choose having a conversation with the tree. Hearing about what the tree had experienced would be quite an adventure!

I’d have to select the tree’s location before I asked my questions. There are endless ones to choose from. Trees saw battles, weddings, funerals and religious figures. Remember Zacchaeus from the Bible who climbed a tree to see Jesus?

We all appreciate the beauty of trees and what they provide. Food and shade are easily thought of, but they also provide inspiration for writers. I’m sure all of you can think of a poem that honored a tree. I know several of you are thinking of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree.

A walk through the woods for many is a spiritual experience. It surrounds us with silent beauty and offers stories waiting to be written. Trees are one of God’s most precious gifts, and I am grateful. Just a note of interest. California is the home to Methuselah a bristlecone pine tree that is believed to be 5,000 years old. Now, that tree would have stories to tell!

Lavender Deters Evil Spirits!

Lavender doesn’t just smell great!

Lavender is a favorite is my garden and it has many uses. Some people use it in baking and make a lavender sugar. When I read about cooking with lavender, I learned that it is dangerous for cats and dogs to eat. My cats don’t seem interested in it, and I just enjoy the look and smell of it.

Lavender is grown throughout Spain and Portugal and is used in celebrating holidays by spreading it on the floors of churches and homes. It is believed to cleanse the area of evil spirits and negativity. Congress might consider spreading a little lavender in order to promote harmony.

Lavender is burned in bonfires on St. John’s Day in Europe which is also called Midsummer’s Day. It is celebrated on June 24 which is John the Baptist’s birthday. Today lavender is burned in homes to cleanse the air and like with the bonfire, it carries prayers to heaven. Smudging sticks can be made with lavender to purify homes. It is said to help bring peaceful sleep when burned in the bedroom.

According to lavender folklore, a woman in childbirth should hold it in order to gain courage and strength. Growing lavender in one’s garden will bring good luck, ward off evil, and attract fairies. Since I have lavender, I invite good fortune and fairies to my garden. I also encourage it to ward off mosquitoes like it is supposed to do! Marigolds are also said to keep mosquitoes away along with allium, lemon grass and lantana. I have three of these plants, and I have mosquitoes.

Lost and Found!

The last egg was found!

We had our Easter egg hunt on Mother’s Day this year because of Covid. I hid 60 eggs and 59 were found. This happens every year and as summer progresses the missing eggs are found. Little chick was in the lilies. She had been filled with two pieces of chocolate. The egg had been opened and the chocolate eaten but the wrappers remained. Some lucky animal had a nice treat.

I love reading the stories of things lost and then found years later. I have a lost and found story that happened several years ago in England after we had visited friends.

My husband and I left northern England and were driving south on our way to spend the night close to Heathrow Airport. We stopped after a couple hours to eat, and to have my wallet lifted from my purse that I didn’t have zipped. This I discovered after another hour on the road. We returned to the rest stop and of course nothing had been turned in, but we did file a police report. I also called home to cancel my charge card. I spent the next three hours going between praying and berating myself for being so careless.

When we arrived at our hotel, I was told I had a phone call. It was from a police department two hours west of where we were. My wallet had been turned in. A woman said she found it on the side of the road. When I asked what was in it I was astonished. My American money was there, my English pounds, and my credit card. NOTHING had been taken. We didn’t have time to retrieve my wallet and they would not send it to us so our English friends handled that for me. Bless them!

The timing of the phone call was amazing and the number I had for the woman who had found my wallet did not exist. I like to think my prayers were answered. I have no way of explaining the timing of the phone call to coincide with our arrival at the hotel. I like to think an angel found my wallet as a result of my endless praying. All I can say is pray works!

Tear Down Statues of Jesus and Mary?

People need to examine history carefully.

A black activist made news saying statues of white Jesus and Mary must come down because they represent white supremacy. It reminded me of the houses of worship being destroyed in Russia and priests being arrested when the Communists took over. Then there was Hitler who hung the Nazi flag in all the churches and arrested all pastors and priests who opposed him. I ask, is this the transformation of America? Do Christians have an evil history that requires our church to be destroyed?

No one can deny that members of the Christian faith used the Bible to support slavery. God has been used as an excuse to do terrible things throughout history. But why not examine the reason slavery ended in America? Christian abolitionists along with members of the Jewish faith ran the underground railroad and freed an estimated 100,000 slaves. They spoke out against slavery, wrote against slavery and campaigned against it. These people were beaten, arrested, and killed for their beliefs and using their first amendment right called freedom of speech.

Christians opposed the expansion of slave states and worked tirelessly to educate people on the evils of slavery. I believe without their relentless push to end slavery the practice of slavery would have continued. Maybe the Civil War would not have even been fought without these faithful people.

Instead of condemning white Christians and telling us we represent white supremacy, why not celebrate the Christians who fought for Civil Rights in America? I choose to look at the shining examples of my faith who worked to end slavery and also walked with Reverend King to change racists laws. As Doctor King said in his I Have a Dream Speech, he wanted his children to live in a nation where people were judged by the content of their character. When examining history, I hope people will not omit the contributions of Christians in the fight for equality.

White Flowers for those we Loved and Lost

White flowers have many meanings. Purity, innocence, reverence and bereavement.

People are suffering. They are angry, sad and hopeless. I grew up hearing, this too shall pass. Of course my response was, when? The unending reports of coronavirus have worn me out, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Now we have the tragic death of George Floyd. When will it end?

I have been included in a discussion of the latest tragic events and I must say I feel like I’m a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I believe all the deaths and injuries that have resulted from the actions of a police officer (and those who watched) are to be mourned. We all saw what occurred, and we all were outraged. I have been surprised to hear that people don’t feel the loss of a police officer’s life is as tragic as the loss of George Floyd. Why? Aren’t we all created by God and loved the same? Isn’t every life precious in the eyes of God?

I will always remember one episode of Little House on the Prairie. Mrs. Olson, an opinionated woman, was walking with a little blind boy who was African American and an orphan. She told him people wouldn’t want to adopt him because he was black. He questioned what that meant and she tried to explain skin color which of course was lost on a blind child. I remember he said, but I don’t see color. I only see darkness. Why do we continue to see color? People should be just as outraged if George Floyd had been white. Color should not matter.

I was at Ohio State in the 1960’s and experienced the tear gas and the demonstrations. I had hoped that was all behind us. Voices were heard and laws were passed to address inequities, but laws don’t change people’s hearts. I weep for Mr. Floyd and for all the other victims of this terrible unrest. I will continue to pray for our leaders and for all those who have suffered. These white bleeding hearts are my tribute to those lost and loved.

Laughter is the Best Medicine!

Laughing burns calories and relieves stress!

Rudolph had a bad case of fleas in our Christmas show last year and his agent Saulie was frantic trying to find a cure. She had lined up several appearances for him. Rudolph was very tall as you can see, and every time he scratched people laughed. He and Saulie brought the house down as the expression goes! I wish people had this to watch again and again.

I’ve written the Christmas show the last four years at my church and my goal has been to write a lot of humor for the show. I want the laughs for many reasons. It relieves stress and Christmas is a stressful time. Laughter boosts our immune system, decreases pain and adds joy to our lives. We need all of that all year round.

I’m working on the show for this year and I keep looking back to what I’ve done in the past. Frosty didn’t want to dance and play with the children because the Buckeyes were on TV. Rudolph’s nose turned brown as a result of a nose spray product he was promoting in a commercial. And then there was Helga the witch who complained to Santa about Rudolph stealing apples from her tree. Just remembering makes me smile!

Laugh, smile, and chuckle are all good words that express happiness. I hope reading this might bring a smile or a happy memory from Christmas. I know remembering has put a smile on my face.