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Bittersweet Christmas

I was having an especially fun moment on Facebook.  A friend had posted a video of the Christmas story as told by children.  Just as a wisp of Christmas spirit began to materialize inside of me, the very next status update in my feed stopped me cold.

Another friend posted that a local family lost several of their own.  A father, mother, their two young children and the family dog all perished in a single engine plane crash on a freeway in New Jersey.

I don’t know for sure if this Christmas is different than any other, but to me it feels… I don’t know… darker.  So many people I know are facing serious financial difficulties.  Others are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one.  Still others are dealing with illness.  So much sadness…

I am left wondering how to reconcile this bittersweet dichotomy.  What am I supposed to feel?  I cannot steel myself to the pain of others.  Nor can I shut out the promise of Christmas. 

I sense that I am not alone in my emotional confusion.  Are you there, too?

At some point, we have to choose where we put our focus.  If I may make a sweeping generalization, I would say that most of us, given the choice, would prefer to relish the wonder of the season.  (Have you ever noticed how people thrill to the lights at Christmastime?  As beings created by the Light, we cannot help but be drawn to it.)

The darker the world gets, the more Christmas means. 

A savior is coming to pull us out of the mess of our own making, to wipe away every tear, to make right all that is wrong. 

In this promise, we can place our hope:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  (Isaiah 9:2-7, NIV)

 

 

Elsewhere on the blog: A last-minute gift idea for elementary school age children.

Flash Mob

I did something this weekend I’ve never done before.  A friend of mine, who also happens to be my favorite conductor, invited friends, colleagues and musicians to participate in a singing flash mob.  I had to do it.

For those of you not familiar with the phenomena that are flash mobs, the idea is that at a pre-determined time, hundreds of people in a crowded place (such as a shopping mall) will suddenly break into choreographed dance or song as a random act of art.  They are great fun to watch, and even more fun to do.

At 1:54 p.m. this past Saturday, right near the escalator in a department store bustling with holiday shoppers, over one hundred people, including yours truly, broke into an unannounced, exuberant version of the Hallelujah Chorus.  Cell phones and cameras came out of pockets and purses to capture the moment as we loudly sang,

“King of Kings!  Lord of Lords!  And He shall reign forever and evermore!”

Everyone within earshot was shocked out of their anxiety, their negativity, and their busyness.  For just a few moments, we were all caught up in the magic, the joy, and the electricity.  And at the cut-off of the final chord, a spontaneous ovation and cheering rose from shoppers and singers alike.

Can you imagine it?  Can you feel it?  I still have goosebumps.

Ours was not the original flash mob.  No, that one happened over two thousand years ago in a night sky over a field of sheep.  No bustling shoppers.  Just a few shepherds, trying to stay awake while their sheep slept.

Then…

Then…

THIS!

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”  (Luke 2:13-14, KJV)

A goldenbright light splits open the sky, and hundreds, maybe thousands of angels sing praises to God.  The air is charged.  Nothing ever happened like that before, and nothing ever will until the next time He touches earth.

Can you imagine it?  Can you feel it?

Stay awake!

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords is coming!

 Hallelujah!

 

 

P.S. Today on the Food page: How to make your own pancake syrup.

P.P.S. HUGE favor to ask, if you are a Facebooker.  I entered my children’s story If A Fish Had A Wish in the MeeGenius author challenge.  (Winner is determined by vote.)  Will you click here and give it a “like?”  It takes less than 10 seconds.  If you really like it, would you re-post?  Thank youuuuuuu!  – wwh

Perfect Peace

Call me a conscientious objector if you like, but for the sake of my sanity, I stay home on the day after Thanksgiving.  (Introverts like me much prefer a warm blanket and a quiet cup of coffee to parking lots and stores full of hyped-up shoppers.)  But this year, I broke my own rule.

As I neared the shopping center, the traffic and my pulse quickened.  I seriously began to doubt my decision.

Just when I was about to give in to an all-out fit of anxiety, I stopped myself…

…took a breath…

…and repeated these words to myself.

 

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

 

I don’t know why the King James Version of this verse (Isaiah 26:3) came to me, but I think the words are beautiful.

“…perfect peace…”

Yes, I thought.  I would love to experience perfect peace.  But how can I when the world is so crazy?

The answer lies in the second half of the verse.

“…whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

I smiled to myself.  I looked around with new eyes.  Suddenly, people fighting over parking spaces, pushing ahead in check-out lines, and speaking rudely to sales clerks didn’t faze me.  I became an observer of the chaos rather than a participant in it.

And you know what?  I felt… peaceful.

The world can go perfectly mad during the month of December.  You and I don’t have to play along.  We can have a mind stayed on the One who gives perfect peace,

the One whose birth we anticipate,

the One whose name is Prince of Peace.

 

 

There is a new entry this week on the Simplicity page: simpler cookware

 

Numb to the Blessings?

It was deep dark in my hotel room, and cold.  The only light came from outside my window – intermittent flashes of eerie green accompanied by an odd popping sound.  I picked up the phone to call the front desk, but the line was dead.  I tried to see what time it was, but the clock was dead, too.  Ah.  No power.

I groped through the unfamiliar surroundings to find my watch.  Thanks to the occasional flash of green light from outside, I could see the time.  3:00 a.m.

Shivering in the dark, I sat by the window and watched as power lines snapped under the weight of a thick layer of ice.  A tree branch fell with a crack, a thud, and a muffled tinkling sound like some plastic chandelier crashing to the ground. 

I had been hired by the local orchestra to sing the soprano solos in Handel’s Messiah.  They did their best to accommodate the singers, but the monstrous ice storm left eighty per cent of the city with no power.     

On my third day there, the day of our first performance, enough of the city had power that a hotel became available – with heat, water and light.  When I set my suitcase down in my new room, I just about cried for joy.  (I’m pretty sure an angel chorus was singing the “Hallelujah” chorus on my behalf.)   

No more sleeping in my coat, hat and gloves!  No more frigid showers!  No more dark, unfamiliar hallways!  No more meals from the only gas station in town with power!

I have never been as aware of the comforts of everyday life in America as those few days when I didn’t have them.

Isn’t that just so human?  I mean, isn’t it so typical for us to take it all for granted?  There are so many blessings heaped on us that we have become numb to them.

Most of us in this country get to choose what shoes we’ll wear today.  We don’t have to travel any farther than our kitchen sink for clean water.  Many of us would like to shed a few extra pounds because we have more than enough to eat.  But we are used to those things…

Every now and then, I catch myself taking it all for granted.  And I pray, “God, let me not grow numb to the blessings!”

This Thanksgiving, I pray this for you, too. 

I pray that you have eyes to see your many blessings.  I pray that you remain sensitive to each gift-wrapped moment given you by God.  I pray that your blessings are too numerous to count and too wonderful to ignore.

And when you find yourself in that frame of mind, I pray that you will bless others – not because you’re supposed to, but because you will burst with gratitude if you don’t.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”  (Ps. 69:30, NIV)

 

New on the Family page today: a song to teach your kids how to count quarters.

Announcement

I must ask your indulgence.  Today’s blog is less of a commentary on faith, and more an announcement of sorts.

If you read this post about catching pearls, you know what I mean when I say that I caught one.  For a while now, I have wanted to expand my blog, and now I have.  (Don’t worry.  I’m not going to quit writing about faith.  It’s too much a part of my life to ignore.)

I have added three pages to my blog site: Food, Family and Simplicity.  This will give me a chance to share with you some of the pearls I have caught relative to home/family/faith life.  Pearls are meant to be shared! 🙂

On the Food page today, you will find my husband’s recipe for Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pancakes – yet another sneaky way to get veggies into your kids (and maybe yourself?).

On the Family page today, I am sharing a neat trick to help get your kids dressed and out the door on time in the morning.

On the Simplicity page today, I have two book suggestions for those trying to simplify their lives – and who doesn’t long for a simpler life these days?

I hope you enjoy these additions.  Thank you for indulging me today with my announcement.  I’ll be back to writing about my messes and victories on my faith journey next time.

Many thanks,

Wendi

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV)

P.S.  If you have received this blog via e-mail, please click on any of the highlighted pages above.  They will take you to my actual blog site.  I’d love for you to drop by and have a look around.  Come on over! – wwh

 

Accepting Change

I admit it.  I don’t do change well.  This is something God and I are working on, and He has given me many beautiful opportunities to trust that change, though it may involve letting go, is not in and of itself a bad thing.

We had our first frost this week.  Sunday morning, I peeked outside to see if anything in our garden had survived.  My heart sank a little when I saw the leaves of our summer basil blackened and once robust squash leaves looking like limp dishrags on sticks.  How I loved our summer garden!  And now, it is gone.

But the first frost of the season also means harvest.  That same day, I plunged my gloved hands into the soft earth and pulled out the sweet potatoes that will soon be on our Thanksgiving table.  It was a delightful, subterranean treasure hunt.

sweet potatoes!             

This is only one example of the changes I have seen this fall.  Though the letting go always makes me wistful, I am trying harder to look ahead – to smile for what was, instead of crying that it is no longer.

There was a time in my life when change, especially the endings of things, would have sent me into all-out panic mode.  Not anymore.  I have learned to trust the hand that turns the seasons.  I have lived long enough to see that things have a way of working out.  I have grown in faith enough to know that there is treasure under the surface of whatever change I may be facing. 

I feel that I should pause here to offer a caveat.  I don’t mean to suggest that grieving is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Grieving is normal, healthy and biblical.  I am referring here to day-to-day, season-to-season, year-to-year changes which may cause discomfort, but do not devastate.  In either case, a little faith goes a long way to soften the blow.

What changes are you facing this fall?  Do you welcome change, or do you fear it?  Do you see the loss or the harvest? Perhaps most importantly, do you believe that whatever change God allows you is ultimately for your good?  (It is, you know.)

There is a season for everything.

There is a reason for everything.

Trust now the hand that turns the seasons…

…and leave the reasons to Him who is for you. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

You know the amazing idea that hit you while you were stuck in traffic?  Do you remember the one that splashed you in the face during your shower?  How about the one that woke you in the middle of the night and kept you from sleep? 

Pay attention to those.  They are pearls from heaven.

Whenever I have created something good – whether it is a piece of music, a blog, a recipe, a children’s book, whatever – I am keenly aware that the idea did not come from ME.  I am merely a conduit for God. 

In the case of music, a melody will wind its way into my thoughts, and I simply take dictation.  It’s as if I’m back in Music Theory class with Dr. Rosenkranz as he plunks out a bit of song on the piano for the class to write out on staff paper.  When a melody pops into my head, I know it is God, the Composer, dropping a pearl from heaven.

Sometimes, I sit at the piano, hands folded, and I’ll ask, “What key?”  A key and meter flash in my mind.  I place my hands on the ivory, and music that had not existed on earth until that moment is born.  I am certain the music already existed in heaven, but it won’t be heard on earth until I catch the pearl.

But here’s the kicker.  So many times, I catch a pearl… and then let it drop to the ground, unrealized.  I determine that no one wants to hear the melody, or read the books “I” write.  I decide that the idea came from me, and therefore, isn’t very good.  I listen to negative self-talk about success being meant for others, not for me.  I give audience to the enemy’s whispers of doom, gloom and doubt.  In so doing, I become the wicked servant in the parable who buried his master’s treasure rather than expanding it for his glory.  (Matthew 25)

Dropping pearls is dangerous.  If you drop them too many times, or fail to catch them at all, you may not be trusted with them anymore.

So… have you had any great ideas lately?

Treat them with care.

They are pearls from heaven.

 catching pearls from heaven

P.S.  Did you notice the new blog title?  It hints that there are changes (i.e. additions, not subtractions) ahead for this blog.  I caught a pearl! 🙂

-wwh

 

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