A Better Way Through Hardships


The breaking news of my day included the younger of my two brothers–the one not in the Northwest– being in the hospital with serious heart symptoms. Again. This was not long after a surgical procedure that was to fix significant electrical anomalies deep in a heart chamber’s tissue. The gist of it is that he has dealt with a difficult situation for awhile–far more so than my own heart issues of late. And resolution is yet being sought.

We are a family rich in figurative heart, I think, being  musicians, writers, artists; makers of things and seekers of knowledge. It isn’t so simple or easy being in this family–all that temperament  get deeper and more tiring than one might desire, myself included. And we are a family with literal heart problems, ones that can take us down. It seems to be one or the other of us during each year, sometimes two or three of us as during this year. And we lost our oldest sister  two years ago to congestive heart failure/heart attack at just 78. I am dearly hoping to keep my other three siblings around much longer.

I called him when he was able to talk. His equanimity and good nature were holding steady. He explained the problem, his organized, logical nature routed past the acreage of feelings (of which he owns large amounts in addition to a fine intellect). I understood the medical issues. It was his mellifluous voice I needed to hear. His presence I wanted to access. It was, in truth, reassurance I sought, and it was enough for now. And “now” is exactly what there is at any given moment.

But after I got the first messages I tried to simply prepare for the day. Soon I found myself singing “The Lord’s Prayer”, a fine song based on the prayer that I cannot recall singing in years, as I am a singer who no longer sings much. Gratitude bloomed within me. The energy that arose from the very act of singing of faith as well as my human need rendered me still within. And also readied me. I felt able to pray deeply for my brother’s well-being and felt imbued with a sense of God’s awareness of us here on earth. (Both the making a mess of it and making things better.) It may sound strange, but it is what it is–I just do feel God (assuredly, many do). I texted friends and family who might not have received the news, asked for offerings of healing energy, a few words of prayer, their generous caring. I believe he’s getting this from people all the way to the other side of the country.

He is somewhat better by now. He has had ongoing confidence that there will be a way to amend the problems. He has faith in good medicine, yes, but he has an abiding hope in his beliefs and great zest for life, as well. He has been through many ordeals, the Viet Nam war and more. I know he is in the right place with his steadfast wife and a competent staff. He is certainly not alone.

I think of how often life has brought scathing, disastrous, alarming or grievous times. We all have them. We every one of us toss and turn through wretched nights and cast about for peace as we endure. How do we manage to make do in the worst of it? How do we determine a path to a cohesive balance? The options may include escape, sharing the burden with another or sinking into solitary perseveration. We can become outraged or self-pitying or go numb. We also can try to change what we can and learn how to accept life on life’s terms as, for example Twelve Step programs state. We are not the only ones who gain such coping skills; its been going on for thousands of years. It has got to be in our DNA by now: humans typically do not give up that easily. We are willful–and resilient.

I am pensive tonight. About my brother’s well-being, yes, but also about the order (or lack) of various matters in my life. Plans gone awry. This shouldn’t be a surprise since nothing is for certain except change. But the past few months leading up to Christmas have been different this year. My husband, Marc’s, health has plunged into crisis twice. My chronic issues have given me a some hard days though I manage quite well, overall. Then M. traveled on business for longer than expected. Christmas preparations were partly delayed. There are activities we always get excited about that we have thus far been unable to do. What happened to our big annual, handmade holiday calendar in bright markers that shows all we plan to enjoy? It never even got made. We missed two special concerts, as well–the weather interfered, then my own faulty heart.

Yet I am nearly ready, accept for cookie making which will have to be shared, happily, with my first-arriving daughter. And oh, yes–every single gift for twelve people still needs to be wrapped. But I just take it a step at a time since there is no other choice. I get done what can be done, work faster, but I know much is overlooked by my family and forgiven with good humor.

In a few short hours, my East coast daughter will be arriving. And a few days later another one will be flying in from another state. And when I think about them, everything finds its place inside my teeming mind. Because they are so brave, I can at least be present, accountable and entirely ready to offer hugs. I did as much when I worked (well, actual hugs were infrequent, sadly) in mental health and addictions treatment for decades–it comes more readily with the kids.

The first daughter was born two and a half months early, weighing only two and a half pounds. In the 1970s, there should have been no way she would survive. They understood preemies very little then, and interventions were few and often little help. She barely fit in a nurse’s hand; her skin was so ivory-translucent that the map of her veins was visible. She wore a heart and respiratory monitor that went off with terrifying regularity as I lay aching, way down the hall, craving just one touch of her. She did not come home for over well two months; I did not get to hold her, to nurse her during hospital time. The one time I was allowed near her, she turned blue as I tried to bottle feed her. Allergic to almost all formulas, she was allergic to many other things, too. Her father and I pressed our hands against the nursery window, gazed at her in the cage-like Isolette. My spirit felt like it jumped out to find her, hovered near her, longing for her, sad but full of a new and complex tenderness. Her tiny fingers were tapered, artistic, I thought; I wondered who she would become. I did not think she would not be able go on; she had come to us, she was breathing.

Each additional day she lived, she began to thrive. Her presence altered everything, changed what mattered in ways I never imagined. She was fortunate to not have any intellectual deficits or physical problems. Later labelled a talented and gifted child, she was so shy she barely looked at people or spoke for years but she paid strict attention, mind percolating a brew of ideas. She sat silently with a pile of blocks and built, then rebuilt structures for hours by the time she was two. She began to make things out of odds and ends that were unusually complex. She later became dedicated to opening up her life and fulfilling her dreams. Has pushed forward to become an artist; has shared kindness, made tremendous friends as she’s traveled the world. The child who hid behind my legs is, it turns out, fiercely independent. A quicksilver mind allows for lively discussions and intrigues people, including us. She keeps going forward, creating sculptures, teaching, finding more adventures, all 100 pounds of her.

The other daughter coming was born with serious hypopituitarism, in layman’s terms severe growth hormone deficiency, a rare congenital condition that became apparent at about six months old when she nearly stopped growing, then barely inched along the next months. She was overflowing with energy and laughter. But very small. Testing of endless sorts began in earnest within a few months, some very painful for her, frightening for us, but after a couple of years the culprit was exposed. When treatment of daily injections of DNA-recombinant biosynthetic growth hormone were administered at age four and a half, she began to grow better, more steadily. More evaluations at medical research centers, blood drawn, dosages altered, statistics charted. Growth hormone cost two thousand dollars a month. Soon she was entered into University of Michigan Medical Center’s free research study protocol for just 200 other GHD children across the U.S. The idea was to try a new kind of growth hormone, in other words, for her to become a study subject. It was scary decision to make–a child depends on parents doing the right thing.

After awhile her skin became less baby-soft, voice slowly gained a richer timbre, her very face changed before us–she finally looked older. Everything is affected by growth hormone if one does not have it in proper supply. Think how everything in our bodies replicates, our very cells. Without proper hormones, things fail to act correctly. She became used to the shots. Still, in kindergarten she was yet the size of a toddler. When anyone said mean things, she wiped her tears and carried on. We so wanted to protect her but what good would come of it? She was to add good to the world and explore its variety, not be afraid of it. And she was thrilled with learning, loved chatty socializing.

It took years of injections she learned to give herself; additional hormone replacements needed, it turned out; of trial and error in treatments. She was nonetheless a child who celebrated life, gabby, given to spontaneous songs and dances. She endured the rest, accepted the frequent medical visits, shots, routines. Strangers were drawn to her when we went to the store, the library. It was her size, yes, but also her easy smile and bright eyes. My child smiled at everyone, just started up conversations so I had to keep an eye on her. This daughter wanted to pull life to her in a full-on embrace.

Eventually, slowly, she grew enough so by 16 she came to be considered just a rather short person at 4 feet 10 inches or so. Her medical treatment did not end because she got taller. Severe GHD is a complicated medical condition that requires lifelong monitoring and treatment with several hormones. The shots continue daily. She often doesn’t feel well; her immune system is less defended. She quickly can overheat in the sun. Her muscles tire more easily than many her age and her joints ache. More easy breakage of bones is a risk. Yet she was a roller derby skater and enjoyed every minute–until she hurt her knee. But she is indefatigable in her arts career goals and is moving ahead. Her leisure time is spirited; her marriage, a good one. And unpaid work embraces the disenfranchised, undervalued and forgotten.

The point is not that my daughters are spectacular, even if I love them profoundly and thus suspect they may be. All of our daughters everywhere are extraordinary, unique–and also our sons. (I have also written of my son, who survived a ruinous, near-fatal motorcycle accident in his early twenties, then went on to success as a pro skater.) No matter who they are or where they live in the world, they each must learn life’s twisty lessons, meet untold challenges, be inventive enough to nurture contentment and what can seem like elusive joy. But my children taught me more than they’ll likely ever know. They are beacons for me, all five of our now-adult kids. I only want to share a fraction of what these two have faced, gotten through, plus a  view of what we, as parents, have had to learn about adaptation, unerring hope and tenacity. We have been on a journey that has been hard–not as hard as for many, that is certain, but what we each experience first is our own particular sort of pain, and our smaller and larger triumphs. We can come through more than we think we can and be the better for it.

As I finish writing I hear that my persevering, optimistic brother now better rests. A new heart medication is working to bring down weeks-long, dangerously high heart rate to a workable 75 beats per minute. I am hoping for even better news tomorrow.

How we address life’s hardships and trials, how we manage to live through it: this is much more the issue, not the difficulties themselves. And then not only through it all but beyond it to the next step, and next and next. What choices can we still make if and when faced with powerlessness and hardship?

I yet choose–my family chooses–to believe in the transforming power of an intricate, numinous design of life in this realm and beyond. I cannot imagine managing the deep ruts and landslides of life without wonder or hope, without manifestations of love. These give breath to breathe, light to shine upon winding paths.

Ready or not, Christmas will happen in my home. This is not the case for everyone who desires to celebrate it–or other religious occasions or holidays. We are well aware, are we not, that there is heartbreaking suffering going on in this often-sabotaging, murderous world. Our own country is approaching a perilous time of change. So much more reason then to trust the impulse to reach out and aid one another, to connect our lives with generosity of Spirit. To endure what may come with even a small dignity. To tend a creative faith in something finer, something brighter than what we think we can see. There is a sort of heaven we can encourage on this small, spinning earth. We can make it happen one moment at a time. Here, now. Trust the possibilities of living this life with expansive charity and a wellspring of hope. Take hold, hang on, share whatever good you can. Welcome Divine Spirit into your dreaming and doing. You will make such a needed difference.


Off to pick up our oldest daughter. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May the blessings of healing love and strong peace take root and grow well in your lives.

(Note: I will write my usual shortest post on Friday, then will not be posting until January 2017.)

Lamp Lighting in a Darker World

The Lamp Post in the City by Erik Hennigsen, 1897
The Lamp Post in the City by Erik Hennigsen, 1897

As Pacific Northwest rains subdue the palette of nature, I find the light that much more remarkable. It flares, retreats, accumulates in small places, bores through density of fog or shadow in a brilliant beam. It pools about treetops and people in opalescent auras when least expected. And it seems to hide for long periods. Though grayness leaches warmth from our emerald green, I know the sunlight is there. I am heedful of its oft-ephemeral illumination, discover it in watery reflections, the clinging air, a wind-upended sky. Although I am at home in shadow and dark (both are gradations of light in my thinking), the light calls me.

I have often felt my living is a motley, persistent series of advancements toward greater light. Toward more expansive and intriguing horizons than the one left behind. The locomotion is naturally not always rapid or connect-the-dots forward movement, but it incorporates motion even in apparent stillness. As we live and breathe, the body, mind and soul effect a rhythmic synergy. And both literal and figurative walk/run/pause/walk/run/pause includes this very moment, a kaleidoscopic experience. Aliveness offers such creative largess.

Humans are such restless creatures. So much to be explored, embraced, utilized, redesigned, discarded. We feed the engine of curiosity even in rest and sleep. And the soul seems to circle ’round us, waiting, when we are not attentive to its well-being, too. My belief is that Grace interacts with free will as we construct and inhabit our lives. (Note a meaning of synergism defined in my old The American Heritage Dictionary: “2. The doctrine that regeneration is effected by a combination of human will and divine grace.”)  I awaken from the refueling and instruction of dreams, sort their meanings, get up, seek what may be next. I start the day with optimism tempered with prudence.

I do not think often about the past, nor the future. Intellect, intuition and feeling guide me in daily choices. I believe God also stirs us, beckons us. And moves between and within our global and personal spheres–and far beyond.

But for some time I kept setting up camp in the past, no matter how far I had come, regardless of updated versions of reality. Magnetically sly, the past would pull me to both nostalgia’s perfection and various brutal remembrances. It is said that familiarity is more secure even if not good for us. Perhaps that is so, otherwise we’d be moved to improve more, faster.  Still, I looked backwards to better gauge where I ended up, to help determine where I wanted to go. It was inefficient at best, self-defeating at worst. There was, I found, relief to be had by remaining in the moment. And more than that, ubiquitous opportunity for change. There was no time to waste on what had gone before. I started a new habit of pulling my mind from past to present by attending to what was in front of me–the work, the play, the person, the place.

The future is much trickier to manage. Even with decent foresight, with calculations to gauge odds and extensive history to inform decisions, I find myself unwilling to predict much of any significance. Experience tells me very little I imagine for good or ill will be quite as I imagined it. It is often, in fact, another thing altogether. I prefer it that way. I cannot think of life without wide-ranging and unknown factors. What motivates me is having expectancy, not of something in particular, necessarily, but of just something. I always want to know what’s coming around the corner. I draft a loose plan and move on, all the while keeping a look out as the next moment happens. And there is always more than I can absorb even when I fell acutely aware. The future is really only the moment following this period. And even that is up for grabs.

As 2015 draws to a close I look over my shoulder deliberately, as we all do, I suppose. It has been punctuated by losses and struggles. My oldest beloved sister died in April near my birthday. I was hospitalized for heart arrhythmia and tests in June. A family member was plagued by suicidal ideation; it was a long summer of recovery from her debilitating depression. I lost another relative to suicide some years ago and still feel his leaving, so this was a time of constant vigilance for me.

And, too, I damaged my foot and was unable to walk much for a few months. My other sister had a bad hip replaced and I stayed with her for a week to assist. One of my brothers had an emergency heart surgical procedure last week. And my brother-in-law, the husband of my deceased sister, passed suddenly eight months after she left us. His funeral service was also last week.

And then, Paris. And San Bernardino. Ceaseless tragedies and crises continue in our world. Grief is a river that gathers us all and we hold to each other, try to float the best we can. It can be disorienting. Stupefying.

None of this did I clearly anticipate happening. I have had premonitions, concerns, anxious moments. We know we take a chance daily in this world; we are mortal. So as life has unfolded these ways, I have done what most of us do: pray and ready myself for the hard road ahead.

And yet. And yet. I am filled with surprise at the wonders, too. The outpouring of care from friends. The edification and warmth of my weekly church women’s circle. My children’s and husband’s love and steadfastness. Finding the humor in seeming limitations and small absurdities in my busy days. Noting good improvements in many lives. The deep appreciation of the health I have, the freedom it affords. Visitations of miraculous moments with nature. The blessings of service to others. Thought-provoking, meaningful creative activity others engage in and my own sharing of writing and other arts. The presence of God in my life every moment. Here, now.

After Roland, my brother-in-law, died and I was treading that current of sorrow, I sat at my computer and downloaded and imported my camera’s photos. Then I clicked on “open folder” as usual and what filled the screen was not my latest pictures from a walk but three of Roland and my deceased sister, Marinell. The pictures were from over two years ago: one of my sister, one of her spouse and one of them leaning close together. They were smiling at the camera I had been taking pictures with at the barbecue on my niece’s deck. I frowned, frustrated, and then a chill shot up my spine. They were smiling right at me. They were right there. This folder had not been opened in over two years. I had not been searching for other photos before importing my current pictures. Their pictures just came right up, for me, that day, that moment. I began to cry, but in relief and gratitude.

Say what you may, but I felt the room fill with their presences. They both believed in eternal life; they believed in angels. Especially Roland, a fearless pilot US Navy and then for decades a commercial airline pilot. And he died in a major airport that was the main hub for his flights.

Roland liked to share stories of how often he felt his life had been saved by what he felt was divine intervention. He knew how connected to God I feel and that this life is a thin veil. He used to tell me how important it was that others knew, that they needed to understand there were angelic beings watching over us, helping us. He once insisted I write of angelic guides and his usually laughing and deeply blue eyes–those of a bright, discerning, courageous man–gleamed with deep emotion.

So I am sharing this experience for him: they came to me even though I wasn’t searching for anything, even though it was impossible that those pictures would suddenly come up like that. I understood they were just saying: Hello, we are together again. We love you. 

But I have not been able to find the pictures–none of them–since that day. Maybe one day I will sort it out; I’m in no hurry today.

I have been enjoying an interactive Advent calendar in the style of Victorian times. There is a lamplighter who methodically lights each lamp along a darkening street very time it’s evening. If I was walking along with him, I would glance back at the glowing spots spilling into the velvety dark. I could note where we were coming from and it would be a different story than the one I saw before I had moved on. I would be able to see things I had missed before because it is our perspective which changes things.

But I would rather choose to see the newly illuminated portions of the journey, to glance right and left and just before me. I am not afraid because I am not alone here on this planet. And there is much coming forward into the amber light. Life is the thing afoot and it takes on varieties of form. What lives seeks regeneration here and in the universe, yet the complexity at the heart of it all is simple in its wholeness. We are made of star dust (water and carbon), after all.

The darkness of the walk before my feet and the distant pathways–all unseen. Sensed, perhaps; glimpsed, even–but the specifics remain unclear. They will most certainly be disclosed step by step. Revelation is that beacon light, a call to seek and find, the Spirit that startles and fills me to overflowing and gives me peace. And sometimes  unpredictable, even difficult change. But there are always chances to get stronger and deeper, to discover and solve, to praise amid the letting go. To better fit my true nature. Let the living expand and glow within the grayness, inside the light.

Keep your own beautiful lights burning. When you think the flame is flickering, shield it, watch over it, give it air and space, seek aid from others. I’ll be looking for you and passing on peace along the way.


Postscript: Since it is Christmas soon and we will have a full house, I am taking a brief vacation from blogging. If I find extra time and am so moved to write, I’ll toss a few words in. Otherwise, I hope to see you all in January 2016.

And for those of you who celebrate it, have a lovely Christmas!

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Christmas: Enough, Too Much or More?


Lush, beribboned wreaths. Scents of wintry chill, fresh and bright. Twinkling lights on each neighborhood’s porches, bushes and trees. The flash and dash of shops and holiday markets that entice eye and wallet. Signs and symbols of Advent in churches that beckon newcomers and comfort old-timers, reassuring to many of us. There are delectable candies and traditional cookies to make, gifts to list and obtain, decorative touches to add to your home and the city’s gigantic, brightly adorned tree to “oooh” and “ahhh” over. Decor ranges from snowy miniature villages to garish metallic or pop culture-goofy ornaments to hang along the top of your bay window or stoop.

What is not to like about all this? As December dawns, I have always proclaimed that I am primed for the holiday season so let’s get on with it. But, in fact, I have mixed feelings about Christmas. Maybe it’s that a few decades have passed and my children now have children of their own. Three of five live far away and are ensconced in independent lifestyles, their careers. And even the grandchildren are not so small, not perhaps as open to everything I may plan. Still, though I miss them, my family has less to do with what’s on my mind than my own musings.

I had an experience last week at a deli counter. A woman was waiting for her order to be prepared. She taped at the window where the meats were displayed.

“It’s marvelous, that head cheese. How about you? You like it?”

I thought I heard a hint of challenge in her voice. I guess I made a face, but then I quickly smiled at her. “Oh, not really for me.”

“Your face said it all–just how I would look if you asked me how I feel about Christmas. I absolutely hate it.”

“Well,” I said,”to each their own, right?”

“Naw, I want everyone to be just like me,” she stated adamantly.

I suspected she was being funny. When I glanced at her, she was scowling, trying to not look at me.

I hoped she’d lighten up a bit.”Well, with my character defects, I wouldn’t want everyone to be like me!”

She glared at me, taking in who I was for the first time. Slowly. Head to foot. “Goodbye,” she said loudly as if it was a declaration she had to deliver. And then she turned on her heel and left.

“Have a good one!” I softly called after her.

I was relieved I hadn’t lost my composure but hoped she might be less angry about whatever had made her so dour. That maybe she would give less venom to the next person. I doubt I impacted her other than to further persuade her that people who liked Christmas and didn’t like head cheese were a blight. But I thought about her as I shopped, wished her well. I wondered how many persons feel like she does, and that led me to think about my own holiday spirit.

Well, sometimes I haven’t liked this season so much, either. I am not always certain what all the fuss adds up to in the end. And as an avid participant as well as a Christian I need to understand my viewpoint better.

Many, if not most, would agree that Christmas is too commercial– even as overspending continues. I was not wilting in midnight lines for Black Friday, nor do I dart out for every phenomenal sale advertised. My preparations are simple and limited although my husband would probably say otherwise. Perhaps I have changed my attitude some since not working. I recall spending a lot of hectic hours worrying about and purchasing far more than a couple presents for fifteen to twenty people. The coffers are more empty now but it still matters to me that each person has something he or she has a real interest in or needs. I really want to give but I don’t go overboard. I have waited a bit this time. Today I have started this year’s Gift List; my love labors have only begun.

And yet. I am wondering what this Christmas will be, and how I can experience it, even shape it into something finer, sweeter. Simpler. My conflicting responses are entwined with family but also my ever-shifting perspective of the Season as I age.

I have never fully understood why there is such a materialistic celebration, especially when Jesus was apparently born closer to June. I also realize it is an offshoot of the pagan event of winter solstice. Saint Nick came much later, leaving gifts for poor village children. It’s true the Bible has clear reports of fanfare when Jesus was born in that crowded, dirty manger. The Star of Bethlehem was magnificent, even blinding people with its powerful light. The wise men travelled long and far to bring the baby precious gifts of incense, frankincense and myrrh as they welcomed and lauded him. Angels came and hovered close. Shepherds gathered with their own prayerful homage. It was something to behold. I am certain, and I regret I wasn’t there to see, to hear, to  know.

Meanwhile, I am wondering what we–those of us who celebrate Christmas–are looking for in the here and now. Yes, we celebrate the arrival of Christ into our world if we are believers. Traditionally, we send greetings to others that include peace, joy, hope, thanksgiving. We feel the transition, seek soul renewal as the year draws to a close and a new one begins, according to our calendar. And we just want to share fun times. Maybe all that is enough, is what we are yearning for. This has certainly not been another grand slam of a year when it comes to world accord, or financial security, health and safety for far, far too many.

But enjoyment counts wherever we can get it. There are events we attend yearly, with new thrown it. I have on my calendar a Scandinavian Festival, not because it is my family heritage but because we like its music, food and unusual gifts. There is the yearly Festival of Lights at a monastery’s grounds. The pathways are lined with lights of imaginative designs, surprisingly gaudy at times, and also a retelling the story of Jesus’ birth. There is near-constant seasona music, mostly sacred, performed. There’s a manger full of creatures for kids to pet. We attend concerts of choral or instrumental music. There is an old, uninhabited mansion open to the public that we visit, admiring sumptuous decorations in each well-appointed room. And holiday markets abound, places to wander on foot, to mingle with humanity, to examine exquisite or whimsical handcrafts.

Just writing about all this makes me want to get out there and do things. They are traditions of a lighter sort. My daily habit and church services bring me to studies and readings, prayers and hymns. I sing with emotion and at Christmas I can be easily overwhelmed with the ineffable glory of God. Even if the infant Jesus wasn’t likely born in December….

So why am I pausing to re-evaluate things? What more do I want or need? We give time and money to people in greater need. My spiritual faith doesn’t change from season to season. My family is ever near to me, within the realm of a good hug for those who reside nearby. For those not here there are phone calls or Skype. Miss them, yes, but they do have their lives; sometimes they can’t fly here.

I then consider the past year. There have been trials to ponder, to endure with others. The changes have been significant for children as they changed jobs, moved to different states, got married, uncoupled (sounds so benign when it is, in fact, hard), started over. One family member has been drawn into street life and I worry if this day or night will be dangerous, too much for that vulnerable youth. A person to whom I long ago was married to has terminal cancer; the two adored children we had together suffer with him. I am sorrowful for them all. I have a fine friend whose life is being shortened by hepatitis C. And the memory of a dear family member who ended his life one early December comes to me with an agony of tears as I write.

I see how it is. Deep within are rivulets of sadness as well as a mighty current of faith. Even joy, a requisite for living well in my estimation. I approach the Christmas season with gratitude but also with prayers for sharing the everlasting potency of tenderness. For a clarifying renewal. I ask for change that steadfast love and honest work can initiate.

My tiny revelation is so simple. I am just another human being who wants more opportunity to rejoice and hold loved ones close. A life built with compassion. Well-being or the chance to heal if possible. Reasonable safety in a world riddled with threats we are never given relief from in the media. Mercy for those who have done harm to me and others. And forgiveness of my own undetectable or glaring failures to live the life I know I must. This more than anything: may I create more good and correct within me that which doesn’t measure up.

We found a wonderful, even ethereal tree and sheep farm last year; it is now our newest tradition. This weekend our son and his family will join us as we search for and cut down two hearty pine trees. We will secure them in my son’s truck and drive slowly home through the misty hills. We’ll decorate them, drink mugs of hot, tasty tea, eat sweets. Put on Christmas music at last and sing out on every silly or holy song. “White Christmas” as sung by Bing Crosby, I admit, is a long time favorite. The movie, too.

That I will join with others to celebrate the birth of Christ goes without saying. I’ll put aside my questions about his birth date or how that might affect my pensive inquiries for awhile. Being Christian enlivens my intellect and broadens my spirit. So I will be found at the candlelight service, raising my candle with others to flood the darkness with the glow of all those tiny flames, my soul singing.

This is what I need in my Christmas season–the sharing of hopeful experiences. The gathering together, breaking bread. Reflecting on where I have been and being open to the future, whatever may come. Living will never stop being hurtful or bewildering or demanding. It seems to come with this earthly territory, certainly if you also care to be immersed in surprises and wonders. It’s that variety I hold in high regard. We each have the choice to determine what matters each day, including Christmas. Make that choice, then allow it to be so. I’m keeping my small prayer rolling for better times, despite any dire reports of the odds. Sometimes the only thing that matters is to believe, then act as if your hopes can and will come to fruition. For my world and for yours. Ours.