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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

In the final scene of It’s A Wonderful Life, as George Bailey’s friends and family surround no-man-is-a-failure.jpghim, the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” are sung while George receives his final blessing from Clarence in the form of an inscription in the front of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. This scene manages to make me cry every time despite the fact that I’ve seen the movie more times than I should admit – but it also reminds me every year to take a moment to be thankful for those friends that have walked my journey with me.

As the final hours of 2017 wind down, I can’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia for all of the amazing memories that I have made this year with the people that I love. I’m sad to see the old year go because it was a wonderful life:

  • I got to work side by side with both brother firemen and a veterinary medical staff that I admire tremendously. Our days can be challenging and stressful and difficult but how much easier they are with friends.
  • I spent countless hours in the saddle with my Gettysburg stable family and shared laughs over wheelbarrows of manure. That wonderful group of people and horses, along with my beloved camping weekends, kept me sane in a world of madness.
  • I shared wine dinners with one of my ‘sisters’ and finally got to catch up over Christmas cookies with my other ‘sister’. I have known these ladies for almost 20 years and what blessings they are to me!
  • I basked in the Mexican sunshine and toasted with tequila and zoomed in golf carts over foreign lands with our traveling buddies – Straight Outta Ingleside.
  • I shared laughs over simple lunches and shopping trips and pool time with some of my other “framily” and I enjoyed more moments with my mom and dad and brother this year than I have in many years – and it was wonderful.
  • We added a new 4-legged member to our family – ‘Pete Longstreet’ came into our lives as a rescue and we needed him as much as he needed us. And I made the choice to share the everyday ups and downs with a man who is also my best friend.

I treasured thousands of new moments with old friends and made new friends and newer memories while traveling this crazy path called my life. Old acquaintances and auld lang syne (“old times”), new moments and exciting adventures. 2017 was a wonderful year, may 2018 be even better…

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

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A staple of my personal holiday hit parade list at this time of year is the classic carol “O Come All Ye Faithful.” You don’t hear it on the radio much (I assume due to its sacred and not secular nature) but there are literally thousands of wonderful recorded versions of this, from Sarah Maclachlan to Andrea Bocelli. I’ve heard it performed in Latin and in English, by large choirs and soloists, by men and women. The one commonality that resounds: it is a call to the faithful to celebrate this time of year.

As it says in the title, this is a call for ALL the faithful. Christmas and the arrival of the baby Jesus are not just for the ‘good’ and the ‘holy’ and the fancy fussy Christians that e83a233d7ca6904fbe5bbbd2adf0e75adutifully attend some stuffy old church every Sunday in their finest clothes. This time of year is meant to remind all Christians of their faith and of the humble beginnings of the Christ Child. The hymn is a call to all of us to remember what our faith is based in and to renew the joy and peace found in believing.

I wouldn’t dare to presume but I personally don’t think God cares what a good, faithful Christian wears to church or how much money they put in the offering plate. I don’t think he cares what skin color or what gender or what political bend a worshipper has. I don’t think he judges based on what their job is or what kind of car they drive. He cares about how we treat the people around us, in how we give of ourselves to the world, and what we contribute to bettering our fellow human beings.

I am a sinner. As a good friend of mine, who is a pastor, reminds me all the time — we are all sinners! But this is my favorite time of year because we sinners can be renewed with the birth of that baby in the stable in Bethlehem. From the lowliest birth, the faithful are reenergized with the joy of our Savior. Every December, we are called to remember and reinvest in the basic tenets of what we believe: peace, goodwill to men, kindness to all creatures, love your neighbor, and forgive those who have wronged you, to name just a few.

So, “O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold him, born the King of Angels. O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” Blessings to ALL ye faithful!

 

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For the annual Christmas parade in our town this year, I wore a ridiculous set of one-piece Union suit Grinch jammies and a goofy Who hairdo and rode the float with my work family. We laughed, we danced, we sang (badly), and we wished a “Merry Christmas” to anyone who’d listen. Every year, my work enters a themed float in the

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photo credit: Ted Mueller Photography

parade and we join in the Christmas spirit – but this year was particularly special for me – I discovered two wonderful things:

 

1)      Tapping into your inner child helps you find the Holiday Spirit. As adults, we get so buried in the stress of baking, buying, and bustling. We forget that this time of year is about magic and giving and smiles and laughs and family and wishing goodwill to our fellow human beings. But taking a moment to giggle and be goofy can reset your Christmas batteries and remind you about the pure JOY that should come with this time of year.

2)      I have finally reached the point in my life where I no longer care if others judge me for what I wear, what I look like, how I’m behaving or what I am doing with my life. I  have literally spent decades trying to fit in and conform and to please all people all the time. Hallelujah, I now find that maturity has caught up with me, that I am content enough to be my own person, to stand out and stand up, to be ok with being ‘odd’ or ‘nerdy’ or ‘frumpy’ – it doesn’t matter because I’m happy. Finally, after all of these years, I am comfortable enough in my own skin to just be myself — for the good, the bad, or the ridiculous!

So now, in the warm glow of my Christmas tree, I find the courage to admit the truth…I am on the downward slide in my life into being a Golden Girl. And I’m perfectly content with that. I am going to embrace the spirit of this holiday and celebrate this wonderful world we live in and find joy in those special moments in my life. And I hope all of you will do the same.

🎄🎄HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON FROM THIS CRAZY OLD LADY!!🎄🎄

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A true child of the ’80’s am I, raised on the wisdom of sitcoms and television dramas. I admit especially to being a M*A*S*H-aholic. Back in its heyday, my big brother watched it (he being the older, wiser, and more worldly of the two of us) and I admit now to an obsessive need to view the marathons on TVLand and Hallmark Channel every chance I get. Many an important life lesson was learned from that show (along with The Golden Girls) and even now I find that the TV shows of my childhood are still shaping my values.

The episode I was watching earlier tonight was the pen pal letters episode – Hawkeye’s friend back home gets her elementary school students in Crabapple Cove, Maine to write letters to the personnel of the 4077th. In the midst of writing back to the children and amongst the amusing and mundane anecdotes that the staff chooses to tell the kids about, there are several poignant moments in which the staff is forced to reexamine their role in the war – and in life. One of the students writes a letter that Hawkeye must answer in which the student says he hates the doctors because they fixed up his brother and sent him back into combat in which he was subsequently killed. As Hawkeye is pondering how to answer this child, a child is brought in from a local orphanage who has a severe brain injury – and the priest who runs the orphanage prays “Dear God, I thank you for providing….to have them here in this place at this time is truly a sign of Your providence.”  All of a sudden, Hawkeye knows what to write to the poor young student back home, full of so much anger: “I understand your feelings. Sometimes I hate myself for being here. But once in a while, in the midst of this insanity, a very small event can make my being here seem almost bearable.”

I had seen this episode at least 5 times before and yet this was the first time that this whole exchange made me stop and go hmmmm….

I am a woman of strong faith. I have stated over and over and over again that I am sure God has a plan for me, that the struggles and pain that I have suffered for the last 10 years have not been in vain. I constantly recite the AA mantra “Let go and let God.” Despite my faith, I admit that I have often questioned why God has put me in this situation, given me this kind of pain.

Now, thanks to a television show (geez, welcome to religion in America), I have a whole new way of looking at things. Because of God’s plan, I was put here at this moment in time in this particular geographical location for a purpose. Divine providence has brought me to this moment in my life with my own special brand of emotional baggage for a purpose. And, much like Hawkeye, I don’t quite know yet what that purpose is – but I have a strong faith that my small event is coming, that event which will make it all clear.  I have only to wait and to trust in the Lord and to believe that my time is coming. I will let you know when that time comes. In the meantime, I can only hope that I will become Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan when I grow up. But that’s a topic for another day.

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When I was a kid, my older brother went off to college in Washington, DC, a far cry from the small town where we had grown up in upstate New York. My parents, being the educational types that they were, insisted that while we were down visiting him on Parents’ Weekend, Easter, etc. that we tour the city and discover the history of our nation’s capital. But this was a big, scary, urban environment for my sheltered 12-year old self! Once, when trying to cross busy Connecticut Avenue, my brother (now the experienced urban dweller) gave me this sage piece of wisdom about crossing the street: “Don’t make eye contact, they won’t hurt you.” I’m not sure WHY this psychology works like it does – but he was most assuredly right. Not once did my sorry teenage self get splattered by a cab in DC and, in the years since and with the travelling I have done at home and abroad, the eye contact avoidance has prevented me from ever getting hit in the street.

Sadly, I came to a startling realization this week – I think I took my brother’s advice a little too much to heart. I rarely make eye contact with anyone anymore – at all, in any situation, PERIOD. Somewhere along the line, apparently I twisted my brother’s words to avoid all eye contact in order to prevent getting hurt. In a painful flash of self-awareness (when questioned on what color a friend’s eyes are), I realized that I just don’t look people in the eye ever. I never intended to transfer the street-crossing wisdom into my relations with all human beings – I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I’m not sure if I have always had this problem… I would like to think that, at some point in my past, I was bold and confident enough to look people in the eye and share myself with them. I would hate to think that I have always been this much of a milquetoast. But, in all reality, I am guessing that I have always been like this – afraid to establish a connection, subconsciously putting myself in the submissive role. In the world of dogs, eye contact is how they establish dominance in a pack – the ones that stand straight and can face down enemies are the top of the pecking order, the ones that bow down and look down are low in the pack. I have been, without realizing it, announcing my submissiveness to the world with every conversation. No wonder I was easily tagged by a self-confident, aggressive, bully of a husband – he knew, by my eyes, that I would never be able to stand up to him.

So now that I have realized that I have been keeping myself aloof from others by denying that eye contact – and meekly placing myself in the submissive position – I vow that I will change that. I don’t want to keep myself distant from other human beings any more; I am no longer the weak, fearful person I used to be! I want to create those human connections, those important relationships, by looking people in the eye, sharing who I am with them. Yes, I do understand that this will also allow them to see my vulnerabilities, opening myself up to getting hit by those proverbial cars in the street, but I think it will also help me to develop a stronger connection to others and to myself…

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I have always loved the sight of a lighted, beribboned wreath hanging on a front door, beckoning people to come in. It always gave me such pleasure to hang the wreath on my door and to welcome others into my home.

In pondering the various shapes, sizes, and styles of wreaths that you can buy at Lowes or Wal-mart the other day, I was struck by one simple fact – has anyone ever noticed the shape of most wreaths?

They are circles of evergreen. They are, like the circle of life, unbroken and strong. They are,  like the people around us every day, sometimes prickly, mostly cheerful, and usually a sign of a living home. They are often adorned with bright ribbons or ornaments, but the base foundation is a sturdy circle of welcoming warmth.

The wreath is such a simple decoration, really. Very pagan, I know, but also under-appreciated. I had always loved them just because they were so darn inviting and festive. But now….now I look at them in a whole new way.

Now I see that I would like to be a wreath, able to be decorated for any season, frequently sparkling, and possessing a strong foundation of ever-green faith.  Battered by winds or snow, still able to hang in there and continue to welcome people into my life. So my prayer today….dear God, please make me a wreath…

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‘Tis the season for candles – scented delights to buy for grandma in the stores, twinkling electric bulbs beckoning from the windows, advent tapers lit every Sunday in church. It’s a time for candles and celebrations of family, friendship, and faith.

I am reminded, every time that I look at a candle, of a song I was taught a long time ago that reminded us all that “it is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark…if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be.”

This is the time of year that always has made me want to make the world a better place – lighting my proverbial candle and shining bright.

For those of you who don’t know, my world fell apart a while back and I am having real trouble shining bright during the holidays.  I’ve watched my illusions shatter, my dreams get shredded, and my life derail. How then can a person find any hope or peace in this wonderful time of year? It would be so easy to get bogged down in the depression andthe fear and the bitterness – but I choose instead to light a new candle and shine bright and NOT curse the darkness!

The day that my separation papers were signed, I made an appointment for a new tattoo. And for the art, I chose a celtic cross (for my heritage) with a maltese cross inset (for my firefighting family) and the following words: “What is to give light must endure the burning.” This quote is from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Almost everyone who has seen the tattoo gives me a blank stare or a puzzled look when they read the quote. I’m sure it seems strange for a firefighter to advocate the burning of anything. However, the reason I chose this quote is to remind myself that, in order to shine bright, I must get through bad moments and ended relationships. I have to survive the shattering in order to rebuild on my foundation.

I firmly believe that God has a plan for me and that He has not abandoned me. I have to believe that, to have faith in that simple fact or else I will no longer have any hope for the future. I will try to rest in God’s arms for a while to allow myself to heal, to hope, and to trust.

So this Christmas season, I am going to relight my candle and move on with my life. I don’t know what lies ahead for me – it’s so hard to be alone at this time of year. But I will not let the darkness defeat me; I will survive the burning and shine forth!

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