Archive for the ‘Celebration’ Tag

Surviving Christmas   2 comments

Every year Christmas is a cultural blitzkrieg of celebration, carrying many along in its triumphal sweep while capsizing in its wake those who cannot keep up with its jubilant spirit.  Be happy or be left out.  In our chipper American culture, that is the flavor of the year, as Ella Wheeler Wilcox so aptly described it:

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.

Even those who are forgiven for a downcast spirit on an average day are expected to step up to the occasion when the band starts playing, which it does ceaselessly from Thanksgiving till the last relative shambles out the door and the long, bleak, cold winter blows inside.

I’m no sour-puss.  I like celebrating Christmas if I can bring all of myself to the party–the sad parts as well as the hopeful parts, the tears and smiles, winces and hugs, serious and silly words.  When my uncomfortable emotions are welcomed, my winsome emotions have room to express themselves genuinely rather than as a pretense.  Let me weep freely with you, and the laughter you hear will be deep-hearted as well.  My soul is chilled when I’m pressured to be false to myself, to express inflated or deflated feelings to please others who care more for an acceptable presence than a true presence.  Of course some contexts call for safe, superficial connections, and in that sense every office party is a masked ball, but then everyone enjoys it for what it is–play acting–and does not confuse it for genuine connection.

But even “genuine” can be a canny facade.  Many folks who think they are being real are so cut off from their own heart that they are simply reacting, sharing the surface emotions they feel in the moment that serve to disguise–even to themselves–the deeper underlying emotional currents, the submerged rip-tides that are too threatening to acknowledge.  Under the intense pressure of Christmas conformity, these can burst out suddenly and without warning.  Anger can cover for shame, tears can hide anger, cheerfulness can mask fear.  The underlying emotions which are unacceptable or painful are transmuted into acceptable or comfortable feelings. The intensity of those feelings may wake us to some deep lying issues but will fog up our skills for interpreting them.

The inflated expectations of the holidays is not a safe harbor to dry-dock the soul and begin to scrape away decades of clinging barnacles.  Sometimes the best any of us can do is try to ride out the storm of cross-current conflicts that arise.  But these family gatherings are rich with telltale signs of underlying issues, and once we get enough distance to look back with compassion and insight, we may be filled with fresh personal discovery.  Next year we can bring more of our true selves to the party and welcome the true selves of others as we grow into the grace of understanding and accepting ourselves and others more fully.

Posted December 18, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Coloring My Calendar   4 comments

here be dragons

HERE BE DRAGONS

So it does not trouble me that I don’t know the shape 2014 will take.  Wait, did I just write that?  What poppycock.  I’m not okay with this at all.  One of my coping mechanisms is to be in control of my life, and I can’t steer blind.  2013 ran out of road a week ago, and there are no more leaves to unfold on my map… the journey ahead simply wanders off the edge of the page.  But the road carries me along still, without my leave.  So, since I can’t see or direct my destination or route, I’ve settled on coloring in the shapes of each day.

gift

My red crayon found this to highlight: “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.”  I like it!  And after opening that daily treat, I want to jot down the experience in order to remind myself, to expand the pleasure, and to share it with others…  not just for the treats I find, but for those that find me or ones I stumble upon.  Someone even suggested keeping a photo journal, which I’ve been doing, and I think I’m kind of hooked.

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Here’s my “gift to self” from 2 days ago DSC01585Mocha with a marshmallow.  I haven’t put a marshmallow in hot chocolate for as long as I can remember.  It brings back good memories of snow-frozen fingers wrapped around a hot cup and icy toes warming on a toasty hearth, watching the flames dance and sizzle.

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Yesterday, on my daily walk it was the unexpected beauty in winter’s deadness, nature’s ice sculpture

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Today’s pleasure was sitting in a quaint local coffee house to write this blog and then listen to a friend share heart issues.

white hart

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May you discover for yourself simple daily pleasures to add a little color to the dark days of winter.

Posted January 9, 2014 by janathangrace in Personal, Uncategorized

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The 12th Day of Christmas   2 comments

Today is epiphany, when the Eastern church once originally celebrated Jesus’ birth.  So we might say it is second Christmas.  Our lights are still up inside and out.  And our tree’s up.  We are still munching seasonal chocolates.  I continue to play Christmas music in my car.  I’m not ready yet to bid these days adieu, especially in place of the dark, cold months of winter that stifle the year’s last hurrah.  I want to hold onto some of the good this holiday brings: a cheerfulness and warmth toward strangers, a celebratory cadence in my steps, a lift in my heart’s song above the daily drudge.

Why does the mundane always drag us back from our festivals, tugging like gravity till our balloons lie all deflated and cheerless.  How might I bring some of this rhythm and light, some of this forgetfulness and memory back with me into the daily round of chores and schedules?  I don’t want or need more obligation by adding to my diligence an imposed cheerfulness, a forced smile, and so make my grinding tasks even more burdensome.  No, I rather want to lighten the driving duties of the day, bring some sunlight into the shadowed spaces.  Any thoughts my friends?

Posted January 7, 2014 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Christmas Eve Morning   Leave a comment

ChristmasIt is Christmas eve morning and I have not followed through with my intention to post regularly through the season.  Then again, perhaps it is not too late as the 12 days of Christmas still lie ahead to carry us to the Epiphany–if you follow the old calendar.  This was not a tradition my childhood family kept, so the day after Christmas was a huge letdown, all the magic and sparkle wrung out with only the empty winter days dragging on, drabness taken to a new low.  But of course the first Christmas was not an ending, but a new beginning of the most dramatic and transformative kind, not only from the human perspective of a first child’s birth, but of the entrance of God himself into our dark world with His presence and goodness.  The light of the world burst on us that night, so let the celebration begin, and don’t be too quick to take down and box up the strings of blinking laughter.

Posted December 24, 2013 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Making Room for Christmas   Leave a comment

For November I posted daily a thanksgiving on Facebook, usually tongue in cheek, and I found the daily practice was good both for my writing and my outlook.  Keeping a habit is a good bit easier than creating one from scratch, so here’s my carryover: daily advent reflections, starting inevitably with simplicity to which Kimberly and I are forced by our meager resources.

Dec. 1 (yes, I realize it is Dec. 2… I’ll catch up tonight)
So, Thanksgiving’s out of the way, barely.  Friday and Saturday I put up half our Christmas decorations, a little here, a little there… the rest is not going up.  Kimberly and I scale our life investments to our energy levels, which is one of the secrets not only of keeping the spirit (and Spirit) in Christmas, but of surviving all year.

I could say we are forced into simplicity, and it sometimes feels that way, but truly it is a life choice.  We have discovered that our hearts are fuller, healthier, more alive when we spend within our means emotionally, financially, socially, and in every other way.  I have to continually remind myself that my lifestyle is a choice.  It doesn’t feel that way because our personal poverty level is not a choice–it has been thrust upon us–and though we do what we can to increase our reserves without depleting our souls, we seem to make little headway.  But how we choose to live within such a tight emotional budget is in our hands, and I believe we do well with what we have, better than many who have far more in their personal accounts.

Many approach Christmas with a determination to squeeze out of it every ounce of happiness they can–after all it only comes once a year.  They decorate lavishly and bake incessantly and shop feverishly.  They bribe or cajole all the relatives into coming for this great gala, then spend large amounts of energy keeping everyone to task fulfilling THE PLAN.  “Quiet night, holy night” gets swallowed up in the Magnificent Christmas Celebration.  Sometimes the spirit of Christmas seeps into our souls more easily when we settle into simplicity.

Posted December 2, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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Boxing Up Christmas   1 comment

ChristmasI am clinging to Christmas past: playing Christmas music, plugging in the tree, snacking on holiday food and drink.  My neat wife likes to box up the season quick, but I’ve talked her into observing the 12 days of Christmas, not because I’m liturgically inclined, but because I’m trying to hold at bay the cheerless, cold, dark march of winter days.  Our second advent theme this year was celebration, and all our decorations and colored lights inside and out speak of good cheer, pushing back the bleakness beyond.

star of bethlehemThe first Christmas was a true celebration, the Savior had been born and his whole life of healing and redemption lay ahead of him.  His birth was the great crack in space and time through which God poured in.  It changed everything.  But our little christmases change nothing.  We pause to celebrate for a few weeks and then go back to life as usual; our sugar high dumps us on the doorstep of New Years with our purses a good bit thinner and our paunches a good bit thicker.  Our celebrations leave us worse off, our only defense the remorse of resolutions to do better in the next 12 months.

As I say goodbye to extended family, vacation, wrapped gifts, boxes of chocolate, TV specials and Christmas carols and return to the mundane of alarm clocks, office memos, bologna sandwiches, and the monthly mortgage, how can I keep alive the magic of Christmas?  If there is any real magic in Christmas and not just pretend magic, it must be that God himself is with me–Immanuel–and my ongoing celebration, not simply of his memory from 2000 years ago, but of his daily presence.  Any suggestions for how a celebration of that might look?

Posted December 30, 2012 by janathangrace in thoughts

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