Monthly Archives: December 2017

Dec 28-29

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In the midst of all the birds flying, or swinging , through the Twelve Days of Christmas, we have five gold rings. These rings are said to represent the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, which give us a huge chunk of the backstory that ended up bringing Christ to the world.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy tell the story of God creating the world and us humans, our fall into sin, and God’s work to make a way to save us out of that sin. For me, this story overwhelms me with proof of how very much God loves us and wants us in His life. He goes out of His way to make a way, create a loophole, to provide the means for us to be a part of His Kingdom.

Fittingly, the six geese a laying stand for the six days of Creation. Situated directly in the middle of the Twelve Days, they serve to remind us of the very foundational truth of our faith, that all we know was created by Him who loves us so much. This place we call home exists because of all that God is: Love, beauty, grace, and mystery.

The feasts for these two days are for more obscure saints, St. Thomas Becket, who challenged the kings authority over the church, and St. Egwin of Worcester, who is worth reading about on Wikipedia. I’m not Catholic, but I do find much to be learned from reading about these traditions and those whom they celebrate.

More and more I am understanding how the Twelve Days of Christmas are meant to truly honor Christ and bring His Light further into our world.

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The fourth day…

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After three French hens, there were four calling birds. The three stood for the cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love, while the four represented the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The actual feasts for these days, 12/27 and 28, are for the disciple John and the “Holy Innocents”, respectively.

John the disciple is traditionally the only disciple who did not die a martyr, though he was exiled on an Island. The ” Holy Innocents” are the baby boys who were murdered by order of King Herod when he was trying to kill Baby Jesus. Celebrating John is understandable, but I had never thought of this before now. Nor had I even considered the innocent children who gave their lives for Christ, completely unaware of their sacrifice.

I cannot bring to mind very many men who could claim they had done so much for the cause of Christ without even willing themselves to do so. What love Jesus must have for those brothers of His, born when He was born, without fan fare and dying without actually having lived, so that Jesus could then live and die for all of us.

What beauty there is in considering the sacrifice of the ” Holy Innocents”! It’s the kind of beauty that pierces the heart with it’s bittersweetness. I will never think of the 4th day of Christmas the same again.

Two turtle doves…

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The first day of Christmas is actually December 25, and it is obviously the celebration of Christ’s birth. In the song we all know and love , the Twelve Days of Christmas, Jesus is the Patridge in a Pear Tree as well as “my True Love”, according to Ann Ball in her book, Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals.

Ann puts forth that the song was written with two meanings, one being hidden and only known to members of the Catholic Church during the time period between 1558-1829, when Roman Catholics in England were not allowed to openly practice their faith.

The second day of two turtle doves, according to this book, stood for the Old and New Testaments. In another perspective, the second day of Christmas, Dec 26, is when the Feast if St Stephen is celebrated. This is the feast we sing about in Good King Wincelas.

Stephen was the first Christian martyr and is especially honored for feeding the poor. This day is also known as Boxing Day and has a focus of giving leftovers to the poor.

For me, on this 26th of Dec, I have been tired and wanting to recuperate from the busy weekend. We are leftovers, but we didn’t give them away. However, we did welcome an old friend to dinner and games in our home. This has brought me a sense of joy this evening.

My joy isn’t quite the same as those who might be trying to honor the memory of Stephen, however, I do believe it may come from a similar place in my soul that only God could fully understand. It’s a giving of the love of Christ in a different way than feeding the poor, but regardless, it does come from that same depth.

I’m especially struck by the two turtle doves reference in all this, because of how doves always symbolize peace. Peace is needed in this old friendship , and it has been given tonight. I think this is what has brought me joy as we bought a meal for our old friend tonight and welcomed him to our home.

…and so it’s over…

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or is it?

We rushed around and filled most every moment in the weeks leading up to Christmas , yet by the end of Christmas Day, pretty much everything has come to a screeching halt. Suddenly , I’m aware of the longing that remains.

In spite of having a wonderful Christmas season, still there is an emptiness that cries out in my spirit. The temptation is to try to fill it as quickly as possible with the next event or with guests yet to come. However, I was reminded in the last few days that this longing lingers for a reason.

We are still in the waiting. Though Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of the long awaited promise of the Messiah, there is still a promise we await to be fulfilled. We are supposed to feel an emptiness, as we desire to be restored, for Christ to come again, for God’s Kingdom to reign again and make all things new.

We can rest in that promise and trust God will complete it as He has fulfilled all the rest of His promises. Therefore, even as we put our new things away that we got for presents today, we can look to the next celebration and day of remembrance, Epiphany, which honors the revelation of Christ to the gentiles when the Magi (three kings/wise men) found Jesus under the star.

Many people around the world celebrate Epiphany , and some celebrate several “feasts” in between Christmas and Epiphany. This is the origin of the true 12 Days of Christmas, and this will be my focus the next 12 days.

I began 2017 by concentrating on the time between Epiphany and Easter, roughly 100 days. I write about my 💯 days of Joy, purposefully grasping for all of the “Light” I could find in each day, as I struggled with seasonal depression and the challenges of life I was facing at that time.

I find it only fitting that I end 2017 and begin 2018 by focusing on these days leading up to Epiphany. I pray for more Light and more Joy to be discovered during these twelve days of Christmas, for myself, and for any who read this. I want more Joy, more awareness of Jesus and God’s presence, and more Light to shine on me and through me as I feel the longing and continue in the waiting…

One never knows…

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A favorite Bible verse I often quote is Proverbs 27:1…”boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”(KJV)  If ever a verse held universal truth, it is this one. We really never know what a day might bring our way, of good or not so good.

We have had some interesting days of late, with our mail being stolen twice.  Once was a box that had been delivered to our front porch, after dark.  The second happened this week when a stranger took our outgoing Christmas letters from our mailbox that had our flag up.  Another stranger happened to see the first man walking and seemingly dropping mail along the way.  Second stranger went and picked up the mail, discovering it was from our house.  Thankfully, the second man (who is a former marine, former policeman, current postal worker on leave for a physical injury) came to our door to share what he had witnessed.

I was grateful for this second stranger for a couple reasons, one being so we could know that some people on our Christmas card list might not be getting their letters we mailed.  The second reason is because I planned to mail a couple of more valuable cards the next day, and because of this second stranger, I sent those to the post office with my husband for him to mail them.  I’m thankful for a stranger willing to help in the midst of his busy day…

Yet, on the other hand, even though these incidents surprised us and left us feeling violated and unsure of who to trust, our experience with the mail this holiday season is a mild setback compared to what others are facing when their days bring forth much more than they desired to know or experience.  I’m thinking of a couple of friends who have lost loved ones this Christmastime, and still others who have received the cancer diagnosis that isn’t curable, who know that goodbyes are not too far away. There are also friends and others on my heart who are facing financial unknowns and hardships, as well as those struggling with difficult emotional challenges.

We truly don’t know what a day will bring into our lives.  This is why living my best each day has become more and more important to me.  I am still learning and growing, developing disciplines that move me forward towards holistic wellness.  I do this for others in my life; I do this to honor my relationship with God, and I do this for my own self.

Self-care gets a bad rap in Christian circles.  Many believers think we must always sacrifice every aspect of self in order to put others first.  However, if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, “loving ourselves”, well, then we cannot be fully able to love God and others well.

For myself, at this time, as I’ve written the last couple of months, my focus is on physical self-care.  The last couple weeks haven’t been so stellar in this area.  Who am I kidding…? The last two weeks have been pretty bad, with eating wrong, lack of true exercise, and missing the mark with consistent taking of my new med.

My goal for the holidays was to maintain the small forward progress I had made.  That hasn’t been so true the last couple of weeks; however, I have been very aware, and for me, awareness means I’m learning.  I’ve been observing myself, my behaviors and habits, my reactions to my med, to exercise, to food.

I’ve seen that my new medication does actually seem to be working, though I didn’t really think it was.  Also, after I worked hard in the yard last evening, raking the last of our leaves and bagging them, I had such a better sense of the good I feel when I do that kind of physical work, and also a relief of my anxiety (it’s a much better feeling than when I drink a Coca Cola to ease my stress!).  I’ve also observed how yucky I feel when I give in to eat the cookies that are lying around instead of a veggie or fruit.

So, I believe today will be a better day and this coming week will be more on target, even with Christmas baking still to do and the anxiety of company coming to manage.  I feel hopeful and have an underlying sense of that joy I’ve been clinging to all this year since epiphany.

My plan is to write consistently from Christmas day to epiphany, to celebrate and understand better the true “twelve days of Christmas”, and to wrap up this year of my focus on joy.  I also hope to hone my focus onto others, to be holding people in my heart whom I won’t be seeing this season, to do for those around me now that I can take the opportunity to see, even if for only a few moments, and to also re-claim some of my own boundaries that are needed in order for me to properly take care of myself.

All of that to say that I encourage you on this shortest day of the year to consider what it means to live each day with the knowledge that you do not know what tomorrow may bring.  We can make plans, and we should, but we also must live with the awareness that our plans may never come to fruition, that life may interrupt them or that death may steal them.  Let’s make the most of each moment, be present where we are, and quit putting off til tomorrow what we can do today.

I pray God’s blessings for you, for Christmas and always.  May your family and friend time be rich and full….but if it isn’t, and even if it is, may you truly sense God’s presence and His deep, deep love for you.

Light behind the darkness

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I’ve been noticing so much beauty in the sky the last couple weeks. As I drove across town to watch some of my young nieces last night, I was struck again by the incredible display of colors in the sky, and it suddenly dawned on me…. the sky is so much more apparent because the leaves are gone.

The dark forms of the empty branches are etched in fine detail in front of the glorious colors of the sunset. Black silhouettes which are hidden by leaves most of the year, and are indistinguishable once it’s dark, pop out before me, drawing my attention. I suddenly realize how this scene before me relates to God’s light in our dark times.

Sometimes we are walking through sheer darkness, unable to see, and feel hopeless and fearful. Those are the times we need some light shining behind the darkness to encourage us and ease our fears. People in our lives can make all the difference in dispelling that darkness.

I’m thankful for the emails, texts, calls I get at just the right time, as well as the inspirational devotionals, songs, tweets and articles that come across my social media. When I’m down, unmotivated, or feeling helpless, God’s light comes through to me in all those seemingly little ways, and I gain understanding, peace, faith, and hope to push me forward.

My health journey since my last post has continued steadily. Recovering from a Thanksgiving was a challenge, but I’m back on track. Staying active has been easy lately, eating less carbs is going so-so, but overall, I’m moving in the right direction. In full disclosure, I started a new med to help me get my sugar under control, in hopes that diet and exercise will get me to the point of not needing medication.

I continue to appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement. My goal for the coming week is to stay active and to eat more veggies. God bless you in your Christmas shopping, decorating, and celebrating. 🎄