I love this time of year…it fills me with peace, joy and a sense of gratitude. I know many people dread the holidays and find it sad and lonely: drudgery. I recognize that it is a challenge for many and my heart goes out to them. I am blessed to have faith, to believe in the birth of Christ, and find myself reflecting on the enormity of being alive to witness the beauty of soft white lights while listening to old Christmas songs, making sure I focus on noticing (despite all the commercialism) that there are still gracious givers spreading joy and good deeds to those less fortunate.
Season of Wonder
As a child, Christmas was always full of wonder. I loved going to church Christmas Eve; listening to the bell choir and singing Silent Night in a candle-lit sanctuary. Even as a small child, I felt the reverence of the night and understood its meaning. Mom and Dad did a great job keeping Santa alive for me, despite my older sister insisting that he wasn’t real. After I’d climb into bed, Dad would go outside and make “hoof” marks in the snow so that when I woke up and threw open the curtains at 6:00 AM, I would know that Santa had come (we didn’t have a chimney so he was allowed to come through the front door while we slept). I would have to wait until 6:30, no matter what, to call Grandma and Grandpa to come over. I would practically burst with excitement waiting for them to throw on mismatched clothes and drive the mile and a half to our house. Mom, Dad and my sister would look at me like they wanted to strangle me for getting them up so early, but I didn’t really notice. I was in a bubble of pure joy.
My “Orphan” Christmases
As an adult, I have spent Christmas many different ways. I’ve been away at college, struggling to pay the bills let alone buy gifts, and at times not able to get home due to the weather. I spent nearly twelve years over a thousand miles away from family while I resided in Florida. My first year there, I hardly knew anyone and spent it with a few new friends. That became the norm – we called it our Orphan Christmas. So many people in Florida are away from family, so our orphan dinners grew into larger and larger events, usually outside in the sunshine. Though less than traditional, they were always full of laughter, games, and plenty of eggnog. In 2009, I spent it as a new Mrs. and had a Christmas full of firsts at a not-so-young age.
In 2013, shortly after my husband Ken and I moved into our dream house, our “forever home” in Missouri, I spent the holiday season reflecting on his sudden death that July. That was the year the meaning of life really hit me – like a wrecking ball. I remember crying and thinking, ‘it’s all so final. He’s just GONE.’ I was heartbroken that he couldn’t see the beautiful decorations or walk with me through the streets of historical St. Charles in the light snow; that he wouldn’t witness the serenity and joy of the season. I remember an exaggerated feeling of being present in each moment, as if I were trying to absorb it for both of us. With every fiber of my being, I breathed in the fresh, cool air and played in the first snowfall with our dog, Barney. I listened and absorbed the words of songs and cried while watching a Charlie Brown Christmas (his favorite).
Then, a few weeks before Christmas, there was a distinct moment when peace washed over me, sitting by the fireplace, watching the sky turn from periwinkle to navy as night fell. I felt his spirit near me and my heart open with hope. Where there was once a big, black empty hole, there was now a blank blackboard with which to draw my future. I missed him but felt I could move forward with his blessing, and allow the grieving process to unfold along the way (still unfolding…it never truly ends, it evolves). It dawned on me that each and every moment of being alive is the biggest gift of all, and genuine gratitude for my blessed life filled my soul.
This year, I find myself overwhelmed with appreciation for the love of a wonderful man, Allan, who makes me laugh every day and feel cherished; for my improving health, for getting writing work just when I needed it most, and for living in a place that makes no sense to anybody but me – a fly-over state that is beautiful and full of genuine, caring people, and friends and family who share their love openly, wrapping me in a blanket of warmth.
Joy in the Midst
I know everyone has struggles that vary greatly, but despite the challenges of health or financial issues, the commercialism of the season and the stress, the money involved, the long-ago hurt, sadness or disappointment, there can be joy and peace at Christmas time. Look for it in the quiet of the midnight hour or first thing in the morning over coffee, and even if it’s fleeting, give thanks for being here and bearing witness. Studies show our thoughts control our actions, our moods, and our overall health.
To quote an excerpt from the book, The Healing Code, by Dr. Alexander Lloyd and Dr. Ben Johnson, “A 911 signal from your hypothalamus [in your brain] is what puts your cells into stress mode; it’s what shifts your blood flow away from your internal organs, your higher intellectual functioning, and your immune system.” The book further explains that if you stop sending negative signals to your brain, you use your body’s own positive energy frequencies to overcome the negative frequencies and stop the destruction. “Like turning on a light in a dark room. The light always overcomes the darkness.” Our own Energy.
The Power of “Thank You”
Concentrating on just one thing that we’re grateful for daily can change negative emotions on a cellular level, and the spiritual lift is immediate. Saying thank you out loud to the universe, God or your deity, brings a truth to it that will change your thought pattern. Once you try it, you’ll notice that you’ll say thank you for more than one thing…it becomes a list and WOW! Life gets put in perspective very quickly.
My wish is for you to find peace, even for a few moments each day, and come into the light of the Christmas season. Merry Christmas.
Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright….