Today’s Sign of Hope: A Demonstration of Glee

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Photo by Andy Allen

 

I already noted that this Christmas has been unlike any Christmas I’ve ever experienced. One of the biggest changes was not hosting at my home in wintery New England. Instead, my husband, two of my children, and my brother have come to Florida to celebrate at my parents’ new home.

I will admit to feeling a bit unrooted by this.

Yes, I know, I am still with (most) of the people I love best in the world. We have feasted and feasted and feasted. We have played games, laughing uproariously. We’ve seen beautiful Christmas lights.

Still I’ve struggled. Then something absolutely astonishing happened.

After Christmas breakfast–outside, on the lanai–we went for a boat ride. As we left the canal and entered the bay, my brother spotted a dolphin. We watched it breach the water and then swim alongside the boat. So nifty.

Then suddenly, we were surrounded by dolphins. We had cruised into a pod of at least eight young ones. My Mama noted that they must have known that “they have the day off of school” and were out to play. They seemed to be racing one another. Before we knew it, they were leaping and diving and flipping, playing in the wake of our boat. None of us, not even my folks, had ever experienced anything like this. It was the very illustration of “glee.”

And in that moment, I knew that we would all be able to create new traditions, and find new joys in the season.

Happy Christmas!

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Photo by Kristen Allen

 

My middle son called us this morning to wish his parents, baby brother, and grandparents a Merry Christmas. “There’s ice on the deck and frost on the ground. It’s 34 degrees and the dogs are grumpy about it.”   We were sitting poolside, drinking our first coffee of the morning at my parents’ new house while he was describing the scene back home.

It’s noon on Christmas. My mother has decorated THOROOUGHLY.  (This is a woman who understands the power of a good theme.) My brother should be here any minute. My daughter’s flight comes in tonight. I am looking forward to the week altogether.

It doesn’t look anything like any of the Christmases I’ve celebrated before, though. And that is unexpectedly more challenging for me than I expected it to be. It’s not bad, though. Just different.

What hasn’t changed is our love for one another, a good meal, and laughter. We have all of that in abundance here. And that is a beautiful thing.

However you are taking in this day, be blessed. Good will to all!

 

 

 

The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Stepping Out of the Shadows

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have had a VERY long drive for Thinking All The Thoughts. Among the things I’ve been musing on is the New Testament reading for this Sunday—Hebrews 10.

The unnamed author of Hebrews (I like to agree with those who have suggested that it was penned by Paul’s companion Priscilla) begins the chapter by noting that all scripture is merely a shadow of the good things to come. She admonishes us for sticking with scripture and ritual sacrifice when the coming of Christ IS the good thing the scripture foretells. Christ, not the rituals, brings forgiveness and redemption.

She’s calling us out for CHOOSING TO STAY IN THE DARK when the Light of the World is here.

Well, dang. That sheds a whole different sort of light on things. (See what I just did there?)

I am certain that some of my struggles are real battles with darkness. They are. Still, there is something for me to poke at here.

Where in my life am I clinging to promises that have already been fulfilled? Are my rituals ineffectual? Worse, are they an affront to the Creator? Am I stubbornly refusing to step into the light? Preferring instead to stick to the dark places I have come to know?

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Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

Today’s Sign of Hope: Laughing Through the Darkness of Depression

Welcome to Kristenmas! Kristen’s birthday was December 17. When her youngest was in his early years of school and had just learned about Hanukkah, he declared the 8 days between her birthday and Christmas to be Kristenmas. (She claims his goal was to get his own holiday with fried foods and presents.) In honor of Kristenmas we’re going to post a sign of hope every day, because–well, because we need it.

I have been traveling, delivering my folks’ their new truck to their home in Florida. Of course, the truck was in New Hampshire, so, yeah. LOTS of time in the truck traveling the east coast of this fine nation.  Anyhow, because of the road trip, I have had limited access to the interwebs. This was supposed to be posted on Saturday. It is still relevant today, though. Trust me.

After Mary’s beautiful post about battling depression this Advent, I was inspired to share some of the work of the blogger who inspired me to enter the blogosphere–Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess. She is smart, kind, and extraordinarily funny. She also has been very public about her battle with depression, writing (and joking) about it regularly. Check her out. You will not regret it. You can search her archives for all her writing about depression, but I am going to leave this recent post with you, because I laughed until I cried reading this.

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Playing Marco Polo: Naming the Dark in a Season of Light

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Photo: Marybeth Bishop

 

“Marco!”

“Polo! Polo! Polo!”

I remember playing this game as a kid. It’s typically a pool game; part of the point is that there is only so much area to cover with your eyes closed. You can cling to the wall, the concrete under your bare toes is solid and gently sloped, and you remember exactly how deep the water gets because it was marked in giant black stenciled numbers along the edge.

We didn’t have a pool, so we played in the lake. In a lake, the boundaries are too distant for young legs to measure. There are slimy-smooth weeds, nibbly fish, leeches, sudden drop-offs, sharp stones and shells, trippy driftwood, and occasional rusty bottle caps. Voices all sound small and distant, competing with wind and waves and wildlife, no comforting concrete to assist with a feeble human version of echolocation. In a lake, Marco Polo can easily lead to doom.

 

“Do you just want me to move these boxes back out to the garage?”

The question was gentle, not accusatory. My husband was trying to alleviate some of the guilt he could see I was feeling for all of my not-doing. Typically I have the house completely decorated by the first day of Advent, and I have a plan for all of the baking. So. Much. Baking. But here we are, a week before Christmas, and not so much as a shepherd has made it from the Christmas storage boxes to the mantle.

I am not seeing the light.

We’ve had great Christmases, and difficult ones. We’ve had sleepless Christmases, and a few that felt care-free (before kids). But I’ve never experienced one when I really, truly couldn’t see the light.

My eyes work. I can see the candles aflame in the Advent wreath—three of them now, the glow growing stronger. The tree has been up since late November (thanks to my husband and kids), and my husband hung string lights all through the kitchen, living room, and dining room. I see them; they’re beautiful. But I don’t see the light.

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Photo: Marybeth Bishop

 

As if the universe itself needed to drive the point home, earlier this month I posted a picture of my parents kissing on their wedding day. My sister-in-law messaged me quickly, “I think it was February 7th?”

I glanced at my calendar to confirm, then sighed, thinking how exhausted she must be from her recent move, and messaged back, “Today is February 7.” I briefly pictured her forehead-slapping at her error when it dawned on me. I was sitting near the lit-up Christmas tree. My phone was resting on a bright red tablecloth with snowflakes all over it. The calendar I just checked says DECEMBER at the top, with a picture of Scotty dogs and wrapped presents. In my foggy head, I had skipped two months. Two months which include Christmas with all of my kids under the same roof (a rare treat), and our own upcoming anniversary.

A week earlier I’d been sitting on an ornate couch in a small, quiet office.

“So, looking at your symptoms, I would give you a diagnosis of clinical depression.”

There is a long pause. It doesn’t even occur to me that I’m supposed to react at this point.

“Are…you surprised?”

I wasn’t failing to respond because I was shocked. I was just weighing whether the therapist would want to hear either of the things going through my head:

  1. What kind of asshole gets diagnosed with depression during Advent? (Answer: me.
  2. Hearing the words out loud sounded like an official Naming of Things in the Room, like a sick, fallen parody of Adam sizing up Eden. “Lamb. Lion. Fig tree. Serpent. Couch. Depression.”

It seems both contrary and fitting in this season of light to finally give a name to the darkness. I’m sure it’s a first step, or something like that. I’ve gone through this for others, sitting by them on similar couches, many times. I could write myself a how-to pamphlet: It will take time. It will take effort. Therapy plus maybe meds plus hard work plus time will make it better, though it may never go away. Be patient. Keep going. Etc., etc. Yes, I know.

I’m lucky; I have tremendous support, and access to doctors. There are many who do not. In my head I keep going back to those games of Marco Polo, and to my family’s habit of changing the rules of any given game when we got bored. I’m picturing myself back in the Giant Lake with Questionable Motives, calling out “Marco.” But instead of swimming off behind weeds and rocks, reveling in their ability to see hiding places while I fumble around blind, my family and friends answer “Polo” by swimming close, holding my hand, and staying near until I’m able to open my eyes again.

It’s not a bright shining star leading me to a manger, but I trust that those things are still there too because my “Polos” say they are. It will do for now.

 

TONIGHT’S Sign of Hope: Solstice

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Welcome to Kristenmas! Krirsten’s birthday was December 17. When her youngest was in his early years of school and had just learned about Hanukkah, he declared the 8 days between her birthday and Christmas to be Kristenmas. (She claims his goal was to get his own holiday with fried foods and presents.) In honor of Kristenmas we’re going to post a sign of hope every day, because–well, because we need it.

This morning Mary posted the story about those gorgeous missions that are illuminated in such stunning fashion during the solstice. Well, once the sun goes down, there is the full moon, Mercury,  and the Ursid meteor shower. For the darkest night of the year, it is pretty lit.

Today’s Sign of Hope: Solstice

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Welcome to Kristenmas! Krirsten’s birthday was December 17. When her youngest was in his early years of school and had just learned about Hanukkah, he declared the 8 days between her birthday and Christmas to be Kristenmas. (She claims his goal was to get his own holiday with fried foods and presents.) In honor of Kristenmas we’re going to post a sign of hope every day, because–well, because we need it.

There is something moving about events that are bigger than a single culture, religion, or epoch. As we look for light in the darkest days of the year, we can relate to every human who has ever felt light and dark in their bones, and we can join them–by yelling at the dark to wake up the sun, by roasting meat over a bonfire, by constructing beautiful buildings that allow that first glimmer of new light to illuminate our cold, dark hearts.

Happy Solstice.