Christmas Thoughts Let us put Christ back in Christmas, shall we?Shine with His love for all the world to see.We’ll be the beacons of light and joy,Bring good wishes instead of a toy. Brighten the season with inner glow,Strong enough that it will surely showOur belief in the Lord and His loveShining on us from heaven above. Put away the tinsel, silver trim,Red ribbon and lights that don’t dim.Pray for peace all over our big earth,And wait, for the day or our Lord’s birth. Dedicate our time to gentle ways,Praising the Lord Christ all of our days.We’ll speak of miracles, large and small,People blessed who answered the Lord’s call Working with the homeless and the lost,Ignoring cold and personal cost.Praise Him daily in jubilant song.Offer Him our thanks all the day long. We’ll be the beacons of light and joy,Carrying His love instead of a toy,Shine with Christ’s love for you and for me.Let us put Christ back in Christmas, shall we
Miracle of birth, one special night
Every knee bent down; eyes shone so bright
Rejoiced as glorious angels sang out
Restful repose enveloped all about
Yearnings fulfilled with the Savior’s birth
Counselor child; marvelous, wondrous worth
Hark, ye citizens, to news of great joy
Rewards to come, thanks to this baby boy
Invoke God’s love, through the Christmas story
Shout of salvation, reachable glory
Treasures at hand, and blessings awaited
Magical, mystical, event fated
Amazement, revelation, and delight
Savior, Counselor, miraculous sight
The Meaning of Christmas
the angels sang a lullaby
the night that Christ was born
in chorus of sweet harmony
they sang upon that morn
the Magi came from far and wide
to worship at His feet
they knelt and prayed right by His side
and vowed of Him to speak
the shepherds gasped in awe and fear
for Christ had come that day
to bring a message all must hear
before they fall astray
a star shone bright up in the sky
above His tiny head
and peace to all it seemed to cry
while He slept snug in bed
and so, dear friends, let us all fall
upon our knees and pray
for we must answer Christ’s call
rejoice in Him today
there is only here and nowand the once was and the soon to bethe should be, the could be, the might bejoined together, past, present, and futureblending into seamless timebeginning at the beginningstretching off into the eternitymarching in a straight linefrom time before all records were keptpointing to time unknown dropped in, snuggled in, squeezed inhuman beings alter the universeirrevocablyjumping barriersleaping across boundariesin pursuit of dreamsquests for an unholy grailchasing illusive butterflies of chancethat change predetermined destiniesaltering time forevermore some keeping meticulous trackof minutesdaysmonthsyears while others intentionally forget the doneglossing over the finishedas if brushing off fliesfor by shedding the pastthe future liesuntarnishedunblemished shining bright as the star that ledthe Magi to Bethlehemin search ofthe One who would bethe only here and now
What do you tell the children
who find no quarters under their
pillows – the missing gift of the
tooth fairy – when the proper
homage has been paid?
What do you tell the sad little girl
whose stocking is empty
Christmas morn – after leaving the
last cookie and a small cup of
milk – the thanks for the Santa
who never came?
What do you tell the young boy
who has no basket to leave on
the table – decorated with colorful
paper eggs and filled with shredded
newspaper – and all that’s inside are
a few stale jelly beans?
What do you tell the teenager
whose fifteenth birthday came and
went – with no party, no gifts, no
happy times – to mark the majestic
coming of age?
What do you tell the lonely ones
who never get a heart-shaped card
or candies – a sign of friendship and
love – who had only wished that just
one person would care?
What do you tell the little ones
who have no feast to cram into
their mouths – in honor of those who
survived – and so bite into stale
peanut butter sandwiches?
What do you tell all the unloved
children, young and old, who rise
day after day – wanting nothing more
than a gentle hug – and receive
harsh words instead?
For some children have everything
they could ever want while others
have nothing but emptiness – no
hope for more – the rejoicing washes
over, leaving not a drop of joy.
Let us cry for them
And then pick up our mantle
Of gentleness and offer whatever we can,
Whatever small bit of joy
Lurking in cabinets and pantries
Deliver it to a charity
Where we can witness the joy
That abounds in simple giving.
A Time for Hope
The holiday season is upon us. For many of us, it’s a time to enjoy family, share good food and a few laughs, decorate the house and give gifts to people we love.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so blessed. They live in shelters, broken-down RVs, or with an abuser who keeps tabs on everything they do. Too many have no money in the bank, no way to plan or save for a better life. Food is scarce, but thanks to pantries and kitchens that pop up this time of year, they can get a nice, warm meal. Perhaps the only thing that gives them hope.
All too often we forget to say thanks to all those who have helped us over the years. They might have paid your college tuition, bought you a used, functioning car, took you shopping at a grocery store or at a well-known thrift store to but winter clothes.
They buy pet food so that your dog or cat can eat.
They donate clean, washed clothes to charities.
They offer rides to church and then sit and pray with you. They take you to doctor’s appointments when you’re too ill to drive yourself. They cook meals, clean your residence and look after your children when you are at whatever job you’ve been able to find.
In so many ways, people reach out and offer hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless and kindness to those who have only been shown hate.
I am grateful to everyone who has blessed my life, who helped me work toward a career that I loved, who babysat my kids and who brought over homemade cookies and fudge.
I am lucky to have friends, both long-lasting and casual, who smile when they see me.
My husband and children have filled me with joy so many times that it’s impossible to count.
My wish for you is that you also feel the joy.
A Simple Request
Wishes wasted on what-nots and
Wing-dings wear away in time,
While fabulous fantasies of futures
filled with wondrous windows of
opportunities allow for nothing
Instead innocence insulates believers,
inspiring individuals to dream devilish
dances, daydreams of defiance, dramatic
challenges coursing through lives
unbroken, undefiled by demons of despair,
hearts healed and whole withstanding
weather-related attacks against
Dream on, dreamers. Dance with the stars,
sending sparks spiraling through the universe,
understandably lighting lustrous lives
leavened by luminous love,
spirited souls searching for something
of substance, something to shatter
defamations and destroy doubters.
Give me guidance, goodness, graciousness,
generosity that I may share my successes, spreading
goodwill and good cheer whenever my tired feet tread.
Help hinder the disbelievers, doubters, nay-sayers,
never noticing nothing that threatens to toss around
their firmly held convictions, no matter how mundane,
Grant me the ability to appease, appreciate, applaud
those whose talents top mine, to see the dedication
and hard work woven into each wondrously crafted
creation, recognizing remarkable determination to succeed.
Allow me to march with those who mark places,
who work with the angels, who weave satisfying stories
and craft perfect poems, earning the everlasting
satisfaction of success.
These things I ask.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been pondering all the things that I am most grateful for.
At the top of my list is my husband. He accepted me for who I was, has nurtured me and encouraged me to expand who I was, allowing me to become the person I am today. Without him, I would still be the shy, backward individual who truly thought that no one would ever love her.
My children come next. We tried so hard to get pregnant, but month-after-month it didn’t happen. And then we were blessed with our first child. He was a joy and brought so much light and happiness into our lives that we feared we’d never have a second child. But then, we became pregnant again.
This time our daughter was born. She was so tiny, but when her eyes could finally see me, my heart rejoiced. Now we had two wonderful children.
It took some time to conceive the third time, but when that son was born, once again we felt truly blessed. He was an easy-going-child.
The three didn’t always get along, which was to be expected, but most of the time they did.
Watching them grow, helping them with their schoolwork, being present when they played sports or were in a concert, meant so much to us. We couldn’t attend everything once they were in middle school, but we divided up the occasions as much as we could.
Seeing them graduate from high school and then college brought immense joy.
I am grateful to my faith. When I was in college, away from home for the first time, I questioned my church. Was Catholicism really for me? Or was it standing amid a forest, listening to birds sing?
It was both, and still is today.
My faith has helped me when I was sad or troubled. It has given me a base upon which I can bend over and touch God’s grace. It has filled me with love and gentleness and kindness. And it gave me my singing voice for the first time in my life.
I am grateful to Mike’s sister who believed in my dream to become a teacher. She paid my college tuition so that I could earn my Elementary Teaching Credential. Without her help, I could never have achieved my lifelong goal to teach.
Teaching fulfilled me. I loved watching my students’ eyes light up with understanding. To hear their voices excitedly talking about the subject we were learning. I loved watching them in the playground, running around with such a profound love of life.
My teaching career spanned over thirty-three years. I began working with preschoolers and retired teaching highschoolers. All those different age groups brought me joy. And fulfillment.
I am grateful for all of my grandchildren. They are wonderfully talented, bright, loving and polite human beings. I love them all. There’s nothing like hugging a grandchild, even when they have grown taller than you. I miss them terribly.
I am grateful for my friends. There are some I met through my church. Our kids grew up together. We went on picnics, walks and play dates. Some of those kids are still friends with mine!
Unfortunately, very few of my work colleagues stayed in contact after I either transferred to another school or after I retired. Even though we drifted apart, they each blessed me in some way. They taught me patience even when they “borrowed” my lesson plans and claimed them as their own. That was a great compliment, but I didn’t understand it at the time.
They shared ideas with me, helping me to tackle administrative duties as well as endless amounts of paperwork.
And the times when we did meet socially, they made me smile.
I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow intellectually as a professional and as a writer. While I didn’t always go home with a profound lesson learned, I prided myself in incorporating at least one thing into my work. I still do that today.
I am grateful with the life I’ve led, even when I was depressed or trapped in my abusive family, for I took away from those situations that I could choose sadness or I could choose joy. I chose to be happy.
I am grateful the I am relatively healthy for my age. Sure, I’ve got issues, but I don’t let them drag me down. Instead, I accept them as a challenge to overcome.
In summation, I have much to be grateful for. All my varied experiences, all the people I’ve me, all the things I’ve done had enriched my life in unimaginable ways.
For this I am grateful.
The fire crackles,
tongues of flame reaching
high into the night sky,
reaching to capture the
essence of the One who
feeds all flames.
Sparks whirl, grasping,
leaping for joy, celebrating
a temporary life lived in
fullness. Rejoicing, dancing,
sprinkling the darkness
with pinpoints of light.
Flickering flames bathe
the woods nearby, casting
eerie glows on low-reaching
fir trees; on fallen logs whose
souls have flown and rest
now in peace.
Horned owls hoot in syncopated
harmonies joined by a distant
pack of coyotes whose yips rise
and fall with unequaled grace.
A fir branch snaps, splitting the
song’s joyful tunes.
The night has a bite, a sharpness
that penetrates the inner core,
threatens to steal warmth,
warded off by a rising taper of
sparks, resurrecting feeble souls
who yearn for life.
Serenity beckons, calling the flames
to calm, to settle, to dwindle
until only a feeble light survives,
burning into perpetuity,
fueled by the eternal love
of One who feeds all flames.
My Grandmother Williams lived in southeastern Ohio near the town of Gallipolis. She grew up poor, with her parents and later her husband working as poor tenant farmers. She was uneducated in terms of schooling, but knew a lot about cooking and working on the land. She and my grandfather together raised seven children, only one of which attended high school. Most of the others made it through eighth grade, which was a one-room schoolhouse at the time.
My grandfather borrowed a mule and wagon from a local farmer. Every morning he hitched them together and rode out along dirt roads to a hunk of land that he leased. There he grew corn and beans, staples of the family’s diet all year long. As they became more prosperous, my grandparents bought a house on a hill overlooking the Ohio River. That is the home that I knew, the place where we would come annually for a visit.
It was not a fancy house. Out back was a pit toilet that I despised. Not only did it smell atrocious, but it contained numerous spider webs dangling from the roof and swarms of flies buzzing around the “seat”. Heat was from a coal-burning stove that took up a sizable chunk of the front room. The roaring flames terrified me. When the door was opened to shovel in more fuel, I thought for sure that I was looking into the depths of hell.
My grandmother cooked on a wood-burning stove. How she created such marvelous meals with such primitive tools, I never knew. Even as a child I recognized that her task was not an easy one. On top of that, she set aside fruits and vegetables grown in her garden for consumption later on in the year. This was the time of year that we came for a visit: so that my mother could help with the grueling task of canning all that my grandparents had harvested. I did not have to help except for the shucking of corn and the snapping of beans, thank goodness, but I was expected to stay in the boiling hot kitchen until the task was complete.
The outcome was shelves full of glistening jars of a variety of tasty treats. No matter when we came to visit, there was always a something special to be opened and food to be shared.
At home my mother carried on the tradition. Out in the backyard was my mother’s garden. She grew tomatoes, strawberries, corn, green beans and many other vegetables. A neighbor had fruit trees, and so we picked apples, peaches and pears from her yard. It all meant work. Almost every day throughout spring, summer and fall there was something to be canned. As a young child, just as at my grandmother’s, I participated minimally, but when I became a teenager, my mother expected me to stand at her side and work as an equal. I hated it.
The work was hard. It meant endless hours of standing, peeling, pinching, pulling, plucking. My fingers ached. My feet and back complained. Perspiration streamed down my face and neck. There was endless washing of jars and sorting of lids. Standing over a hot stove, stirring whatever the product was at that time. Eventually it was poured into jars and the lids screwed on.
The next step was the most challenging. The jars were gently placed into a pot of boiling water. Then we waited for the water to return to a boil and for the sealing to take place. There could be no talking, no music, no noise of any kind. One by one the lids would “pop”, signaling that the seal was complete. If six jars went into the pot, then we waited for six “pops”. Sometimes there were only five or four. Then my mom had to test each jar until she found the ones that refused to seal. Back into the pot they went, this time with new lids. The entire process lasted not just for hours, but for days, until every last piece of fruit was canned. Every day was the same: working, stirring, waiting for water to boil.
I grew up thinking that this was a woman’s duty, albeit a tedious one. The rewards were obvious. As fall turned into winter and the snows fell turning the world into a crystal palace, all we had to do was walk into the garage and bring in a jar of treasure. Summer would blossom forth once again as sweet strawberry jam covered out toast or tasty green beans filled out plates. My mother’s efforts were welcomed and appreciated.
When I became a stay-at-home mom, I accepted that the tradition was now mine to embrace. I decided to can so that we would have jams and fruits all year long, just as I had from my childhood. I got out a cookbook and found the directions for canning. I went through all the preparation steps as carefully as I could. Each piece of fruit was peeled and cut. If I was making jam, then the fruit went into a giant kettle for cooking. I stood over the pot, stirring continuously to keep it from burning. When the pectin thickened the mixture, it was poured into jars. Lids were carefully applied.
The jars went into the pot of boiling water. And I waited. And waited. Sometimes I would hear a pop, but most times I didn’t. I re-boiled the errant jars. And waited and waited. Some days it felt as if all I was doing was waiting for the water to boil.
While I did not can as much food as my mother or grandmother, I did put aside applesauce, strawberry jam, pickles, tomatoes, peaches, and apricots. The problem was that I didn’t trust the safety of my work. What if the water wasn’t hot enough? What if I had become distracted by a good book and didn’t hear enough pops?
All that waiting for water to boil, for what? Uncertain products and the possibility of poisoning my family. Nevertheless, I canned for several seasons in a row. At no point did I feel that my results were as good as those of my grandmother or mother. Nothing reminded me of home and nothing seemed worth the effort.
Fortunately for me, my husband did not expect me to can. He realized that I was a better mother than a cook. On top of that, it was so much easier to blanch vegetables and then put them in the freezer. It required much less work, was safer all around. And no waiting for water to boil was involved.