Innocence. Love. Divine faith. The link between the spiritual world and humanity. In the Christmas story, Mary represents all of these elements.
Back when Nyasha and Shanté were babies, a television show named Northern Exposure hit the media world. It is even more relevant today as it was cutting edge when it premiered. The mix of cultures, the effort to teach significant acceptance of differences, and the familial love of people portrayed in the tiny Alaskan town brought unprecedented recognition and awards.
In the Northern Exposure episode titled Seoul Mates, the story of Divine love is explored, touchingly, through many cultures. In one subplot, Shelly is missing the Catholic experience of the holiday, the creche, the mass, the music. As the show ends, we see that Holling has transformed the town hall. She comes to pray, and finds the statuary, candle light, and sound of tradition. With his euphonious voice, her love sings the Ave Maria. I never get through it without tears, never.
My kids will tell you that I have spent entire days, if not entire weeks, listening to strands on youtube, various forms of the Ave Maria. Schubert’s version enlivens a part of my heart that is inexplicable. It melts me, inside.
Kwami and I caught André Rieu in concert a couple of years back. I am constantly moved by the music. It is like the entire plight of humanity, all of our struggles and complications and issues, transform into light. The connection between humanity and Spirit. “Mary.” Love.
We play a game on Christmas morning… I code clues; they have to decipher them.
So many decisions are being made this season. Some are actually running under the radar. Kyle said that his mom called, sobbing, desperate to see him at the holiday. She considers herself immune compromised. But as a resident of the Eastern part of the state, I imagine that she is far more dangerous to Kyle than he is to her (by outward behaviors and misguided beliefs about science). He agreed to travel, seeing the family for the first time in six months.
People are making life and death decisions. Covid deaths did spike to double as an after effect of Thanksgiving. Some are staying exclusive and reclusive, changing the events of the season entirely. DeeDee and Joe have cancelled Christmas, the traditional Christmas.
And many are ignoring all warnings, and playing roulette with the elder and vulnerable lives. Complex decisions. Ignored and made to seem simple.
When we create the non-Covid related experiences of any holiday season, we make one original choice. I watch myself do it. I tend to pick “complex”. The voice says “Why stop now”… or, rather, “This may be the last.” I’m on a roll. I may as well take the snowball to the finish line.
There is some inner judgment. We could eat take out or frozen lasagna. Simple choices, and everyone would come away equally happy. But I have the refrigerator and freezer packed with the traditional foods, African Peanut Butter Soup ingredients for Kwami, cinnamon rolls for the kids, a beef roast because that is what I remember (and I am the only one who really wants to eat it).
We play a game on Christmas morning, that is, whichever morning we deem as Christmas (December 26th this year). Complex. In a good way. I code clues; they have to decipher them. We are all just humoring one another… biding time ‘til the game drops to grand-kid level. It just didn’t stop, and now stopping feels futile.
I won’t commit to simple. There is too much of my type of love in complex. But I know what simple looks like, and it could be a choice in the future. Simple IS a frozen lasagna, french bread and salad dinner. Simple is one gift to the entire group, maybe another Airbnb at the ocean.
But, humanity is complex. The point of the season is simple. We choose how to live each day, and particularly the Holy Days. There is no shame in complex. It is a choice.
But can we all find the part that is simple within the complexities? The baseline. The peace. As they say, wise women and men will seek It.
The Christmas story, the story of bringing the Christ presence to every heart, is a basic theme of many cultural stories.
Mom shared the memory of one Christmas Eve. She was very young. In the house with her mom and dad on Christmas Eve, she heard bells on the rooftop. Santa had arrived! They dashed outside to see, and there stood a brand new, Radio Flyer sled. I picture the little green house, covered in snow, a perfect wonderland scene. The black haired, dark lipped child, sparkling with joy.
She pondered who had been outside with the bells. Mom entirely believed that they rang from the rooftop. No one from the family cleared the question, even as she surpassed the age of 60. Christmas magic.
When I was young, Christmas was the winter holiday. In school, especially high school, some societal recognition emerged. We started to hear about Hanukkah, incorrectly portrayed, but at least recognized.
And in my last three decades on the planet, everything has expanded. My viewpoint and my exposure and the people I know have increased. I know people who live in Africa and Germany. I know people who have lived in countless countries, and many with ethnic origins on other continents.
And significant to the holidays, Christmas is not the only one! The Christmas story, the story of bringing the Christ presence to every heart, is a basic theme of many cultural stories. The hero or heroine shifts, but the light comes to the people. It is magical and beautiful, the enlightenment of the individual joining in Unity with its Source.
Some Indigenous people tell the story of the Raven. The virgin births are echoed in Buddha, Krishna, Laozi, gods in mythology, and Jesus. There is a reason. One spirituality cannot meet the awareness of billions on the planet. But one Truth can.
We just celebrated the Solstice, and every picture of the configuration of planets that I saw echoed the pictures of the star that shone over the Christ child. And the astrologers say that this night sky echoes the sky of two thousand years ago.
Many people I know celebrate the scientific Solstice, the shift from dark to light, as their “Christmas”.
If we all start by realizing the Unity, that we as humans on the planet are more alike than different, we will move ourselves into the new age without pain.
The entire planet is witnessing the rebirth, the virgin birth, the multi cultural reality that we are shifting. Individually, collectively, we are called to the light, to the Christ within, to the Whole of all that is. Let’s go!
The eagle is God’s messenger. Like the herald angels, like the story of Jesus’s birth, the Divine speaks to each person in every moment.
My brother, Mic, and his wife, Tessa, live on an extraordinary, roving, country property. There are ponds and fields, flowers (even now) and wildlife. We went for a Covid visit a couple of weeks ago, walking around outdoors, appropriately distanced.
Kwami was excited to see eagles. There can be eagles at my brother’s. They are known to swoop down and scoop a duck dinner from the pond. But they hadn’t visited in a while.
We were so blessed to spend time with Mic and Tessa. Their grand-kids swung over the pond on the rope swing, laughing, exuding joy. We listened to the babbling creek that Mic reshaped with tedious hours of labor, changing it from an eye soar (pipe) to natural beauty. The experience defined peace and love.
And, there were eagles. A pair, with white glimmering head feathers, flew effortlessly toward the pond. As if called to us, they landed together, at the tip of an evergreen, and posed dramatically. A form of Divine beauty.
The eagle is God’s messenger. Like the herald angels, like the story of Jesus’s birth, the Divine speaks to each person in every moment. We are a part of the Source, and It constantly sends love and acknowledgement. The trick is to ramp up the listening, to see the unseen or barely witnessed. But there are obvious experiences of perfection. Two eagles on the tree. Laughing children. The conversation and love of relatives. Divine.
The Serenity Prayer. Grandma F loved it, and then Mom also quoted it. For years, we had a small plaque on the wall that had some strange looking, cartoon birds, declaring the words.
As I write, I really can’t remember what stories have already been told. Sometimes I sneak over to the blog site, and do a word search, but that is often inaccurate.
The stories we tell are retold by the mind. We live inside a set of stories. Some have some physical history. Some are fully imaginary. And most are created in combination, some of what the majority of people would call “fact”, with added juicy content created by emotional reaction and fake memory.
This year, “fake news” was a new term, strangely used in irony. The mind adores fake news. It creates our lives around the theme.
In my reality, I woke several times last night. I sat with the Creator’s change in seasons, the moment where we move toward the light. I prayed for the planet, felt love streaming around and through me, drifted between the realms. It was two. I went back to sleep.
Dreams drifted in and out. There was an old white house that supposedly belonged to my Grandpa Plumb. The wall was open, apparently without reason. There was an enormous staircase next to the space, against the missing wall, as if someone removed the other half of a duplex.
Someone was trying to get the renter to comment on whether to repaint the exterior, whether to sell it, or continue to rent. She showed no interest whatsoever in making any comment.
Another dream had a home that reminded me of the Granite Falls house. There was this teaching element to the dream. The theme was that “men need a space”, like a man cave perhaps. I was working with Courtney’s husband, a distant relative if he happened to still be related. At the end of the dream, I was exasperated by two kids that lived there, that they had made a deal to help out, had enjoyed a day off beforehand, and were now refusing to follow through on what would take five minutes to do. They were not James’ kids, but representations of humanity.
Why do I remember these strange specifics? What do they mean about the processes of my subconscious? Is it any different than what I perceive as fact?
When I finished the night, my first thoughts of the morning came. The Serenity Prayer. Grandma F loved it, and then Mom also quoted it. For years, we had a small plaque on the wall that had some strange looking, cartoon birds, declaring the words. Maybe my mind is using the prayer to remind me of their love!
The Serenity Prayer is an interpretation. It is not in the Bible. The probable basis, Philippians 4:6-7 (International Standard) reads:
Never worry about anything. Instead, in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in union with the Messiah Jesus.
Gratitude. Praying for the good of all. Thanksgiving. My hope is that we all meet this inner serenity, that everyone can access the love that I felt from my mother and grandmother, and that we all find union with the highest form of love.
I woke at four, no surprise. The early morning is often referred to as “God’s hour”, the moments that are easiest to connect to the Eternal. Kwami often chants “Don’t go back to sleep.” The words have double meaning, but for obvious reasons, I usually don’t. I’ve watched the sun rise every day for a few weeks, hours after starting my day (well, sunrise IS at 7:50).
“Don’t go back to sleep” are words from Rumi’s poem quoted by Wayne Dyer on his Facebook page.
Today, I was sitting still, praying, meditating… looking at connection and Divinity, the Divine in the individual, and then God as itself, as all that is.
Enlightenment came to mind. For me, the definition of Enlightenment is the Realization of God, simple, yet exceptionally complex from the outlook of the mind.
Saints express enlightenment. Regular people experience it. The astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, had it happen instantly in space (https://www.actualized.org/insights/astronaut-enlightenment). Mom described having the experience in a very illusive way in a draft of a letter. That is a conversation we never had, and I just want to scream for having missed it.
It has different names in different religions, and could be said to be the goal of every spiritual practice (although church doctrine has been presented in a way that was meant to keep the general congregation from that knowledge in most American faiths, a political power move).
Although seeking It is twisted, because we inherently are enlightenment, or are One with All that Is, I’ve spent uncountable hours in books and texts from equally uncountable religious and spiritual perspectives. I spent a decade in deep pursuit. There is something comical about chasing your Truth, like a dog chasing it’s tail as if the tail isn’t the dog.
In my morning prayer, I saw the beauty of the individual, the perfection. When I backed up in my vision, I watched the individuality merge into the Source. I sat with that Oneness, observed it for a while. I listened for what I am to “do” today.
Christmas is the American season of doing.
There was a sense of deep laughter, Divine laughter, the laughter of irony. There is nothing to be done in the Divine sense. I can sit still and watch the waves. I can breathe the breaths and feel my lungs and my heart, acting but not doing. I can crawl under the blankets and sleep, sleep, sleep, cuddled in the arms of the Eternal. These are perfect ways to connect and “be”. They are not “doing” anything. Some people experience enlightenment in an instant. It passes through. The message is forever ingrained. For others, it lasts months, and they look out through eyes that see the Divine perfection in all that is for all of that time.
A sacred few were born in the paradigm, and live there for the entire lifetime, spreading the wisdom, seeding others for the experience of realization. As the story is presented, Jesus could have been a “whole life person”. The New Testament of the Bible presents it as though he spent that last three years of his life in Samadhi. Biblical scholars debate. I chuckle a little bit about Christianity, because, as Jesus said, “You will do even greater things…” (John 14:12), and so many are stuck worshiping an individual (who was no longer individual) rather than moving into their own Divine path, their own “greater things”. Point fully misunderstood.
For most people, the experience of realization is too much to hold in the human. Like Tiffany said, in Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men, “We sleepwalk through our lives, because how could we live if we were always this awake?” And Rumi whispers, “Don’t go back to sleep.”
People do not walk around declaring their enlightened knowledge, sharing their inner most spiritual truths.
One of the apparent qualities of a person who has experienced realization/ samadhi/enlightenment, whatever name you choose for the connected state, is that they keep it as a secret. There is no reason to tell anyone. And in the telling, there is a certain loss of the magic, of the Divinity.
Some people are called to bring the journey to the forefront and use it to teach. Those may be people you could name. I venture to bet that the Dalai Lama was either born into enlightenment, or has experienced it along the path, an example. Google says that if you are a Lama, you are a reincarnated enlightened being. So inherently, he is a life timer.
If you haven’t read or watched documentaries on how the Lamas are sought after their death, in the body of a child born in chronological proximity, it is flabbergasting, well worth the time. The memories that the children hold are terribly convincing!
People do not walk around declaring their enlightened knowledge, sharing their inner most spiritual truths. Or rather, it is rare. If someone speaks arrogantly about the experience, antenna’s up.
The Girl Scouts used finger motions when there were people around them that caused suspicion and caution. Certain political figures should currently be causing you to feel this way, as an example… something is amiss. And spiritually, it happens. Looking at an article on Jim Jones, I can literally feel pulsations run through the core of my body, so much more than “antennas up”. Don’t drink the Kool Aid!
Maybe we should all be very aware that anyone that is human, is human. An ego hides in every body. Take the gifts of teachings, find the connection, appreciate the guru, the pastor, the priest, but keep some spiritual antennas functioning.
Your spirituality is Divine. The secret pulses through your veins. It is always there, has always been there, and has no where to go. But, even as “your eyes open, and open again” (can’t resist more Terry Pratchett), keep your mouth shut.
The stoma is like a superhero with shape shifting capacity, keeping it real, real(ly) unpredictable anyway.
My ostomy is like a mountain climber. It enjoys finding new heights, new adventures, new challenges to overcome. Do I appreciate this? My face is distorted with puzzlement. We all enjoy the other side, the overcoming part, the win. So, maybe.
I have no idea what is normal. With great intention, I have avoided research. Information that leaps in front of me has been disturbing at best, and better to avoid. An example of something I cannot unknow: The stoma can separate from the abdominal wall. No. No it cannot happen. Not here. I am closing my eyes and plugging my ears and loudly singing la la la.
Since chemotherapy is infinitely creative, constantly changing up the side effects, never the same from one cycle to the next (for me anyway), this is where I place the blame. Not scientific. Not proven. Just a scapegoat in my moment. I think the chemo changes the world of the stoma, and the outlook of the ostomy overall.
The stoma is the part of the colon that meets the world. It sits a little lower than my waist line, to my left of the belly button. It looks like, well, l like a round dark pink, wet circle. It is a part of my colon that has been attached to the outside of my abdomen, making a makeshift anus without muscles, direct truth. I have no emotion around it. I am grateful that it functions well! It is more a novelty than a problem.
So the stoma reacts to the chemo drugs. It gets darker and larger. It has actually changed shape, color, and size. Or rather, it is like a superhero with shape shifting capacity, keeping it real, real(ly) unpredictable anyway.
Ostomy products assume consistency, and they certainly don’t assume shifts that happen over hours of time. I can watch the stoma change in the mirror, moving from 2 1/2 inches down to 1 1/2 in a matter of seconds. Challenging.
I need to adhere a bag to the outside of that ring, with the correct opening size, without a shift that could loosen the bond. Challenging again.
This will be fun for the fashionistas. The company that makes the products is called Hollister. The clothing company. The ostomy product company. I assume they are unrelated, yet, I do ponder which came first. Is it like the Magnum ice cream company and the Magnum condom company?
Do try the Magnum ice cream bars, highly recommended. I will say the same for the condoms too, if that is something your world rocks… but not necessarily from memory of my experiences. I just don’t remember. But one of my life quotes to the outer world is “Wear a condom and get a two-year degree. You will regret neither.” No bias to one condom company or another.
Hollister. I called Hollister. There are very helpful consultants for all of these things. It would be like if you owned an emu suddenly… from our family Christmas virtual gift exchange perhaps… and the emu had a breeder and vet tech professionals that helped you learn what to feed it and where to keep it. Ostomies come with professionals, and some of them are at Hollister.
Heidi at Hollister listened to my story. Then she had a couple of new product options shipped right to the mailbox, free and easy. And the adventure, what works? Try one, try the other, work with rings, no rings.
Our lives do this to us every day. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes behind the scenes. We know the big challenges. We fight and complain and focus on the hardship. As if climbing a mountain, I want to stop at the peak and appreciate the view. I want to acknowledge the beauty of the journey, the moment in time where I have come to the accomplishment, and maybe even take a quick peek (peak) at the easy path down. Just in the moment. Here and now.
Challenges are what life is all about. We forget. We want to stagnate, stay off the mountain. It isn’t a choice, the emu grabs your jacket, lifts you off the ground and violently trots your butt over to the mountain trails. You have to climb to grow. Grow with acceptance. Grow with grace. Take the moments to enjoy the adventure.
The staff at Brookdale Memory Care, working with Dad every day, every hour, when things are beyond difficult and messy.
So many people work to make our world flow like a well oiled machine. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the numbers. And Christmas is a time when we can share our gratitude. Even as that thought arose, my mind pointed to the overwhelm being an attempt to squish so much into a tiny space in our time (and even financial) continuum. First thought, let the gratitude flow.
I can start in November at Thanksgiving and ooze on over to Valentine’s Day. Easy. That will allow for covering more people with less stress! I’ve already blown the window for November/December of this year.
Usually, the breadth of the people who touch my life contains itself a bit more. 2020 blasts the door off the past. There are so many people I will never be able to thank.
A medical team literally saved my life this year. The anesthetist, the surgeon, the nurses and technicians, the people who kept the spaces clean, the ones who donated blood and those who draw mine regularly, the people who prepared the medications in the lab, the infusion center staff. The list is longer. I will never even know. I will send out prayers of gratitude for everyone. I would love to thank them personally, and can with a few.
At Christmas, I am usually scoping out my daily existence. The mail delivery, that visits us so many days of the year, endlessly delivering the packages to our doorstep. The garbage and recycling people, here once a week without fail, doing a job I enjoy admiring from afar. The staff at Brookdale Memory Care, working with Dad every day, every hour, when things are beyond difficult and messy. My wound care nurse, again, a regular job that just isn’t pretty.
Brookdale Alderwood Memory Care
The list goes on. People have hairdressers, counselors, massage therapists, cleaners. There might be people that work on the home or organize the book club. Every week, a support crew of many makes shopping and living possible.
Where I am able, a personal thank you is especially important. If I can thank someone directly, I am acting with my gratitude, but also collecting the gratitude of others that feel the same way. People who realize that the waiter or waitress is giving energy and positivity to our food need their hearts to be replenished with our love and gratitude.
So I look around, and I thank the overwhelm and send it away. I focus on this enormous number of people who make my life work, and I let that really sink into my heart. It feels like the Grinch heart, like it’s expanding, growing three size larger, five, ten. I am so thankful! I am abundantly grateful.
And, when possible, I figure out ways to share that feeling, to touch the individuals that I can touch. It could be looking into the eyes of the person behind the cash register, asking how their day is going, and listening. That’s enough. A sincere “thank you for being here for us” makes a difference.
It can be tokens, or tips, or other physical forms of gratitude for the ones in the closer circle. A quick card. A quirky little line. A small but thoughtful remembrance. Anything, everything. It matters. The noticing, the effort, the love matters.
Since the entire symbolism of the season is the bringing of the light, expressing the light is the point. Go out there and shine!
(And then don’t stop because January starts. Take it to the next day, and the next, and the next…)
A while back, Nyasha and Conrad were creating a pot roast. I do adore a moist, slow cooked, thick and steamy stew, yet my guidance surfaced from crock pot days of old. I haven’t actually made beef pot roast in a half decade or more.
I also have never played with an Instant Pot. It lives in the depths of the cupboards, silent, patient, nonplussed. In days of old, Kwami used it as a rice cooker. I’ve never seen it harboring rice, or anything else. It is a “some day appliance”, someday I will learn, someday I will cook such and such, someday I will habitually make one soup a week. Someday never comes.
For the record, I hate mini appliances, and store very few. If they sit stagnant for a year, they are cut from the team. The only reason the Insta Pot lurks in the dark is that there is space for it to do so. I don’t do countertop appliances because I don’t do clutter. The microwave is allowed, because it would be awkward to put it away and bring it out on demand. But even the microwave is a miniature version that fits in a tucked in tight location. I am unsure if I would own a microwave if I lived alone. I don’t really use it… hmm… it serves me only when I melt butter for recipes, and reheat tea that has turned cold.
My method is not the right method, it’s just mine. I hate mini appliances.
With slow cooking and the Insta Pot, Conrad and Nyasha were deliciously successful. We had some perilous moments, a few fears, and an adventure or two with steam. The appliance is a pressure cooker and crock pot in one. Pressure cookers make me think of explosions and burns. None of the fears came to life, but I recognized them, lived them. Cringed when Nyasha was working with the venting.
December is a pressure cooker waiting to blow.
For most people I know, the situation unfolds as bleak. The dominant interpretation of sadness and depression, spoiled fun, Covid holidays has left a cloud over humanity. There is a lull where rev usually lives. Sleep. Hopelessness. More sleep. Collective melancholy.
That creates a slow cooked pressure that is new to Americans. We are familiar with the stress, stress from the fast pace, the craze. We start with Black Friday, and escalate the rush and push… until Jesus pops out of that uterus (with the force of Millennia) on Christmas Day. Pressure cooked. Pour guy, not exactly the intention of his message.
In some ways, my heart still feels this pressure cooked feeling, the rev up of the holiday. It might have more intensity for me. I know that every moment has the possibility of being a last, and although I do not take that as morbid, it does squeeze a bit of uterine contraction into my desires. Do it right. Add more sparkle..
My theme is joy! Amber’s encouragement for her group (Woman Unleashed), for all of us, is “do just one thing”. The Christmas card from Helaine literally has Joy glittered on the front. It all comes together, crashing together. I have a long list of points to focus on, and honestly, I probably rake in points for ten items a day, not just one. But one is enough.
I hear the little voice. “Will you get it done? Can you get it done?” And then I am texting with Karolynne, and we plan to paint together. Not on the to do list. Better than “on the list”. I don’t care if I get the list done.
Joy. A step toward and with joy. One thing. Only the moment counts. The stuff, the timelines, NOT important. The Instant Pot can be a pressure cooker or a Crock Pot. Choose the latter. Live the slow cooker life!