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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Hello—long time no write. Oh, I have some good excuses—paid work, volunteer work, cleaning for family, and being with family, etc.—but the truth is more along the lines that I don’t want to be just one more angry voice in this year of discord. So often I have reacted to what I’ve heard and read this year with anger. Lucky you—I’ve pretty much saved those frequent rants for family and friends.

I am still waiting for a Rodney King moment this year—not the “beat on Rodney” moment, but the “Can’t we all get along?” Rodney moment. Seems that if that’s what I’m waiting for I’m just not going to write in 2015, you know what I mean?

But we’ve reached one of my favorite times of the year: Advent. I’m not talking about the Decembers of “spend, spend, spend” or too many great Christmas carols turned into “are you serious?” pop versions or calendars full of “must-dos” and little empty space. I’m talking about waiting in the darkness for a light that comes to save us from ourselves and our petty human ways. I’m talking about how a little child shall lead us. I’m talking about God Immanuel.

And, boy, don’t we need a God with us these days? Not the God referenced in all the various and opposing opinions expressed in the public arena, but a God who sent his son to change us from our petty humanness. A God who asks the lion to lie down with the lamb. A God of peace. Peace on this earth? Can you imagine?

Last night in choir practice, our group of very human singers was struggling mightily with a piece called “Magnificat” by Halsey Stevens. Stevens’ “Magnificat” is an arrangement with many changing time meters and notes of discord between parts that mar any perception of harmony—except in the resolution of the final notes at the end of the piece. I get what the metaphor expresses—about just how jarring was the angel’s revelation to Mary that she would bear a child—a child not conceived in the usual way and a child of God in a human form in a way that had never happened before. But that is not the Mary of Luke’s Magnificat passages.

Oh, she was greatly troubled at the angel’s initial greeting: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28, NIV) Yet after she asked questions and received his answers, she was all in. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38, NIV)

Next Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Before Mary can say anything to Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth and Elizabeth knows that Mary is indeed blessed to be the mother of God’s child. Other than asking why she would be so favored, Mary does nothing but accept what she is called to do.

However, she not only accepts, but she also sings that her soul glorifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God. There is so little discord in her song.

The Mary of this story glows—she is all light.

Thirty years ago I saw such a Mary in an obscure play (The Christmas Miracles) at the local performance venue. The pre-fame Annette Bening became this acceptance and joy in a manner that sticks with me always, especially when I hear the words of Mary’s song.

May it be so with me—that I not dissolve into discord and misgivings no matter how dark the times. That I not let the darkness swallow me and keep me from bringing forth the kind of light—pale though it may be to the Light of Mary’s story—that I myself am called to share.

In these dark times we need to be lights in a world that would rather stay in darkness. We need a little Magnificat right now, right this very minute . . . we need a little Magnificat right now.


(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Mention you go to yoga and many people will say, “I can’t do yoga. I don’t bend well.” Me neither—that’s exactly why I started doing yoga. I’m coming up on ten years of practicing yoga and I’m still not that “bendy” person people believe every yogi is. But that’s OK because becoming “bendy” is really not what doing yoga is about.

Well, then what is it about?

My yoga guru/instructor, Dr. Dennie Dorall, is always reminding us that the purpose of doing yoga is to experience joy.

In yoga class we work on joy, pose by pose, breath by breath. So often that whole notion seems counter-intuitive, especially when not all yoga poses feel joyful and certainly some breaths seem to keep us focused on pain for far too long. In many ways the joy received from yoga is something you can only develop with conditioning: the conditioning of your body, mind, and spirit over time to better receive that joy.

But joy is not a cheap emotion—so often it must be earned by going through sorrow or pain. That’s the sort of resilience that practicing yoga helps build. Breathing into and holding onto a difficult pose when your mind is saying you can’t teaches you that you are possibly capable of so much more than you imagined. At the same time, your emphasis on your body in that challenging moment teaches your mind to tune out the extraneous noise or that which has nothing to do with the present and join to struggle and rest with that body.

By learning to fully be in moments you would not choose for yourself, you gain strength to get through so much of what life throws at you. You celebrate when you discover you can do what you formerly could not—and you keep believing that someday you will be able to do that which today you cannot do. Nonetheless, whether or not you ultimately can or cannot do something, you learn to be fully present in the attempt.

As much as yoga has taught me to how to be more present in the present, it has also taught me not to hold on to the past so much that I miss the new “present” offered to me. For me, being more open to receiving joy has taught me to put aside a focus on regrets on certain losses outside my control.

In this past Wednesday’s yoga class, Dr. Dennie asked us for a word for that day and then challenged us—each in his or her way—to share that word with others. My assignment? To tell you all about joy.

That day I could have felt frustrated or even a little angry about the time lost to my recent illness, but instead I woke up happy that I got to do all the ordinary activities I had to miss last week—and that I wasn’t too tired to enjoy them either.

On an unseasonably warm December day, complete with blue skies and snow-capped mountain views, I could hardly wait to get out for a post-yoga run. I knew it really didn’t matter that I was going to have to take it easy after my hiatus—but I got to go—I just had to tell my number-cruncher side to take a hike and let me enjoy a leisurely jog on a gorgeous day—which it (the number-cruncher side) did and I did, too.

That’s the kind of joy I used to miss out on before I began practicing yoga.

You may associate joy with something seasonal, but I like to think joy is something I can carry out into the world with me throughout the year. However, this time of the year the concept of joy seems to have been misapplied to concepts such as getting or noisiness or busyness—or at the very minimum to some sort of grand emotion we are “supposed” to feel.

True joy is more the sort of thing that allows a young unwed mother to give birth in a barn amongst animals and yet to call herself blessed and to treasure and ponder in her heart all the commotion surrounding this humble birth.

As for me, bending my mind and spirit in yoga has helped me to be more willing to receive that in which I already believed, allowing me to be more open to giving—as well as to receiving.

Practice feeling authentic joy in each moment during this season of waiting for hope to come into this world. Your practice of joy has the power to light up a world desperate to receive both hope and joy.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

Right about now nineteen years ago, I was finishing up my first year of coursework toward an MBA—courses I took in the evening after going to my full-time job. December and its celebrations could wait.

That semester I was involved in one of those group projects from Hell where everyone does the work but doesn’t always agree. Early in December our group came together to put some final touches on the project. One member apologized that she was a little slow because she had been sick while another apologized since she was in charge of the company holiday party and had been up all hours celebrating. That’s when I told them I could top their excuses—not only was I pregnant with twins but also since I had just hit my second trimester, I had been pregnant most of the semester and had been happy to stay awake during class, let alone finish the work. Just completing that term was one of the best gifts ever, if only so I could sleep more.

Our Decembers have been crazy busy ever since, despite our best efforts to keep Christmas celebrations themselves in line. It took me three more Decembers (and another half year) to finish that degree while living with young twins. The first post-graduation Christmas, free from the additional stress and work of school deadlines, was a delight!

A few years later Sherman began his Master’s degree studies—by that time all the activities related to having grade-school-aged children made it even harder for him to fit in his schoolwork, especially during December. When he graduated in December of 2002 (yes—we added a graduation into the December mix—but saved the party until January!) we vowed that from then on, only family members born in 1992 could attend college—and now they are—which means they are experiencing their own December madness right now.

But the years in between Sherman’s graduation and now have been full-speed-ahead years also. Middle school and high school added more challenging final projects and tests and, of course, concerts and parties, too.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

When Mom broke her heel three years ago on Christmas Eve, little did we know how much more involved we would become in helping her with her daily life. That Christmas it seems we barely had our tree up two weeks—we needed to take it down to make space for papers and other items we had grabbed to figure out how to transition to having her live in our home, for awhile, and, later, make a permanent move to Denver.

Meanwhile, our kids continued with the fast pace of high school December requirements. Although we finally purchased one of those pre-lighted trees and could set out the tree otherwise unadorned, we were happy to get out the remainder of the decorations by December 21. And what wasn’t necessary didn’t happen.

Which makes yesterday’s activity—a mundane one for many of you—seem all the more miraculous. After replacing our porch six years ago and losing the built-in attachments for Christmas lights, we finally made it possible to hang lights again. Sherman installed new hooks—I held the ladder—while the dogs, Fordham and Abel, surveyed the neighborhood. Then I continued to hold the ladder (or my husband, when necessary, to keep him from falling into the rosebush and its sadistic thorns) while he hung up our brand new chili pepper lights to go along with the 3 Margaritas paint colors. Then he added blue light ropes we already owned that really match our house now.

OK, we still needed new extension cords, but by 9:30, after some additional ladder ballet (and a few inappropriate language choices), our 3 Margaritas home was ready and lighted for Christmas!

Not only that, but there are already presents under the tree—on December 13, no less. Who knows, maybe we’ll write and send out the sequel to our last Christmas letter—the one we sent in January 2006 . . .

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

At the same time, we’ve given the kids the gift of being able to do their own projects and tests! Jackson finishes today and Christiana finishes tomorrow. With good weather and traveling mercies, we expect to see them very soon—tired from their own crazy busy Decembers—and in just a little bit of awe to see what their parents can accomplish with a little bit of time.

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