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(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

(c) Christiana Lambert 2010

Most all was calm, most all was bright. That’s how this Christmas felt after so many years of distress and darkness. I’m not a person who expects a perfect Christmas, but it’s been a long time since our Christmases felt normal-enough in any way.

First there was the Christmas Eve when my mom fell and we couldn’t deny anymore that who she was was slipping away. There would be three more Christmases with her—each one with less and less of her present. But the first Christmas without her here at all, I could hardly imagine “doing” Christmas, knowing she would not be part of the celebrations at all, except in our memories. And so we created new traditions, even down to changing almost everything about the way we decorated.

But my mother was not the only one who had changed in a big way during all these years. The Christmas after Mom’s fall, my daughter—and our whole family, of course—was also freefalling into a developing mental illness—something with which we had no experience. After initial improvements and a couple seemingly reasonable years, her descent accelerated, all while we were trying to figure out what she needed from the distance as she attended college. Last Christmas, though seemingly bleak enough, brought the present of a different diagnosis—which has led to more appropriate treatments—and a renewed sense of hope—for her and for those of us who love her.

Though I still miss my mother at Christmas—and always will—I am learning to accept her absence and to find comfort and joy in the new traditions, just as I did in the Christmases after I lost my father. For most of us beyond a certain age, figuring out to how celebrate again after losing our grandparents and parents and other older loved ones is a life passage through which we must live. I am finally coming to terms with what Christmas means now for me without both of my parents.

However, a renewed feeling of calm and hope for my own children—something I took for granted years ago—is the most precious gift I have ever received. I treasure these things and ponder them in my heart.

Of course, this Christmas season, though more normal than it has been in years thanks to our daughter’s improved outlook, has not been perfect. Now my husband’s parents are in decline, even if not so precipitously (mentally) as my mom had been. And our son is suffering lingering effects from a concussion he received mid-month—time will yet tell how well he heals.

So crazy how hard it sometimes is to feel the true joy of the greatest miracle of all time when you have been seeking other more personal miracles in the lives of those whom you love. And yet, in my own dark nights of my soul, I continued to understand the longing for light to come into this world—and have clung to that light even when joy itself has seemed elusive except in the smaller moments. I remain grateful for the miracles—small and large—that have happened in our lives.

I open my arms and heart to receive this gift of a Christmas that has had more laughter than tears—something I haven’t been able to say for many long years. One of the greatest miracles is that I can still believe in a merry-enough Christmas after all.

God bless us one and all—especially if this is one of those Christmases when you are still trying to convince yourself to continue believing that one day, you too, will again celebrate a merry-enough Christmas.


(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

So many seemingly hopeless situations happening these past few weeks around the world and in our country. The slaughtering of children in their classrooms, not by fellow classmates, but by adults who chose to make those deaths the message. The unrest exacerbated by seemingly excessive force. The retaliation against such force by an individual set on revenge.

Those are the “in our face” news stories of the most recent days and, yet, the war against hope pervades so many of our interactions and seems to be celebrated by many, including those in the press. Hope is not just one particular person’s mantra—does it really make sense to drive around with a bumper sticker that states “no hope”, as if that’s a goal for which we should all strive?

It’s time we declared a truce on this war against hope. A collective sense of hope is necessary for all, especially in these particularly dark times.

And for those who are having a hard time finding hope in their personal situations, this collective lack of hope is even more crushing.

I know, because my own family’s dance with hopelessness really began in earnest about the time the economy crashed and the political bickering intensified. My own loss of innocence—so to speak—about hopelessness coincided with this dark period we as a country can’t seem to leave behind.

I sit in church on Sundays and try to believe that others still value kindness and want to treat people well and attempt to listen to one another, even when they hold opposing views, but so much of what I’ve seen over the past several years gets in the way of believing what I used to believe so easily about the essential goodness of people. Man’s inhumanity to man (really, people’s inhumanity to people) overwhelms me so often these days and I grow weary.

I know there are way more good people in this world than bad, but what we hear about more often and those who get the most press are those who take hope away from others or those who do not care about others’ feelings of hope.

I will never stop striving to maintain whatever sense of hope I can and will do my best to keep my actions and words building hope for others as best I can, but it would be so much easier to do if I felt the “no hope” crowd were much smaller.

On my own, maintaining this hope thing isn’t very possible—somehow I just have to trust that God will help me and this world in which we live to keep the faith.

No matter how much my own hope fluctuates, I do still believe God sent light and hope into this world—a world that was as dark or, likely, darker—around 2,000 years ago. Because of that, I fight for hope, not against it.

The Light of the World is coming—stay hopeful.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

The people walking through the darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2, NIV

When something subtle but huge has been missed in diagnosis and treatment, it’s easy for darkness to overwhelm any light, let alone a great light. With little change and improvement, life as previously known can seem dead and the new normal bleak at best and hopeless at worst.

Yesterday I heard these words in church and thought, “God has heard our prayers. The light is coming back.” I know it’s too early to say that light is returning for good in our family, but for now it seems as if the yoke of darkness has been shattered.

We’re years beyond thinking we’d just rather the darkness go away for good. By now we can accept that proper management will be light enough—because that’s likely the best healing we will get and because it’s so far from past darkness that we know it can be enough to illuminate a life well-lived.

For another day to consider the tears and rage of those years that can’t be regained—too much of that will allow the darkness to obscure the light we do have. For now we will walk toward the light—and rejoice at the dawn of a new era.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

When I was a child, I often listened to my father and his parents talking. They spent a lot of time in the past. I used to think how great it would be to be able to say “ten years ago” or “twenty years ago” in my conversations.

Oh, I’m up to “forty years ago” and plus these days, but saying that isn’t as fun as I imagined. Not that a lot of great things haven’t happened in those years, but too much time in yesterday takes away from today and the tomorrows we might possibly have.

Good (bad!) grief, if we’re not careful with how we spend our days, we can end up as jaded and disillusioned as Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Macbeth chose to hasten death for others and, ultimately, for himself. However, we have the power to choose to be life-affirming, both for ourselves and for others.

Yesterday has the power to steal from whatever else remains if we let it do so. Sometimes, how we have let our yesterdays change us is a choice. When we have earned our scars, do we start to assume that’s all the future brings? Do we react toward new challenges as if they are the same as the old ones or as if we learned nothing the first time around?

That’s the tension I feel these days with yesterday. If I’m not careful, I forget the hope I had before 2008 or even that it’s possible to find it again. Not every day do I forget, but enough so that I know that my connection to yesterdays reduces my sense of possibility.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fake living until dusty death overtakes me. Not really.

So I have to keep fighting my perception of yesterday as well as keep reminding myself to remember what I can and cannot control about now. I am not in charge of others’ hope, other than providing them encouragement and help along their way. But ultimately, like Macbeth, we all have to choose for ourselves whether or not to let our yesterdays define the tomorrows of our days.

It’s up to each of us to make sure that our life stories are neither told by an idiot, nor full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This is all we get in this life and I don’t want to waste my choices as Macbeth did. No, for me, I must remember to keep that flame burning and not fret the wax melting down the sides of the candle until someone greater than I says my wick has burned to its end.

Today’s yoga class reminded me again why I really go. The teacher usually starts class by asking what people need to address so she can choose poses and the style best suited to the current day. Today one woman asked for help with stress, which meant many poses we did were designed to help us release our emotions, thoughts, and/or bodies.

Periodically, the teacher explains to us that the purpose of doing yoga is to feel joy. One of the biggest ways to feel joy is to let go of what has hurt us in the past—and sometimes our emotions are so deeply embedded in us that only by releasing our muscles can we begin to let go of our yesterdays. Letting be and letting go frees us to pursue the joy in our remaining todays and tomorrows.

Let it be so with my heart, mind, body, and spirit.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Expectancy is the opposite of dread. It is the anticipation that whatever is coming will be good—or even way beyond good. In fact, we use the word “expecting” to talk about women who are pregnant. In that way, expectancy is a sense of being pregnant with possibility.

So much of expectancy comes to us through our senses, especially through smell. The aroma of dough rising and baking in the oven makes me taste the bread that will exist once the timer beeps the news of its completion. The grapes boiling into juice smell like the jelly sandwiches my mother made me when I was a child and help me anticipate future happy moments. Peppermint and evergreen scents foretell of Christmases to come—and of those past. And who can ignore the heady scent of rain, especially when the moisture arrives after a long, dry spell?

Expectancy seeps into our bodies and has the ability to distract from the here and now. We forget our tasks mid-action, our bodies toss and turn the night before what we await arrives, and we often find ourselves daydreaming of what might be.

On the other hand, for some, only action helps us to be patient in our waiting. The pregnant woman cleans and organizes as she prepares the nest. Parents and kids (mostly mothers and daughters!) visit large box stores, checklists in hand, purchasing items for living away from the nest. Gardeners read books and magazines, ordering seeds and other supplies in the depths of winter.

Expectancy is the feeling that all can come true as imagined. The perfect baby will arrive with minimal pain and the nursery will remain an orderly oasis of calm, even in the midst of all the tasks associated with taking care of the much desired child. The dorm room will continue as picture-perfect as the day the parents helped the student move in and will be conducive to good study and health habits. The seeds will grow abundantly into the desired plants, while weeds will be minimal and the rain and sunshine plentiful in just the appropriate amounts.

Expectancy, as well as hope, springs eternal, as long as we keep faith that this life is essentially good.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

I always say every memorial service or funeral needs a few babies in attendance. Sure babies are capricious and possibly noisy, but so is life. And what shouts “Life!” more than the young? When do we most need to see that life continues but following death?

As family and friends settled into Mom’s service, I delighted in listening to my nephew’s son’s loud sleep-heavy breaths as he snuggled into his mother’s chest. My mom was gone, but the family still grows. I felt the same joy at Uncle Carrell’s funeral when Avery Grace, my oldest cousin’s granddaughter, took advantage of the quiet to add in a little of her own noise.

Our larger families came together to say goodbye to not one, but two, of our elders in the same week. I can truly say it was the best of times for the worst of times. (Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. NRSV)

On two days in March, we cousins and some of our spouses and children gathered into our informal choir, soon made formal by the direction of our cousin Brad and the keyboard work of our cousin Karla—both Mom’s heirs apparent. When there are no words, we take those penned by others and sing. We left the spoken words to another cousin, otherwise known as Reverend Bill these days.

Two bright sunny days—no given in March—to return those whom we have loved to the Nebraska prairie they had loved. Two very soggy cemetery grounds thawing from winter’s deep freeze—still it might have been easy to miss the hints of spring without seeing the children held in arms and those who had grown tall but who were still firmly in the spring-times of their lives.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

At no time was that more apparent than at my mother’s graveside service—as our cousin Bill laid his hand upon the urn containing Mom’s ashes, my brother’s not quite two-year-old grandson Ki broke away to lay his own small hand upon the urn. And then he just looked up at Bill as if to say, “I’ll take over now.”

That made it seem especially fitting that we held orange balloons to release in Mom’s honor. But first we listened to “Taps,” sounded out by Brad and followed by Bill in antiphon, for her (and our) grown-up side. The balloons, twisting in the gale-force March winds, anxious to leave our hands, were for that childlike spirit that made her a favorite with the younger generations throughout her life.

After watching the balloons almost shoot across the air—or some catching in trees, only to be blown outward—and then upward toward the East, we walked across the spongy turf toward the stone which already marked where my father rested.

The Fort McPherson National Cemetery, burial grounds established in the late 19th century, lies close to the South Platte River and not so very far from the confluence of that river and the North Platte. The areas in that section of the Platte River valley often have a water table close to the surface. Apparently, the newer burial section is closer to the water table than expected. On our travels across this land, we noted that the water was battling to re-stake its claim.

What we saw seemed shocking—moving water flowing from an established grave site. I had to remind myself that all in that hallowed place are gone—were in fact gone before arriving there.

May they have reached the place of eternal hope, but hope also springs in the living, especially through the newly living.

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