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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.

Christmas Lessons, 1969

Christmas Lessons, 1969

Today when you’re running any last minute errands, peace out! Seriously, after driving and walking yesterday I was really wondering if any of those in cars were focused at all on peace and goodwill. Think of the irony of rushing to complete tasks for Christmas while nearly running other cars off the road or running over pedestrians in the parking lots—does this make sense?

Yesterday while I was out to go to an appointment, I couldn’t believe the hyper-awareness I needed to maintain to keep myself safe while on the road. I was singing along to “O Holy Night” when I first almost got sideswiped—after I had checked for an empty lane and used my turn signal—the huge SUV that almost got me kept bouncing among lanes without ever using a signal, but the driver of that vehicle was far from the only one.

This sort of thing kept repeating—I had to keep turning up my music and reminding myself to calm down. And when I could see the drivers’ faces, those faces seemed blank and set in stone. The people did not seem angry or aggressive—it was as if they were not there—perhaps they were running through to-do lists in their heads.

After I almost got hit as I walked into the pedestrian crosswalk outside of Office Max—a crosswalk protected by stop signs on both sides—when a car blew through as if neither the stop signs nor I existed—I decided I was done. My errands could wait if this was how my fellow humans were sharing the holiday cheer. All I had to do was get to my own street—where I was greeted by another large SUV going the wrong way down our one-way street. After that car had passed and as soon as I could turn safely, I was followed by another vehicle that had turned so quickly behind me that it had been visible neither in my rear view mirror nor through my front windshield.

When I parked my car in front of my house, I resolved to stay home the rest of the day—no matter what else I might have wanted to accomplish out and about.

All I can think is that too many people have bought into the myths that our celebrations of Christmas have to be perfect and that everything has to be done by December 24 or all is lost.

Well, long ago my father shattered the myth of perfect Christmas for me and I’m finally starting to think it was one of the better things that happened to me. Believe me, I did not always see my personal story this way. What happened was this: I presented my parents with this huge list which I compiled from poring over the Sears Wishbook. Remember those? Well, Christmas Eve came and the present Santa brought was from that list but was not what I most wanted. I threw a fit and my father threw one back. He said, “Fine—there isn’t any Santa, you know. We do the shopping and that’s what we could find that was on your list.”

I used to think he could have been more sensitive, but now I know just how much of a brat I was being. He was running his pharmacy six days a week and then had to rely on my mother—the K-12 music teacher who had the elementary music program, as well as junior high and high school choir and band concerts, to run—to get to the closest town with a store that sold toys so she could buy our presents. No store was open on his day off, which was Sunday. They were busy decorating and providing us with all the trappings of Christmas while doing their jobs that paid for such things—they were exhausted. Too bad you didn’t get the perfect Christmas you wanted, kid. Neither did they, neither did they.

Unfortunately, the Christmas Machine is so much bigger today than it was when I was growing up. We not only have stores that are open on Sundays and late into the evening, we now have stores that stay open 24 hours a day the week before Christmas. We have online shopping and next day shipping. But that doesn’t mean the stores—brick or virtual—have that “perfect” gift you want to buy. That doesn’t mean we have any more hours in the day to live our normal lives while preparing for the holidays—even if we can go shopping at 2:00 a.m. if we choose. And that doesn’t mean no one should ever be disappointed.

What I learned that Christmas—OK, what I later realized I learned that Christmas—is that the real present is what others have done for you with their intent. It’s their love and time that matters more than receiving the perfect material gift.

And, of course, if you believe Christmas is really about a little baby bringing light into this world, how can any of this rushing around without love really be what matters most?

Even if you don’t believe Christmas is about that baby, do you really want to mar your celebrations by damaging your vehicle or by getting charged with careless driving—or by harming someone else’s body and/or property?

In our house, tonight is about going to church and being together. But we also give ourselves the gift of celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas—which means Christmas begins tomorrow for us. We don’t have to be done by the 25th because we’re going to keep celebrating.

While you (and I) are busy completing any necessary tasks today, keep singing “Joy to the World”—at the top of your lungs, if you must, to remind yourself what all this busyness is all about. Give yourself—and others—the gift of having a merry little imperfect Christmas.

Peace—let it begin with me and you today.


What is home anyway but a place that houses your people and/or the best of your memories?

But even when a home is filled with love and good intentions, sometimes finding peace in the moment remains so elusive.

How strange that we are just placed (born) into these family units with one another and, yet, our differences and our similarities make it so hard for us to get along day in and day out over the years. Familiarity brings challenges, even when we want to maintain that peace.

Our pasts together and personality quirks are so complicated. And then there are the circumstances into which we are born, ranging from simple birth order factors to the family’s mood at the time of our arrival. During hard times, war, illness, or following death, children still arrive. Life in a family is not easy, even in the best of times, but it’s all that any of us knows in our early years. But with any luck, we will continue to know family life throughout all our years, regardless of the challenges it brings us.

Despite my growing up with only my parents and one brother, I come from a large extended family. My past is filled from memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases and summer visits to my grandparents’ home—a home where all my aunts and uncles and cousins would gather in noisy groups—and in my dreams I still return to that mythical home where I gather once more with those people who were so important to who I am and who I became. Those sorts of dreams come also to my relatives in their sleep. This sense of home is definitely with us when we gather in other places, but we have never truly dreamed we could return to the house that cradled us and shaped us so.

That is we thought we could never return . . . until my cousin and her husband realized the dream of buying back the house that had passed from our family over 30 years ago.

After over a year of a whole lot of elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears, and money, the house is again the home of our dreams. When my cousin called us home to our recent Christmas in July reunion, the house—and our ability to gather together in it—was a present like no other.

I would love to tell you that the dream realized was all twinkly lights and laughter and hugs and songs sung in perfect harmony and moments captured in picture perfect clarity. It was all that and more, and, yet, as in any family, sour notes remain: sibling discord, marriages dissolved, children who won’t sleep, favoritism, regrets, and disagreements over shared history. What’s past is not often past.

The truth is I did leave swathed in a feeling not unlike the sunshine that streamed through the large windows or the peacefulness that came to me as I took in the bucolic views from those windows. I chose to feel the love—which is real and huge and something I know not everyone gets to feel in this life—and also chose to push away the cobwebs that lurked in the dark corners because I realize I am lucky enough that those cobwebs are only a small part of this thing called family in my life.

And, yet, my own home is also a microcosm of that larger family home. The love here is real and huge and something not everyone gets to experience. But sometimes the reality of who we are together and alone is simply too hard to bear. We forget that together we are the protection for one another from what happens outside our homes and instead project what others have done to us on those who love us most. And despite our best intentions, so often we cannot figure out how to be ourselves without hurting one another. In those moments our home becomes just another house.

The real dream of my grandparents’ house or my house or of any house will be that the house can be the peaceful space we can call home: that feeling that comes in those moments when family members forget or minimize any differences and just give into the love that binds us together.

Blest be the ties that bind our hearts and bring about fellowship of kindred minds—and remind us just why peace in our families—no matter how imperfect the peace or the family—is what really makes a house a home.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Still embroiled in the yoga changes here, but am trying to breathe and stay in the moment. As a woman—named Sunshine appropriately enough—said in Saturday’s makeshift class in the park, this abrupt change is just the Universe saying that now is the time to make way for something better to happen.

The community recreation center has served me well in so many ways over the last twenty-some years. While pregnant, I took water exercise classes—an exercise itself since my twin-pregnancy-bladder could not even make it through a one hour class. A year later my husband and I were bringing our twins to infant swimming classes, learning games such as “motor boat, motor boat go so slow” and helping them chase down rubber ducks.

T-ball and baseball, tumbling, dance, and swim lessons—our kids learned in the local community. The fellow townspeople we did not first meet at school, we met at the rec center and in the parks.

And as the kids grew, I found more time to return for my own classes. Step aerobics, fitness classes, (outside) water exercise, Pilates, ZUMBA, and yoga. My community circle kept growing as I met people—older and younger—who did not have kids the same age as mine were.

But of all the classes I’ve joined, my yoga classes have been the best community-builders. Yoga is more than a fitness class—it is a way of life. Because of that most people who start taking classes just keep coming session after session, even if they have to miss a few classes from time to time.

The more you place your mat next to someone else’s mat, month after month, year after year, the more you start to realize that you are becoming kindred spirits. Your backgrounds, lifestyles, whatever may be different, but when you give in to doing individual poses, partner poses, or group circle poses in the same space, the more you realize that you have to trust these people—at bare minimum—not to ridicule you, but also to cheer you on when you’re close to achieving a pose that has eluded you for years or to spot you when you try something really difficult. You start to know who is always looking for stress relief or who is experiencing grief or whose hip is in trouble or who is starting to become comfortable and fit in his or her own body. These people see you in very vulnerable—and not very attractive—positions. And every class ends with each of you resting in savasana, eyes closed, trusting that no one else will harm you.

You become a close community, as together you work to remain open. Though a few people float in and out of that community, many remain constant, dedicated to a way of life, led by a particular teacher.

This sense of belonging with these kindred spirits is what I most want to keep from our community. As we transition from a group that meets together in one particular place with one particular teacher to those who stay with the place and those who go with the teacher, may we never forget that what we have shared together cannot be taken from us. My community has grown from a particular place, but is not limited to that place.

Om shanti, my friends. Peace . . .

Yes, the last lyrics I quoted were bitter. Some days those are the kind of words I feel and I’m just glad someone else has expressed them so well. However, I don’t want to live there every day, all the time.

More often I choose lyrics of hope. We all need hope in a world where what’s good isn’t always obvious to us. Sometimes it’s because of where we’re looking, but other times it is because of where we are. In those times we know we’re going to have to walk through that shadowy valley before we get to rest beside still waters.

I still believe in a God who is good and who hears my prayers, even if they’re not answered in the way or at the time I would choose. So I keep returning to the hungry feast.

We come to the hungry feast
hungry for a word of peace.
To hungry hearts unsatisfied
the love of God is not denied.

We come,
we come to the hungry feast.
(c) Ray Makeever

Right now I especially hunger for peace at our dinner table, in our home, and in our hearts.

If I could, I would take on the hurt for what has happened outside our home. But . . . I can’t. And, it’s not up to me to dictate someone else’s healing or to tell another how to satisfy the heart that hungers or to say how long it will take before the acceptance piece transforms into colors.

I just know that peace won’t come as long as there is a battle going on. Not forgetting doesn’t mean a truce can’t be called.

I hunger for a home of peace. I’m going to keep working to guide our family through that valley and bringing them to that table, even if it feels as if it’s prepared before our enemies—or people who seem to be enemies right now.

I come, hungry, to that feast.

Peace be with us.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert