Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

I’ll wait until October….


(Scrooge played by Alistair Sim and the Ghost of Christmas past play by Michael Dolan / 1951)

For all intense purposes…the calendar date reads December 6th—well past October.
But this was my lament and statement back in say, June…

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

At the end of spring and the start of summer, we had finally decided to “makeover” two
of the three bedrooms upstairs that were long in need of redoing.

The third room that was already up to speed, is our guest bedroom.
A room that we had lovingly dubbed “Martha’s room”
as it was where my aunt would stay when she’d come to visit.

Of the other two rooms–one had been out son’s room.
A room he vacated, for all intent purposes, in say…2007…upon high school
graduation.

He occasionally returned throughout college for a few extended stints
before heading off to a fraternity house and later various apartments…and blessedly
basically forever upon graduation.

He is now married for almost 6 years, with two kids…
I think we were safe and in the clear for changing out the room.

However, that’s not to say that the door doesn’t always remain open should a need ever arise…
but it’s just that the content is now drastically and delightfully altered
as the room has been brought up to speed.

The other room had been pretty much a catch-all for things such as a
weight machine (something our son never seemed to think much of in order
to take it with him when he finally moved out–sigh),
along with boxes and boxes of files that had been dad’s world, of which I inherited
when he was no longer able to care for himself.

So my husband and I discarded, sorted, thrashed, regrouped all the stuff that was to
stay and all the stuff that was to go, turning that last room into a lovely home office of sorts.

However, it now irks my husband to no end that I went to a great deal of trouble,
not to mention expense, decorating and arranging with some wonderful old pieces
I’d found, just to simply continue using the kitchen table for my “workspace.”

He, on the other hand, uses the office religiously.

When he retired, he was accustomed to having had an office.
A place where he kept his files, bills, notices and where he sat down
to pay bills and do paperwork.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I was used to simply grabbing space at a clean table.
Hence, my affinity for the kitchen table.
I also like the wall of windows in the kitchen which provides ample light.
Much like my classroom use to provide.

I did have an “office” but “the office” consisted of a computer table with the bulk of the
room being, more or less, storage space and where we housed the kiln.
I, therefore, preferred the open space of the classroom.

For a while, following dad’s slow demise, my home “workspace” was moved to the dining room
table as the papers and boxes were growing exponentially and the kitchen was simply not the place.
Following dad’s death and the gutting of the two rooms, I moved dad and my
“stuff” to the new office.

Since the closets in those two made-over rooms were now basically gutted,
I thought I would store a few of my more cherished and ancient family Christmas ornament
boxes in the two vacated closets.

“Get them out of the attic,” I told myself.
The summer heat, in a house’s attic in Georgia, is deathly.
The winter is equally as harsh.
Not the place to store things of “treasure” but sometimes
that’s all one has.

The boxes contained much loved and long passed down ornaments.
With each ornament telling a story.

One box contained the porcelain Christmas angels and tiny nutcrackers I’d been
collecting since I was in high school.
Gifts along with those offered by long-gone family members.
Boxes that always quickened my heart each Christmas when I brought
them out to the tree.

I thought the move out of the attic would help their survival.

HA!

Do we call that the best-laid plans…????

Almost as soon as I moved the boxes to the closet, I placed one on a shelf
in order to come back when I’d next move in a few more, allowing for me to
rearrange my sorting.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

Sure enough, the porcelain angel box was on its side as pieces of angels were
strewn across a closet floor.

I opted to play Scarlett–for tomorrow would be another day…


(Scarlett following Rhett’s departure / Gone With The Wind / 1939)

I uprighted the box, scooped up all the pieces, dumping them back in the box,
all willy nilly, and closed the top…
I stopped long enough to announce aloud to no one but myself,
I’ll worry about this little disaster in October.

The small disaster was more than I could deal with or bear that day.
Or seemingly any day thereafter.
I dreaded what I would find and I dreaded the meticulous gluing that would ensue.

Well as time past, I kept reminding myself about October.

July came and went.
August came and went.
September came and went.
October…came and went.
November came and went.
December is here.

I have decided there will be no tree this year.
The first treeless Christmas in 60 years of my life.

Nor is the manger scene box unpacked or moved from the closet.

It’s not so much over the broken bits and pieces of my Christmases past but
really because the kids won’t be able to come home before
Christmas comes and goes as both work and other demands of time will keep them away.

The plan is that we will go up on Christmas Eve to spend the night.
And I’ll go up in about a week to get the kids and help out at home.

The tree is a pain to haul up from the basement–it’s large and cumbersome.
The decorating requires various ladders.
Not to mention the hauling of the ornament boxes down from upstairs.

The fluffing of the tree, the sorting, and unpacking of the ornaments—
only to turn around and pack it all right back up.

A friend of my husband’s had offered to help him haul up the tree but I told him
not to worry.

“I don’t think we’ll put up the tree this year.”
“But why?” he implored.
“Because no one will be coming home, it’ll be just us.”
“Well, the two of you can enjoy it”
“Well, it’s an awful lot of work for just two people to stare at.”

Maybe it’s the melancholy of the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that the house will be quiet.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both a little older.
Maybe it’s the lunacy griping our Nation.
The country is being railroaded and no one seems able to stop the madness.
Maybe I’m simply tired.

The jury is still out, but I’m pretty certain there will be no tree…

One day, some cold rainy day, I’ll pull out that box of
debris and start gluing things back together…

But for now…I did at least manage to get the lights and decorations up outside…
so no one passing by the house is any the wiser that on the inside,
only the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Oh and by the way, my son stole the stockings I had made for his little crew…
they’ve been spirited off to Atlanta only to hang on the same mantle
my stocking once hung…
So the stockings I’ve hung are quite the hodgepodge.

Hummmmm…
maybe Ebenezer was right, “wouldn’t it be better if I just
went home to bed?”


(Alistair Sim

Ebenezer : [to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come]
I am standing in the presence of the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come?
And you’re going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen?
Spirit of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have met tonight! But even in my fear,
I must say that I am too old! I cannot change! I cannot! It’s not that I’m inpenitent,
it’s just… Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?

“Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life,
events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference,
but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love,
loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness.
It does not confer the power to change everything,
but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things;
and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives,
but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them.
Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love,
abandonment, trust, hope, and offering.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 58
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

indoctrination, starting young…beware!

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking
educated people seriously.”

G.K. Chesterton


(the Pteranodon family from PBS Dinosaur Train)

I was the only one left behind that Christmas Eve day…
that being myself and The Mayor of course.

One of our numbers was still at work, one had to run to the bakery and the other to
run errands…
I learned a long time ago, you never ask too many questions on Christmas Eve.

As my daughter-n-law was dashing out the door, she volunteered to turn on the television
so I could be somewhat entertained… that is if caring for the Mayor is not entertaining,
let alone consuming, enough!

I normally don’t watch TV during the day…albeit with the exception being during
the Bowl season…
yet sadly there were no bowls to the season currently bowling due to the
Christmas observation….so I was more or less nonplused regarding a
TV on or off.

Plus The Mayor is not really one to “watch” much television herself, of which I pray
will be a habit which will carry on throughout her life…
However…I must confess that my dad was a TV junkie and, in turn, aided in turning
his number one partner in crime, aka my son and The Mayor’s dad, into a bit of a
TV aficionado.

So as everyone went their merry way this merry day, The Mayor and I found before us
what appeared to be a cute little cartoonesque show airing on PBS.

Television options for children, airing throughout the day, leans toward either a Disney
channel or a Nickelodeon channel…
and I must confess, my days of watching Disney and or Nickelodeon
went the way of the growing up of our son.

And for the record, I tend to like PBS—that would be if we could scratch out their money
raising marathons, of which I totally understand when it comes to maintaining a relatively
commercial free world, however, it usually cuts into my enjoying Andrea Bocelli
in mid tenor beauty.

So we settled ourselves into watching Dinosaur Train.

A mini parental seal of approval promo introduced the show informing viewers that this
particular couple’s son actually learned his ABCs by watching Dinosaur Train.

Hummmmm…

The show’s intro begins with a catchy little tune as the shot zooms in on a nest of 4 eggs…
three eggs suddenly hatch into what I thought were pterodactyls but I was mistaken,
they were pteranodons…so much for my dinosaur knowledge!

The 4th egg hatched into what looked like a little orange T-rex while
Mother Pterandon sang that despite this orange oddball mixed in with her obviously
biological winged group, they were all about being an inclusive family embracing
differences because different species don’t matter in a family because their
family is all about inclusiveness… (eyes now rolling)

Hummmmmmm I mused as I sensed a nod to culturalism…

I was simply waiting for the ABC lesson.

Since it was Christmas Eve, I wondered if there’d be some sort of Christmas theme.
We had just caught the tail end of a cartoon cat singing about Hanukkah, so surely
dinosaurs could be singing about Christmas.

However, there were no ABCs nor anything about Christmas.

As cute as the show was, complete with a real human paleontologist, popping in with
some neat little fun facts about dinosaurs, I quickly learned that Dinosaur Train
was a victim of…or maybe that should be more like an accomplice to,
our modern culture’s obsession with all things anti-Christian
with a heavy pro-progressive left leanings to quasi inclusiveness while turning
out all remnants of Christianity…
SIGH.

The theme of the day for the dinosaurs was celebrating not Christmas nor Hanukkah but rather
the Winter Solstice…
REALLY?

Here it was Christmas Eve for crying out loud and this was a children’s show…
and yet the programming gods in their infinite wisdom found the need to celebrate
all things, Pagan.

Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years.
This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun.
In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel.
Today, many people in Western-based cultures refer to this holiday as “Christmas.”
Yet a look into its origins of Christmas reveals its Pagan roots.
Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun”
in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations.
Shortly thereafter, in 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday
of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman solar feast day was Christianized.
January 6, celebrated as Epiphany in Christendom and linked with the visit of the Magi,
was originally an Egyptian date for the Winter Solstice.

Circle Sanctuary

Gotta love the Pagans who continue with their not so veiled attempt at connecting the
dots between early Christianity to that of the day’s pagan heritage…
It seems they think once a pagan, always a pagan…God forbid there could
be any true conversion to the belief in the Grace of Salvation.

And the best person we should look to who actually did a phenomenal job of incorporating
the current day’s beliefs while teaching the new Christian faith to the local
pagan population would be St Patrick…

In a previous post that I wrote regarding dear St Patrick, I noted that
Patrick spent 40 years of his life wandering the mystical Pretanic Island,
preaching and teaching to the Druids and the Celts.

The Celts were actually a fierce warrior nation comprised of the bloodlines of Vikings,
Danes, Druids, Picts, and members of the northern regions of ancient Albion
(northern Great Britain). And as an island people, these superstitious tribes
were deeply connected, attuned to, as well as dependent upon the land.

Ireland was a rich and fertile island due in part to being on the receiving end of
the warming and wet energies of the Atlantic gulf stream.
Patrick knew that the best way to get the attention of the Celts was to utilize
those things that were common and entrenched in everyday life.
A prolific example being the humble clover.
The clover was a perfect teaching tool as it so beautifully manifests the image of
the Holy Trinity.

To this day the shamrock is synonymous with Ireland’s Christian spirituality and heritage

In another post, we learned a bit more of Patrick’s teaching…

It is said that the pagan Celts considered the sun to be an integral part of their worship.
Circles have been found etched and carved on many excavated Celtic ruins.
I think it’s rather easy to understand the importance behind worshiping the sun for the Celts—
if you’ve ever spent much time in Ireland, you know how wet and grey it can be.
There are parts of Ireland which receive up to 225 days of wet rainy weather each year,
in turn, making any and all sunny days a rare and treasured commodity.

Patrick had to be innovative if he wanted to get the Celt’s attention and gain their trust
as the ultimate goal was total conversion and allegiance to the one true God.
So Patrick set about with a brilliant plan combining both a component most important
to the Celtic nation, that being the sun–a revered circle,
bridging the abyss to the most important image to Christians,
the Latin cross, with the addition of a circle ringing around the cross–a
combination representing both sun and Son as the circle is also a Christian
symbol representing God’s endlessness.

As a teacher, I can honestly say that there is no better way of teaching something new than
making connections with what one already knows and understands.

(both full posts found here:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/la-fheile-padraig-sona-dhuit/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/good-for-the-goose/)

So yes, there was a great deal of overlapping with what had long been entrenched
with the superstitious and very keen people who were linked to all things seasonal
while introducing the new religion of Christianity. The overlapping has melded into
the Christian faith we recognize today.

But the premise, for these past 2000 give or take years, remains consistently the same.
Jesus Christ is the resurrected son of God….as is stated in the Nicene Creed.

WE BELIEVE in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

Yet most theologians and Christian scholars agree on one thing…
that December 25th was most likely not the exact date of the birth of Jesus.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare:
There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers
such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225).
Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of
birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’
birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.
As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

biblicalarcheology.com

I say all of this as I actually recalled a few past posts written by two more learned
individuals than myself…more learned in regards to the theology and history of our faith.
It’s those two favorite across the Pond clerics…Pastor David Robertson, aka the Wee Flea
and that rouge Anglican Bishop, Gavin Ashenden.

They have both noted, with great alarm, the insidious indoctrination of our children
that seems to be creeping in earlier and earlier.

https://theweeflea.com/2018/12/13/now-theyre-coming-for-the-nurseries/

https://ashenden.org/2018/02/28/christianity-the-antidote-to-cultural-brainwashing/

Thus the one important lesson that I learned on this Christmas Eve as the Mayor and
I thought we were settling in to watch some cute little flying dinosaurs,
be they pterodactyls or pteranodons, teaching us our ABCs…
I learned that culturalism and anti Christian rhetoric is alive and well
in children’s programming…and it seems that a heavy dose of indoctrination
is coming faster and earlier than we may have ever imagined.

Thus as Believers it would behoove us all to be ever vigilant with our children…
no matter how young they are…remember… imprinting begins very early.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your strength. Take to heart these words that I give you today.
Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away,
when you lie down or get up. Write them down, and tie them around your wrist,
and wear them as headbands as a reminder.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen.
Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live!
And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.
Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai,
where he told me, Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them.
Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live,
and they will teach their children to fear me also.”

Deuteronomy 4:9-10

perspective

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing:
it also depends on what sort of person you are.”

C.S. Lewis

(the Mayor Christmas eve / Julie Cook / 2018)

If you’re anything like me, then the past month has been more or less a blur.
December is just that kind of month.

And now we’ll spend the next few weeks in what I call a December hangover.

That heavy odd sense of bluesyness bordering on depression which falls sometime following
the New Year’s celebration. It’s a heaviness that seems to blanket us
following the high that lead us up to Christmas to those quiet doldrums of a
grey, wet, cold January.

And that’s pretty much because we’ve made Christmas so much more than what Christmas
really should be.
But then we already knew that right?

On my end, the culmination for us was, of course, the Mayor.
Because Christmas is all about children is it not?


(Moppie with the exhuausted one / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Santa brought the Mayor an extesnion to Woobooville…a Wooboo teepee)


(and a new Mayorial ride)

And whereas I think of our cultural Christmas being basically, more or less, a magical
time for Children that has sadly morphed over the years becoming something so much more…
with that notion of ‘more’ not necessarily being a good thing.

The contrast that our children are living with is what we’ve turned Christmas into…
that being, on the one hand, wonder, excitement, anticipation, the magical, the giving
and the getting but also being the chaotic, the frantic, the merchandising,
with the getting notion being the ultimate part…

A shift from what Christmas was…that being the celebration of a single birth…
to the Christmas that is… a month of mania followed by the doldrums.


But this first Christmas morning was more than this little Mayor could handle

May we be mindful to keep our focus on the one Ture gift we’ve each just received.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would
believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal,
immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.

Amen.
1 Timothy 1:15-17

for unto you…

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you;
Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,
and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….