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

Nothing from nothing leaves. . .something

“Nothing from nothing leaves nothing,
Ya gotta have something”

Billy Preston (Nothing from Nothing song lyrics)

You have to create something from nothing.
Ralph Lauren

“We can know only that we know nothing.
And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

― Leo Tolstoy

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(a “volunteer pumpkin on the compost pile / Julie Cook / 2015)

We have a growing pile of debris that has risen and fallen over the course of our time living here at this house. It sits right on the edge of the property just at the periphery of woods which surround our property on two adjoining sides. It’s where we usually put all of our clippings from the bushes, any fallen tree limbs, discarded shrubs and spent flowers. I think of it like a rather large compost pile that ebs and flows with the passing seasons.

After this spring’s big yard re-do, the brush pile grew exponentially as the landscapers dumped stumps, stripped grass, and discarded shrubbery lost to the change.

There have been a few past Christmas trees which have found their way to the brush pile, as well as numerous pumpkins that just didn’t seem to survive the Fall, petering out before Thanksgiving.

And it is to these pumpkins that my recent attentions have now turned. . .

The other evening when I was dumping some grass clippings on the pile, I noted a squash-like vine emerging from the debris spreading out in two separate directions. I pleaded with my husband not to mow over the vine because I was exciteed to see what might happen if we left it to grow. . .
He throws in some comment about needing another plant for pollination so it won’t ever come to anything. . . but I countered with a “leave it to the bees and we’ll see. . .”

Low’n’behold, a white pumpkin is now growing from my debris pile.
I remembered back to last Fall when I had bought a multitude of heirloom pumpkins—there were indeed a few white pumpkins in the mix. . .
I am so excited!
A bonus pumpkin, given as a small gift from the compost. . .

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Which brings me around to another sort of thought. . .a real thought about debris, reclaiming, and growth.

Many many years ago when I was a college sophomore, attending a very large state university, I found myself in a familiar situation that a great many young Christians find themselves in when heading off to college—that surreal state of desperately seeking that hidden balance between one’s faith and one’s life while taking in the whole college experience–
Greek life, parities, sports, dates, new friends, new thoughts, new experiences, liberal minded professors and courses, challenges, questions and hidden insidious digs executed from the dark one—all of which are attacks upon a fragile young threatened faith.

I rode the waves.
Sometimes staying on top, wildly riding the monster wave. . .other times, I was falling off the proverbial surf board of life, miserably wiping out while nearly drowning in the crashing waves.

Having come home one weekend, during an away football game no doubt, I found myself sitting in the office of one of my priests from my home church, having a bit of a late afternoon confession session.
I had failed miserably and instinctively knew I needed a good dose of wisdom, tough love, and true Christian absolution.

Patiently he listened. . .
offering a tissue,
while quickly cutting through the crap.
Saying something that has stayed with me all these many years later. . .
“it doesn’t matter what you have done–it doesn’t matter what you still may do, or how bad you may have been or how bad you may yet be—even if you’re covered from head to toe in dog crap, God still wants you, cares for you, loves you. . .nothing you have done is going to separate you from His love as long as you continue to seek His Grace. . .
We call that unconditional love. . .”

It was a never give up on yourself sort of talk.
While being countered with the need for change on my part talk. . .
the stop being a yo-yo Christian sort of talk.

I’ve used that same line of thought with lots of my kids over the years at school and I’ve had to recall it often in my own life.
I’ve fallen lots of times over the years.
I’ve screwed up.
I’ve gotten to that place when I’ve felt as if this time was it. . .as in, it’s all over.
I’ve done it for sure this time, there’s no going back. . .
I’m done, I’m toast, all chances are up, chips are cashed in, there’s no going back. . .

I think we’ve all gotten to that place in our lives when we’ve felt as if we’ve gone too far.
We’ve crossed the line and we just figure there’s no going back. God has washed His hands of us and finally walked away—or at least He should walk away.

We shrug our shoulders, as we toss our spiritual beings on the brush pile out back, believing our relationship with an unseen God is over as we’ve pushed the envelope just one time a little too far.

Yet God has never given up on the junk out back.
There’s life to be had in that compost.
It might be a volunteer pumpkin or it might be a redeemed heart and soul. . .
Either way. . .there’s always HOPE in that which was thought to be nothing. . .

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
1 Peter 1:18-19

Beauty in a bucket

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”
Louisa May Alcott

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”
John Donne

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DSCN8530
(the fallen late blooms of the meyer lemon tree and an oak leaf float in a bucket of water / Julie Cook / 2014)

When might debris in a bucket deep,
take on such beauty doth to keep?
Which floats upon a surface sweet,
while wind and rain so strangely meet.
In Autumn’s late grey days of myth and lore,
as light doth fade forever more.
Be quick to see all who so chose,
for beauty hides just under your nose.

Blessings for a Tuesday full of surprising beauty and joy

For thus says the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Isaiah 45:18

Boxing Day–A day of giving, remembering and recouping

The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.
Saint Teresa of Avila

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Today the boxes, the ribbons and bows, that were just 24 hours prior, tucked neatly and gloriously adorned under the shadows of a festive tree, now lie discarded, being all but forgotten.
The tremendous crescendo of the dizzying frenetic days which lead up to the collision of the cosmos of family, friends, the sacred, the secular, the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, the traveling the sharing, the tolerating, the worshiping, the singing, the giving, the taking, the buying, the selling, the ordering, the joy, the reflection, the reverence, the mystery. . .
All sadly over in the blink of an eye.

Today we trudge like automatons through a sensory overload of the leftovers from a frantic month long pace, literally picking up the pieces of family, friends, and of a season now spent. Weary and bleary eyed the skip in our step and the joy to the world on our lips are each suddenly slowed and silent as we find ourselves slowly exhaling.

Tired, we begin to re-pack the treasures and mementos of our lives, back into the dusty musty boxes, sending them back to the tombs of attics and basement and storage for a 3 season hibernation with the hope of returning next December. Yet the echoes of keeping Christmas in our hearts all through the year, for many, will slowly grow all but silent as we transition from the old to the new.

And yet as we prepare to hunker down for the remainder of a long, cold and silent winter with the thoughts of now warmer brighter days toying with the shadows of our dark somber moods, we must lay claim that despite the waning excitement from an advent of long anticipation, the triumphant delivery of Joy, and the passing of old time to new, ours is not a solitary journey.

Yet, as we find ourselves on this morning after, feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost as we sift through the debris of yet another year’s season of festivity– we are awarded a single small respite and an opportunity to suck in a much needed second wind. For today is Boxing Day. A needed day of transition. Below I’ve added a brief history behind this day of deep English tradition or for those of us of the Western Church, the day St Stephen’s Feast. . .

(Information taken from wincalander.com)
Boxing Day History
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas in Britain. It’s history dates back to the Age of Exploration. The priest would place a wooden box on each ship and crew member’s would drop coins into in hopes of ensuring a safe return. The box would remain on the ship, upon it’s return, the priest would say a prayer of thanksgiving and in return receive the box and its contents. He would safeguard the box until Christmas, where he would then open it and share the contents with the poor. The “alms box” is a similar tradition observed in many churches still today.

Boxing Day Facts & Quotes
1.In the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of large estates would practice Boxing Day. They would do this by boxing up leftover food, clothing and other household items. These items would be distributed amongst their tenants and workers the day after Christmas.

2.For Boxing Day, many charitable organizations practice a form of giving boxes to the poor. Operation Christmas Child is one such organization.

3.December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day for the Western Church. The Feast of St. Stephen honors the first Christian martyr. Stephen was stoned to death outside the walls of Jerusalem, shortly after the Crucifixion.

–Boxing Day Top Events and Things to Do
–Clean out your closets and donate to a local charity.
–Donate to a local food bank.
–Prepare a Christmas box for a charitable organization.
–Donate money to a church or other community group which cares for the poor and elderly.