Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here Ends 2009

Great things happened in 2009 to be sure. 

My sister and niece came home and live close enough to visit as often as schedules allow. 

Adam had an outstanding year playing soccer and has been accepted to the college of his choice.

Jakob grew into a giant who really enjoys high school and girls. 

We shared four months with our beautiful "daughter" and will hold her in our hearts forever. 

Joe created a beautiful Christmas - one of the best I can remember - for me, our children, and our friends.

And yet.

2009 was not my favorite year.

My mother is a stranger to me.  Some small voice whispers that it's time to create a new relationship with her.  Yet every time I stand on the verge of connecting, she does something completely heinous and I remember why we are strangers.

My brother is using again, and he's a fugitive.  He's not being a good husband or father.  And yet I am haunted by the thought of him, alone and with no safe place to rest his head, a head once as dear to me as my own children's heads.

My son is marking a year of "lasts" with us.  It's perhaps the last year he will sleep at home more than he doesn't.  Excited as we are for him and his future plans, each "last" is a little bittersweet.  Not heartbreaking.  Bittersweet.

I'm ready for a new year with all the hope and promise it brings.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Julie & Julia... In My Top Ten

Today I finally watched Julie & Julia.  Fantastic movie!!  I fell asleep watching it twice - couldn't be helped.  I sit, I sleep.  But today?  Beginning to end.

The movie made me laugh OUT LOUD while wearing headphones in the back of the van on the journey to Rochester during a snowstorm (note:  it's not often I have that many clauses/phrases in one sentence - enjoy it while you can).  It made me sad.  It made me want to cook.  It made me want to buy the books.  It made me read the blog. It made me long for a challenge of my own.

The blog is fantastic.  Julie uses the F-word regularly, along with several other blasphemous phrases.  She never fails to be brutally honest about who she is and what's happened in her life.  She hates her job, loves her husband, and adores Julia Child. 

I'm definitely buying the books. 

Watch the movie and then read the blog.  You won't be sorry.  :0)

Tomorrow, the last day of the year, I'm sending our annual letter.  I guess I should write it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine

I prefer to be a support person, a servant.  I like my role at my job and in my home and with my volunteer activities to support the roles others play. 

Yet I also realize that I depend heavily on my own network of support people.

St. Joseph has to be one of the best "support staffers" in salvation history.  Obedient servant of the Lord, loving and support husband to Mary, and gentle father to Jesus, he offers us more than the few verses in which he appears indicate.

Consider the young Joseph.  He's a son about to create his own family with the lovely young Mary.  Then he discovers she carries a child.  An angel of God appears to him and convinces him it is right and honorable and pleasing to the Lord to marry Mary.  So.  He does.

What must Joseph's mother have been thinking? 

Joseph returns home after delivering a chair down the lane. His mother waits for him outside their home. She looks troubled, and is worried about the rumors she’s heard about her son’s betrothed bride. As Joseph approaches, she rises to meet him.

"Joseph!" greets his mother.  "Come. Walk with me. We must talk."

Joseph approaches his mother with outstretched arms. He senses the time has come to share his thoughts about his betrothed, Mary, with his mother.  The two share a gentle and awkward Mother-son embrace and begin to walk along the edge of town.

"What is it, Mother?"

"Joseph, your father and I have heard rumors. Now that Mary has returned from her visit to Elizabeth, we see evidence that the rumors are true! Is Mary...  Well, is she with child?"

"You know, Mother," offers Joseph.  "I loved Mary first for her beauty. During our betrothal, I’ve come to love her gentle spirit and faithful ways.  She is so kind.  Always so kind."

His mother smiles at him.  "I've witnessed your growing love for her, but this rumor… Please, Joseph. Is the child yours?"

Joseph pats his mother’s arm as they continue to walk.

Wanting his mother to understand his own thoughts, Joseph doesn't answer her question.  He sighs.  "The trouble started after we were betrothed and signed the marriage agreement. Mary had gone to visit her old cousin Elizabeth in Judea, discovering the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. She was gone three months, and when she returned the rumors began."

His mother gasps slightly.  "So the child is not yours? Have you confronted her? Will you… divorce her?" She tries to smother a sob.

Joseph continues.  "Itt was a cloudy day when I finally confronted her. ‘Mary,’ I asked, ‘are you going to have a baby?’"

Joseph and his mother stop walking. His mother turns to look at Joseph.

"Mother, she smiled at me. It was a gentle smile. Her eyes filled with tears and she nodded." Joseph turns from his mother. His mother watches him.

"I didn’t know what to say. ‘Who?’ I finally asked. I was very near tears myself."

Joseph turns suddenly to his mother and takes her hands.

"Mother, trust me!  Mary and I never acted improperly – not even after we were betrothed. I honored her and her family at all times."

Heart breaking for her son, his mother asks Joseph, "What did she say? How could she hurt you so?"

"She said there was no way she could explain – no way she could make me understand. She said she’d never cared for anyone but me, and kissed my hands. She looked at my hands as if - it's so difficult to describe!  She held my hands as if I held her very life in them.
She kissed my hands as though I would never see her again, and she whispered 'I've never cared for anyone bus you.' She must have been dying inside. I know I was."  Joseph turns and walks away from his mother.

"I finished my day – completing chores, eating dinner, washing. It’s a wonder I didn’t hurt myself in the woodshop. At first, I was angry. I pounded out my frustrations on the door frame I was making. My thoughts whirled so fast I could barely think about my work."

His mother sobs softly.  "Son…"

Joseph looks at his mother and smile gently.

"Don’t worry, Mother. This isn't the end of the story."

His mother looks at him questioningly.

"I decided the only thing I could do was to quietly divorce Mary. I couldn’t bear the thought of her facing a public trial and possible death by stoning."

Joseph looks at his mother.

"I really didn't think I could talk to you or anyone.  I'm about to be a husband!  I believed I needed to trust my judgement and make the right decision for Mary and I.  Still, that night as I went to sleep, her words kept replaying in my mind; ‘I’ve never cared for anyone but you… I’ve never cared for anyone but you…’ Though I wished to, I couldn’t believe her."

"Did you have difficulty sleeping?

Joseph grunts a laugh.  "That’s an understatement! But when I did fall asleep, God sent a message. An angel of the Lord came to me. His words thundered through my body so boldy, I could feel them as well as hear them."

"'Joseph, son of David! Do not fear to take Mary home as your wife. What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'"

Joseph looks at his mother.  She sees the joy and love of the Lord on his face.  "I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But the angel had more to say.

'She will give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will save His people from their sins.'

"That angel, Mother, smiled with the joy of the news. I couldn’t sleep anymore that night. I knew the angel’s joy. I would take Mary and care for her and the Child.

"But Joseph… Are you sure you're not being deceived by the longing of your heart?

Joseph laughs.  "Oh no, Mother! That was the voice of God. When I considered what the angel said and what I know of Mary, I knew the truth. I knew I would marry Mary."

His mother embraces Joseph with the age-old mixture of pride, love, and fear only a mother can feel for her son.
I have a Joseph in my life.  I remember him as a young man intent on spending his life with me.  When I imagine St. Joseph, I see my Joseph's characteristics as husband and father, and I hope Mary knew how blessed she was. 

Joseph dearest, Joseph mine!  You've been such a gift to me this Advent season.  You take so much joy in finding ways to make others happy.  You planned and purchased, wrapped and labelled.  And you did it all with a happy little grin on your face.  God bless you for all the blessings you've heaped on our twenty-four years of shared advents and for all the small ways you show me that you'd willingly sacrifice yourself for my safety and happiness.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

For Whom the Bell Tolls... Post #2

I do not deny that the world needs priests to remind us that we shall all one day die; but I insist that the world also needs another kind of priest, the poet, to remind us that we are not dead yet.

GK Chesterton

I wrote my greatest contribution to the world of poetry in the early 90s. 

Joe and I had recently become parents, and the world was a fatigued fog.

I wrote my poem about secrets.

The first line read:  "I keep my underwear in that top drawer..."

The first line was bad, and the poem only got worse after that.  I could tell how bad it was by the horrified silence in the room when I finished sharing it with the other English majors. 

I've never found it overly distressing to be bad at something.  Nor have I ever longed to possess someone else's talent.  I think it harkens to the year we learned the Ten Commandments in faith formation classes.  If there were two commandments about coveting, I thought, coveting must be pretty bad stuff.

I am an excellent reader of other people's creative work.  Just recently I finished reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway.  I find myself wishing I were still in college writing critical papers about great fiction.  I could write a dissertation on "For Whom the Bell Tolls."  And you'd think, having assigned not only the book but also the critical paper, the professor would be interested enough to read said dissertation.

Intrigued enough to read what critics thought about the book, I turned to the internet.  My thoughts about what others wrote about the book could fill a second dissertation. 

What caught my attention though, was John Donne's "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

No man is an island, entire of itself
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
If a clod be washed away by the see, Europe is less...
Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Obviously Donne inspired Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.  His main character, Robert Jordan is sent to destroy a bridge behind enemy lines during the Spanish Civil War.  Jordan knows he cannot survive the mission.  He's not the only character to contemplate his own death and the impact his life and dying will have on those he loves.

It dawned on me that these men write about living as the body of Christ.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Greatest Gift

My band, SALT, discovered a great song by Brian Flynn.  Brian Flynn lives in Wisconsin.  He's a church musician there, and he writes the most beautiful music.  There's never any sheet music for it; he self-accompanies, playing what he hears in his heart. 

Great music has always changed people's lives - which is why I cannot fathom a music-free life!  Flynn's music is no different; his song The Greatest Gift changed the way I think about marriage.

I am the product of an incredibly disfunctional marriage that finally ended after thirty-nine years.  When  my mother was angry - and she was angry most of the time - she let dad have it.  Not long after the explosion of rage, all would be well.  I grew up believing she was a normal wife and mother.  I also believed dad's response was normal.  He never fought with her.  He let her spend her rage, retreating to some inner sanctum.  And he always did nice things for her. 

Growing up and spending time with other people's families didn't change my opinion.  Our family was "good" when others were present or in public.  We were taught to be kind to strangers, speak politely, and reserve anger or displeasure in the safety of our home with the people who loved us best.  I would have said, at the time, that every family lived the same lie ours did.

Then I met Joe's family and witnessed first-hand a marriage between two inordinately kind people who each genuinely wanted the best for the other.  They failed, I'm sure.  They live with their own personal disappointments.  They might sometimes long to be selfish. 

I saw a marriage very nearly described by the New Testament.  A husband who would gladly sacrifice his own life for his wife.  A wife who offers her husband her wisdom and trusts him to always act in her own best interests.  A couple who understands their unique "us-ness" and has left behind their "me-ness". 

I witnessed a love set forth by Corinthians -- patient, kind, and unfailing. 

My inlaws will each admit to their own failures.  But what I saw, with the glow of my own early love for their son, was bright and shiny.  I wanted it for myself.  And I wanted it for Joe.  Years later I found myself wanting it for my boys. 

I depend on each member of my family to give me the best of himself every day.  When he fails, his own kindness should prompt him to seek forgiveness.  In exhange, I want them to have the best of me rather than what's left over at the end of the day. 

Here's how Flynn says it:
For all my life, I’ve longed to receive
A priceless treasure I could hold in my heart.
And although I am not worthy,
For some reason I’ve been given
The greatest gift I’ve ever known.

And I’ll cherish and protect it. I don’t ever want to lose it,
For I never could replace it no matter how hard I try.
For this treasure is more precious than gold or even diamonds.
This treasure is you, so this day I promise you that…

     I’ll be patient with you and whatever you do
     I will walk beside you; where you go I will go.
     And I’ll be faithful to you, I’ll be strong and true.
     When you need a hand, when you need a friend,
     I’ll be there; I love you!

From this day we’ll walk together, whether sick, well, rich, or poor;
From this day we will be one no longer two.
There may be times down in the valleys,
Other times up on the mountains
But no matter where He leads us, I promise to you that…

When the times are hard, we’ll know that our Lord
Will give us strength to carry through.
And when you’re alone or scared,
Just call, and I will come to protect and stand by you!

When at times you fall, my arms will be open wide
To support and comfort you.
When at times I fall, I’ll turn to our Lord:
“Teach me better to love you!” And…
Those lyrics are a heart-felt prayer I pray regularly while thanking God for the gift of my spouse, the strength of our commitment to each other, and the blessing of our family.

And when we celebrate our nineteenth anniversary on January 5, 2010, it'll be with faith that we're about to begin the next leg of our journey together.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ya Ain't Outta the Woods

In the middle of the journey of our life
I came to myself within a dark wood
Where the straight way was lost.

         (Dante's Inferno as translated by John D. Sinclair)
Is there really much more to say about Tiger Woods and his wife? 

In the stack of mail from my two-day absence, there are five publications we receive regularly.  Of the five, three covers have a picture of Tiger Woods with or without his wife.

I haven't read any of the articles and I haven't watched any of the newscasts.  I imagine most of the news "reports" are heavily censorious and dramatic, especially the ones concerning the women who engaged in relationships with Mr. Woods.  In the few clips I have inadvertently viewed, the reporters are almost gleeful as they make their report.  This is news?  This is what the Woods children will find when they google their dad's name?

I believe something really sad happened in that family.  They can choose to work through their tragedy or they can call it quits. 

Regardless of what choice they make, their story belongs to them.  Why do we believe their story is ours?  When did we get the "right" to intrude in this - or any other - story?  Should a man lose his right to privacy because he repeatedly gets a low golf score and earns millions of dollars?  Should a woman lose hers because her husband fails? Should anyone benefit or suffer financially thanks to their sexual habits? 

Our culture - the culture of "Just Do It" - is not friendly to marriage. In fact, we often hear that fifty percent of marriages fail. 

There are valid reasons a marriage fails - abuse, addiction, and adultery top the list.  But I think a vast number of marriages fail because people are selfish.  Couples quit marriage when it no longer feels good to be married or when a person is asked to give up too much or when being with someone is too much work or when one or the other falls out of love.

Shouldn't the very promise of marriage - the covenant - safeguard us against those things? 

In the mid-80s, long before my own wedding day, I read a quote from Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth.  George (Adam of Old Testament fame) is packing his bag, planning to leave his wife (Eve).  She says to him:
I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them - it was that promise.
Marriage is not easy - not in the best of circumstances.  The covenant binds two people, creating a new entity, an "us".  The new us is a blend of the original me-s.  The act of marrying births a paradigm shift; life will never be the same again.  As a spouse, I no longer indulge in my own wants and desires; I want what's best for us.  When I am selfish, I fail.  Sometimes my husband fails.  Yet failure isn't the end of a good story; it's the beginning of a new chapter.

Within successful marriages, I believe spouses quickly recognize their own failures and try to mend disharmony.  When a couple no longer has the energy or desire to mend the disharmony, one or the other becomes resentful, angry, and bitter.  Those negative emotions lead to attempts to get even or escape the marriage.

Consider Willy Loman, Arthur Miller's main character in Death of a Salesman

Loman is a traveling salesman.  Initially all he wants is to give his wife the best of everything and he amasses debt beyone his ability to pay.  Thanks largely to the stress of his financial situation and the belief that she caused it, Loman starts to resent his wife.  Seeking escape from the tragedy of his life, he commits adultery with "The Woman" in Boston.  Loman's son Biff discovers the affair. 

Biff's heart breaks and he confronts his father:  why would his father buy The Woman stockings, he asks, when his father should be buying stockings for his mother.  Biff allows himself to become a victim of his father's adultery; he's so distraught he fails math, a precursor for future failure in other areas of his life.  The message?  Adultery is ugly and can ruin a family.  Loman's own certainty that his family would be better off were he dead results in his suicide.

I don't know what happened between the Mr. and Mrs. in the Woods story, and they're far from out of this dark wood they've entered.  Regaining what they've lost will consume their energy for months, if not longer. 

Theirs is not my story.  I won't listen to the details.  I won't participate in their humiliation.  I certainly will not remember the name of any woman who gained fame sharing her body with a married man. 

Instead, in the still corners of my heart, I pray for them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Sounds ominous.  Bells tolling.  Using the scary "whom" in a blogpost title.  Somehow it just seems appropriate.

I was thinking today about obligation.  To whom do I owe... anything?

See I was absent from work Thursday afternoon and Friday with a Massively Terrible Headache.

I opened my email and found 142 messages (not junk mail) to answer.  Then I listened to my 18 voice mails.

I have asked people to stop forwarding email.  It's really nice and heartwarming to read about some Christian revelation or some political joke, but I don't really have time.  I've asked people not to forward and discovered that most people find the request offensive (really? I asked nicely.).  So I've stopped asking.  Still, I don't respond to forwards.  Unless they're from my mother-in-law.  Or Joe.  Or my boss.  Or really funny.

I also unsubscribe from every email that I don't wish to continue receiving updates from.  (Whoa.  Dangler.)  Some acquiesce.  Others not so much. 

There were four messages from a salesperson at Office Max (note to self and others: if they're that desperate for new business, they're struggling).  Her messages said, "If you're interested in meeting blah blah blah."  I'm not.  If I want cheaper office supplies, I'll conduct a search.  I think we're doing well.  Subsequently, I didn't return the call and don't plan to return the call.  I wonder how many more times she'll call.

My biggest headache comes from the people I am obligated to call.  Some of those people sent multiple emails about the same issue.  Others left multiple voice mails about the same issue.  And I'm not talking about customers, either.  I'm talking about sales people and insurance agents and vendors.  Multiple messages.


So if you leave multiple emails I'll answer faster?  I'll get to an issue quicker?  Same with voice mails.  It's not like anyone tried an alternate email address or a different phone number. 

I'll admit, it annoys the living crap out of me when people do that, especially thanks to my OCD, which requires that I answer all messages chronologically.

I know I'm partially at fault; after all, I could have made an autoresponder email and changed my voice mail message.  It's so rare that I miss work, the thought didn't even occur to me.

To whom am I obligated to respond?

Thus far, I've attempted to respond to everything.  I'm no longer convinced that's the best policy. 

Do I need to lunge every time the bell rings, notifying me there's an email or a voice mail or a phone call or a text message?

I'm pondering.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Throw the Stone...

On Wednesday, I met with my ninth grade Confirmation class. 

The class is a challenge!  There are 28 15-year olds on my list.  By the time they arrive at class, they're 12-14 hours into their days.  The subject matter is not at the top of everyone's list.  This night is one of the only times they're with certain friends, and there's often a bit of "catching up" to do. 


It's a nightmare.

I believe my most important role is to scatter seeds with the conviction that some of those seeds will fall in the perfect ground and grow throughout their lives.

This week their input led us into a discussion about Mary.  We talked about this young human girl who accepted God's plan for her even though, in her time, an unwed mother would be stoned to death.

I had a guest teacher for a few minutes that night.  Jakob Kounkel came forward to tell us what Jesus had to say about throwing stones.

"So.  Jesus.  Stones."

Aside to me:  "Wow there's a LOT of people in this class!"

"So.  Jesus was there when the people were going to stone a woman for being bad.  So.  Jesus said, 'Whoever hasn't sinned can throw the first stone.  No one threw a stone.  So.  That's it."

He bowed.

A second aside to me:  "I think I'm sweating."

He went back to his seat while I made a mental note to get him a few more public speaking opps.  We have to do away with the "so" thing.

I think this story is one of Jakob's favorites.  We don't have to be perfect for Jesus to stand beside us and defend us from the stone throwers. 

My friend Willson wrote a song about throwing stones.  It's one of our favorite songs. 

He said, "This line I must draw,
These words I will write:
'Let he who cast the first stone
Be the one without sin.' 
For all you have sinned
But your sin I will forgive!
Follow my example: 
Throw the stone away and live. 
Throw that stone away and live.

Throw the stone away and follow me. 
I will wash away your sin. 
Hear my words deep within you.
Throw your stone away and follow.

He said the love I have for you
Is stronger than your sin.
Trust me and you'll not be afraid;
Forgive them and they'll do the same.

Go in peace to sin no more.
My love to you I give.
Follow my example:
Throw the stone away and live.
Throw that stone away and live.


I'll not be found throwing stones at others.  My time and energy is better spent concentrating on my own journey.

I will, however, continue to be discerning.  After all, Jesus said, "Follow me."  Not everyone could.

Friday, December 11, 2009

One Little Good Thing

Whew! I always have a little fatigue after our Christmas concert. Thank goodness this year's concert happened so early in December! I "checked out" for a few days and... well, recovered.

During our Christmas concert, I spoke with friends who have been reading this blog. They said they read the
100 Things I Love About You on Your 41st Birthday blog and it prompted them to write their own lists.  To date, their family has traded their own love lists.  I'm honored that they started something so unique and special after reading something here.

To anyone else, I offer this challenge.  If you have not made a list for your own love, do it.  I started my list when I was a little ticked at Joe.  I ended it remembering why I love him and for how long I've loved him and where our future lies.  It's a good thing.  A very good thing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

And when the truth... bends...

Know what I was thinking about?


I've rarely told lies in my life.  For the most part, I didn't have to lie.  Most often when I wanted to keep something secret, no one asked the right questions. 

When I did lie... hmmm.  It wasn't good.  Eventually, all the lies were revealed and I was forced to live with whatever shameful thing made me lie in the first place AND the repercussions for the people I hurt.

Liars.  Hmmm...

I've learned to:

1.  Find someone in life to be completely, brutally, histronically honest with.  That is the one person who will keep me safe.

2. Accept liars -- unless the lie hurts you.  Liars give me something they think I want.  If I'm patient, I'll meet the real person eventually and it will be worth the effort.

3.  Ignore people who pass judgement on others.  They have not yet learned the message Jesus brings us.

4.  Tell the truth others need to hear.

5.  Examine motives every day:  was I as authentic as I could be?  If I was, let today be today.  If I wasn't, let today be today.  Tomorrow I'll try something better.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

MOST exciting EVENT of THE year... WOOOOOOOhooooo

Tonight after practice, I finished all the "to-do" things for our concert.

This will be a GREAT one and I am SO thankful that I belong to this group.

SALT (Singing and Living True..... or trying to!) presents the fifth annual conncert event.  COME!  It's FREE!! 

Check for more information at our blog tomorrow! (blog)!

See you at the concert!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Mad Dash to Christmas

The mad dash to Christmas is ON.  Full throttle.

And I'm not dashing.  I might not even send a Christmas letter this year.

Well.  Who are we kidding?  I will send a letter.  It's the OCD.  I have to have a complete record of Christmas cards to give to my daughters-in-law on their wedding days.  God alone knows why.  It's no tradition I've ever encountered.

My letter will be different this year, as are all things.

Seven times in my life, I've experienced a paradigm shift.  My world view shifted so drastically each time and I was reborn.  The seventh is still in progress.

Two events dramatically ignited rebirth.  The first was our bus accident in 1997.  The second was my mother's disappearance in 2008.  Both those incidents were abrupt and shocking and heinous.  Both had lasting impact.  Both changed -- forever -- how I define myself.

And, you know?  I'm not sure where the story ends or what characters people the landscape for the duration, but I am sure I like the direction I'm heading. 

To lift a phrase from my favorite song, "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin, "Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed.  The victory is won; He is risen from the dead.  And I will rise, when He calls my name."

I believe those words.  The victory IS won and when He calls my name and asks me to account for me, I will rise.  I will account.  I will rest in Christ's love.  I recognize that's a little redemptive for the Advent season, but -- seriously -- we all know where the story ends.

Still, I'm not sure I will ever stop talking about events that shape me.  That's okay; my love language is WORDS.  I am compelled to use words. 

It's good to use words.  While I honor the requests of friends to keep their secrets, it is in secret that sin is born, and I don't feel like keeping secrets of my own anymore.  So, I won't.  My propensity for Truth may be uncomfortable for some people.  God bless them.

My greatest Truth this year is that I am appalled by how Americans celebrate Christmas.  It's an orgy of food and consumerism and greed.

None of that interests me or my children.

I lie.  The food interests them greatly.  They are growing boys, after all.

Gifts.  I wish with all my heart that not a single person would give me one this year.  Instead, I wish they would look for someone who really, really needs and give.  I would never dishonor a gift-giver though -- especially those who give me gifts of the heart.


The stories I hear about Black Friday appall me.  People standing in line for hours and then rushing through the doors like animals, shoving and yelling.  People running with cartloads of products.  People arguing with others over items that won't matter a year from now.

Christmas, for me, hides in the little things:  the exchange of peace with my immediate family at the Christmas Mass when both of my sons -- and this year my daughter -- wrap their arms around me and we exchange the kiss of peace; the delight my sons take in finding a SINGLE gift that will make me laugh with joy in knowing they are gift-givers; the warmth of love between my spouse and I as we celebrate Christ with our family.

And, I would be keeping a secret if I didn't mention my GREAT, great joy in the one entire day each year my entire family spends at home together.  Since it's January 27th, I'm hoping it's a tradition that endures!

So, as the mad dash to Christmas continues, I focus on the three things that most matter to me:  faith, family, and friends. 

God bless.