Christmas Stars and Christmas People

I never did get to see the “Christmas star” with my own eyes. We attempted to a couple of times. I had great hopes on Christmas eve when the skies were mostly clear, but though we got to the place we’d picked out for watching the skies in plenty of time, alas and alack the clouds rolled in again just after sunset. That’s okay. The Christmas star did its part in buoying up flagging spirits and instilling a sense of wonder, and, more importantly, hope.   I have seen some spectacular photos online of this wondrous event. It really is enough to know it’s there, above the cloud cover, instilling hope in many a heart.

As we drove toward the spot we’d picked out, we passed several vehicles parked along the side of the road. Some were there, like us, in hopes of catching a glimpse of the celestial wonder.  Others had snow mobiles loaded onto pickup trucks for a drive into the woods. My favorite though was the young woman skating around the pond with her new baby in arms. That spoke to me in ways that I find difficult to put into words. As I watched her glide around the pond, I could not help but think of another young mother millennials ago who also held her babe in her arms. These were my Christmas people. People I did not know by name but fed my soul with hope.

This has been a very difficult year. We have all been carrying the burdens of worry and stress that covid has caused. I know that I was hope-starved (too many bad news stories, I guess). At any rate on this 26th of December I am exceedingly grateful for the gifts of hopes I have been given, not least of which is the vaccine that promises to allow family visits and socializing again in the not-so-distant future. And I am grateful for Christmas stars and Christmas people who instill hope in our hearts, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

Star of Wonder, Star of Night

Aw, the Christmas season with all it’s blessings of hope and peace. And in this pandemic year we all need that more than ever! I have been looking forward to seeing the “Christmas star” all month long! But, true to form the skies were blanketed in clouds last evening so I did not get a glimpse. That has been the case all year! Every time there was a special celestial happening the skies would be inevitably cloud-laden. Yet, just knowing such a miraculous event is going on is enough. I get to see the beautiful photos that those who were more fortunate than me were able to capture. And it still gives me hope and a pleasant joy in the fact that it exists at all. Yes, I know it is the planets aligning and not a single star. Still the old Christmas song plays in my head: Star of wonder, star of night, star of royal beauty bright….westward leading still proceeding, guide us to that perfect light. The song is called We Three Kings, just in case you didn’t know.

I miss some of the old Christmas Carols that were a mainstay of my youth; The songs that sparked joy, peace, and love in my heart; the songs that spoke to my spirit. I don’t hear them on mainstream radio. Still, the internet has blessed us with choice and I can make my own playlists. But I digress, this is supposed to be about the Christmas star and the hope it has instilled in so many people. Where would we all be without hope? It is as necessary an ingredient as food, water, and shelter. I am so grateful for the beautiful images I have seen from different points on the globe of this wondrous and beautiful “star”. Wherever you are and whatever may be going on in your life, I wish you peace. I wish you great joy. I wish you hope to carry on. And, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Topsy-turvy World

Since this pandemic struck the world has seemed to turn upside-down. But I think one of the silver linings is the enforced change in life itself. We cannot know what the future holds and this has caused us to take one day at a time. And that is not such a bad thing. Yes, it would be good to make plans again, especially for such things as weddings, vacations, and the like. Yet, living one day at a time has advantages too. We tend to savor the good things, knowing just how fragile life really is. And we become more courageous in our day to day living. As the pandemic continues to follow us like the proverbial dark cloud we begin to adjust. The fear loses its iron-clad grip, even as we continue physical distancing and health protocols. We’ve become more aware of all we’d previously taken for granted like the company of family and good friends; like the hugs from those dear to us; like the simple pleasures such as neighborhood gatherings; like the freedom of any social gatherings at all. We have taken so very much for granted.

 The pandemic came and forced us to really look at our lives and all the blessings we often overlook. What once seemed like a daily grind: the alarm clock going off in the morning; the drive, walk, or commute to work; the daily tasks wherever we might be employed, now all of it seems more like a daily blessing instead. At least, for those of us who were gainfully employed. Of course, there are many who were considered “essential workers” such as medical staff, delivery people, food processors or producers, grocery store workers, and more, who have worked tirelessly throughout these weeks of lock down So many of these people we have also taken for granted. When this is all over, and I fervently hope that day will come sooner rather than later, I hope we no longer take so much for granted. I hope we continue to take care of one another. I hope our eyes are fully opened to the magic and the mystery of this marvelous thing we call life.

Entrusted, Enabled

“God sent each person into the world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing, and a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak my message or sing my song, or offer my love…..these are entrusted to me” – Author unknown

Cedar Waxwings taken June 2019 Photo by Carol Hopkins

What song is resonating with you today? Is it a hopeful tune? Is it a mournful ballad? I have been vacillating between hope and despair. I am doing my best to trust in a higher power that we will be okay. It’s hard though, very challenging. I wonder sometimes if this is some kind of supreme test. I am sure that past people in history who lived through the Black Plague or the Spanish Flu and the like must also have felt hopeless at times. Yet the human race survived and we will survive this as well. We are such fragile life forms – all of life is fragile. Yet, it is also resilient and courageous. I am praying for all the world’s peoples today and giving thanks for the silver linings such as the severely reduced amount of chemicals being released into the air, allowing the earth to breathe more deeply, to heal.

May we all be healed of toxic anxiety and fear that serves no one well. Be safe my friends, and stay as healthy as humanly possible.

To sing again

Despair has come

Ushering in darkness and pain

And hope has gone the way of the dinosaurs,

Lifeless and seemingly extinct

Now, when all seems lost

And no hero appears

On golden steed

Come, Divine One,

Holy and sacred one,

Breathe new life into your people

Grant us strength to rise again

Help us, now

Help us remember

That all is not lost

No matter how grim the days

Come, Divine One

Holy One

Sacred One

Guide us through this darkness

Help us see

Remove our blindness

And selfish greed

Let joy bubble up through the storm

That swirls like a tornado around us

Still the storm, Divine One

This, my plea

There is goodness still,

Deep, deep inside

Every single human heart and mind

Take away our fear and anxiety,

Our need to control, that which cannot be controlled

And, if it is your will,

Banish now, the microscopic things,

The unknown and hard things,

Until with mighty breath

And a single, united mind,

With strong voice

We sing again

A song of joy and renewal

Halloween thoughts

I love seeing the children excitedly running from house to house all get up in costumes and make up. It is such a fun time of year. Yet, the dark aspects trouble me – especially the negative and tendency to glamorize evil. It’s nothing new. And perhaps it’s only my tendency to worry that gives too much attention to the nefarious. I am working this evening so I will miss all the little dears. Childhood should be innocent and it should be fun. I don’t think little children should be exposed to horror and the darkest side of humanity. Yet the reality is too many children are at the mercy of adults who abuse their power over them. Their innocence is stolen and fun is something that is alien to too many. As the kiddies race from door to door tonight I pray they will be safe. And I will be praying for those children living in abusive situations. Wishing you all a Happy Halloween – may the tricks be few and only of the silly kind and may the treats not rot your teeth. Cheers!

When the sun rising grabs you

Isn’t it funny how something so simple can lift you so high? I woke up with worrisome thoughts in my head. It took a while to shake it off. Then I went outside and was treated to the miracle of sunrise. I have seen so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, but sometimes they really get me. It’s like this morning’s arrival of the sun grabbed me by the lapels and shouted, “Hey, it’s a new day – appreciate me!” And I do. Here is a shot of the sun cresting the horizon and turning the skies to pinks and crimson. Wherever you are and whatever you’re at I wish you blessings.

It’s a brand new day – enjoy it! The sun rising over Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada

Corrie Ten Boom and “The Hiding Place”

I have been wanting to write about the book, The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom since I first picked up this little book months ago. Life has been so busy!

If you follow this blog you know that we spent the months of February through May with my husband in hospital in very poor health. He was flown to Edmonton – many miles away from where we live for further care. It was a time of great upheaval and an awful lot of stress. Not long before this happened I chanced upon a book on peace at the library where I work. That book was so helpful to me as we waded through the health care system. But it was Corrie Ten Boom’s book that I found in the hospital that continues to illuminate my life. Bear with me as this will be a longer post than I usually write – but this book is so important that I felt moved to share.

The book is about Corrie Ten Boom and her family’s experiences through the Second World War. The family was involved in the underground, a network of people hiding Jews and providing for their needs. In the end Corrie, her sister, Betsy, and her father (along with many other relatives and friends) were arrested and eventually sent to a concentration camp. It is a book about courage and heroism, but most of all it is a book about faith in very dark times.

Yet, this little book tells the story in such an easy, but gripping, fashion it is hard to put down. I have read it through several times now and with each reading something else pops up for me – another lesson I had not fully digested in previous readings. Overall it is a book about hope in dire situations as Corrie moves from her childhood in Holland to the dank and disgusting conditions of a concentration camp.

Corrie and her sister remain together and are moved from one camp to another, with each being more horrific than the last. Eventually they end up in Germany in a place where it seems all is hopeless and despair is rampant. To say they are treated badly is a gross understatement, at the very least. Corrie cannot see how God can bring any good out of the circumstances they are subjected to: overcrowded conditions, little food, constant harassment and often torture and beatings, overworked to the point of death – it is very dark days indeed, with the wisps of smoke from the death chambers a grim reminder of their precarious existence. The particular barracks where they are forced to live is infested with fleas. And yet, it is under these conditions that Corrie learns one of the greatest lessons. Even fleas can be used to accomplish God’s will. Because of these parasites the guards are reluctant to enter this particular barrack, leaving the prisoners alone and allowing Corrie and her sister to minister to their fellow prisoners.

Eventually Corrie is released and goes on to minister to former prisoners as well as their tormentors and those who were instrumental in causing much suffering and death. It is an amazing story of one woman’s walk of faith and the many lessons she learns about the mystery we call God and about love and forgiveness.

In these days, that are often compared to pre-war Europe, Corrie Ten Boom’s story shows that even in the darkest of days God is not dead; that faith can overcome the very worst of circumstances; that love really can conquer all.

It’s a wonderful world

“Sunrise” courtesy of Pixabay

“And I think to myself, it’s a wonderful world.” This ballad written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss was recorded by Louis Armstrong and released in 1967. It has been one of my favorite tunes, hands down. Songs of hope; songs celebrating life; songs that bring us back to days of our youth (misspent or otherwise) are such a joy and a blessing. 

“God gave us memories that we might have roses in December” – author unknown. That is what music is to me and such a blessing too.  And it really is such a wonderful world.

Yes, there are despotic rulers, egomaniacs and narcissistic, power-hungry leaders who don’t seem to know the meaning behind the ideas of good governance. Yes, there are horrible things being done to human beings around the globe. Yes, there are terrible diseases and natural (and not so natural) disasters. I do not deny the horrors in the world.

However, I choose to focus on the positive. The wonderful stories of people stepping up to help others; to help animals; to help the environment. “As within, so without,” as the saying goes.

Wherever you live on this bright blue marble and whatever you are doing, I hope you see the good in people and in this beautiful world of ours, and think to yourself, it’s a wonderful world.

Edmonton Adventure #2: Blessings and signs of hope

Coming home after round two in Edmonton I am still harboring feelings of apprehension. The past few years have been fraught with difficulties and challenges where my hubby’s health is concerned. Fear seemed to be a constant companion with each and every hospital visit. I am still holding my breath. He’s still in hospital and while there have been successes such as his recent surgery other issues remain.

Doctors had said he was at a very high risk for surgery, in fact they warned he may not survive it. All these thoughts were on my mind as I sat waiting for the operation to be finished – as I waited for news.

I had met and made friends with two women from Northern Saskatchewan during his last hospitalization. I was grateful when they offered to come sit with me while hubby went through the surgery. They were a wonderful source of strength and a welcome distraction as we traded stories about our lives. Words cannot express the relief when I received word that the operation was successful and he was in the recovery room. I will always be thankful for the support and friendship gifted to me by these women.

Life and death take on a much deeper meaning when your days and nights are spent in a hospital. I was blessed to meet many kind and compassionate people during my time in Edmonton. People whom had been total strangers prior to this. People who I will keep in my thoughts and prayers for a long time yet to come. People who have become friends. Friendships forged in the fires of fear. Friendships that gave hope, support, and sustained us.

A rainbow over the skies at the airport where we awaited the air ambulance that would take us home

As the day finally came when hubby was transferred back to our local hospital, I bid good-bye to one and all – friends, doctors, and nurses who had aided me in so many ways – not least of all in lending their strength when I was at my weakest points. At the airport a beautiful rainbow arched across the sky – that age-old symbol of hope.

As the plane flew us back home the scene outside the window was serene and beautiful. We were flying above the cloud cover and the sun shone. It seemed an apt metaphor: no matter what storm clouds may gather I hope I will remember the sun will always light the way again.

The sun above the clouds made for an idyllic and tranquil scene as we winged out way home