This message is bathed in hope for the parent who has not heard from her kids, who might not see them at Christmas.
I want you to know it won’t always be this way.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
My late husband, Roger, was fond of saying, “Let’s make the kind of memories that keep the kids coming back home – even when they’re grown.”
Oh! How I loved Roger’s enthusiasm for special calendar dates – particularly Christmastime and All Things Winter.
To commemorate the First Snow, he and I wrapped a “snow gift” for each of the girls. For gift-wrapping, he used the funny papers.
He was thrilled at the arrival of egg nog in the dairy section – he went nuts with the stuff, pouring it into his morning coffee and grabbing enough cartons to store in the freezer “to get through the winter months”, he would say.
For years, we bundled the girls and searched tree farms for just the right tree to grace our Colorado home.
Every Christmas Eve, he read from Luke’s account of the birth of Christ; when our daughters became readers, they read it out loud to the family.
We had an advent calendar.
He sang the carols, often adding verses he made up on the fly.
He insisted on driving us around the neighborhood to look at the festive light displays.
He was big on memories and minimal on material things.
So many rich traditions, steeped in the wonder of raising our girls; the sweet simplicity of being a family together.
Four months shy of Christmas 2008, Roger died.
The girls were 18 and 15.
A black shadow passed over our little snow globe of a family.
What if they don’t come home?
For three years of emotional drought, they didn’t.
It was dreadful for me, the surviving parent.
A mom who is unsure of her child’s safety and well-being is a pile of misery, and that’s what I was during those lean years.
I won’t go into the whys and the pain of those whys. Grief is weird. A sudden loss can unravel a lifetime and reorder it into something scary, chaotic, unknown.
We all respond in different ways. My daughters turned from me, not in open rejection or hostility, but in the throes of sudden, unexpected loss.
What if they don’t come home?
Christmas during those years was the stark reality of an empty chair, a huge hole he once filled with his larger-than-life-laughter. The emptiness was intensified by my fractured family.
And that star? The one shining in the east? That star was shrouded in a fog of grief and worry; I couldn’t see it through the haze and maze of guilt, fear, anger.
All I could feel was the dull ache of my heart, thumping along in spite of wanting to disappear, to fold up inside my pain.
I’d become an exile to my husband’s family, through a sad myriad of misunderstandings.
Being an outsider to in-laws, that’s pretty hard to deal with.
Being an outsider to your own kids – that’s impossible to endure.
Then, we had a series of fun celebrations together. Endearment was restored like a chain of Christmas lights getting the dud bulbs replaced so that the whole string twinkles, unbroken.
Fast forward to now:
Covid 19 has crimped the style of families everywhere. For our safety, holiday celebrations are limited, shops, even grocery stores, and home celebrations closed down. We are given tips on how to keep children safe and parents informed during 2021.
During Thanksgiving, people posted humble but joyful pictures of their small feasts for two, three, and even singular plates on social media. They called it the war of light and loveliness on the darkness of this holiday season. Still, when I called my own mother to tell her that I had been exposed to the disease at work and could not risk her health, she wept. She and I both sat alone with our thoughts this Thanksgiving, like many others.
My adult girls remember their dad’s corny jokes. They ask about his favorite movies, then they watch them. But, there are many episodes of tragic family attitudes and events in our history, and probably in yours, that haunt our current decisions and lives. Parents are blamed for decisions they didn’t have the wherewithal to tackle; they should have been wiser. Children are not excused because they were trained up better than that.
Helplessly, we grapple for promises of better days from the only One who can provide these to us.
The Lord has promised to restore what the locust has eaten.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.Joel 2:25-26
Does this promise mean today, tomorrow, or next year? I believe He does restore our souls in mysterious ways, and we can depend on that, but it doesn’t always look the way we want it to look. And, this is why our faith is often called a “walk of faith” “traveling in darkness” “running the race” because we don’t bear our weights in vain. They make us stronger.
We honor Roger’s memory in small, sweet ways. We laugh a lot, we cry some, we laugh some more.
His name is a regular part of our conversation.
Before, we avoided saying it for fear our brittle voices would break and scatter on the floor.
We can now dream of the future and we know the strength of forgiveness, the binding up of wounds.
My daughters call regularly to check in on me; my oldest planned a June wedding and made it happen even in the pandemic, and it was a landmark memory I will always cherish.
It’s not a Hallmark movie; there are still some things quietly coming to the light to be dealt with as we continue forward.
Cars break down, we have health scares, there are often misunderstandings to be ironed out. The point is, we’re doing life together again – as an extended family finds ways to do so.
This year, I celebrate the many times the kids and I have been together. It has been a hard year once again, but I am stronger and more creative than I once was. They will come home for Christmas another time.
And that star? The one shining in the east? That star is a glowing reminder of God’s presence, His longing to be in a relationship with us. He traveled from His heavenly home and spiritual body to become human and to wander in a strange, unwelcoming place. It meant everything for Him to do that.
“God with us, Immanuel.”
Kathy Joy, author of the Breath of Joy gift book series
Coffee with Kathy supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com. timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see, “Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers.
Subscribe to our blog from the Capture Me Books Authors here.
©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.
While we are taking precautions against sickness and anger and injustice, looking out for the vulnerable, measuring our group outings and postponing trips, I believe cultivating joy has never been more critical than in this murkiness.
As human beings, we are naturally inclined to focus on bad news; therefore, germs of joy and laughter are the “super germs” we need in order to boost our immune systems.
How do we summon joy?
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, it may alight upon you.”Nathaniel Hawthorne
Is joy also like the butterfly of happiness? If so, how do we infect one another with good, fortifying, stuff?
They tell me that volunteering in tandem with others is one pathway to the fortifications of joy. Why is this? Is it the teamwork? Is it the joy that comes from change or conversations or bringing results? I’ve experienced this joy when I’ve pushed myself passed my lethargy to schedule myself into something worthwhile.
Let’s be real – nurturing joy isn’t the same as ignoring reality. While nurturing joy, some emotions will cloud the process. There will be bumps in the road ahead. Feelings of fear, worry. And anxiety will threaten our well-being.
The future is unknowable, but we are known.
The future is unknowable, but we are known.
We can start with that if you dare to believe it. I believe my Creator knows me better than I know myself. It helps me to trust the process and the outcome a little more.
We can recognize our own strengths from remembering our past. Bank on those. We can remember those who love and care for us. We are known.
Just in case you wondered … you are seen.
You are known.
You are valued.
Your smile is still felt; your presence still matters.
No mask can conceal a soul.
It’s a privilege to see you whether I find you in the office, on a walk, in a store, or whether I hear your muffled voice on the phone. It is a joy, an honor, to watch you, hear you, and know you even a little during this Season of the Mask.
Perhaps the most radical act of resistance in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.”Ari Honarvar
We care for ourselves and others by carrying the Virus of Joy into the workplace, the home, the marketplace. Hints of hope, colorful memories, practical teaching, and helpful compliments. These relational inspirations build up returns, like deposits for future interest on human bank accounts.
Let’s spread droplets of high regard to our fellow workers.
Let’s cross that six-foot chasm with an air hug of affirmation, a verbal Atta-girl or Atta-boy. Now – especially now – we don’t want to miss an opportunity to remind someone how much they matter, how what they do, matters.
Let’s light up so brightly that our eyes outdo our half-covered faces, that our radiance surpasses the mask and leaves happy dust on anyone who is sad or struggling.
In a world of extreme caution, and angry avenues, let’s practice radical acts of human connection.
We can outwit any fluish boundary and find a way into the soul.
But above all, remain tethered to other souls. We need each other.
Joy germs gone rogue – they can rebuild our immune systems into powerhouses of Resilience.
©Kathy Joy, 2020 Capture Books. Ask about booking KATHY JOY for your next motivational zoom conference here. Besides being an author and a fine editor for other authors, she writes daily for Pennsylvania’s Daily Jabs, and blog articles for Coffee with Kathy and Books For Bonding Hearts.
Two days ago, I discovered a shoe box on a shelf in my closet.
For six and a half years, I’d been caring for a parent, hence most of my stuff had been closeted away all of that time.
I brought down the shoe box intending to toss it borne on a tad of disgust for the things one keeps. To my great delight, I rediscovered all of my favorite jewelry and hair clips inside! Even my wedding ring was there, and I might have tossed it away!
As I sorted through it, I remembered, however vaguely, that I’d put it all in there and hidden it under the bed when we were selling our old house so that strangers walking through the house wouldn’t find it. Then, when we moved to my parent’s house, I’d just stuffed everything I had into closets, including this box. I never imagined that it would be almost seven years before I’d find it again.
An elastic bracelet was one of the first things I touched. I slipped it on remembering the women’s retreat in which I’d made it. The letters read, C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T. It was from the retreat in which a speaker helped us examine our names and the way we felt about ourselves. She had challenged us to lay our insecurities, failures, and sins at Jesus’ feet, and allow Him to do what He’d promised, to give us a new name. Then, the speaker asked us to make a piece of jewelry with the new name on it so that we would have our own landmark of His promise over us. It was a way to help us live in the new name.
I’m so glad I found that little elastic bracelet. It brings me to my knees in Christ, and it raises me up in the same instant to live fully in Him.
Some people have said they stand in awe of the things I’ve tackled and accomplished in life, but that just isn’t the way I feel. Naturally, I am never very confident when my eyes are on myself, my failures, my longings, and my attempts to figure things out. I do tackle things that others don’t try out, but then, I pay the price for trying because there usually isn’t a “how-to” list or a mentor to help me get ‘er done. So, like Peter who got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus then began to sink when he looked at the waves, I also tend to sink in despair and self-loathing.
I knew a girl in college who couldn’t find her voice. She whispered whenever she spoke. Several years later, I ran into this sweet girl who was transformed and now vivacious! I saw that she had become a leader in her church and she’d somehow found the umph of her vocal cords. She was happily married, and people had only good things to say about her. She told me she’d found her voice when she read all about the Lord and His goodness toward her particularly, and His plan for her.
Some people struggle because of the things they’ve been told by a parent or someone in authority over them, things that are lies. Some people struggle because they do not feel beautiful or mentally or physically or socially well-equipped. How did the Psalmist get to that place where He could praise God for his mind and body?
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.Psalm 139:14
My emotional life has honestly been a roller-coaster for good reason. However, when I take my eyes off of myself and put them firmly on the Lord, I can find the courage and confidence to keep on keeping on.
Jesus said very little about being confident. He only said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 We often skip over the first bit and go directly to the piece of evangelism, but does this verse say Jesus is the life? Does that mean He wants me to live fully and pursue the dreams in my heart and to increase my skill and to be a good steward of my relationships and things? Why YES!
The Bible is clear that He also “was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of humanity.” John 1:1-4 — Okay, that’s a WoW!
To clarify, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 This says to me, that you and I have been given relationship, assertiveness, creativity, ideas, and the abilities to articulate and to make things happen in teamwork as He did.
I can be confident to initiate and also to ask for help. The Triune God acts as one mind and spirit. Wouldn’t it be great to act in unity with each other, helping one another succeed? Confidence is about a solo act, but it does begin with an understanding of who I am in God, and beyond that, who I am hidden in Christ in God.
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but
the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28
This is the confidence we have when approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
In Him, and through faith in Him, we may approach God with
freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7
“[. . .] With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2nd Chronicles 32:8
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Find more Bible verses about confidence here.
God bless you and all you accomplish as you put your faith in Him! Here is a benediction to lift up your life forever. This is what God says:
I will change your name ... You shall no longer be called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. I will change your name ... Your new name will be Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One, Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Seeks My Face. - Isaiah 62-4
Auralee Arkinsly is an author with Capture Books. In each of her books, Before Long, a housewarming book, and her book for first and second graders, Darling Hedgehog Goes Down a Foxhole, Arkinsly writes about life’s quandaries with great humor. ©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find several children’s books of high literary quality.
By Cyndi Kay
The stories of our youth aren’t just stories. They represent who we are based on where we were.
My sister loved watching the movie “The Way We Were” which featured the song and lyric, “Memories, light the corners of my mind”, mainly because Robert Redford was the leading actor. As I have grown older, I can understand why the movie was one that became a classic.
What we’ve experienced carries into the present on the backs of who we have become.
Have you reached into the past to pick out and relish a time that brought a smile so big your face hurt? I have. Once upon a time when things seemed easier… I can recall how much life has changed. Do we drift back in time because we are unhappy and long to smile? Or do we simply drift back because something sparks a thought of moments long ago?
I’m just as sure that you, like me, remember the pain that we’ve faced only to realize the strength and insight that we now possess because of the experience.
As I write this blog, Barbara Streisand’s famous Memories song reminds me of my sister, even though she never talked about romance, she was definitely a fan of Streisand’s. The song’s invitation to memories that two people once shared during a brief romance, asks us to remember similar feelings. Even if we haven’t experienced them yet, the song causes us to believe we did.
Memories. What causes us to take a detour from current events?
We were young, never thinking we would have overnight shopping available or carry phones in our hands at all hours of the day and into the night. We find a different kind of peace to soothe our aches. For me, during the time when “All in The Family” was the most offensive show on television, life didn’t seem to move so fast. Shopping shut down by 6 p.m., or 8 or at the latest during the holidays, 10 p.m. Television went static at midnight, and kids came in when the streetlamps began to light the neighborhoods in glowing orbs, halos and electric rays. At least that is how it was for me in rural America in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We could count on the Saturday Evening Post to chronicle this American life. With its meticulously drawn photos of kids, parents, and everything idyllic to an modern family, the Post brought to life the legacy of our great nation and the best part of life we had enjoyed within the states that define America.
Many of our elders know that life was not so ideal. After all, World War I occurred, named the great war for a reason, then the Cold War came directly after World War II. Race oppression and uprisings and the Korean War, Vietnam, etcetera, transformed perspectives and friendships and changed society so fast. The stress of cosmopolitan politics, women’s liberation, and homemade fears created amazingly complex memories full of contextual stories that are better than any Snapchat or TikTok.
Our great-grandparents’ memories tell us of the poverty and mothers’ abuse or father’s abandonment, the stock market crash and the Great Depression and how their momma made a meal for a family of six with wild dandelions, herbs, and vegetables from the previous year’s garden. It was a time of experimental vaccines for the years of polio epidemics, Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and the dust bowl.
Our great-grandparents’ memories tell us of the poverty and mothers’ abuse or father’s abandonment, the stock market crash and the Great Depression and how their momma made a meal for a family of 6 with wild dandelions, herbs and vegetables from the previous year’s garden. It was a time of experimental vaccines for the years of polio epidemics, Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and the dust bowl.
Dorthea Lange captured one of the most dramatic and historic photos of that era.
Sometimes, we are able to get these stories into a book so that many may be able to dive back into the days of our elders. One such book is Mister B: Living With a 98-year-old Rocket Scientist. This book is a memoir written by Mr. B’s daughter-in-law. In this lively memoir, we read story after story about the life that Joe Byk has lived throughout the realities of his century. We are taken back and forth from the current neighborhood where the street is lined with perfectly mowed yards to his seemingly ordinary tales with a twist, and some of them are simple antidotes. He is not one to beat around the bush when he makes his mind up. He gives us a glimpse of aerospace and the Cold War. We can learn some lessons from this quaint book about the memories of an immigrant turned Rocket Scientist.
• Keep track of what is going on in the world in order to understand the bigger picture.
• Getting out of the house is good for the soul.
• There is a chance that being a pioneer will not get you fame.
• We live in a world where computer training is must
There are many more lessons the characters observe and learn from each other’s perspective, but these really paint a picture of how life does certainly change.
If you are on a mission to delve into more memories from yesteryear is a book by Patti Stockdale, Three Little Things. In this enticing book, the author uses love letters from her grandparents as inspiration for Hattie and Arno. The book takes us through the memories of being in love during wartime, but more intriguingly, we are guided through a relationship that grows from Hattie and Arno sharing three little things with each other. It all starts before wartime when Hattie had a crush on the neighbor boy, Arno.
As they grow, she finds herself trying to let go of that “love” because she feels that it can only be one way. Not until seeing the letters during wartime, does she realize that he had loved her all those years.
The couple’s coping memories for wary yearnings take you right into the very place they are standing. Whether it be in the parlor or the barracks, you are right there as they find the love that they have known all this time.
As we grow older, our stories are the most important thing we can pass down to our children and grandchildren. Of course, not all of us will have the rocket science stories, but we each have a particular legacy to share. The stories of our youth aren’t just stories. They represent who we are based on where we were.
There are two great ways to preserve our legacy and memories for our future generations. One is to write them in a 365-Day Journal. If you do not like to write, then have a family member help you with this. You can pick up a journal at any Walmart or Costco; even dollar stores have them. They do not have to be expensive. Some choose to use regular spiral notebooks or the composition style notebooks. Another way is to create a photo album, just like the days of your grandma.
If possible, photograph the magnificent moments in life. Not just the grandiose places but capture the moments that make your heart sing. Moments like your grandbabies swinging in the backyard. Those moments that you and your husband are making dinner and mistake sugar for salt.
Most of us have a cell phone nearby nowadays, so a quick snap and boom, there it is! — No more expensive copies of your photographs needed. Then you can pick a day once a month to go to the nearest photo printing shop and have your favorite captured memories printed directly from your phone. I am sure Mr. B would be one to pass on this, but it could be a way to share your story with the future generations of your family.
Memories are what connects us to the past as well as the future. Make sure your generations are able to know the stories and lessons of the “good ol days” by passing them down.