Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Few Little Thoughts On New Year's Eve

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

"I don't know what lies around the bend (in the road)
but I'm going to believe the best does."
L.M. MONTGOMERY


We've been enjoying some quiet days between Christmas and New Year's. The weather has been mild with a few sunny and a few grey days. It's been perfect for winter walks in the neighbourhood, an activity I must admit I have not taken part in, but I did think about it a few times. With busy days of preparation over, I've been doing due diligence of 'couch-potatoing' not to mention beavering through some of the Christmas leftovers of which there were aplenty. As much as I love stuffing, we tucked the last of it (our family makes huge batches) into the freezer for another day's enjoyment. And the turkey carcass, also in the freezer, awaits its turn for a day of broth and soup-making.

This afternoon we're heading out with friends to see the movie Little Women. I found an interesting online article in The Oprah Magazine by DeAnna Janes in which she does a bit of cast comparison between the 1994 and 2019 versions. You can find the link HERE (there may be spoilers so be aware). I remember watching the old black and white 1949 version with June Allyson as Jo and Elizabeth Taylor as Amy. I loved Elizabeth as Amy. And I have loved and watched the 1994 version so many times over the years. Winona Ryder, she was Jo to me. Now we will see who shall steal our hearts in this newest unwinding of Louisa May Alcott's timeless story. From the reviews I've read, we are in for a treat! 

Santa brought this good girl a couple of bookstore gift cards this Christmas, which means I'm in for a lovely browse for new reading material. I shall hold off a few more days and go when the happy post-Christmas shoppers have dwindled in number. I don't mind being in the hubbub, but it does make browsing easier, less fraughtful to go at a more quiet time. Right now I'm reading a book from the library, a memoir by Abigail Thomas, What Comes Next and How to Like It. I'm just starting it but so far, so good. In my estimation, the advanced praise on the back cover from Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, and Stephen King seemed good enough recommendation to bring it home. King says, "Small speaks for large here...Abigail is the Emily Dickinson of memoirists, and so much of this book's wisdom is between the lines and in the white spaces." 

What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days
of our lives haven't even happened yet.
ANNE FRANK


From the Family Archives, circa mid-1960's

This morning I woke up thinking about it being the last day of the year and that we embark on a journey of not only a new year but a brand new decade. Some folks look ahead and think it's all falling apart, yet so many others are filled with hope and great optimism for our future. Me? Maybe I'm feeling a bit of both today. An old song my mother taught me when I was a little girl of maybe five or six came to mind. I sang it all those years ago at someone's wedding with my mom playing the piano. To this day, I still remember those first lines and on occasion they pop up out of nowhere to lend their comfort and cheer to broody thoughts.

I think they are good words with which to start the new year/decade, and so I offer them for anyone who might also find them hopeful as we consider our days and months ahead. If you are interested, you can hear it sung by Alison Krauss on Youtube -- you'll find the link HERE


I KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW
(Words by Ira Stanphill, 1950)

I don't know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray
I don't worry o'er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I'll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead

Chorus:

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand


* * *

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.
RAINER MARIA RILKE

* * *

On the front step of this new year, I feel honoured to share the journey with you here in blogland. I remind myself, and you if you need it, to keep watching for those glimpses of heaven that glimmer with hope that 'beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet' (Rosamund Pilcher). On so many levels, we take 'courage, dear hearts', we take courage (C.S. Lewis). For we know who holds tomorrow and we know who holds our hand.


Happy New Year, Beautiful Friends!

With love and hugs,
Brenda
xox



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve


Image by Eliška Křížová from Pixabay

"The time draws near the birth of Christ:
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
answer each other in the mist."
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON, In Memoriam


It was late one Christmas Eve and I had just opened the front door to take a peek outside. Many houses along the street were still lit up. The night sky, afloat with frosted glitter, was hazy and muted. So quiet and peaceful, it was a proper silent night. A holy night.

The neighbour two doors down stood out in front of his house all bundled up. Maybe he was letting the dog out, or having a quiet smoke. Maybe he was watching for Christmas. We waved and called out Merry Christmas to one another. I could see my breath.

Even though I was weary after a full and busy day of preparations, in a twinkling I suddenly felt alive and well in my soul. I went to bed with a smile on my face and Christmas in my heart, for the 'feeling' had just whooshed in on the frosty air. I hoped my neighbour felt it too.

And so I wish you all a Merry Christmas! God bless us every one and to all a good night.

With love and hugs,
Brenda
xox


Friday, December 20, 2019

Holiday Five on Friday

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

"Once a year wonder mists our eyes,
and we see the world through
the wide eyes of a child at Christmas."
VICTORIA MAGAZINE


My Jacquie Lawson advent calendar reminds me it's December 20th today. Already? That means there's only four more sleeps till Christmas Eve, my most favourite day of the whole year when I was a little girl. When you're six or seven, the slow build up becomes excruciating as you wait for the Big Day ... what with the prospect of wearing the new Christmas dress Mom sewed especially for the Christmas Eve service at church, not to mention being so aware of the mound of presents under the tree waiting for us when we got home, candy bags spilling peanuts and candies as we raced to get to the door. At last, the moment arrives for opening presents and eating special snacks together with family in our little farm house all snug and warm on a frosty Christmas Eve. Those memories still sparkle with the wonder of it all.

Reverie ... ah, let me return to this post. As you will have already figured out, I never did do a daily Christmas Countdown here this year. I ended up doing a tiny post on Facebook each day for those who follow me there. So, today let's celebrate here by sharing a Holiday Five on Friday.

With family arriving in a few short days and preparations underway I might not be back until after the festivities. So in case I'm not, I want to wish those of you who celebrate a very Happy Christmas!


...ONE...


Glorious view outside my front door this morning

The weather outside is not frightful
In fact it's quite delightful
The weather's been mild and we've had lots of snow
Travel will be good for those on the go



 ...TWO...


Old Country Roses at Christmas


It's been a quite a few years now since Mom hosted Christmas for the family. It's usually now held at one of her girls' homes which means the beautiful Old Country Roses china that had been such an important part of our family gatherings over the years has not been part of the festivities. So when Mom asked if we could use her china for our family dinner this Christmas, I knew what a beautiful gift that would be for her...and for all of us.

With a couple of china packing boxes in hand, I visited Mom. We carefully packed up the fragile plates and I brought them to my house where they now to await their big day.


...THREE...

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
A few of my seasonal favourites

fairy lights
family being together for Christmas
wrapping presents

nice surprises that arrive in the mail
almond nougat and snicker-doodles
sitting in a darkened room with only the tree lights turned on

carols and Handel's Messiah
the chance of snow
turkey, stuffing and gravy

the colour of cranberries
early evening twilights and pale morning sunrises
a winter storm, if everyone is home safe and the larder is full

snow laying in dormant fields
music from a Charlie Brown Christmas
smells of Christmas baking filling the air



...FOUR...

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Looking for moments of joy

"December can be a hard time for many people,
who keenly feel their life losses at a time when
they expect to feel nothing but joy and celebration.
Instead of expecting holiday times to be a perpetual
infusion of happiness, we should learn to identify
small, fleeting moments of joy in everyday things."
MERI'S MUSINGS

Every day things like...

-A stranger's smile at the post office
-An out of the blue call from a friend
-A gorgeous red winter coat someone is wearing out shopping
-Brilliant blue jays wondering where the peanuts are
-Clinking spoons in saucers mingling with happy chatter
-Festive sparkly pins on a jacket collar
- Songs that remind you God really, really cares about you

The key to recognizing some of these is learning to pay close attention, to watch, look and listen to the world right around us. Sometimes these little joys are hidden in the ordinary, sometimes we don't hear them for stormy howls of world woes and personal problems, sometimes we're so busy thinking of what we are missing or don't have we entirely miss the good gifts staring us in the face. For as Meri also said in her post at Meri's Musings, if we wait for the ruffles and flourishes to tell us it's time to take notice, we will have missed a thousand little episodes of joy.


...FIVE...


My skinny tree in the front window

“...inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night.”
UNKNOWN

The tall skinny frosted tree is making merry in my front bay window these days. My heart makes merry to see it decked out with its white lights and red glitter balls. Just like when I was a little girl, I will often plunk myself on the couch for a few minutes to watch the tiny lights grow brighter as the daylight fades into night. It’s a moment to relax and let a little magic happen.

* * *

My writing friend Joy recently sent a wish and prayer for me as a new week began: 'Christmas blessings on your week ahead: peace, joy, love, with sprinkles.' Yes, I'll take that, especially with sprinkles. That's my wish for you today as this last weekend before Christmas begins.


With love and hugs,
Brenda
xx


Friday, December 13, 2019

Light Up Your World

Image from Pixabay

"It is better to light one small candle
than to curse the darkness."
ELEANOR ROOSEVELT


With the shortest day of the year nearly upon us here in the northern hemisphere, the early darkness can certainly weigh heavy on people's spirits. Sometimes, even those of us who love the winter months and take pleasure in these short, grey days and early dusk can also feel the darkness pressing in. 

On such days, many of us push against it by lighting up our homes and yards. I dig out the twinkle lights early in the fall, and as soon as it grows dim in the afternoons -- which gets earlier and earlier -- we switch on a lamp perched on the sofa table in our bay window. Suddenly it all feels cozy. I always hope it creates a moment of gladness in the hearts of anyone out walking their dog or driving past. I love it when I come home of an evening and find that Rick has turned it on for me. Adorable man -- he certainly adds light to my world.

There was a time years ago now, not being well in body or soul, when I found it hard to arrive home to a house shrouded in shadows. I really felt the darkness pressing in during that season, so I used to leave a lamp on, or set a timer to turn on just before I arrived home. I always found walking into an already lit house such a solace. I even uploaded a photo on my computer desk top -- an online pic I found of Jan Karon's writing studio aglow from a lamp on her desk. Of course, it didn't actually add light to my room, but it surely did so to my soul.




My string of golden pine cone lights, bought several years ago now, light up my world at this time of year. Sometimes they nestle in greenery atop a bookshelf or the mantelpiece. This year I set them in a ceramic dish that sits in the middle of the dining table. Every evening, I press the On button and create a bowl of gold. And, then there is my LED pillar candle in the kitchen which basically glows day and night now. I admit to getting a little thrill whenever I see it shimmer as I come down the stairs, especially when I wander in on a sleepless night.




The last couple of days I've been reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Oh my, what a thrilling story she tells of her family surviving -- barely -- one bitterly cold winter with blizzard after intense blizzard following one on the other for months on end. What I found so amazing in this tale was how the little Ingalls family found the grace and grit, not to mention gratitude in the midst of their most trying times wrestling with the elements to keep from starving or freezing to death. I tried to imagine how it must have felt for them the day the kerosene for the lantern ran out and there wasn't a snowball's chance in you-know-where for a train with supplies to get through those prairie snowstorms until spring. So they lived by the light of the fire in the stove, and often went to bed when it grew dark to save the firewood or hay bundles they used as fuel for the next morning.

As I say, I came away from the story amazed ... first that it wasn't blizzarding in my world when I 'came to'. Haha. And second, because I became ever so grateful for my basically easy, cozier world where I can turn on the lights any time to chase away the shadow bears.

I'm pretty certain there are dozens of ways that people keep their own hearts burning with cheer on these dark nights. I'd love to hear what you do during this time of year to add light to your world.


* * *

"A smile is the light in your window that tells
others that there is a caring, sharing person inside."
DENIS WAITLEY

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day and a wonderful weekend.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Monday, December 02, 2019

Music For A Festive Season

Image from Pixabay

Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and
resonant, coming from everyone's very heart. There
was no sense of performance or judgement, only
that the music was breath and food.
ANNE LAMOTT


It's the time of year when my heart grows hungry for the singing of Christmas carols. Not just to hear them being played on the radio, CD player, or live streaming, but to sing them with real flesh and blood people lifting our voices as one, breathing new life into the old lyrics that offer a weary world consolation, hope, and joy.

Music was a central part of my childhood. My mother was the pianist in our church and I always loved to hear her play. She'd often play at home and I'd sit next to her on the piano bench as I attempted the melody line in the higher register. Maybe that's when I first learned to love Christmas carols. For it was my mom who taught me, as a four or five-year-old, to sing the beloved children's carol Away In A Manger. I was to sing this little song at our church Christmas Eve service that year. Except as I still vividly remember I had a case of stage fright, and there wasn't anything Mom could whisper as she knelt in front of me that encouraged me to open my mouth and sing those lines I knew so perfectly. Mom finally led me off the platform. No longer standing there with everyone watching, relief flooded my little soul. And, then suddenly I was ready to climb back on the stage to sing, but it was too late. My moment to shine had passed. Fifty-five odd years later and I still remember that moment as clear as ever.



Yesterday, we attended our first Christmas concert of the season. The musicians played with joy and confidence and the choral singers sang like angels -- the harmonies and descant in certain spots were positively spine tingling. When the audience was invited to join for a short carol sing, oh my, I felt a catch at the back of my throat. With a rousing intro on the pipe organ, the rafters rang as we sang The First Noel, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, and Hark the Herald Angels Sang. Everyone together. For me, it was bliss!

I wait for it every year ... that moment when I can join in the sweet refrains of an old, old story that's once again sung by people around the world. 

Let heaven and nature sing,
Let heaven and nature sing...

* * *

Wishing you a heart full of song this week.

Hugs,
Brenda
xx


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Hello December


Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than merely increasing its speed.”
May our slowing down this Advent be our gentle protest against the violence of
our rushing world. May our slowing down give quiet, steady witness to the values
of attentiveness, carefulness, patience, receptivity, stillness. May our slowing down
enable us to make real and meaningful connections with people, nature, work, art,
and (most importantly) with God.
MELANNIE SVOBODA, SND


It's December 1st and I'm awake in the wee hours. I ponder what to write here on my blog as the Advent season begins, as we wait for Christmas. Thoughts swirl around. I think about a friend and her daughter who is in hospital and whisper a prayer. I read a little to focus my thoughts -- this early morning I dip into Frederick Buechner's The Remarkable Ordinary, and I'm drawn to these words he's written:

"There is none like God . . .
who rides through the heavens to your help,
and in his majesty through the skies.
The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Deut. 33:26-27 RSV
"Joy is knowing that that is true from your stomach. Knowing that even though you see only through a glass darkly, even though lots of things happen--wars and peacemaking, hunger and homelessness--joy is knowing, even for a moment, that underneath everything are the everlasting arms." p. 120

I am comforted by these words as I think of my friend and her situation. I feel a joy bubble rising unbidden on the inside of me as I think those words in light of my own little concerns. It's been said that joy comes in the morning, how grateful I am that sometimes it comes while it is yet dark.

* * *

This morning the child in me happily opened the first window on my Jacquie Lawson Advent calendar. On it, I decorated some cookies and played a card game. Later this afternoon, we shall attend our first concert of the season, Music for a Festive Season with the Alberta Baroque Ensemble. Not Handel’s Messiah but lovely seasonal pieces by other old composers, including Christmas Concerto by Sammartini, Christmas Sinfonia by Torelli, and Magnificat by Vivaldi. And at the end, the conductor will invite the audience to join in and sing a couple of old familiar carols with the organ in full blast. In truth, it always turns out to be my favourite moment in the whole concert.

And so Advent begins. My friend Lorrie noted earlier on her FB page it's a season of longing, of hope, of waiting in expectation. Yes. I hope to be here every morning to offer a little something as together we wait, and count down to Christmas -- won't promise though.  

Wishing you a beautiful first day of December.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox