LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
For me…the Christmas Season has official arrived: We have celebrated the Second Sunday of Advent; we have lit Advent candles; I opened a window on someone’s Advent calendar; and I bought my first Christmas gift for a dear friend, the same dear friend who suggested we watch an old holiday favorite, Frosty The Snowman, and build a snowman afterwards. We dressed our snow fellow in baseball attire, then named him "Derek".
On my way to morning Mass today (I find myself going to Mass more frequently now ), I had an epiphany: I really get the meaning of the season. I am finally able to understand the fun in watching a children’s story. For once, I was able to lose myself in the glee of being a sculptor of snow. I feel so “child-like”, so empowered, so not self- conscious, that I even held my own in a snowball fight instead of giving up, giving in and walking away as my opponent covered me in cold, wet, white.
What has happened to change my point of view?
I realized this morning that I am truly able to feel the joy of the season. Joy? I hadn’t known the meaning of that word for all of my life. (Even as child, joy alluded me.) I know it now. Light heartedness? I had never carried a light heart in my chest. Most Children of Alcoholics don’t know what a light heart feels like. Statistically, we know many children of alcoholics come to experience a light heart, by draining the heart’s despair and hopelessness through the use of a siphon: drugs or alcohol...or both.
What has made me different?
The other day I was stopped in front of neighbor’s home and noticed the white twinkle of lights in his farmhouse windows. Kissing balls hung from the porch eaves like emeralds and red ribbons flagged in the cold wind. “Ah…” I thought, “how lucky they are to still have a small child in the house to motivate them to celebrate Christmas”. Then, I felt sad for a few moments because I don’t have that family life. My daughter Julia and I tried to know the joy Christmas, but honestly, I could never really bring her there. I felt bereft because, I thought: I can’t ever recall enjoying Christmas, for one reason or the other.
But then… before I spent too much time wallowing, Our Lord reminded me that what I was feeling simply wasn’t true any longer. He said: “You now belong to a healthy family. You’ve known joy, on and off, for nearly three years. You are a member of the Catholic Church, a member of a big, appreciative family whose main purpose is to show you how you are loved. You belong to a family whose responsibility to you is to remain “healthy” through prayer and practice, so that it can teach you how to become the best-version-of—yourself.
I heard Him clearly, then, suddenly, I felt the way the infamous figure, the Grinch, must have felt when Cindy Loo Hoo let him know that, despite himself, he was loved. "And what happened then? Well, in Stamford, they say that my heart grew THREE sizes that day. And then the true meaning of Christmas came through, and I found the strength of ten Grinches plus two."
Keep Christ in CHRISTmas!
12/10/2014 03:08:07 am
This really hit home for me. I too had parents that were alcoholics and always dreaded Christmas because I knew it was going to be horrible. I was also an only child so I had no one to share this with. It was the big, dark secret that was no secret to the rest of the world. Christmas hurts. I much prefer Lent because you're supposed to feel bad during that time. I have to make a concerted effort to enjoy the holidays and I keep yearning for the joy that I know is there, that I have felt occasionally, but that just seems to allude me at this time of year. The only place I really feel joy is in Mass, in our church (decorating the church is such a joy) and possibly the occasional Christmas concert. I need to focus on the Incarnation and Christ's coming. I've written a speech on angels for the Catholic Daughters' dinner tomorrow night and the Holy Spirit (who really wrote it--I just sit at the computer and take dictation) brought to mind that the first Christmas was no picnic either. Just thinking about riding a donkey when you're 9 months pregnant is proof enough, not to mention all the other suffering the Holy Family had to go through. But God was with them and whatever Jesus did, we as His followers have to do as well. If He suffered in this life, then so will we. I pray that we will all have the grace to love Christmas and find Christ in the mangers of our hearts this year. I don't know what to do with those painful memories but I pray that all of us who have been scarred by substance abuse will find God's healing this Christmas season.
12/10/2014 04:33:11 am
Dear Evelyn, you are such a gifted writer. I appreciated reading this. I have so many happy memories of Christmas. As a child I always looked forward to decorating the tree and going out and buying gifts for family and giving to them. It was always exciting to receive gifts but my parents taught us that Christmas is not about receiving gifts and is about celebrating Christ Jesus. I grew up going to church and loved the hymns and carols and still do. Grandparents always showed up with loads of presents that even my mother had to finally tell them not to give us so much. We were spoiled but not in a terrible way. We were spoiled by thinking we would always get presents. I loved to help my mother make cookies and candy and then eat them. We ate loads of tasty food as well. Although I was and still a Cellist, when a child I had decided that I needed to also play the guitar and asked my parents to get me one for Christmas. I was very good at sneaking into my parents closets when they went out and I found the guitar my parents got for me that I had to wait until Christmas to receive. On Christmas day I received the guitar and was so thrilled and acted surprised. My dear mother knew me well and told me "you already knew you were getting that guitar didn't you. Of course I told her yes I sneaked into your closet and saw it. Since then I continued to play Cello and Guitar. When children it always snowed on Christmas and so we spent time outside making snowmen, throwing snowballs and sleigh riding. It was so much fun. My parents were so loving and understanding. I am so thankful to have many joyful memories of Christmas as a child. As adults we then learned that we did not have to buy many gifts for each other and we spent Christmas going to church as we did as children, but the difference as adults was that we found more opportunity to show love and joy towards each other and be thankful for all we already did have. Every Christmas we spent time looking at many family photo albums with the pictures of us when we were babies, and children. There is so much about Christmas and the reminder of the hanging Christmas lights is that inner light that we have that Jesus Christ gives us. Christmas brings us to a new beginning as we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The rebirth that we all experience comes from the gospels that remind us of the profound story of the infant child of Blessed Virgin Mother Mary. We rejoice as we read the books of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John all telling the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and all that he did for us. Jesus came into this world to tell us that He loves us and to follow Him and live our lives for Him. I think Christmas is every day when we remember all that Jesus Christ did for us. Christmas time and Advent gives us time to re-evaluate ourselves and to do our own "inner" house cleaning so that we can receive Christ Jesus and know that He is our beloved Savior, redeemer of the world. I love to celebrate the Mass because it always gives me time to remember all that Jesus Christ did for us and that He is our Lord and Savior. Even when it is not Christmas time on a daily basis I remember to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Several years ago I wrote a collection of Christmas songs that I arranged and recorded myself for guitar and synthesizer. Later I orchestrated a collection of Hymns and also recorded them I found myself making more time to write those songs and orchestrate Hymns as we approached Christmas . I also loved to play Cello in the Symphony and a huge variety of Orchestras the Christmas concerts we performed. Before the Binghamton BC Pops Orchestra closed, I always looked forward to performing playing Cello in that orchestra at Christmas time. The conductor was wonderful and we put on a very exciting show with fake snow falling while we played some of the Christmas tunes. For decades my Christmas was always made when I performed in the orchestra. Later as I deepened in my understanding of the meaning of Christmas, I found myself looking more forward to singing in the Cathedral Choir in Albany for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses. It was a very beautiful wonderful way to Celebrate Christmas because I was singing the words in the Carols and Hymns that reminded me what the real meaning of Christmas is. I spent 3 years with the Cathedral Choir but stopped going because the drive in the snow became too much to get from here to Albany. I might return there though if it is God's will. Last Christmas Eve I went to the Cooperstown St. Mary's Mass. A few women came to me telling me that I need to sing in their choir. I was then immediately introduced to the professional opera singer who was Cantor and Choir director and the Organist. That was my Christmas gift when I was invited by the Choir director and organist to join their Choir and also play Cello. I did go back and sang with the Choir after that but after
12/10/2014 05:45:54 am
I also want to add that through my volunteering to help the New York City Staten Island Salvation Army, I learned about music ministry. I am very thankful that I had that experience and was able to give back to our Lord Jesus Christ the musical gifts that He gave me. The first Staten Island Salvation Army officer has since passed on and gone to be with the Lord, but I will never forget her because she taught me that even though I am willing to give my musical gifts to our Lord Savior, that I still need to be paid for my services. I never asked to be paid but I was always very thankful that I was paid. After Christmas she showed up at my house to surprise me with many huge bags of food and blanket and a check. I was so thankful and will never forget her. The other Staten Island Salvation Army officers were also wonderful and I am very thankful that I had that experience when I lived in New York City. God Bless all of you who are doing whatever you can to serve our Savior Jesus Christ no matter where you are. We are united in our Lord Savior Jesus when we are deeply committed to loving Him, and worshiping Him. Thank you again Evelyn for this beautiful blog, and God Bless You for this service you are doing for Him and for others.
12/10/2014 05:38:37 am
continuation of my response that did not go into my previous response. I did go back and sang with the Choir after that but after a few drives in the snow from here to Cooperstown I decided it was too much to drive there and stopped going. I might return to that choir though for Christmas Eve if that is God's will. For now I am very content to be focused on the real meaning of Christmas which is to rejoice in the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and all that He did for us after He was born. For me it is more important to remain in right relationship with Jesus Christ and to be thankful for all that He has done for us. My focus is to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and all of what I have accomplished through music at Christmas time is not nearly as important as my celebrating Jesus Christ right here at home. When we go out of our homes and into the world we can be joyful towards others including in the grocery store or at Walmart by telling strangers God Bless You and share with them our love and devotion to Jesus Christ. I also want to add that when I lived in New York City teaching music, I heard on the radio that the NYC Staten Island Salvation Army needed help to raise funds. I called the Salvation Army officer of the core that needed help and told her that I am a professional musician and teacher for the NYC Bd of Ed and would like to help her raise money. She was absolutely amazing despite her infirmities. She always went out like a true "soldier" in the army of Christ Jesus in every possible way never complaining about her serious infirmities. I played the alto saxophone at the kettles in the Staten Island mall, and helped her meet the financial budget that she needed to meet. She was so great and became my friend. For several years after my first year the mall always kept a plant there where I played in that mall and returned to play again for following Christmas's. For me it then became part of my ministry to serve Jesus Christ through the Salvation Army and give my musical gifts by raising money the Salvation Army needed. After that I ended up helping the other Staten Island Salvation Army cores raise money and played in the Staten Island Ferry terminal. where I met all kinds of homeless people who came to talk to me. It then became a ministry reminding strangers the reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who is our Savior if we go to Him and confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness and take Him into our hearts and allow Him to give us new rebirth. I learned back then that rebirth is a spiritual rebirth that we can all experience when we seek the face of Jesus Christ. It became a very long lasting ministry for me in many ways where I ended up giving praise concerts throughout the area including the upstate area. Since then I spent a few Christmas's playing baritone horn with the retired Colonel of the Salvation Army in Oneonta, NY. We played at the kettles in the very freezing cold but I loved that experience and considered it a huge honor to be playing with these officers. I then played for the kettles in other up state new York area Salvation Army cores because Oneonta did not want me to play inside. The other cores allowed me to play inside because they understood that it was much too cold to be outside playing. It was then my Christmas to help raise money for the Salvation Army. Although I have stopped helping the Salvation Army raise money at Christmas time, I have learned that it is not necessary for me to be out all over the place playing at Christmas time and that my spending time alone with Jesus Christ and pondering all that He has done for me a sinner is far more important. We serve Jesus Christ in a variety of ways whether it be through direct ministry or simply as another believer in Jesus Christ going out to the store where we can be kind to others and show our joy that comes from Jesus Christ. We don't always have to be doing something nor performing to serve Jesus Christ. We can serve Jesus Christ by being who and all that He wants us to be. God Bless You Evelyn for providing this blog. Thank you for inviting me to go to your blog. I think you are a very gifted writer and you need to keep writing. I hope that you write a book. You are a wonderful servant of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ in more ways than you realize. God Bless You and thank you for being my friend.
Thank you for sharing your Christmas experiences with all of us. How fortunate you are that you have your music to praise God with. It seems to have taken you all over. Wonderful. wonderful. Lets see what God has in store for you in 2015. I am here to support your efforts in any way I can. And thank you for agreeing to play music at the Christmas Cookie Swap. It will make the event magical. evelyn
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