And It’s Almost Over

How many of us are saying that this year? I know I am! It’s been a rough year for a lot of people, some much more than others.

At times it seemed this year dragged in forever, and then suddenly were wondering where the year went!!

Life has changed for lots of us, in so many ways, and not always for the good.

Sure, there have been some happy and wonderful events in 2018. Engagements, weddings, new babies, expected babies (our daughter and two of her best friends are welcoming baby girls in the spring), graduations, new careers, and new beginnings.

But it’s also not been so easy for so very many. There have been unwanted and painful separations and divorces. Unexpected deaths of loved ones and friends. Life changing diagnoses and accidents. Job loss and continuing unemployment. Financial struggles.

There are now 800,000 people affected directly by an unnecessary government shutdown, 420,000 working with no pay and 380,000 furloughed, which means they may or may not get paid eventually. Plus many thousands more who are being secondarily affected, and wondering how they’re going to pay bills and put food on the table until the mess is over.

Then there are the catastrophes hitting thousands of people at once Disastrous hurricanes and torrential flooding. Catastrophic wildfires. Earthquakes. Tsunamis Loss of thousands of homes with people left wondering “now what do I do?!” Mass shootings for absolutely no reason except hate.

Now you may say these thing happen all the time; we just hear about them more because of the times we’re living in. That may be true, but to the people affected, it doesn’t make it any easier.

You may be directly affected, or you may not. If not, what if you were? Put yourself in their places for a little while, and your circumstances aren’t quite as bad.

Personally our year has been ok, but it’s had its moments. We’ve had medical issues with my husband, actually a couple of times this year. We’ve had friends going through extremely difficult situations, including job loss, serious illness, and loss of family members. We’ve stood by them as they stood by us, because that’s what friends do.

Some weeks it seemed like all we got was bad news. I almost didn’t want to answer my phone or read text messages because it was probably more bad news coming.

Did you feel that way? Do you still? Are you as glad as I am that this year is almost over?

But just remember, we felt a lot like this last year at this time.

We entered into 2018 with hopes of a bright future. Changes for the good. New beginnings. Some of us had them. For some of us, it was more of the same.

So this year let’s try something different. Instead of looking and waiting for change in the new year, let’s help make it happen. Waiting and hoping and doing nothing won’t cause the change we want.

There are 365 new days coming in a new year. 365 opportunities to make something better happen. Sure, a lot is dependent on others, but you still can make a difference by changing the way you look at your circumstances, changing the way you think about them and deal with them. Some problems may not be solveable that easily, but making plans and goals to get you where you want to be is a great start.

And your attitude is the beginning. If you start by saying “I can’t do this without that.” “Someone else will have to do it for me,” then you’ll not get anywhere. You won’t be able to make your plans and hopes and dreams for the new year become a reality.

You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but I can almost guarantee those people with that greener grass think their grass isn’t nearly as green as THEIR neighbors’!

“If I just had __________________.” isn’t the answer either. There’s no magic solution that’s going to make your new year automatically better. It’s planning and attitude. It’s how you see things and how you deal with them. Perhaps, like us, there are a few things you know you’ll be facing in 2019 that are somewhat out of your control, but still, it’s how you handle them.

Because you can’t control everything that happens in the coming year. There will still be losses we will have to face. There will still be natural disasters that we can only prepare for as best we can and hope for the best. And we certainly cannot control the actions of others, and how they affect us, but we CAN control how we react to them and how we deal with it. And not let them get the best of us.

Yes, I’m glad 2018 is almost over. And I’m hoping 2019 is a much better, much more prosperous, and much healthier year.

Yes, there are sure to be tough times as well, but overall I’m looking for good things for this year for all of us.

That’s how I’m going to look at it.

Happy New Year!!

So Now What?

The gift giving is over, at least for the most part. Exchanges have been made, and/or returns have been completed. After Christmas sales have been shopped, and items purchased for next year’s festivities.

The tree is still up, still decorated, but in the past few days it seems to have lost its glow, its expectancy. It almost looks tired. It just isn’t shining the way it had been.

And neither are you.

Is that how you seem to feel when Christmas Day is over and done? All the preparations, the last minute gift purchases, the haste to get everything wrapped and under the tree…everything is over and done so quickly…

And instead of being excited about all the fun you had on Christmas Day; about how happy everyone was; and how it was so nice to be around people you loved and cared about…. Instead you’re depressed and sad, and wondering why the day just wasn’t what you thought it would be.

Or you’re wondering…now what!? “I’ve got nothing else to be excited about, because Christmas took all the joy out of me. All the hype about the season…it didn’t do a thing for me. That one day I’m supposed to be happy and in love with everyone…well it didn’t work very well. Life is still the way it was before. Christmas didn’t change a thing.”

And suddenly you just want to cry; you want to just throw that fancy decorated tree out the window so you won’t have to see the reminder of another unhappy holiday.

You’re not alone, you know. Others feel the same way. It’s not unusual. There are many reasons. You may feel Christmas was over too quickly, and you didn’t really get to enjoy it because you were trying too hard to make sure everyone else did. Or you feel like there was something more you could’ve done to add just a bit more sparkle to the day; one more gift you should’ve bought for someone.

Or maybe it’s just because after all the excitement, the anticipation, and the frenzy of that one day, suddenly there’s nothing left to look forward to except the same old routine, the same life you feel is just passing you by. You’re lonely and tired of being lonely.

What happened to the magic and the hope of Christmas Day? Have you forgotten it that quickly? Where’s that excitement you felt as a child for the next several days after Christmas, when you were exploring all the toys you’d gotten from Santa?
That little child grew up. And life happened. And it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. And even the excitement and fun of Christmas, the holiday you always loved the most, just wasn’t magical any more.

But it can be. If you let it. If you stop to remember the reason for Christmas. It’s not about how many or how expensive gifts are, or whether you do traditional wrapping or use gift bags. It’s not about how your Christmas tree looks, or how many lights there are on your front lawn. It’s not about making cookies, or if your child believes in Santa Claus or the Elf on the Shelf.

Christmas is still about the birth of a tiny baby over 2,000 years ago. A baby who was the Son of God. Who came to our world to bring love and salvation. It’s hard to remember sometimes when we’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, and all the material aspects. And yes, I’m just as guilty as the next person.

But as the angels said on that long ago night, “we bring you glad tidings of peace and joy and good will to all mankind.” And it wasn’t just for that one night, that one day. It was for forever.

Somehow we’ve let the material trappings of Christmas overshadow the reason for Christmas. That reason should live in our hearts every day.

It should. But it doesn’t always. Because perhaps we’ve forgotten the magic, and what it’s all about.

Instead of being downhearted that Christmas is over, or glad that it is because you were miserable, think about what you can do to make the true spirit of Christmas last all year. An unexpected phone call or visit, a small gift of coffee or cookies, a kind word to a stranger…all the things people talk about doing at Christmas…and then no more. Why not do it all year?
Christmas isn’t just a holiday. It’s a state of mind that’s decorated more at one time of the year than another.

If we can only see it like that. Try it.

“So now what?” becomes “What can I do for someone else now?”

You may be surprised at the results, in both your life and someone else’s.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Although we realize many of you are having a very difficult time today. Christmas can be a very rough day if you’re hurting.

But let us take the time to share the gifts we’d like to present you with today…gifts from our hearts. Gifts that cannot always be purchased with money; because they’re priceless.

For the woman who’s spending yet another Christmas without someone to love, someone to love her, accept the gift of hope, that that someone you’ve been praying for, and hoping for, will enter your life in the new year, and you will finally find the love you’ve been dreaming of for so long.

For those of you who have been waiting for a reconciliation with your children, or other family members, accept the gift of renewal, that things and circumstances will be made whole again, the past forgotten. May you receive a knock on the door of your heart allowing that reconciliation to take place, and your joy be restored.

For the man struggling with addictions, receive the gift of self-control and strength, that once and for all those addictions will be put behind you and your new life will begin even today as that gift is opened.

For those of you struggling with the first Christmas following death of a loved one, receive the gift of cherished memories that will live forever in the scrapbook of your heart, and the knowledge that the love you had for each other will never die, and that they are waiting for you in heaven.

For the family who’s lost, or about to lose, their home, accept the gift of a new place to live that will be the perfect home, cozy and peaceful, with enough room for everyone.

For the couple who desperately want a child of their own, may you receive the gift of the child you’ve wanted so badly, a child that was meant just for you. Because Christmas is about the birth of a long-awaited child.

For the family struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis, may you receive a gift of financial blessing, a new job, or a salary increase, that will ease your worries and allow you to provide comfortably for your family.

For those who are facing a serious illness… may you receive the gift of healing and the knowledge that the word of the Lord is always true and faithful.

Christmas is a time of hope. A time of renewal of faith and a renewal of the promises we were given over two thousand years ago in a manger in Bethlehem.

On this Christmas Day, be blessed. And may the light of His love shine forth over you as never before.

Merry Christmas to all!!!

The Magic and Miracle of Christmas Eve

This is Christmas Eve. It’s a special day. You can almost feel it. The sense of anticipation, the magic. The sense of knowing something is about to happen.

You can feel it in the air, see it on the faces of children as they visit Santa. You can sense it in the softly lit decorations placed in strategic places in restaurants, storefront windows, in our homes, and yes, in the images we see on line.

You can almost feel the hope, the sense that something miraculous could actually happen. That sense of a peaceful quiet that ushers in something incredibly beautiful…something more special than you’ve ever experienced before.

You can hear it in a favorite Christmas song, the words penetrating your heart and your spirit, bringing a tear to your eye as you realize you truly do believe in Christmas miracles. And you know that one is coming for either you or someone you love. You don’t know what, or how, but you believe it’s coming.

After all, it’s Christmas Eve.

Because on that very first Christmas something miraculous did indeed happen. The world received the gift of salvation, hope, and everlasting love. In the form of a tiny baby.

So take heart. And be of good cheer, as the angels said to the shepherds a little over 2,000 years ago. Because there are still Christmas miracles to come this year.

They come in many forms. A kind or loving word from a stranger to someone who’s hurting. A surprise phone call from a loved one far away. A stranger unexpectedly buying your coffee as you struggle to find your wallet at the checkout register An anonymous gift left on your doorstep, or in your mailbox, and it’s something you really needed.

Or you may be the one who causes a Christmas miracle without even realizing it. A smile to someone in a store who feels totally lost and alone. A “thank you” to someone who isn’t expecting it. Holding a door open for a young mother struggling with a baby stroller and arms full of packages. Giving a gift to a stranger from an angel tree or Christmas shoebox sent overseas.

Yes, miracles still abound, and it seems we’re more aware of them at the Christmas season than at any other time of year, because we need them more at this season than at any other time. It’s the season of love…and loneliness. The season of giving…and sadness because you think you have nothing to give. It’s the season of hope…and wondering when you’ll ever have any again.

But somewhere out there your miracle is coming. In a way you least expect and may not even recognize, even when it happens.

The magic of Christmas is also the miracle of Christmas. It’s not the gifts, or lack of gifts, under the tree. It’s how you feel in your heart, how your feelings toward others suddenly change, and how you see the world around you in a new way, even if only for a few days.

Let’s all enjoy the magic…and the miracle…of Christmas this year. And let’s share it with as many people as possible.

A smile. A kind word. A loving gesture. A handwritten note to say “I love you.” A prayer for those who are hurting.

The miracle of Christmas is within each of us, if we only let it come forth.

It’s Christmas Eve. And it’s time…..

A Message from Santa Claus

You know, it’s not easy being me. It truly isn’t. Like a lot of you out there, I’ve always got too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

You see, there are a lot of children out there in this world. And it’s my job to make them happy on Christmas Day. That is, if they believe, and if their parents cooperate. More about that later.

Throughout so many decades past, I’ve delighted the kids who believe in me with gifts under their Christmas tree every Christmas morning. Sometimes they’re beautifully wrapped, and sometimes they’re not. Their parents tell me what they want, you know.

All year long I’m working behind the scenes at the North Pole, putting together lists for each child that believes in me, and collecting all the toys that each kid wants. The elves very seldom make them anymore; they’re just too complicated. Instead they go to the stores, the factories, and the warehouses to fill the orders.

That’s not an easy task either. Plus, we have to have huge warehouses to store them, with each child having his or her own compartment for their gifts. Can’t have them confused, you know; that would really upset the kids!

Even working hard all year to make just that one night special doesn’t mean we don’t get rushed. Right now things have really heated up, and we’re working almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’ll sleep on Christmas Day, after everything is delivered.

The reindeer are getting ready, too, exercising to make sure they’re in great shape to pull that sleigh. It’s not easy, you know, because with all those toys, and me, well, it’s quite heavy to start out with.

Now I’m asked a lot of times about how in the world all those toys for all the world’s children, can possibly fit in one sleigh. It’s big, but not that big, you know. It’s really quite easy, but unfortunately I can’t tell you. You see, Santa has to have a few secrets that no one knows about, and that’s one of them. Most of the elves know; they have to, because they pack up the sleigh. But every year we have a few new ones, and until I can totally trust them with such a huge secret, they do other jobs rather than packing my sleigh.

I’m also asked a lot about how the reindeer are actually able to fly through the sky, let alone pull a heavy sleigh behind them. That’s one of those secrets I keep to myself as well. I will say this, they are very special reindeer, specially trained, and very trustworthy.

I’m also asked a lot how I can be in so many places at the same time. At the malls, department stores, in Christmas parades…in all honesty, I’m really not. Not personally anyway. But each and every one of those Santas carry a little piece of me with them. A piece of my heart, and a piece of my love for each and every one of the children who believe in me. And all of those pieces come back to me and settle into my heart as the children tell Santa their secrets and their Christmas wishes. But please don’t tell the kids. That’s between us.

Some of the children are really concerned that I can’t get in their house to deliver their toys because they don’t have a fireplace for me to come down. Actually that’s one of the easier problems to solve. Because Santa has a very special key, made just for me, that will unlock any door. But only on Christmas Eve; no other time of year. And it only works in Santa’s hand, so if it were to ever get lost, no one else could use it.

Those cookies and milk are certainly appreciated, too. I have a hard job that night, and although it’s a lot of fun, it certainly works up the appetite! And my favorites are butter cookies with sprinkles, chocolate chip, and some of those fluffy meringue cookies with chocolate chips. And a bit of egg nog here and there would be good in the place of milk. You know, just varying the selection a bit. Just don’t leave a slice of fruitcake! The reindeer don’t even like that!

And those letters the children send me? Yes, I read them. Fortunately I’m a speed reader, so it’s not as hard as you might think. And I’m probably the world’s best multitasker, because I not only read them as I’m doing other things, I dictate my responses as well, and the elves handle the rest.

The Naughty or Nice List? Yes, I do have those. Unfortunately. But just so you’ll know, in order to not get at least one gift from ol’ Santa, you have to be really, really naughty. You see, I love kids so much, I never want any of them to go without gifts from me at Christmas time. I always try to find something they’ve done right enough to be able to qualify for a gift!!

And by the way…that Elf on the Shelf? He’s NOT one of mine. Not at all. I don’t know where he came from or why he’s trying to horn in on my territory, but he really needs to stop. Santa doesn’t participate in that one, and he’s certainly never reported back to me! I think he’s around just to cause a bit of disruption and to irritate me!

Which leads me to my comment concerning parents cooperating with me. This is a tough one. And it really hurts my feelings.

You see, there are parents out there who refuse to tell their kids about me. Or they tell them I don’t exist. That I’m just made up, and that every kid who believes in me, is just totally wrong and should be set straight as soon as possible. There are even adults out there who aren’t parents who spread those same words and thoughts around without even thinking about it. Without even stopping to think what they’re doing…what they’re destroying.

And those children don’t get the pleasure of Santa delivering gifts on Christmas Eve because I’m not welcome in their homes. And I don’t go where I’m not welcome.

Just because you don’t see the real me doesn’t mean I don’t exist. I’ve been around for a long time, doing the things I do for a long time, and making millions of children happy every year. The smiles on their faces and their screams of surprise and delight make it worthwhile. And as I said, their parents do help, because I couldn’t possibly do it all on my own. They are an important part of the magic of Santa Claus at Christmas time.

Those who say Santa isn’t real don’t understand the reality of Santa. They don’t understand I live in the hearts and imagination of children, who pass on the mystery and the wonder of Santa to their own children. And that causes me to continue to live on and on.

Others say I keep kids from focusing on the real meaning of Christmas, so they won’t let their children believe about me. Rubbish!! Let me say this. Over half of the homes I deliver toys to have a nativity scene in their homes, or ornaments on their tree depicting that first Christmas. Obviously they know the real story of Christmas. And they still let me in.

As I said in the beginning, it’s not easy being me. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of late nights. But the happiness I bring every Christmas Eve, the smiles I see on so many faces on Christmas morning (yes, I do see them, you know – just don’t asked me to explain how) make it all worthwhile.

You still don’t believe I’m real? All I can say to that is, I’m really sorry. Because you’re missing out on so very much….

And now….back to work! Christmas Eve is almost here!

A Simpler Christmas

I was reviewing my “to do” list today; you know, the one with all the items on it that still need doing with Christmas less than two weeks away….

At this rate I probably won’t be ready for this Christmas until next year.

How in the world did it all get so complicated? So rushed? So last minute?

When I was younger Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. I don’t remember taking weeks to shop, weeks to decorate. Making batches and batches of all kinds of cookies to give away as gifts and take to work. Buying an angel tree gift. Putting change in the Salvation Army kettle. Making sure you have all the latest gadgets and goodies for the kids and grandkids. Spending a fortune on Santa photos at the mall. Going to craft shows and open houses and concerts…. Oh, and then there are those gifts still to wrap…thank goodness for gift bags!

No wonder we feel rushed. And stressed. And exhausted.

And wonder why we just don’t seem to enjoy the Christmas season the way we used to. Why it seems like more of a hassle than anything else.

Maybe that’s how we’re making it these days. We’re so busy trying to put together a perfect holiday, a perfectly decorated home, and perfectly wrapped perfect gifts, we forget to stop and just enjoy the beauty of the season.

We stop looking at it through the eyes of a child, who sees nothing but wonder and amazement and excitement with all the festivities. Who can’t wait to visit Santa Claus and tell him what he or she wants for Christmas. Who counts the days, and sometimes the hours until the magic happens on Christmas morning.

While we’re too busy thinking how glad we are that it’s almost over, and we can get back to life as it normally is.

When I was growing up we didn’t spend days and days shopping for gifts. We didn’t spend a fortune on wrapping paper and gift bags (which in my case didn’t even exist at the time).

We didn’t spend days or weeks decorating the house. We only had one tree in my mother’s house; now I have six. And ask myself “why?” every year. We very seldom decorated with outside lights, and if we did there were just a few. Now neighbors sometimes spend weeks putting up their outside decorations, trying to outdo their neighbors, or see just how many lights and inflatables they can put in their front yards. (And don’t those inflatables look awful in the daylight when they’re deflated?)

Santa photos were taken with our own cameras, and we had to wait a week or so to get them developed, and then hope they turned out. When the Polaroid cameras came out we were thrilled to leave Santa’s chair with a picture in our hands to put by our beds to remember that special time!

We didn’t rush out to start our Christmas shopping as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over to make sure we got a head start on the sales. Or spend the cold night in a line outside an electronics store just to be one of the first to get the best deals when the store opened the next morning.

Our Christmas stockings were filled with fruit, candy, candy canes, crayons…inexpensive items we used every day and really appreciated. Santa didn’t fill our living room with gifts; we got maybe 7-8 presents (if that) and thought we were blessed beyond measure. And we appreciated each and every one of those gifts, taking our time to open them to make the fun last longer. We played with those gifts exclusively for probably a week until we put them away when we took the tree down.

Now we can’t wait to rush out early the day after Christmas to take advantage of those after-Christmas sales to get all the things we know we’ll need for next year, and buy things we really wanted but didn’t get. And we start the madness all over again.

We’re all guilty. We’re all doing it now. Every year I say I’m going to cut back. Only do one tree, not bake all those cookies, not go crazy with gifts, and sit back and just enjoy the beauty and joy of the season. But the house looked unfinished with only one tree, so I gave in and put them all up. I haven’t made cookies yet, but I’m seriously planning to

make no more than six kinds. Yes, seriously.

I’ve tried to resist getting that one extra gift for several people, and really hope I can stick to that plan, but when I say I don’t need gifts for Christmas I do mean it. I just want everyone else to be happy, and save their money for things they need, not buy things for me because they think they’re supposed to.

I really do wish for a simpler Christmas. Obviously it’s not going to happen this year. I’ve already overdecorated. I’ll probably end up making too many cookies again. I’ll probably overspend on stocking stuffers as well. And I’ll probably cook way too much for Christmas dinner like I do every year.

So maybe next year, I can start earlier, do less, and actually sit down and enjoy the Christmas season.

Maybe?

How about you?