The last few weeks have been busy and stressful. I would imagine that this is true for many people as they get ready for the holidays. This time of year can weigh us down. In addition, it has rained here for the last week. When I wake in the morning it is dark and dreary. I have to turn on lights to function. I am ready for some sun. The sun did come out this afternoon and it will dry up some of the giant puddles where the ground has just had enough.
Most of the time I like rain. I love the sound of it and the smell on the grass but when it is constant it is enough! The winter has enough darkness. We don’t need darkness caused by clouds and rain but we have to believe there is better to come.
Not having light can be depressing but the light is coming. If you are Christian then it is coming with the birth of Christ. If you are not then the winter solstice is on its way and days will be lengthening. The light will return, the season will change and life will go on. Hope can abound.
I worked for a Lutheran church and I now go to an Episcopal church. I love liturgy. It has form and function. In the midst of a chaotic world it continues an age old pattern. That gives me comfort.
We are now in the season of Advent. Advent arrives in the darkest time of the year. Where I live it has been gloomy for the last week. We have had cold and rain. The sky is gray, the trees are gray…it feels as if the world is gray. The weather at this time of the year can be really depressing.
We are at the time of the year when a lot of the world is preparing for the (dare I say) Christmas holidays. Hanakkuh is also being celebrated. Even people who have no religious background or affiliation get into the season. It is hard to resist lights, trees, and presents. The commercial world is pumping out enticing ads and people are binge watching holiday movies. For most people the mood is bright.
However, this can be a difficult time for some. Think about those for whom this time of year is hard. For the homeless it is just cold and miserable. We see them huddled on the streets and in cardboard boxes cringing away from the cold. Those who have lost loved ones during this season struggle with their loss. There are so many memories. People who are without family or friends see the season highlighting their loneliness.
This can be a wonderful time. Anticipation can be joyful. It can also be devastating. Look around you at those who suffer in Advent. What is coming for them can be sad and lonely. Do what you can to help.
In the past my friend and I walked the neighborhood each winter. We loved seeing the houses lit for the holidays. All the sparkling lights were so festive. When you walk in the dark you can also see lit rooms in the houses we passed. People living their lives.
This morning our pastor talked about the dark and how the light of home beckons us. It made me think of the John Denver song “Back Home Again.”
“Back Home Again”
There’s a storm across the valley, clouds are rolling in
The afternoon is heavy on your shoulders
There’s a truck out on the four lane, a mile or more away
The whining of his wheels just makes it colder He’s an hour away from riding on your prayers up in the sky
And ten days on the road are barely gone
There’s a fire softly burning, supper’s on the stove
But it’s the light in your eyes that makes him warmHey, it’s good to be back home again
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend
Yes, and hey, it’s good to be back home again
The winter can be a difficult time for those of us who crave the light. However, it is a wonderful feeling to turn into the drive and see the lights of home welcoming us. We are pulled into that feeling of belonging and peace. The light from home does draw us in. It is the place we feel secure….the place where we can rest our souls. It is a warm place in the coldest dark. Even in the darkest time that light can brighten our feelings.
Through this winter darkness remember there is light and peace not only at home but also coming with the spring. The darkness fades and the light returns.
If you would like to hear this song:
This week I have been sad. I don’t know if it was my birthday and getting older or the autumn and the darkness. It could be all of the above. It has brought to mind some things that I used to do and don’t any more.
I used to bake for Christmas. I made lots of sweets for everyone. I no longer have someone to bake for. The two of us have no desire to eat lots of Christmas sweets. My grandchildren are grown up (all except one who is in his teens) and not around to bake for or with. It was fun to make treats with my children and grandchildren.
For some reason I stopped sending Christmas cards. Our years of moving around made me lose track of many people. Our life is different now and it seems that there are many people who don’t send cards. In a way that is a regret. It was a job to get them done but a wonderful way to keep in touch.
I don’t have as much money to spend on gifts and so I try to be resourceful and creative in the things I find. This has been a plus as it has helped me to spend time on what really matters. It also reminds me of those who have nothing.
Again, life changes and we have to experience each phase. We can’t opt out if we plan to live on. Getting older can present challenges but so do other phases of life. To really live we have to seize each moment and know it will not come again.
Even though I have been sad sometimes sad can be a season of remembrance. It can be a time when we think about how different things are and plan to choose to live this moment. In this season of darkening skies and leaves falling life continues. Winter will follow and spring and on and on. The world is turning, time goes forward and I am still here to see it.
One of the most important things to accept and understand is that each of us is loved. I am not talking about the love of another person but the love that surrounds us. For me, there is a love that pervades the universe. We learn to accept that each of us is unique and as such never to be again. Our time on earth is a gift. We have to make choices about how we use that gift. We didn’t seek that gift. It was given freely and without expectation of some sort of return.
If we can accept that we are loved then we have love to give away to others. Not just people but also to the earth that we inhabit. There are times when we don’t feel any love directed toward us. We feel alone, alienated, and abandoned. We must learn to pull away from this idea. Regardless of how unimportant or unnoticed we feel we must accept the fact that we matter.
To me this feeling of being left out, ostracized and without meaning is insidious and can trap us in depression. Sometimes it is hard to believe that love surrounds us. You can see it as God, or whatever form you accept but it is there.
When you are in a bad place and can’t see your way remember the love and know that you can reach out and find a way out of the darkness. There is always a way.
Once again the things that happen here in the US fascinate and appall me. Years ago when teaching about suicide one fact that usually made people think was that the suicide rate among survivors is higher than others. It seems that the message of suicide is that if you can’t cope this is a way out.
I am wondering if the same mindset is encouraging all these random shootings. Have they seen others do this and see it as a solution? Are these people really our to kill strangers to appease some mental aberration, or is it a wish for suicide by cop to end their pain? Quite a few have been soldiers with possible PTSD but why did their anguish lead to random shooting? Were they suffering a flash back and saw those people as the enemy? The sad part it that we will never know
There are so many question and so few answers. Since so many of the killers end up dead there is no one to ask. Some want to blame weapons and there may be a link but if you really want a gun you can get one. I don’t think there is any way to remove all the weapons entirely.
I wish that we knew what to do to end this violence with pain for the families killed and the shooters family. No one wins.
So many questions…so few answers.
Periodically I take time out to worry about the state of the world and especially the US. After the latest shooting I thought about how much hate is our there. How did we get to this? Like the song from South Pacific hate has to be taught. We aren’t born hating. It is learned. What went wrong in those families (or lack of) that taught so much hatred.
Hating people for their faith seems so unnecessary. However, it is not the only kind out there. Hatred seems to have spread so much faster than love. Are we so afraid of differences? For me, hatred is related to fear…fear that people like “us” will not come out on top. Fear that causes us to facilitate the eradication of any threat to our beliefs. Is my own belief so weak that the belief of others is a threat? We saw this before in Nazi Germany but it was more about purity of race than faith.
Somehow I am not sure that humanity should expect to survive forever. We will either annihilate ourselves or the earth we have raped will do it for us. After all, maybe we are not meant to last forever. We seem to be too flawed.
I worry about my grandchildren and great grandson. What sort of world are we leaving for those to come? If only we could learn the kind of interaction that most major religious leaders have taught. I hope it is not too late.