Archive for December, 2016

“Be a Nester”-Life Lessons From a Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

December 23rd, 2016 | no comments


Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing: Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears, Let us hold close one day, remembering Its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. Let us get back our childlike faith again.

 ~Grace Noll Crowell~

I’ve been thinking about the Christmas shows of my childhood.

Back in “my day”, we did not have TV channels that aired cartoons and kid’s shows 24/7, 365 days per year. Back in my day, we had a handful of television channels, and if you could convince your father that Barney Miller was a rerun, you may just get to watch that Christmas special on CBC.

Yes kids, one TV. Horrifying I know, but we made it. Oh, and did I mention?

I was the remote control until some time in 1983.

Anyway, I was like many other kids around the planet during that time, and I waited for those special, once-a-year programs that were a sure sign that Santa was on his way. Of course, the old standards, like Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolph and Frosty were always on the menu. But for me, the one that always pulled at my heartstrings was Nester. Every year, I would check the local TV listings to make sure I did not miss it.  Each time I watched, I would cry for Nester and his hardships, even though I knew the plot of the story by heart, and knew he would be eventually okay.

Nester was a long-eared donkey who, much like Rudolph, was ridiculed for his physical differences. Nester could not work like the other donkeys, as he kept tripping over his big ears, that were so long they dragged on the ground.

The story of Nester is an emotional one. He is ridiculed, pushed out into the cold. He loses his mother,  the most important person in his life and wonders how he will ever go on. At certain points, he feels worthless and wonders why he should bother to even try and keep going in his life. And then he meets his cherub, who tells him she is there, on behalf of God, to guide him. As she puts it,

Your ears can do a wondrous thing no other ears can do…the sounds they hear will guide you on a path that’s straight and true. And you will save another as your mother once saved you. 

The good news?  He believed and listened to that gentle guidance.  He listened because he wanted to honor the memory of his mother. And what happened?  He ended up being the very special donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem.

My point?  I think we are all a little more like Nester than we might like to admit. And no, not just the ears.

We are all flawed and imperfect in some way.  Each one of our lives is, in one way or another, a little broken. It is never what we envision or plan for, or what we feel we deserve.
We sometimes struggle through life carrying the ball and chain of our own perceptions.  We spend most of our lives seeing what is wrong about us, neglecting to notice what is right.   And then, to top it all off, sometimes, really bad things happen. People we love get sick, or even die.

But, just like Nester, I believe there is guidance and love from above all around us.  We simply have to be willing to hear it, and to abide by it even when it does not make sense to us, even when we are hurting.  Do you know why?

Because what we can’t see is that all those flaws, and disappointments and heartaches are exactly what make us into the person God needs us to be here on earth.  Each one of those things that we may see as a weakness, God sees as a strength, as something we will be able to use for our own special jobs here on earth.  And the job?

It does not involve a cubicle, or a time card.  I think our job here on earth is to figure out, based on all that has happened to us and shaped us, who we are best designed to love.

For me, I think I am supposed to help and comfort people who hurt, if it is only to say that you will make it, and you are never alone.  I think if I can do that, I am a success.

One of the songs in this show gently guides Nester to listen to the gentle whispers from heaven,


If you hear a choir of angels, follow the sound of the angels.  Follow the voices that guide you….

Today, in this season of magic and angels, I would like to ask you to do the same.  Look not only at what has happened to you in your life.  Look at how it uniquely prepares you to help others who may need it.  Look how your gifts can be used to show others a little piece of heaven right here, right now, when they need it the most.

Look not only at what has happened to you. Look at how it uniquely prepares you to help others who may need it. Look how your gifts can be used to show others a little piece of heaven right here, right now, when they need it the most. Click To Tweet

I’m a Nester.  Are you?

I’ve attached the You Tube clip of the show to the bottom of this post.  I know it’s no Toy Story 3, but I encourage you to take the twenty minutes and watch it.   I would also encourage you to share it with your children. Take some time today to listen to the message and pass it on.
Have a long-eared kind of day,

Christmas Shopping, Crying in Target and Toothy Grins From Heaven…

December 14th, 2016 | no comments

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Christmas shopping. It’s just not as they portray it in the commercials. Where are the happy people dancing in sequence down the aisles, with cheery Christmas music blaring in the background?

On a recent shopping excursion, I believe I may have been sucked into a vortex of negativity, stuck in a store with the most negative people on the planet. I was bumped, and growled at; I was witness to more than one parent completely melting down with their children. I was also witness to more than one child not really understanding the “reason for the season. ”

I find the holiday season to be bittersweet for me. As a self-proclaimed “occasion girl” I have always loved this time of year. But, as with anyone who has lost someone important, it is also a time when you are painfully reminded that there is one less person to shop for this year.

That first December after Stephen died, I could barely breathe in the stores. I remember standing in a quiet aisle of car cleaning supplies drying my tears with one of those expensive wash clothes for your car. Don’t tell Target, but I put it back on the rack.

I stood there for more than twenty minutes, simply trying to inhale so the pain in my chest would subside, and I could gather the remaining items on my list.

This year, I am stronger, but I still have moments where the thought of Christmas without Stephen is still very difficult to think about. It is especially hard when I shop, and I see things I know he would like or laugh about.

So, as you can probably imagine, my emotions were getting the best of me as I pushed my cart through the aisles of Target, watching people….just take life for granted.

I had to physically remove myself from the Mom yelling at her daughter so I did not confront her with the ravings of a bereaved parent. Did she not know how truly blessed she was to have this little girl looking up at her, even if it was only to ask for the $49.99 doll only days before Christmas?

In any case, all the growling and bumping and bah-humbugging just got the best of me. And, when I pulled into the parking lot of the final store on my shopping excursion, I just sat in the car for a moment, and had…..well, a moment. I was missing Stephen, and thinking back over the Christmases gone by…in particular, I was remembering Christmas Eve when he was a small baby, maybe eight months old. He had these two lonely teeth on the bottom, and would grin on command and proudly show them to you. It was one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received.

So there I was, sitting in my car, reminiscing about the magic of Stephen at Christmas. Missing him, and wishing that I could explain to my fellow shoppers about the importance of being present in the moment, of just being happy because you never know what is around the corner.

I finally mustered up the courage to brave the final store, and stepped out of my car.

Where I was abruptly met by……a toothy grin. It was as if Stephen sent me a smile from heaven to remind me that he is always with me, and that love never dies.

It was the toothy grin of a baby girl, out for a day of shopping with her mom. She was sitting in the cart, and she lit up as soon as we made eye contact, and her smile was brighter than any Christmas bulb I’ve ever seen. It was as if some invisible director pointed to her and yelled “Action!”

I burst out laughing, and the mother popped her head out of the car and smiled. I told her that her little sweetheart just made my day. Her mother replied that she does that, gives out those “two tooth smiles” just when you need it the most.

Boy, was she right.

So, two things to remember. Take a nice deep cleansing breath if you are shopping today. Think about the reason for the season, be present in the beauty that is now, don’t miss it. Make a point to give away some smiles, I’m telling you, it works. And if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll make some people nervous.

Second thing, look for those toothy grins. I believe that God brings them to us when we need them the most, to show us He is listening and comforting us. It is up to us to look for and notice them.

Take some time today to spread some of the good stuff around,


Life’s Challenges and Changes and a Fresh Coat of Paint

December 7th, 2016 | no comments
I wrote this piece a few years ago.  It’s funny, as I continue to write, I am more aware of the fact that I get my inspiration from painting projects, washing machines, duct tape and digging in the dirt in my back yard.  Simple mundane things that I can relate to my life situation.  I suppose it is easier for me to find logic and wisdom in a painting project than it would be to find those same conclusions to more complex challenges.
How about you?  How do you process change? Once you read the blog, I would love to hear from you.
Paintbrush on the can. Top view.All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France
I’ve come to a conclusion. Life is like one big painting project. Let me explain.
I’ve just finished up a painting project in my house. And, as is the story for most of my life, I never really thought the whole thing through. Instead, I plunged ahead, with the vision of perfection in this little brain of mine, and just starting swinging the brush.
But, as with most home improvement endeavors, once you open that can of paint, you realize there’s a ton of things you did not take the time to consider before donning your super attractive paint shirt. You know the one, it has paint samples from every paint project since the early eighties.
To give you some examples, I did not consider:
    • The ceiling height of our front foyer.
    • The confirmed fear of heights as it relates to the ceiling height of the front foyer.
    • That this project may only look manageable, but in four days, I will have a moment where I consider just living with a half painted wall. I will have a pretty convincing conversation with myself about how it would show individuality.
    • That I actually am not sure about this new color. Perhaps I should have just left well enough alone.
    • And finally, I did not consider that this project would confront me with the ugly truth about my housekeeping talents and serve as confirmation that I have not properly cleaned the baseboards since some time in 2007.

I’m telling you, this project was like a month of therapy. With each stroke of the brush, I examined each and every corner of my life. I thought a lot about what sort of mental space I was in the last time I painted these walls, and did wonder if I painted while blindfolded and drinking wine.

I thought a lot about change in life. And how we resist it or long for it, think about it and plan for it, run away from it or towards it.

Sometimes change in life comes in the form of a slap “right up the side of your head.”  It comes as a wallop, knocking you right on your ass.

Others, it is a gradual awakening to a new reality. It is left up to you to push the change forward.

Sometimes, you long for it. Sometimes, you don’t.

But regardless of the origin, change comes. Change comes for everyone and everything. It is the nature of life.

So, I see life as a painting project. I picked my new color, jumped in, and realized I had no idea what I was doing. But, knowing that I had a half-painted wall that could not be undone, I decided to simply keep painting.

So, when life changes, whether by choice or design, just keep painting, one stroke at a time. If you do keep going, slow and steady, you may see that this fresh coat of paint on your life looks a little cleaner than the last one. You see that you are a better painter, having learned from your past mistakes and successes. You see the value of your hard work. Maybe you will learn to appreciate the new colors in your life, having a better understanding of how they got there.

The biggest thing to learn? That Life is like a painting project. Sometimes it has to get really messy before it reveals its beauty. Click To Tweet

Today, I ask you to keep painting. It may not be beautiful yet, but it will be. It will be someday, because of your perseverance.

A Fresh coat of paint.

Grab your brushes,