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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

 

christmas-tree

Each year our Christmas tree gains more decorations and loses any semblance of colour coordination.   But each year I love our tree a little more. It captures memories from long ago, with its frayed and faded decorations which once adorned the Christmas trees my husband and I gazed at as children and the collection of treasures made by our sons when their fingers were small and chubby and scribbly masterpieces were presented to us with enthusiastic smiles and lots of glue and glitter.   It’s a tree full of memories.

Christmas is a funny time which brings out both the best, and the worst, in many of us.  I think of it as the bipolar time of year.  When the mood is high, we have the warmth of community carol evenings, churches gathering treats for hampers for the needy, the giving and receiving of gifts and all of the champagne-popping feasting and festivity that happens when friends and family get together.  But then there’s the low mood moments – the pushing and shoving to be first in line at the shops, the road-rage to find a parking spot, the arguments in the supermarket, the stress about having too much to do, the anxiety of waiting to face a festering family conflict on Christmas Day and that lonely empty feeling that everyone else is having a much better time than you.

I witnessed both the highs and the lows last week on a brief trip to our local shopping mall.  There was the helpful man walking by in the congested car park who directed us to a free car space, just out of our vision.  He didn’t need to do this, but he did.  But then there was the lady who pushed into a queue ahead of us, making no eye contact, head held high.  The lady serving saw what had happened and pleasantly said to both of us:  “So who was next?”  The lady jumped in immediately, like a winning contestant on Family Feud punching her buzzer with: “I was”.  She reminded me of a footballer diving in for the winning try.  And I let her enjoy her victory.  When she left the shop assistant made a comment about the rudeness of shoppers at this time of year, and we laughed together. 

On the next leg of my journey I noticed a woman with a young daughter with her shopping trolley stuck on a busy escalator. She wasn’t strong enough to shift it and  the crowd grew rapidly behind her, building up like items on a conveyor belt.  There was lots of huffing and puffing and rolling of eyes and a few creative expletives were thrown around. Eventually one man found it in himself to assist her, but even then it was done in an angry and abrupt manner.  The lady’s small daughter looked on with large frightened eyes.  Meanwhile “Silent Night” played away in the background and the pretty lights twinkled. 

It’s interesting how stressed we become at Christmas.  There’s so much to do, so much to organise, and there’s this gnawing feeling deep inside that our lives have to look and feel perfect at this time of year.  Sometimes in all the striving, the worst in us can come to the surface:  the selfishness, the aggression, the Me-First attitude.  Just as we long for peace, joy and hope all we see are chaos, stress and misery staring right back at us. 

If you are feeling this way this Christmas, if that little knot of anxiety is starting to form and grow in your belly, can I encourage you to step back and remember what Christmas is really all about.  It’s not actually about overspending and eating lots of turkey.  It’s about the person we occasionally catch a glimpse of in the Nativity Scene or hear snippets about in a Christmas carol.  He doesn’t play a starring role in the whole Christmas extravaganza these days, but Jesus is the meaning and heart of Christmas. He came to bridge the gap between mankind and God and to model a life of sacrifice, service and compelling love.  

So please pause for just a moment this Christmas. If you have a long Christmas gift list be thankful for it.  My list is smaller than it once was, with a few key family members now missing.  If Christmas holds memories of absent family members and times long past, pause and remember them and don’t be ashamed of the tears.  Just let them fall as they heal and cleanse you.

If someone steals your parking spot, smile at them and don’t yell.   This will probably shock them more than your yelling will.  The other day I blew a kiss and smiled encouragingly at a man who cut me off in traffic.  You should have seen his face!  So much more satisfying for the soul than getting flustered.  Smile at strangers, help people when you can and give someone who really needs it an anonymous gift.  

Breathe and look around you.  Buy simpler gifts and serve simpler food if the effort of creating perfection is impacting your mental health.  It won’t matter.  You’ll be more relaxed and have more fun that way and that’s what people will notice.  Even if your house isn’t pristine and perfect, Christmas can still be wonderful.  I hope that whatever Christmas looks like for you this year, whatever memories and longing it stirs up, that you will be warmed by the true Christmas spirit  – the flame of God’s unconditional love and the light of peace which surpasses all understanding.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

" ... because of the tender mercy of our God,
     by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
  to shine on those living in darkness
     and in the shadow of death,
 to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

 

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It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  ~Vita Sackville-West

One of my old shoe boxes became something special for my seven-year old son this week.   He had a school project to create a ‘Me Box’ – a collection of all the things that are important to him, including photos of people he loves,  and toys and trinkets representing his favourite possessions and treasured memories.

It has been intriguing watching him collect precious objects for his shoe box.    The first item was a family photo.    He then created his own collage featuring Captain Underpants and his favourite Star Wars characters.   Next came a plastic figure of Albert Einstein because he ‘invented the theory of relativity’ and my son admires his ‘great brain’.    Next came a sea shell collected from Hyams Beach near Huskisson where we often holiday, and along with the shell came the memories of the fine white sand, crystal clear water and playful dolphins who often swim beside us.    He found a photo of a close friend at a birthday party, smiles encrusted with chocolate cake, and then requested some photos of his ‘Poppa’ who now watches him from heaven.    I found a photo of Dad trout fishing, and another of him training some traffic engineers in Shanghai.   Cameron likes to tell everyone proudly that ‘my Poppa invented the first traffic light system’.    

I’m sure Cameron’s ‘Me Box’ will soon be overflowing with special memories.    Watching him place the items lovingly into the shoe box made me wonder what I would put in a ‘Me Box’ of my own.   What would you put in yours?  

I’d follow my son’s example and reach for the happy family photo, and Poppa would be there too, as I miss him every day.   Would there be room in a little shoe box for all the memories I hold dear?   Perhaps there would be room for the yellowing air ticket from my first overseas adventure, the pink sea shell from our sultry honeymoon in Fiji, or the grubby bullet cartridge a Turkish man handed me in the trenches at Gallipoli when I stood overwhelmed by the tragedy of war.

Yet there are so many memories that exist only in my head.     There is the little rustic cabin near Oberon where Dad used to take me away fishing.    There is our old caravan with the Jaffa orange stripe which was our home for weeks in summer on our many family holidays at the Banana Bowl Caravan Park at Coffs Harbour.    I can still picture my favourite horses who became my friends as I grew up – Dolly, Sandy, Fred, Snow Flake and Benny.    There is the apartment I shared in ‘Burton Lodge’ in Putney, London, and the first apartment I bought in Sydney with the tasteless orange kitchen benches and balcony next to the gum trees where I loved to sit and read.    There are mentors and role models whom I admired and who added something significant to my life.    There are so many old friends who I shared life with for a time until distance,  time or misunderstanding parted us.    With every happy memory saved, I would also have to toss in a sad one.

As I reflect I realise that I’d need a box as big as a house to fit in my trinkets and memorabilia.    Thankfully, I’ve discovered another way of creating a ‘me box’, of packaging my thoughts and memories so that others can peer inside, lift out and examine any item of interest, and tuck them neatly away again.    Writing is the perfect way to create a ‘me box’, capturing the little scraps of our life, so important, yet so easily lost.    The words form a strong web and hold our past, our pain and our lessons learnt together, long after time has closed its door.     The written word preserves what is precious to us, away from the threat of our own forgetfulness and the decay of time.   Writing is an opportunity to cherish and make sense of all the faded snap shots of our memories,  the pain that is still raw, and the hard-earned wisdom we have gathered along the way.

 I also believe that the contents of the ‘Me Box’ are not thrown together haphazardly by fate or accident, but each item is a significant part of the much bigger picture which makes up our life.   Each memory, person, favourite book, and even the grief and pain suffered along the way,  give form and structure to this bigger picture.   The messy contents of our life are formed into an exquisite pattern and design, far beyond our imagination.   It is often only in our latter years when we take a moment to stand back and take a good look, that we realise a master craftsman has been at work all along, taking the mess and jumble of our life, and creating something of  rare and exquisite beauty.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good….   Romans 8:28

 

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