JOY IN CHRISTMAS TIMES LIKE THESE

 It’s always a song that saves me when I’ve completely lost the point.

     I’ve always thought of myself as a creative introvert. Joy was not something to be hunted, but found in the process.  When the pandemic first hit and our walls got closer and our circles got smaller, I was in heaven.  I had an excuse to fold in on myself and go deep. I could do nothing but create, meditate, pray, and think. I had a plan. I wasn’t afraid. I was going to live in my studio and come out the other side with some amazing stuff. I could also use the solitude to get closer to my God without feeling like I was avoiding social interaction.

It felt like a cosmic deepening and shift. Everyone was in the same place and focusing.  We were all waking up. A time of hope and rebuilding, personally and globally. I was an explosion of expression. So much novel territory to reflect. I could stay informed and get involved. There were so many opportunities to give.

   That all worked for about 6 months. Who ever thought we’d all still be here 8 months later?  I hit the wall. I had created and didn’t want to do it anymore. I had given to food banks and food pantries and charities and the homeless and still the yawning chasm of need I saw on the news never narrowed.  The world was not only waking up, it appeared to be burning down. The need was endless. I tried every Bible app and meditation to put a new fire in my spiritual journey. I took walking meditations.  But, my joy enthusiasm were gone. Watching the news revealed not hope, but terror. That all worked for the first 3 months. But then, I wasn’t joyful. I was exhausted and scared all of the time. I didn’t want to do anything at all. I had poured everything I had to give out and it wasn’t working. Reading the bible wasn’t working. Praying wasn’t working.  Solitude wasn’t working. The things that were so rare and gave me so much joy pre- pandemic, didn’t do it after pandemic.

   After a while, you just want to see someone’s entire face, without the mask. You want a hug or a smile. You want to see your aging parents or be able to travel to see your kids, or just travel with your spouse, because ya’ll dreamed and planned for it your whole lives.  You want to collaborate in person, not via Zoom.   

Lo and Behold, there was Dave Grohl:

   It’s times like these,

   You learn to live again.

   It’s times like these you learn to love again

   It’s times like these you give and give again

   It’s times like these, time and time again.

Where do we find hope that isn’t dreaming? The regular reassurance we need in a time when nothing is regular, reassuring or normal?

    I realized that it’s not the big things that give  us hope and strength; it’s the little ones. My joy needs a scaffolding of daily touchstones to give it meaning and purpose, to foster hope. We learn new traditions. We hone in on smaller events.   We keep loving and giving. Meals with our family. Learning to cook and bake and do power yoga. Long walks with our significant other. Our furry family members , who we can still hug!

Christmas is still coming! O holy Night is still a miracle of meaning and melody that takes my breath away every single time. A human being wrote that!  Or, if you prefer, Mariah Carey is still singing All I Want for Christmas. Our friends and family are still there, and they still love us, even if we can’t all be in the same room.

   Especially when everything is turned on its head, basic isn’t bad, even spiritually. There is an overwhelming array of Bible verses, Bible apps, Bible stories, but these days, for me, the comforting repetition of two verses gives me the strength and grounding I need.   I start and  surrender my day  with Psalm 31. It  even has a little Step 3 prayer in it: My times are in your hands... Into your hands I commit my Spirit.  To clear the day away at the end of the day, I use Psalm 91. For me, they work, because I can count on them, just like I can rely on the Fall leaves, the sunrise and sunset, the continued love of my family and friends. Faith in things unseen is one thing, but we can also have faith in the small things we do see.

    Every December, I pick a phrase that I aspire to live fully in the coming year.  My phrase for 2021 and  the remains of 2020 is Grounded in Joy, thanks to Foo Fighters and the pandemic. I discovered that passion is a lifeforce, but it can drain all of one’s strength and energy,  if it isn’t grounded in something less ephemeral. If I live entirely in my head and heart, my feet won’t be rooted in reality. And it’s loving what is right here and now, finding joy in the present moment that gives me strength, grounding me in joy. Reach and hope for the stars, but keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Reality is our friend.

What to Pray When Your Prayers aren’t Working.

Sometimes, I’m a -Whac -A- Mole too slow to avoid the hammer.Obstacles and challenges are things I usually leap and dodge, like hurdles. But, if I can’t see God’s direction for a sustained time, I can become exhausted, confused. I can spend months not wanting to get up off the mat, because I don’t know in which direction to go.

When my prayers seem like they are hitting an invisible ceiling and bouncing back to me, I pray the Ho’oponopono Prayer:

I am sorry.

Please forgive me.

I love you.

I thank You.

It works. In this simple prayer, I assume Jesus is filling in the gaps, and interceding on my behalf or on behalf of the person I’m praying for. This gives me peace and is the simplest way for me to place myself, my loved ones, and even the world itself, in God’s hands. It becomes a mantra I can repeat throughout the day. It can be said to God, myself, or prayed over a person or situation.

I don’t know what I don’t know. He is God and I am not. That may be a point of frustration, but it’s also where the mystery, glory, and miracles reside.