Are YOU at the Beginning of a New Vision for 2016?

The End -or- the Beginning?

SCANdalous-Recollections

 

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Images of Light and Dreams

I’ll sing a farewell song as 2015 comes to a close. My writing has appeared in many publications this year and I am thankful so many publishers, editors and readers found my work worthy of their time, efforts and reading enjoyment. Most of all, I am thankful for the shared time we spent together in 2015. And, I am so proud that I shared the work of 6 writers here on the blog this year!

The symbolic image I envision for the New Year, 2016, just ahead, is the

KALEIDOSCOPE

 

A Kaleidoscope is symbolic of Constant CHANGE.

I’m making an INTENTION to VIEW life filled with BEAUTY, COLOR and extraordinary PATTERNS of light and dreams.  This is my INTENTION for 2016.  I’ll be writing articles throughout the year with the magic of a Kaleidoscope in my mind as I write.

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My Literary INTENTIONS for 2016:

Publication of my book of memoir/essays: 

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

 

Publication of my new book of poems:

Eclipse: Hands Folded in Prayer

 

Continued publication of my writing in periodicals, literary journals and inclusion in books by other authors.

 

New articles by me and featured Guest Blogs with special topics in the Humanities, Arts and Faith.

SCANdalous-Recollections Blog just entered the 2nd year.

Walking by Inner Vision Blog entered its 7th year.

 

Before we say “good bye 2015” I want to share where the year ended here at SCANdalous-Recollections Blog:

 

December 29, 2014 was my first POST on SCANdalous-Recollections Blog!

2015_Viewers on the blog: 2,342

2015_My Home Page had 442 visits.

2015_Articles published and written by Lynda McKinney Lambert: 33

2015_My most popular article had 951 views: https://llambert363.wordpress.com/?s=Kaleidoscope

2015_ I featured 6 Guest Bloggers this year. Each of them wrote 1 article.

2015_The most Popular Guest Blog Article is by Beckie Ann Hurter:

https://llambert363.wordpress.com/?s=United+by+Stories

2015_ Search Engine searches that found the blog: 1,051

2015_Face Book Searches:  318

See you in 2016

with

A new VISION for the YEAR!

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You can read my 5  previous articles on the Symbols of Advent by clicking on the links below.

*** Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:

Go To Week 1 – the Candle of HOPE

*** Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)

The Candle of Preparation (Bethlehem candle)

*** Lind to Week 3 – The Candle of Joy, or the Shepherd’s CandleWeek 2:
 *** Link to Week 4 – The Angel Candle:
*** Link to Week 5 – The Jesus Candle:
*** Link to my story, “A Western Pennsylvania Christmas”

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Lynda’s 2 blogs:

“Walking by Inner Vision” Link:  Walking by Inner Vision Blog
“SCANdalous – Recollections” Link:  SCANdalous – Recollections Blog
Contact Lynda:  riverwoman@zoominternet.net
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Lynda’s Bio

Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.

Skip to Walking by Inner Vision Journal:

In 2015,  Lynda wrote  30 Writing Assignments and Lessons to help you begin to write your own life story.

Symbol of Advent – The Angel Candle

Symbols of Advent

Part 4- Week 4

The Angel Candle is purple!

Also known as  the Candle of Love

by Lynda McKinney Lambert

 

GET READY!

LIGHT the 3rd  candle of ADVENT

A miraculous world-changing event will take place.

For a Christmas delight, click on the link:  Angels we have heard on high

 

I Believe in Angels!

 It is nearly Christmas once again.

I am listening to Christmas music as I write. I love to listen to the great songs  that are  a celebration of a miraculous event – the birth of Jesus.

 

Christmas celebrations of past years linger in little snippets, layered  and overlapped  like  Christmas melodies playing one by one.  Each Christmas carol I listen to brings forth more memories and more pictures of a family member, friends, and neighbors.  It also brings forth memories and pictures of our walk with the Lord over the years. The miracle of his coming into our own hearts as we turned around one day, and answered his call to “come.”  I answered that call to come, forty-two years ago.  My life turned around, never to be the same again.  How about you?

Matthew 11:28-29New American Standard Bible (NASB)

28 “Come to Me, all [a]who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Blog_2014_IBelieve_Angel_PHOTO

“I Believe in Angels”

 

Folks often say Christmas is for children,

skating on ice, building  castles of snow.

Oh, I believe Christmas is a holy birthday!

a time to sit by a warm fire, sing holiday songs.

I believe in shepherds!  and angels!

and Three Kings who delivered priceless gifts.

 

It’s a joy to be with friends, to give  gifts.

Adults once again become like children,

who look out  the window to see the first snow.

The Ancients anticipated this birthday

the celebration that  began with heavenly songs

when the birth of Messiah was announced by angels.

 

The holy birth was shared with shepherds and angels,

long before mass marketing, tinsel, and glitzy gifts,

The promised Child would heal earth’s children.

Perhaps the plains were deep with snow

on the night of His miraculous birth.

Yes, I believe in angel songs!

 

In the darkest winter night, listen for the songs

sung by a choir of angels.

The greatest heavenly gift

came  to walk with earth’s children.

As I light the Advent wreath I look out at falling snow-

and remember the reason behind this ancient birthday.

 

On bleak December days, consider His birthday.

Listen in the quiet night for angel songs.

The birth of Messiah, announced by the angels,

is the reason for exchanging gifts.

I believe Christ’s birthday is truly for children

like me and you who walk in a world of wintry snow.

 

Every child knows the delight of playing in snow

the joy of receiving gifts in celebration of a birthday-

I believe in birthday songs!

I’m a  child once again as I listen for angels

songs and remember the wise men who brought gifts.

the Anointed Gift from God – I believe in children!

 

*** by Lynda McKinney Lambert.  Copyright 1991, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

 

Blog_2014_Ibelieve_AngelStarSkyPHOTO

I wrote the poem, “I Believe in Angels” during a difficult  time in my life.  I wrote it as a Christmas message and sent it out to friends and family. Even in the darkest moments of our life,  when we seem to be alone, lost, or confused, Jesus is with us.  I can tell you that for sure because I made a decision to follow Jesus in October 1973.  I’ve had a lifetime of encounters with the Divine since that day.

 

May you find the truth of the Angels announcement in your own life.

Luke 2:10-11King James Version (KJV)

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

 

Fear Not!  

 
Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.
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You can read my three previous articles on the Symbols of Advent by clicking on the links below;

 

*** Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:

Go To Week 1 – the Candle of HOPE

*** Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)

The Candle of Preparation (Bethlehem candle)

*** Lind to Week 3 – The Candle of Joy, or the Shepherd’s CandleWeek 2:
*** Link to my story, “A Western Pennsylvania Christmas”

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Lynda’s 2 blogs:

“Walking by Inner Vision” Link:  Walking by Inner Vision Blog
“SCANdalous – Recollections” Link:  SCANdalous – Recollections Blog
Contact Lynda:  riverwoman@zoominternet.net
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Lynda’s Bio

Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.

Skip to Walking by Inner Vision Journal:

In 2015,  Lynda wrote  30 Writing Assignments and Lessons to help you begin to write your own life sotry.

Symbols of Advwent – The Candle of Joy

Symbols of Advent

Part 3- Week 3

The Candle of Joy

Also known as  the Shepherd Candle

 by Lynda McKinney Lambert

 

GET READY!

LIGHT the 3rd  candle of ADVENT

A miraculous world-changing event will take place.

For a Christmas delight, click on the link below to listen to a Christmas song.  JOY  to you today.

 

Listen to _While Shepherds Watched Their Flock by Night”

Kings Choir performance

One thing I know for sure is this:

God comes us  in ordinary and everyday events.

 

We can be visited in unexpected times and in unique ways.  I have experiences visitations and deliverance many times in my seventy-two years of life. I bet you have, too! Pay attention to how God comes to YOU in the mundane activities of your life.

Begin to have a consciousness of God’s presence in the ordinary!

For the birth of Jesus, historical documents and texts show that  God prepared this event in advance.  We saw that preparation in last weeks Symbol of Advent – the Candle of Preparation.  Week 2 _Candle of Preparation

 

For Week 3 of Advent, we see that  sent ANGELS  to make an announcement to  LOCAL SHEPHERDS as they were working at night in the fields near Bethlehem.   Just another silent night in the fields!  An ORDINARY night, so they believed.  But then, the MIRACULOUS came to visit them. It would become a night that the  entire world would remember. Even now, over 2,000 years after the event people all over the world stop to remember it.

Blog_2014_PHOTO_Shepherds

A miraculous visitation of ANGELS, sent from the Divine, happened without warning.  The humble shepherds  were summoned to leave their fields.   The destination of their God-directed trip was a stable in Bethlehem  where the shepherds would see a newborn baby.

My extensive background in art and art history leads me to look for a connecting thread from one event in history to another. Historical context is what I seek to understand contemporary events and life in the 21st Century.

 

The one thread connecting every character in this ADVENT story is that each person was required to make an unexpected, unplanned, trip from one place to another.  Every single one!

I feel the  underlying loneliness that underlies  this miraculous story – everyone had to give up something that was familiar  and travel to an unfamiliar place to do unfamiliar things, with unfamiliar people.

Travel – Journey – Go – Trip – Excursion – Passage – Flight

 

Mary and Joseph had to leave their home at a time when no pregnant woman would choose to be going anywhere on a trip – especially by foot and by donkey. Yet, the trip was mandated by the LAW  and they had no choice but to go.

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When I was nineteen, I gave birth to my first child.  Eighteen months later, the second daughter was born. At age twenty-five, our third daughter was born. For all of those births, I was living in a comfortable home with my husband.  I had a local doctor, and when the time came, he delivered our daughters in our local hospital just 2 miles from our home. And, I remember how frightening it was – every time – when the pains of labor were intense enough that I was bent over double, unable to even stand up straight and I knew it was time to leave for the hospital and give birth.

OH, how did young Mary bear the long days of rugged travels when her body was heavy with her baby boy?

How did Mary  straddle the back of a donkey and ride those many miles with her bones and her muscles aching and cramping?

How did Joseph bear it to see her pain during the long journey to Bethlehem?

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Dear Mary,

Oh, Mary! As a mother living in the comfort of my own time in history, my  heart is sad when I remember  that you did not even have a warm bed or the comfort of your family  that night in a barn, in a city that had no room for you. You must have been so frightened – your first birth, your unfamiliar circumstances, your willingness to be obedient to the visitation you had from the Divine.

Mary, you knew you were carrying God in your womb, but how you must have wondered “why” you had to be so far from h home, so lonely, and in such a strange  place as a barn that night.

Mary, when I need strength to meet the demands of my ordinary life, I remember you.  Your courage, your love, and your obedience to God are more than enough to bring me through in victory from very inconvenience, every strange journey, every lonely day, and night.  Mary, I hold  you in my heart today as I write this letter to you, across the centuries.

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I know that in art through the ages, in songs, and now, in contemporary depictions of the Nativity, we see Angels, the Holy Family, Shepherds, and Three Kings all there together with the animals. Yet, when I read the ancient scriptures that record this event, what we see in the depictions of it are not at all accurate.

The nostalgic Christmas card scene has been pieced together over the years into a fantasy world that never existed in that way.  The centuries of lore have put together a very odd mixture of Christian history mingled with pagan practices, ideas, superstitions, and myths.  And, then add to this mixture, the cultural and racial confusion that exists to add to the fantasy.

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One evening in October 1997, I heard Him whisper to me, “Come away, my beloved!” I turned, and walked towards Him, and as I walked, I remembered the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man (woman); he bids him (her) to come and die.”  Like one of the shepherd’s in the fields near Bethlehem, I too became a shepherd who came to see, the infant who would one day be known as “The Good Shepherd.”

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There were only a very few worshippers around the manger in Bethlehem – just a handful of shepherds.  Oh, yes, the Three Kings were on the way, most likely, but it would be quite a long time before they traveled the distance and bowed before the little boy.

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Luke 2:7

“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

A lonely birth. There were no midwives, no assistance to Mary at all. The Bible doesn’t even mention that Joseph was present. Perhaps he was, but if he was typical of first-time fathers, he would have been of little help to Mary. She was basically on her own.

 


Unlikely Testimony

Luke 2:8-20 describes the experience of the shepherds when Jesus was born. Think about that for a moment. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. That’s intriguing because shepherds were among the lowest and most despised social groups.

The very nature of shepherds’ work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel’s society. They couldn’t maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts, yet these shepherds, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!

More significant, they came to see Him the night he was born. No one else did. Though the shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though “all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (v. 18), not one other person came to see firsthand.

We are left to wonder when we search the historical, scripture accounts – about the shepherds.  We don’t   how they knew where to go. I imagine they just came into Bethlehem and began walking about, asking, “Do you know where a baby has been born tonight?” The important thing for us to know is that they came!  They came because angels had visited them while they were taking care of their flocks at night. They had a visit from God, and they left their fields and followed the direction of the angels to go find the baby.  The shepherds became that night, the first Christian evangelists. They went out from the manger, and they told others what they had found.

***

Well, now that I have talked my way through the meaning of the shepherds, I can better understand Psalm 28. (NIV) and, here is where I find the connection between “joy” and the journey of the shepherds. I wish you a joyous journey to the Christ Child tonight, too.

 

 My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

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As you complete this essay, you will LOVE the music and video I have placed here for you today – Check here!

 Come, Let us adore him, Christ the Lord

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Link to Week 1 – The Candle of Hope at this link:

Go To Week 1 – the Candle of HOPE

Link to Week 2 – The Candle of Preparation (The Bethlehem Candle)

The Candle of Preparation (Bethlehem candle)

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Note: Photos by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.

This essay was written by Lynda McKinney Lambert.  Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Please share it with your friends! Thanks!

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Next week:

Look for Week 4 – The Candle of Love (The  Angel Candle).

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Lynda McKinney Lambert is the author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. She authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.  She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
 Currently, she has two books in development for publication in 2016.

Remembering Grandma Farm

 

NOTE:  With many thanks to my creative friend Lynda Lambert for asking me to be one of her “guest bloggers,” I happily share with you a post from my Word walk blog.  The following memoir and poem comprised a Word walk post on May 14, 2014.  The accompanying photos of my grandmother’s lace pieces were taken this summer by my sister, Mary Elizabeth Fanyo, of Colorado.  As you enjoy looking at the photos, remember that my grandmother never crocheted from a pattern–except the patterns that were in her artistic mind.

 Blog15_SCAN_Massa_LacePiece5

Remembering Grandma Farm on the 122nd Anniversary of Her Birth:

 May 17, 1892-February 27, 1988

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Photography by Mary Fanyo

 

 

At times when I am walking home from Metro Market with a bag full of groceries in my right arm, other groceries in my backpack, and my left hand on my Leader Dog’s harness handle—I  think of my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Liza) Massa, who too frequently walked the three miles from Klondyke, Indiana, to the nearest town of Clinton to purchase groceries.  While I am walking just a few blocks home, I ponder the load my grandmother carried for a few miles.  Since she lived on the small farm at the curve in the gravel road in Klondyke, so many of us called this remarkably strong woman “Grandma Farm.”

 

Born in Levone, Italy, on May 17, 1892, my grandmother quickly matured into a very young woman whose dreams looked toward a new life in the United States of America.  Having had a not too easy life in Northern Italy where she was raised by her peddler father and an unkind stepmother, Liza worked for a ship captain and his family before she and her dreams set sail.  In 1910, my grandmother took the SS La Savoie from La Havre, France, to New York.  The story is that aboard this ship, she danced across the Atlantic Ocean.  At Ellis Island, Liza became “Elizabeth.”  My grandmother ventured onward to the Midwest; soon after arriving in Indiana, Elizabeth kept her promise and married a tall, thin coal miner (who was also from Levone) on June 29, 1910.  James and Elizabeth Massa had six children.  After the arrival of sons Charles (Charlie) in 1911, James (Jimmy, my father) in 1913, and John (Johnny) in 1916—my grandmother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Rosemary in 1925; but sadly, Aunt Rosemary died in infancy.  Then, my grandmother had two more children—Jules in 1926 and Katherine Mae in 1937.  Besides raising her five surviving children, cooking, gardening, working on the farm, keeping a meticulously clean farmhouse and outhouse—my grandmother learned English and loved to talk with family and her many friends.  Both of my grandparents were truly proud to become citizens of the United States.

 

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_Lace4The period which demonstrated her greatest strength and her greatest worries was during World War II when four blue stars were proudly displayed on a window of the farmhouse.  Yes, all four of my grandmother’s sons served in the United States Army, in Europe, during WW II.  Throughout those long years, I cannot begin to imagine how many prayers and rosaries my grandmother must have said nor how many tears she must have shed.  Most fortunately, all four of her sons returned safely home after serving their country.  Soon after the homecomings, the years of enjoying grandchildren—ten of us–ensued.

 

I can still picture my grandmother wearing her dark royal blue and white dress and donning a hat for her daughter’s wedding on June 16, 1956.  A few years later, in 1960, what a celebration our family had for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary!  Grandma even wore a corsage for the dinner at Binole’s Restaurant, followed by a reception at Aunt Kathy’s house.

 

When I was in high school, my grandparents left the farm with its grape arbor and front-porch swing to move to a nice house with indoor plumbing—a house just across the very small town of Blanford where my parents, my sister, and I lived.

 

Whether in Klondyke playing cards with her good friends Julia and Dominic or in Blanford visiting with relatives at a family reunion, Grandma Farm knew how to have a good and happy time with company around her.  Although life was not always easy for my grandmother, she had a way of finding and sharing good cheer and keeping up with modern times.  When her beloved daughter Kathy and her family moved to New Jersey, my grandmother—with Italian salami and brick cheese in her train case—flew in a jet to the East Coast to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and the three grandchildren—as well as visit our nation’s capital.  When my sister was married in 1975, my grandmother attended her first wedding reception at a hotel.  Throughout the years, Grandma Farm wrote a letter each week to her son Jules who still lives in California.  Watching the news on television, reading The Daily Clintonian newspaper, talking with her friends and family at her home or on the telephone—Grandma kept in touch.  Besides her ready laugh, she had a forceful voice and was not at all hesitant about giving advice.  Although Grandma continued to speak Italian at times, she was perfectly adept at speaking English, with a little Italian accent.  Not even once did I hear her talk about returning to the “Old Country”—her family, friends, and home were in America, the country of which she was a proud citizen.

 

Although I most remember my grandmother’s apple pies, apple turnovers, and yellow cake—I am gratefully surrounded by her artistry.  When she came to the United States from Northern Italy, my grandmother brought with her—only in her mind—the skills and patterns for remarkable crocheting.  Not only did Grandma Farm crochet afghans for all her children and their spouses, grandchildren, and others—Grandma crocheted from thread exquisite lace pieces.  Called “doilies” by some, my grandmother’s lace pieces numbered into the hundreds and were of many patterns and sizes.  Her lace pieces would rank her as a textile artist today.  Although the majority of the lace pieces were white or ecru, some thread which she worked into her patterns were pink, blue, and green.  Even though the lace pieces were traditionally starched, I still use her lace pieces, but do not starch them.  Her lace pieces of varying shapes were made to adorn the tops of tables, end tables, bookcases, and my piano.  While many of her designs are floral patterns, others are geometric patterns.  Having these treasured lace pieces in various rooms of my townhouse allows me to keep warm memories of my very artistic grandmother who—despite her arthritis—could crochet with yarn or thread faster and more precisely than you could ever imagine.

 

One day, a number of years ago, after the death of my grandmother at almost 96 years, I began pondering the lace pieces that were around me and thought of the following poem as a tribute to her textile artistry.  Blog15_SCAN_Massa_Lace2

At a local copy shop, I had note cards made with this poem on the front of the  card and gave sets of these cards to relatives.  This poem has special meaning for me, and I reprise it here to honor the 122nd anniversary of Elizabeth Massa’s birth.

 

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_LacePiece7_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lace Pieces

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

More than just dust-catchers,

 

these snowflake look-alikes—

 

lace pieces from the Old Country—

 

become starched artistic monuments

 

which once could have dressed angels

 

at the Sistine Chapel,

 

now rest pristine on tables

 

to gather soft memories of

 

hands that crocheted them,

 

hands that starched them,

 

piece by piece—

 

not for famous chapels,

 

but for family hope chests.

 

 

God bless all on our Massa Family Tree and all on your family tree, too!

Alice

 

May 14, 2014, Wednesday—the eleventh month birthday

of Grandma Farm’s great-great-granddaughter Lanie

 

* * *

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_LacePiece7

Biography:  Alice Jane-Marie Massa

After earning two master’s degrees and teaching for 25 years, Alice Jane-Marie Massa retired from teaching writing and public speaking at a technical college.

Alice invites you to visit her blog:  http://alice13wordwalk.wordpress.com, where she posts her poetry, essays, short stories, recipes, or memoirs each Wednesday.  Her writings on Wordwalk frequently focus on her guide dogs, her rural hometown, her Italian family heritage, and holidays.  Being the current president of Behind Our Eyes also fills hours of her retirement.  Away from her desk, Alice most enjoys long walks with her third Leader Dog (Zoe), container gardening, and the television program Jeopardy.

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Copyright 2015.  Featured  GUEST BLOGGER on

SCANdalous-Recollections Blog

28 November 2015 – by Lynda McKinney Lambert.

All rights reserved by the author, Alice Jane-Marie Massa.

 

 

Happy SCANdalous Birthday!

Send off the FIREWORKS

LIGHT UP THE SKY-

This week  is our HAPPY SCANdalous BIRTHDAY Celebration

 

 

ONE YEAR of publishing essays  is a landmark so let’s CELEBRATE!.

Let’s take a LOOK BACK to what I was  thinking about one year ago as I wrote the first blog article on the new blog.

The FIRST  article I wrote and  published is

“When I Begin my Day with Mozart.”

Blog2014_Photo_Mozart
When I Begin my Day with Mozart…an essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert

I did not know at the time I wrote it that it would launch my writing into a new career. One year later I am a “freelance writer.”

The essay was published in LIGHT Magazine, Sept/October issue, 2015.  This magazine is published by Christian Record, PO Box 6097, Lincoln, NB 68596.  (I will post the original essay below my comments here so you can read it.)

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Some STATS on Scandalous-Recollections at the one year anniversary:

Most popular post this first year is “Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams.”  777 views

I wrote this story, originally, as a GUEST BLOGGER, for Amy Bovaird’s blog.

Here is the link if you want to read it:

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

How many visitors did we have in the first twelve months?  1,308 visitors

How many VIEWS did my posts have?   2,247 views

 

 

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Essay:  When I Begin my Day with Mozart

(First published on November 11, 2014)

Today:

I put the morning coffee on to brew and then reached   for a CD of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat. After I carefully placed it in the CD player.  pushed the  “play” button on the remote  and my Bose player began filling  the kitchen with music. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo – Allegro began. I listened.  A piano and a violin began to gracefully move  me to listen closely  to this  composition, written  centuries ago. The lyrical melody  begins and I close my eyes  awhile before I continue writing my essay. There is something compelling about Mozart’s music; it gently  urges  me to stop whatever I am doing.  The music  takes me back in time – but not the time in the Eighteenth century when the music was first performed for a royal audience.  It is  my own time,  near the end of the Twentieth century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal  life. While listening to this music,  my mind is taken on a journey far away from this present  chilly, gray November day. My  musings  create layers of memories.

As I begin writing the opening thoughts of this essay,  I enjoy  my  cup of fresh coffee. I spiced it up with some hazelnut creamer. The days and years of past times  come visiting me  once again as I slowly recall  my first exciting days in Austria.  Yes! It  was just  Mozart and me.

Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg, Austria

When Mozart first performed this original composition on April 29, 1784, in Vienna, there was a surprising bit of information that came out of the  original  performance.   It’s  a  unique story  that lies behind the music I am listening to today.   In the audience, that day was  Emperor Joseph II.  As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking discovery.  He had eventually  noticed that  Mozart was actually looking at blank sheets of “music” instead of the traditional written music that a musician would use.    It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind. He had to play it from his memory and did not want the audience to  know he had no actual sheet music. Therefore, He put the blank sheets on the piano and began to play that day. You can read about this and other interesting facts about Mozart by visiting this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Sonata_No._32_(Mozart)

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My first trip to Europe was  in the summer of 1991. The trip was a gift I gave myself  to celebrate a goal I had completed in May.  I  finished my MFA degree  at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Soon after my graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning. My arrival  was  just in time to join in the celebration festivities  for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. My month-long visit was filled with special art exhibitions in palaces and museums, all focused on  some aspect of Mozart’s life or his music.   I attended as many concerts as I could, and viewed special exhibits of art that month. OH, I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and  death house, and stood  inside the churches where he performed for masses.  I attended the Mozart Mass at the Dom du Salzburg and basked in the sweet aroma of swirling,  smoky incense as the priests entered the sanctuary.  I even found the grave sites of  his family members and his wife, Costanza.   Like most tourists, I purchased the famous   Mozart candy, Mozart t-shirts and sent out lots of  Mozart postcards to all my friends and family.

I know you must want to know what took me there that month.  I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by a former professor. We students  were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings.  I was so excited to be there and was prolific in my art adventure.  I created a  body of work on the theme of Mozart’s death and  music.  I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made many ink sketches on white paper. I chose to do all the artworks black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport  them back to the US.  After I returned  back home, I put my  work together and it became a traveling art exhibition. The mixed-media works on paper appeared in museums and galleries.  I called my show,“Memory of a Requiem.”

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     Ten years after my first trip,  some of my poems, sketches,  and reflections from that experience were crafted into a book, “Concerti:  Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book was published by KotaPress.

***

Prior to the  trip to Austria, I was in graduate school pursuing my MFA degree.  I worked diligently during those two intense years doing  research, creating art,  and teaching. At times, I  was so  exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest and some meals, I often  refreshed  my mind by listening to Mozart’s music. I was particularly  drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness.   My visit to the city of  Mozart’s  birth and death was a natural choice.

***

While in Austria, I made an intention for my own life.  I realized that I fell in love with Austria, the artworks,  architecture,  the people I met, and the music of the masterful composers who lived in Austria over the centuries. I intended to order my life in such a way that I would spend my summers there every year. Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I would choose to live.

Eventually, my own professional teaching career began when I  accepted  a tenure-track position at Geneva College,  a private college in western Pennsylvania.  This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time as a student myself. As a new  Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, I  quickly realized there was no study program for  students that provided the opportunity to study in  Austria or Germany.   I proposed to create such a course and the following year I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I would have the joy of bringing students to Austria every summer. I taught a course called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”

My students came from  across America

to work in a studio in a small village in the Alps.

Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at  the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. I had the joy of sharing this magnificent country with my students every summer for a  month-long sojourn. On  long weekends, we traveled together through  Germany, Czech Republic, and  Italy.  We climbed mountains; we  stood on a mountain peak and gazed  down in amazement at the eagles lying beneath us.  On one such sunny afternoon,  I  locked  arms with one of the students and we  skipped down a high   Alpine path.  We stopped only when we ran out of energy and we bent over double,  laughing together,  gasping for breath.   We wrote poems and stories  in our  journals; we wrote about our own experiences.  Art was the focus of all we did. We  created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our sketchbooks and journals to the  streets and mountain pathways. Together, we trekked our way through the new places we found. Later,  our sketchbooks and journals would provide us with information and memories to work with once we were back home and working on new projects.

***

Gradually, over the years,  I began to realize that the seeds of what we love become the life we live when we set our intentions in that direction.   On that first visit, I had set something in motion that would become my life journey at a later time.  It would be years, though, before I would understand it all. 

Now, sitting here in my office typing up this essay, I listen closely as the final piece of music comes to a conclusion. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other – they are a good match!

If you would like to enjoy this lovely work of art by Mozart, you can listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-KDzAYOroI

The Violin Sonata continues  and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving of playfully  through the house in what seems like a race with the violin.  I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow.  At other moments, the violin and piano seem to me to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. . At times, if sounds like the piano takes the lead, yet, this is not the case. The violin weaves through the many notes and in the end they are one.  I listen as applause breaks out immediately as the piano and violin strike the final note together.

This day will take me on other, more mundane  journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, take my husband to the hospital for a check-up, and edit this essay tonight. At special moments throughout my day, I just might hear a few bars of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat  Oh,  I hope so!  Oh, I hope…at the end of this day the music and I are on the same note.

_____

Essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Visit my website for additional information at: “Walking by Inner Vision”

 

 

 

 

 

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

“Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams”

by Lynda McKinney Lambert, 2015

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Note:  The first version of this essay was first published on “Amy’s Adventures Blog, by Amy Bovaird,

April 24, 2015.  Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to create a guest blog for you.

You can VISIT me at Amy’s Blog by clicking here:

 http://amybovaird.com/friday-friends-spotlight-on-lynda-lambert/

**********

 

“For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ~

**********

Patti and I walked down the old, narrow stone path on an April afternoon in the 1950s. Our pastel plaid dresses fluttered slightly in the soft afternoon breeze.  We removed our cotton sweaters, draped them carelessly over our arm for the journey back home. Like most days in April in western Pennsylvania it had been raining in the morning that day. A few hours later, the day took a turn and now it had warmed up significantly since our early morning walk to school. We felt happy because there was not a rain cloud in sight as we took our time walking along our familiar path. Now we meandered at an easy pace in the opposite direction.  School was over for the day and there was no reason to walk faster.   We walked a short distance and then we were standing beside a large field.  The aroma coming from the thick blanket of woods violets slowed us down even more as we scanned the field. In a moment, without speaking to each other, we stepped lightly between the moistened deep green leaves that flourished in thick patches of weeds and flowers. We were absorbed at the moment, bent over the deep blue-violet blossoms and reached out to gather some dainty flowers.  One by one, we snapped the fragile, slender stems of the violets.  While we picked our violets with our right hand, we placed each one in the grasp of our left hand.  Our bear arms were hot as the late afternoon sunshine turned our pale skin bright pink. When our left had could hold no more violets, we stepped away from the field and continued our walk home where our Mother was waiting for us to return   we came into the 1920s frame house through the back door with our fists full of violets, she was delighted with our small gifts.  She went to her cupboard, got out two small glass jelly jars and put the bouquets in water to keep them fresh. Our floral  gifts remained on the windowsill in our kitchen.

***

This year I set my intentions on observing small details in nature.  The landscape is changing continuously.

I see crystal  drops of dew on tender new leaves in the meadow.  They are sprinkled with transparent silvery diamonds.   Another turn, and I am walking beside a field of dewy dark green leaves with little periwinkle flowers peeking through the moisture.

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I felt the velvet softness of Sumac branches. I looked at layers of last autumn’s leaves intermingled with shoots of new grass, and budding Hyacinths   Along the stone walk, I observed the red stalks of Peony bushes forging upwards through the moist earth.   Oh, Yes!  It’s Spring!

 ***

All these thoughts bring me to think about the beauty I have seen in a kaleidoscope. The word “kaleidoscope” has Greek roots.  It means “a form beautiful to see.”  I am compelled to ask you…

“When is the last time you have had a kaleidoscope in your hands with one eye focused through the small round window?”

“Do you recall the vivid colors, ever-changing shapes, as you slightly moved your hand around the barrel of the kaleidoscope?”

You give it a small twist and all the shapes fall into new pictures.  Hidden fragments inside the instrument create  numerous symmetrical, abstract  pictures.   Envision the world such as you have seen in a kaleidoscope!

 

Could you describe what you feel as the colors dance and flow over the mirror images inside? And did you know that inside the kaleidoscope are tiny, ordinary objects such as buttons, stones, chips and fragments – every illusion you enjoyed viewing is merely a collection of ordinary little things someone gathered and put inside with mirrors set at 60 degree angles

***

It has been over six decades since I picked wild violets with my sister in a rural farmer’s field.  I realize my faith in God still works in the same way it did when I was a child gathering God’s little presents.  Just a small twist takes us to a new landscape.

***

Big things make headline news, are celebrated and sought after. There is no mention of the ache we have in our inner being and the feeling that something is just not right.  Oh, I know that yearning that whispers from deep inside my body.  Could it be that once again I have walked on that familiar pathway that led me to places where I was not called by God to be?  There is always a sense of discomfort and painful stumbling blocks to be experienced when we are outside of his will or his calling, for our life. Fortunately, we can turn around, retrace our steps back to where we need to be and get our direction going once again. That is the good news – we can change direction!

***

Sitting in silence, being calm, listening for God’s still, small voice takes us to his glory.   Small treasures surround us   When I sit down and spend time alone with him, in silence, I experience transformation.  I turn another bend, there is a shift in perspective, and those little gifts are reflected by the mirrored light of his countenance. I am transformed yet again, by small gifts.

***

God works just like that!

The longer we look at him, the more our faith grows.  Each turn we take towards him opens up a new landscape that shows us insight into his character. I approach quietly.   Slowly, I realized the rain has stopped. I tilted my head towards the sky, listened for the songs of the circling birds as they hover above the tall trees; it is happening again.  Something new.  My feet are damp from the spring shower. Just another small turn of the kaleidoscope – yes! I can see it now.

Transformation.

***

Copyright, 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. May 9, 2015. All rights reserved.

Written for publication by Amy Bovaird. April 24, 2015. With much gratitude for the kind invitation to write for Amy’s Adventures Blog. Thank you!

 http://amybovaird.com/friday-friends-spotlight-on-lynda-lambert/

“In Which I Find Color in Late Winter”

 

“In Which I Find Color in Late Winter”

It was late this  morning when  I opened the bedroom blind. My husband, Bob, was still in bed.  We were so happy to see that the entire winter landscape and sky appeared to have a bright blue hue washed all over it.  I thought of a watercolor painter who mixed up a Blog_Photo_FullSnowMoonOverWoodsvery thin wash of color and brushed it all over the blank canvas.    It looked like someone had painted this brilliant landscape and put the shades of blue everywhere! Turquoise, Cerulean, Azure, Caribbean, Sapphire, and Cobalt – every shade of blue was overlaid on the picture we viewed from our window.  The delicate colors of the morning gave us a feeling of celebration in the early morning light today!

Since we just completed the first week of February, I decided to write about it today!  I thought about what to call this time of year. I know so many people begin to complain and lament the weather and dread the daily forecasts of storms and low temperatures. We seem to be in a deep freeze some days, with winter snow storms and squalls moving over the land like waves on an angry, stormy ocean.  The official designation of February is labeled, “Late Winter.”  That’s because it will be awhile before spring is here.  Spring will arrive on March 21st – and right now, we often feel like that is a long way off. However, that is exactly why I want to speak of the glorious colors of winter and its beauty today.  Maybe you will join me in appreciation of February this year. We still have a lot of time to do that because spring is still quite a distance away for us.

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Another unusual aspect of February is that is can be cunning and tricky with the environment. In particular, February days often warm up so much in the afternoons that it seems like spring arrived. Often in the first week of February, flower bulbs that are sleeping in the cold soil are tricked into thinking it’s time to wake up, push up some leaves, and bloom!   The ancient Celts thought that the earth wakes up in early February.  They believed the earth goes into a deep winter sleep during Halloween time.

Have you noticed the beauty of the wide range of colors at the beginning of February yet?

Winter colors, sensitive and subtle, or stark and vivid, are all around us in the month of February. Sometimes, if we focus on the harshness of winter’s storms or the labor of shoveling snow from sidewalks and streets, we might overlook the full palette of winter colors that surround us every day.  February’s landscape can go unnoticed if we are focused only on the challenges of Late Winter.

There is far more magic to find in the white snow or crystal ice outside our windows these days.  I recently stopped, looked around slowly at the winter landscape. I wanted to see what more there was beyond the snow and ice.  During the first week of February, I was outside with my dogs in the early morning, before daylight.  When I looked up into the pre-dawn sky, I saw that the moon was full.

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This February moon is called the “Full Snow Moon.” That’s because February is the month when the heaviest snows fall on the earth.  Hunters are out trying to find wildlife to shoot but it is difficult to find animals in the deep snowfall.  Because of this, Native Americans called the moon, “Hunger Moon.”

As I watched the sky, light from the moon illuminated the night sky in every direction.  The stillness of the celestial scene mingled with the thrusting branches of the stark winter trees in the woods below.  I became aware that I had to observe this glorious scene through the many bare branches of an ancient maple tree. From my vantage point on the ground beside the maple tree, it seems like I viewed the sky through the loose warp and weft of a tapestry that was created by the tree as it reached upwards and spread its arms like an enormous fan between me and the “Full Snow Moon.”   The entire tree appeared to be made from the darkest, deepest shade of sapphire blue.   The softest shade of indigo appeared to be painted across the entire sky in every direction from the east to the west where the moon was descending.  Liquid sky color mingled through the negative spaces of the branches.  The color reminded me of my own grade school days, in the 1950s, when I wrote my alphabet letters on a lined paper.  I dipped my  pen,  in and out, of the  bluish ink in the  well cut into the wooden  desk  This  sky was the  hue  that would be created  if I  mixed  a drop of the India Ink into a small cup of water.

The full moon seemed to hover beyond the tree branches, above the woods, and seemed to quiver with anticipation because it was about to disappear forever

Look for the colors of February this month!  They signal that in the heart of deep, frigid Late Winter t there is glory and a sense of the divine.  Take a deeper look;   see the hand of the Master Artist.   There is a full range of values in the February palette Take your time, and see what you will find in your own little place on this earth, this month.

Whatever time of day it is when  you read this message, will be the perfect time to see the colors of February! The dazzling Late Winter show is a gift from God and it is  free for everyone to discover if you live in a place where you have a real old-fashioned winter time.  If you do, I say,  “Give February a chance!”

I’m In a January “State of Mind”



2014_MarchSnow
The “January State of Mind”

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I am still thinking about January, and the promises of the New Year.

How about you?

Here’s what I need to ask: Are you feeling like something is wrong?

Do you feel stretched in two different directions this month? I am feeling like I am two different persons. One is the public image, the go-getter,  high achiever, the bold and fearless persona that operates in tandem with my name.  Yet, you seldom see the other “me” and  she is timid, quiet, private, nervous, aloof, fearful at times, and not always much of a group person or high achiever. The deeper question now is,  Am I experiencing duality? January IS on my mind! It’s  something deep and spiritual unfolding in my life, now that I am thinking about it.

Have you peered back into some of your previous  January entries in your  journals?

You know, I mean,  the ones you wrote in past years? Did you look back to some of your earlier notes or reflections and see them fresh today as you take a look from the vantage point of distance?  I am standing here, today in January 2015?

Oh, I have to tell you, I have been looking at mine!  So NOW, I am  wondering if those little writings I jotted down in times of yore  are giving me insight into this present January State of Mind –

I am feeling this  circular dance of duality every day. There’s something hidden deep inside of me that feels restless, uncertain, and hesitant, in spite of all my INTENTIONS. That is because I have looked back, while I was looking forward at 2015.

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Perhaps I can learn some things I need to know, gain wisdom, or reconnect with something spectacular I missed when I was too close to it!

**

Prior to approximately 700 BCE  the ancient Romans named the 10 months in their year after the gods. They had only ten months in their year, and did not have the two months we know as January (Januarius) and February (Februarius).  These two  were added to the Roman year circa  700 BCE.  January was named after the Roman god, Janus. Blog_2015_JanuaryJanusStatue

Unlike our calendar today, January was not the first month of the Roman year until after Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, changed the sequence of the months into the twelve month calendar.  Because and odd number was considered to be “lucky” the king changed the number of days in several months from even numbers, to odd numbers.   Long after this change from a ten month to a twelve month calendar, the Emperor Julius Caesar, would make additional changes. After 46 BCE, February was designaed to be a “Leap Year” and other changes were made. Instead of the “Roman Calendar,” it was now called the “Julian Calendar.

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Maybe the dual feelings I am having on this first month of the year is because it is named in honor of Janus.  This god is the one who guards and controls gates and doorways. To me, that indicates passages. When I sit down to write out my intentions or goals for the new year, I am thinking of January as a doorway or gate into a new beginning with fresh, exciting expectations.  My list of intentions for the new year are indicators that I plan on some type of travel, or passage, from one place to another in the year ahead.  Go ahead, look over your own resolutions for the year, and think about it.  Are you, too, planning a passage this year? When I look back over the years, I see I was always thinking of a passage from one place, left behind, to the new place, just ahead of me.

***

January is the festival month for Janus.  He stands in the doorway.  But, the problem is that Janus has two FACES. While he looks forward through the doorway, to the passage ahead, the other face of Janus looks backwards. Here is the dual message that we encounter!

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While we WANT to go forward, another part of us looks backwards. I seem to step right into Janus’ vision myself. I look forward, make my intentions into a path for the new year. But, what I feel rumbling inside of my being, is the reminders of a backwards step at the same time. Well, this is something we don’t really talk about, do we!  So, I was thinking about this all week. Why don’t we recognize, or put into language, what we really feel and think in January, every year?

Is it because the noisy crowd drowns out our inner life and our inner feelings, our intuition, and our internal voice as they shout out  “Happy New Year?”  We have been told this is the time for our expectations to be declared and realized – yet, there is that other side of Janus, in our mind.  As we ride the CREST of JANUARY,  the crest of the new year, we have expectations for what we believe the new year holds  for us.  Those are the things we talk about with others.

***

The  “inner critic” voice reminds us of past failures, deflated expectations, short-comings, blunders, and more. That is the other side of Janus! Oh, we fail to understand this side, and we sure don’t want to be talking about it to anyone. We have to keep up the smile. We have to keep up the talk and the walk.  We have to…..you fill in the blanks here.

It does not  take much of a leap to see the self-centered, secular expectations of our contemporary culture.  The  “New Year” resolutions madness can literally paralyse any thing creative, inspired, spiritual, artistic, resourceful, inventive, imaginative, intuitive, innovative, and productive on the inside of us.  The Janus mask is carefully in place for so many people who will never experience inner peace and joy because they are running so fast in a direction that will lead them to emptiness, after all.

But here’s the dichotomy of it.  Stop and be quiet for a little while. Maybe get up early tomorrow morning, when the house is still. Spend fifteen minutes in silence. Keep your thoughts focused on getting in touch with your purpose in life. Your Creator will be there and in your time of silence, He will reveal his purposes for you.  During the day, you’ll remember your time with Him today, and you’ll gently feel his presence and guidance. It’s not about what we want to do, it’s about what we want to do with Him!  Our contemporary American culture tells us to be determined to do what we want to do, and to push our way to the top of whatever we decide to do.  The voices, loud and demanding, tell us how strong we are,  how we can do anything we want to do.  We are told to call ourselves powerful and smart. Oh, but wait a minute!  Stop for a moment; listen for the gentle whisper… He speaks in a “still small voice.”  Listen. He whispers to us; he speaks about  who we are, for real.

As individuals with faith in God, we can  look forward with expectations that are grounded in God’s divine purpose for our life.

***

What a difference a year makes in our life!

I recommend a look back because it is wholesome for us to do.  History bears fruit, you know.  We bear fruit as we discipline our mind to study history.  Our life, our personal story, is like a display in a gallery. It’s all put out there to view, and if we are careful and thoughtful when we look it all over, we’ll find some gems as well as some clinkers.  Both are good for us to consider because they all show us the path we have been on, and help us make decisions for the future.  What to embrace? What to avoid?

***

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Copyright, 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Insight:

http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/pagandaymonth/

A History of the Months / Days and the Meanings of their Names

http://www.janus.umd.edu/

On When the Bear Goes Over the Mountain…

Be GOOD to yourself!

How can we determine what our INTENTIONS will be?

We begin by asking ONLY ONE question:

“What will I GIVE?”

What is it that you want to GIVE to OTHERS this year?

The only thing we know for sure is that we have this moment, today. We have no assurance that we will see another day, as we consider our intentions for the unknown future we imagine we may have.

The Living Room – I Believe in Christmas Eve!

The Living Room

I Believe in Christmas Eve!

 Christmastreesoutside“A baby on its mother’s back does not know the way is long”. African Proverb.

 Esther looked forward to one special night of the year when she won’t be lonely in her quiet home.  Esther walked slowly through the stillness and then she stopped briefly to look out the large picture window in her spacious living room. She checked once again to see if anyone had arrived yet.  She won’t be alone tonight because it is Christmas Eve.  Every year Esther’s four grown children returned home with their families to celebrate this special evening together. Esther’s face will be radiant with happiness throughout this evening and she’ll be transformed into the queen of the night. Esther is the lone matriarch of the family.

 The elongated living room will quickly fill up with her children, grand children, and even great grandchildren tonight. This room was built with enough space for holding large gatherings for all sorts of family events. Along the one long wall, there is a gray stone fireplace. As she had done for many years previously, it was decorated with her hand painted ceramic angels.

christmasTree1The three elegant angels are glazed all over in pearly white. Each carried a different musical instrument. She had accented those instruments with a glittering gold paint that matched the halo on each angel’s head.  She always placed cranberry red candles among the angels and carefully arranged boughs of pine across the mantle. The graceful holiday decorations created shimmering reflections in the wide mirror that stretched out the entire length of the mantle behind them. The reflections made the room seem joyful and optimistic as the little multi-colored twinkle lights flashed brilliantly around the edges of the mirror. .  When Esther’s husband, Bill, was still alive he always made a crackling fire in that fireplace. Now it is bare and unused.  She did not turn on the stereo tonight because she did not think about it

 

For this special occasion, Esther selected her favorite Christmas sweater. She has had it for years.  The bright holiday sweater makes her feel happy.  It is a warm sweater in bright Christmas red and on the front it has white poinsettias and golden ribbons woven into the fabric.  She did not think about what her two sisters will probably be wearing when they arrive tonight.   The two elderly women, Fanchion and Bettie arrived early in the evening and as usual, each lady wore a noticeably similar Christmas sweater.  The three sisters always shopped together and most of the time, when one sister selected something to buy, the other two bought one just like it. Bettie, the youngest sibling of the trio, complained to someone, later in the evening about it.  She remarked, “I pick out this pretty sweater for myself. I found the sweaters first when we were shopping, and the other two had to copy me and buy one just like mine! They do this all the time. Why can’t they just pick out things for themselves?”

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The three often grumbled about each other, but the siblings went shopping together often. Shopping helped fill the emptiness of their long days.  The sisters each lived separately, in their own hone. They lived about two miles apart.   They came from a family of seven children.   At this time, only four girls survived. They had lost the two brothers and one sister in the last decade.  Esther did not think about them very often any more. Sometime she even forgot they were no longer living and seemed surprised when someone mentioned they passed away.  She became agitated; her eyes widened as she said,

 

“They died? Oh, no! I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you tell me they died? I wanted to see them again! I wanted to go to their funeral. Why didn’t anyone let me know about this?”

 

Each time she learned again that one of her siblings was dead, she wept all over again. It always happened as someone brought up a conversation about their deaths. Each time it was the beginning of grieving for her.

 

When Esther’s children look back through old family photos they laugh when they see the three sisters sitting at a wedding reception. Each sister is dressed in a delicate little flowered dress.  Very often another sister, Jeanne, is there in the photos and sometimes her outfit looks like the other sister’s clothing. Strange, isn’t it? They all have the same taste.

 Esther’s husband, Bill, died eleven years before tonight. It happened suddenly one Saturday morning. It was in July.  While Esther prepared their breakfast in the kitchen at the opposite end of the home, Bill had left this world. He was in their bedroom and had not yet come out to have his breakfast with Esther. His sudden departure was a shock she never really recovered from, I recall several occasions when she grew silent and it was apparent she was overcome with sadness as she spoke. I turned my head away for her words were too hard for me to take in.  I tried to hold back my own tears as I silently inhaled and held my breath.

 

“I never got to even say good bye to Bill. I realize he didn’t come out of our room yet, I am in the kitchen reading my morning devotions. I hear him get up and go to the bathroom. Then, I think he should have come out for breakfast by now. Where is he?  I walk through the living room and into our bedroom   He is just laying there on the bed. All stretched out on his back.  His arms are wide open and his feet hang down almost touching the floor.  He is wearing one sock but the other foot is bare. I see he was putting on his socks. But he’s not moving.  I scream and rush over to him. I shake him, but he never moves. I try to put my mouth over his open mouth, and I try to breathe into him to wake him up. Nothing is working. I leave him and I run as fast as I can run, through the house, out the door, across the lawn to the neighbor’s house. I need help! Bill needs help he isn’t breathing and I cannot wake him up.” Bill left Esther alone at 6:30 am on July 17th, 1988. This is the year they would have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, on Christmas Day!

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Esther was now seventy-nine years old – still a beautiful woman.   Her sharp, deep amber-brown eyes had clouded over.  They looked like a gray film had grown over the rich darkness of her eyes. She was still tall and looked stately. Her dark raven hair had slowly transformed into a soft, short silver color. She patiently watched out the thick glass window at the end of the living room.

 “I am sure someone will be here soon,” she whispered to the empty living room.

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Some people told Esther she should sell her house and move into a smaller one. They said she needed one without such a big yard to take care of since Bill isn’t here anymore.  Her four children spoke about this to each other and once in awhile one of her children told  her she needed to move out of the big house so she would not have so many things to worry about and such a large yard that needed tending. But, Esther’s response to everyone who said something like that was,

  “No, Bill built this house, and I can never leave it. And, if I sold this house we would not have a place for our Christmas Eve party.” 

 

Esther was stoic in her determination to stay in the home she helped build. She managed to hold on to her home because it was built just for her and she loved it. The walls of every room surrounded her with a lifetime of memories. And, it held future possibilities for her Christmas Eve parties for her family.

 Bill and Esther did build the house, just like they had planned.   When they were younger and their four children were all at home, Esther and Bill dreamed about the house they would build some day.  Bill, a good artist and draftsman, entertained the children with his drawings of cartoons and animals. He made sketches of the ideas they formulated and envisioned their new house. Each of the children can recall the many times their parents poured over plans for a new home they wanted to build. . Bill even constructed a meticulous scale model of the house they planned together.  The model he built was large.  It was on a sheet of plywood. Bill spent the long, solitary winter months in the basement working on the model.  One of the features they planned so carefully was the spacious living room.  It was the most important room in their home.

 Now, so many years later, Esther is here all alone inside their dream house. They had worked side by side to build this home.     Esther was 38 years old and Bill was 42 when they moved their young family of four children into this house. It is the house where the children grew up together.

Esther and Bill had dreams of living in a nice neighborhood and in a house that they built. They made their dream come true. It was a little at a time, as they could pay for the things they needed when building it.  Bill was a Pennsylvania steelworker.  I can remember so many times when the men who worked in the steel mill went out on strike or when there would be lay-offs, and those times were difficult for our family.  After they started building the house, there would be several times when things came to a stand-still due to unemployment.  Our whole family actually moved into the basement of the house.  I was fifteen years old that summer. While our family lived in that basement, the upstairs was being built.  In a year or so, we all finally moved upstairs into the newly finished house.

 ***

It was exciting for me, as a fifteen year old girl, to be part of this new adventure in our life.

 ***

“It is a sultry, warm summer day and the men are here to start mixing up the fresh batches of plasterer. They set up all the equipment outside the front room, right there in the mud. They laid down some boards and they are walking back and forth on the boards, pushing the wheelbarrow. Some of the men are carrying the wet plaster on large boards. They hold the boards up with their arm and balance it on a shoulder, and walk as fast as they can towards the house.  They are really strong men and this is hard work carrying all the plaster into the house and to the room where they are putting it on the walls.  With each trip into the house the men start to cover the open studding. They are making wet walls that are getting thick and strong. I like to hang around watching the men and joke with them a lot. When they came today, I told them I wanted them to make the plaster lavender for my room. The man told me they never made lavender plaster before, but they said they would see if they can do it.  I really want lavender plaster in my room! They worked at it for a while, and then, they did start carrying in the lavender plaster for my room. I have to share this new room with my sister, Patti, and I hope she likes lavender because that is just what we are getting! And once we get the room plastered, then Mom said we can go pick our fabric for the new drapes she will order for it. I am going to pick out fabric that has black and white abstract print on it.”

***

 Our long-awaited new house was completed over the next week as the laborers made trip after trip from the mixing place outside, into the rooms inside the new ranch style house…

 “I have always loved real hand crafted plaster. The walls seem so solid and give me a feeling that I am safe inside of them. When I rap on a real plastered wall, I can hear the dull thud that does not make an echo.  The house seems to have a nicer voice once it is dry and has aged.  The older it gets, the clearer it sounds.  Handmade plaster sounds soft, and friendly.  When I lay my ear beside those walls, I can listen to the men talking as they carried it and slathered it onto the walls. I can hear the men bring in the plaster and the sounds of my two brothers and my sister as we danced about inside the bare, unfinished house. Memories whisper to me and I can hear the many voices from the past .The plastered walls have the power to speak and the voices of our family remain inside the plastered walls.”

 ***

One of the loveliest sounds that echoed through the house was Esther’s voice as she sang hymns. She was a strong singer with a ringing alto voice.  The living room was her concert hall as she dusted the table tops or washed the large picture window. 

***

Esther Luella Kirker started singing as a small child with her family.  Almost her entire family sang or played a musical instrument. Everyone who knew the Kirker family always remarked about the music they all made together at the local Wurtemburg Methodist Church. Esther’s father, James, played the coronet in the church orchestra. Her oldest brother, Clair, was there, too, because he played the tenor saxophone.  Sister Jeanne played the Piano.  Esther sang along with the family musicians. Her voice was her instrument. Esther sang at church.  Members of the congregation often asked her to sing their favorite hymns. She continued   singing those old time heavenly songs by memory her entire life. My Mother had forgotten many things these days, but she never forgot how to sing. She never forgot the words or the melodies of the old hymns. “How Great Thou Art” and “In the Garden” are two hymns that still ring in my memories today. I remember my Mother’s voice.

 ***

Around 7 PM everyone began to arrive tonight.  They parked on the blacktop driveway at the Mercer Road residence.  Cars soon lined the driveway and even down the sides onto the frozen lawn. Our entire family members came bursting through the front door. They called out, “Merry Christmas” and laughed as they greeted each other with hugs and smiles.  They carried in holiday foods wrapped up with foil and they juggled boxes and bags of bright wrapped gifts.  Each person wore holiday outfits for this special night.  Christmas Eve at our house was a grand affair and everyone always dressed in their sparkling new outfits; velvet, silk, and taffeta dresses were on all the little curly haired granddaughters.  Their little brothers had slicked down hair and they arrived with small metal model s of cars and soft stuffed toys to keep them busy.

 ***

Once her family members began arriving with their arms stacked with wrapped gifts and foods, we quickly put   out the colorful holiday food on the table Esther had prepared for this feast.  Esther served the very same punch every year. It is a fruity punch and we all expected to enjoy it. If she ever changed and used a different recipe, it would not be the same for us. We loved her frothy pink fruit punch.  When my father was still living, I brought him his favorite pie, an old fashioned Shoo-fly Pie or a mincemeat pie.

 ***

When the new house was nearly finished, Bill brought some spindly trees home from the woods. He planted them around the house and down the driveway.  One neighbor remarked, “Those trees from the woods will never grow.”  Tonight, the bare winter branches of the Maple and Sycamore Trees stand tall and strong in the early darkness of a Pennsylvania winter.  They were just like my Father and Mother might have imagined them forty years ago. Our Father’s hands were hardened by years of labor in the steel mill yet he carefully crafted this house and surrounding beauty of the yard through years of sacrifice and labor.

 ***

Tonight, in the gently beating heart of our family home,  our Mother’s swollen arthritic hands struggle to open the gifts are stacked around her. She looks so fragile and seems almost like she is drifting away to another place while we sit and watch her surrounded by her unopened gifts. These days, she struggles with almost everything. She often forgets ordinary things she had done for many years in earlier times of her life. She does not say very much tonight but she keeps on smiling. It is almost like she is part of a dream. She is like a Christmas angel, surrounded by her many offspring. She is quieter tonight. Sometimes she looks lost in the middle of the family celebration in the living room. At times, I watch her and try to imagine what she might be thinking about in the middle of this noisy laughter.

***

  As I glance over at her, I wonder if she is listening to the walls, hearing the voices from the past years.  Esther looks out over the five generations who have gathered here every Christmas Eve. The annual photos record the changes in the family. Small babies who once crawled on the floor now bring their own little babies to squirm through the ocean of wrapping paper. Bill is no longer in any of the family Christmas photos. Esther looks frail, and smaller than she looks in the old family photos.

 The living room has now become a witness in the house we filled with laughter, tears and secrets. The living room is part of a conspiracy tonight.

 We all know that this Christmas Eve gathering is Esther’s last Christmas Eve party in her home. We will never again be here as a family gathered around together. We are all facing a shift in our life. We will all be going in different directions after this night. While we smile and chat, we are lonely and deeply sad. I wrote a special poem about the house and gave a copy of it to every family member tonight.  There are tears behind our smiles. We all feel the meaning of the word “bittersweet.”

Epilogue:

The day after Christmas, I took my Mom to the local hospital for an evaluation. As we had all suspected, she was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She lived another eight years but we would never again be in the living room of our childhood home for another celebration… This was the end of all our happy holidays together as a family. Our Mother’s life changed and so did we.  Each Christmas Eve, the living room remains the same as we always knew it, in our memories.

 TONIGHT, I miss the Living Room!

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Lynda Lambert.  Copyright 2012 and 2014.  All rights reserved.