Personal Journey

Day of Words: Christmas

November 23 was designated the International Day of Words, by the Fundación César Egido Serrano to promote “the word as a bond of humanity, against any violence.” What can mere words do, you ask, against any violence? Being a lover of words, I believe they can do great wonders.

Consider the words of Christmas.

Peace. Merry. Bright. Shining. Give. Happy. Love. Light. Noel. Christmas is a season of words. The words we share are warm and loving; they wrap us in a common spirit of hope and renewed wonder. On this day we speak and think words of peace. We try to right wrongs, to balance the scales of circumstance with donations and gifts. Wherever we perch on the continuum of humanity, on Christmas we find ourselves sliding toward the benevolent. All but the Scroogiest of us.

Every religion agrees: the words that get traction in our minds, they define us. Religion is often about getting the best words to stick. Words bind or separate; they are the sharpest of knives. Words heal if in a physician’s hands, but in hands of a thug, they cut.

Here are some less obvious Christmas words: In the beginning was the Word (it’s capitalized by the ancients), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Why is Jesus called the Word? Why not the painting? The voice? The music?

Because words, once set down, last. I tell this to my students to get them to write and to write more carefully. For me, Christmas is the Day of the Word. What happened on Christmas parallels what happened in my heart. One day roughly twenty years ago, the Word came to dwell in a webby, splintered place that smelled faintly of manure. It was the best present I ever received. It was always there for the taking, but I had to reach out and accept. Each Christmas I’m thankful all over again.And now, some Christmas words for you, my friends and family. May you get the best gifts, the ones that don’t break or fall out of fashion. May the season be full of words that hug your soul and make you smile. xoxo – Kelly

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fiction, Poetry

Christmas. Finished.

 

On linen and straw

lay a birth and a death.

God hedged by flesh

shepherds, magi.

It pleases us to imagine

God just born, vulnerable

delivery’s slick dross clings

the ache of mortality.

It’s comfortable: God

on bovine-scented straw

held in woman’s arms

and a lowly one at that.

It’s Christmas: a keening deity

swaddled. Bound

by a choice to come

die. One day. A black Friday.

Not Black Friday savings

markdowns, slashed prices.

But marked, slashed, battered

He saved us.

It’s God:

carrying His death and ours

to a far-off hill, an infinite burden.

A mustard seed must die

For a tree to thrive.

Centuries’ old tradition

…finished.

In linen and blood

hangs a birth and a death

God hedged by flesh

Crucified.

fiction

Journey to Bethlehem

The woman winced. Again. Her breath took on a raggedness. Her words broke through clenched teeth.

“How much farther?”

“Not much, Woman.”

He’d been mentally referring to her as woman since he found out. It helped. The woman was pregnant. The woman had a special touch from God. He was not to abandon the woman.

Woman was not an insult. But they’d agreed: it was how he loved her, saying her name. Softly. Over and over. He hadn’t said her name since he found out. Not once. If the insult cut her she didn’t let on, else she was fixed on riding out the pain.

Even after the dream Joseph couldn’t bring himself to think her name. The angel commanded: he was not to leave. In cases… like this, a quiet separation was a gift, was merciful. Some men, pious men, would have stoned her. Fashioned of jealousy and pride as he was, Joseph figured the plan was to break him first, before the inaugural wails of the infant-God made landfall. There was one reasonable expectation a man may have of his virgin wife. One.

And…in a gesture of unparalleled irony, He had them travelling. Now. He didn’t know who was punished worse: the pained one, or the witness. Every so often there was a sharp intake of breath. “Like being run through with a serrated blade,” she said, when he asked what it felt like. That was when he dropped their gear and let her ride on the back of the beast.

Never before had the donkey held anything but freight. Something told Joseph, maybe it was the lingering echo of the dream, but it told him in no uncertain terms: the beast would not buck her. The gear would be replaced. Innumerable gifts would be brought. As Joseph held the tether and trod the parched and crenulated ground, an alien certainty overtook him. A waking dream: the woman’s name was still beautiful, would always be beautiful.

A needling anxiety to get to their destination settled upon him, as if the world behind them fell away with each step, and was falling faster and faster. To Bethlehem they marched, because of the census. Caesar and his arbitrary decrees. Like sand grains they were blown with no discernible purpose to a city he no longer called home. But the unborn child would enter the world, either here in the open plain or in Bethlehem, if they could make it.

*Thanks to Michael for the heads up on this fun Christmas challenge. Michael’s son wrote a lovely little poem, and being the homeschool mom I am, I dig that. Though I have been known to write poetry, it’s usually when I’m angry. I hope the folks at Mindescapes.net don’t mind I used their image to create a flash piece. Want to join? Go to Mindescapes Christmas Challenge 2017.

fiction, Homeschool Life

A Christmas Story by Gabe, 11

Gabe wrote this story in lieu of doing grammar pages. I cut and pasted it exactly as he sent it to me. Years ago, Katae also wrote a Christmas story. It’s fun to think my oldest and my youngest got their fiction on in time for the holidays.  In the story you’ll note Gabe used the year 281. That wasn’t just a year he pulled out of his imagination. Gabe researched the real Santa story, and 281 is about when the tradition began. Enjoy! 🙂

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Gabe’s Story

There were once three brother elves. These three elves lived with Santa in the North Pole. Jeremy and John were naughty elves, always getting in trouble in the workshop, and messing up toys. Jeremy and John were both always hated by the other elves in Santa’s workshop. However, the other brother, Justin, was the best elf in the workshop. He always woke up on time, did his chores, and made even more toys than he needed to every day. One day, as John and Jeremy were wreaking havoc in the dining hall, Justin was folding his clothes in his dorm. Suddenly, a deafening boom rang through Santa’s entire underground mansion. Every single elf in the secret home listened, and a booming voice rang out,

“John! Jeremy! My office! NOW!” Justin ran out of his dorm and straight towards the dining hall, where a massive door leading to Santa’s office stood. He ran through the dining hall to the big door, mumbling to himself as he went.

“Oh, what have those little terrors done now.” He knocked on the door, and it opened. He walked inside. The room was amazing, huge paintings of all his reindeer , and a picture of him in the year 281, with a massive sleigh that was only run by reindeer. The walls were red and white, with a huge wooden desk and a red and white striped chair. A massive chandelier with red and green lights hung from the ceiling, and a door leading into Santa’s Sleigh room, and another that led into Santa’s bedroom. Jeremy and John were barely as tall as Santa’s desk, and he was giving them a talk about how if they were naughty they wouldn’t be allowed to live in Santa’s underground mansion. They were sent away, and Santa got out of his chair and walked over to Justin.

“It seems that your brothers are nothing like you, and they are the naughtiest elves in this entire place, but you are the best elf in the entire mansion. As you know, every year a special elf gets chosen to go with me on the sleigh ride around the world to give children their presents.”

“Yes, I know, but I have never been chosen,” said Justin.

“Well, don’t tell any of the other elves, but if nothing changes, I will choose you as that special elf,”

said Santa. Suddenly, a huge crash sounded from the dining hall. Justin ran out of the room, and found that the enormous glass chandelier in the dining hall fell to the floor. He ran over to it and found heard maniacal laughs going down the hallway on the balcony near the chandelier. Justin ran down a hall and sprinted up the steps to where the balcony was. He heard the laughing, and ran towards them. Whatever was laughing was running towards the present storage room! Justin sprinted to the door and opened it. The room was an enormous white room filled with presents in aisles. He saw an elf in a red and black suit instead of the traditional green and gold. Justin crept up the aisle, and saw the elves unloading presents from an aisle. They took them to a hidden trapdoor on the other side of the room. Justin crept over to the trapdoor, hiding behind stacks of presents as he went. He could see into the trapdoor and saw a weird, tall creature with skinny limbs, grabbing presents from the elves and loading took them away, to a place Justin couldn’t see, but he knew they weren’t coming back. He walked over to the trapdoor and climbed down into it. He walked through the tunnel and after a walk, felt the tunnel getting cold. As he was walking, one of the elves came around a corner. Justin scrambled into a little crevice in the rock. The elf walked by the crevice without noticing Justin, sniggering as he went. Justin climbed into the freezing, rocky tunnel. He kept walking and finally made it to the end of the tunnel. He saw a weird sleigh, pulled by 7 black horses. Justin crept over to the sleigh, near the enormous black horses. One of them snorted loudly, and Justin disconnected the horses form the sleigh. Justin ran back into the tunnel and towards the underground mansion. The tunnel started to get warmer, and into the mansion. He ran through the present storage room and back into the dining hall. All of the elves were still eating, as if nothing happened.

“Some weird things are stealing our presents!” shouted Justin. The din suddenly ceased. Every elf looked as if it were frozen, staring at Justin. Suddenly, there was uproar. Elves grabbed anything that could be used as a weapon, butter knives, spoons, forks, and even pieces of glass form the chandelier. They ran with Justin towards the present room, and into the tunnel. A sea of elves filled the tunnel, shouting in uproar. One of the pour elves that had been stealing the presents was swept away by the masses of elves rushing out of the tunnel. For the first time, Justin and all of the others saw the weird long legged thing. It was green, with fur all over it, and it had an evil grin. They tramples him and the other elf, bound them with ropes, and took them back to the tunnel. It was complete chaos. No one could see anything going on, and when they had all gone back into the tunnel, the black horses that pulled the sleigh had all run away, and the sleigh itself lay in ruins. Once they had all returned to the mansion, they brought the weird creature and the strange elves to Santa. Santa took them outside to recover all the presents they had stolen, and eventually forgave them. After that, they lived with the elves and helped make presents, and the weird elves got real elf uniforms, and the green creature got an XXXXXXXL elf suit. After that, they all lived together and made presents together. Once Christmas came around, it turned out it was Justin that got to go on the sleigh ride and deliver his presents to the children of the world. THE END.

Personal Journey

Friends & Family: My Favorite Gifts

 

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For years I’ve sent a Christmas letter, but not this time. Find your name below for my “card” to you. This list cannot possibly contain every one of the people I consider gifts, but as I contemplated whether or not to send the usual card this year, it felt more right to talk about you than to talk about me. I wish I could write a paragraph for each of you, but time constraints force me to be brief. Each one of you, you’re the gifts of my life. Merry Christmas.

5000 Words students & families. Thank you for the wonderful times learning together. I cherish them all.

Angie Bartos. Friend and savvy dancer. May our moment on the floor be engraved in your mind as it is mine!

Apryl Harbaugh. First responder to the needs around her and in Ethiopia, example of love in action.

Bob. My best friend ever, love of my life, inspiration to greatness.

Bodeker and Hileman families. Welcomed us into the soccer family. Thanks for the laughter and friendship.

Coach Mike. Swim coach/magician– elicits 100% effort and 100% adoration simultaneously.

Dad & Maggie. Gave me a taste for fun and thrills. Loved sharing stories of old with you at Kev’s house.

Dan Wilkenson. We who live in your vicinity are safer. 😉

Darlene Wilke. A beautiful, others-focused woman who delivers more joy than Santa.

Delaney Miller. Grace and poise. You bless all who are blessed to be around you.

Dyer family. Missionaries in a tough place in tough times, holding tightly to God.

Gabe. Already a gentleman at 11, leader, champion. Kind, diligent, merciful.

Ginny Niemiec. Aldi isn’t nearly as fun without you, sweet and beautiful friend!

Glen & Karen Griffiths. Praise for your health! A joy-filled, happy couple.

Greens & Friends. Talking life, parenting, faith, and wine… all in one evening!

Griffiths, Dad & Momom. Both of you are hugs in my life. Thoughtful, charming.

Guenther family. Sweeter than any candy I’ve ever had. You’re living, breathing hugs.

Katae. A sweet, generous soul, often the one kind word I need. Love our coffee times!

Kendall Seyer. Your birthday greetings made me smile. Miss our crazy youth!

Kev & Nikki. Every time I want to smile, I just think of you two. Love your beautiful family!

Kim Griffiths. My favorite bohemian traveller. I love to watch you live life to the fullest.

Kim Wolfe & Steering Committee. Who knew a room full of hens could be such fun! 🙂

Krakowski family. Enjoy sharing the long road to Ignatius with you!

Long family. Love watching the kids grow and reading your posts.

Lucas family. My love-in-action-neighbors, I enjoy running into you on a walk or bike ride.

Luke. Ron Swanson has nothing on you. My rock of a son. No mountain is too tall.

Mark Ciavarella. Your letters remind me of what’s truly important in life. I appreciate your wisdom.

Michelle Mihalek. You’re as beautiful as the pictures you take.

Miss Pam. You’ll always be “Miss Pam” to me. The best pal-gal in the history of the world.

Mom & Dad Timm. Glad to share life with you and take walks together.

Nancy Beach. Inkwell of Godly character and dearest friend. I’d trust you with my feelings any day.

Paul. Your horsing around and fun-loving nature make get-togethers more fun.

Shawna Blumfeldt. My fun and my faith– shows me how to have abundant life.

Stahley’s in Africa. Doing what others dream and think is too difficult, for God’s glory.

Tory. A sunrise is what your life looks like to me lately. Diligence, faithfulness, integrity.

Thompson family. You’re a breath of fresh air and a sweet memory every time we visit together.

Whitty family. Inspires me to revolutionary thoughts on God and missions. Lives spent on knees.

Writer friends like Nthato, Laura, Ronel, Russell, and others. Your advice and feedback keeps me going!

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If you share four walls with me this is how you see me most of the time.
Personal Journey

Be the Gift You Want to Get in This World

happy-gandhi-jayanti-2016-images-hd-wallpapers
“Be the change you want to see in the world” was one of Gandhi’s famous quotes.

Of all the people turned off by Christians, Gandhi is my favorite. Gandhi was perplexed that Jesus’ followers were little crazed antitheses of Him, buzzing about the world scattering judgement like pollen, condemning, wearing the cross and forgetting its dictates.

Though he was turned off by Christians, Gandhi didn’t discount the Man himself. Imitation is not an exact science: if it flatters, it also falters. We are works in progress untill the last breath. My imperfect attempts at being Jesus may be received with misunderstanding and, sometimes, offense. You’re taking this Jesus thing too far has been applied to me. Still, others would say I don’t take this Jesus thing nearly far enough.

Depends who you ask.

People are turned off by a pilgrim taking it too far because a zealot acts unpredictably, often perpetrating heinous acts against humanity: the least of which is discomfiting strangers by talking about God and the worst of which is bringing God’s judgment down upon them– literally, in the form of passenger plane bombs, explosives, etc.

I was taught a catechism of fear– not for God– but religion. Religion makes people weird at best. I learned this in social studies when we discussed Jim Jones (in early elementary school). I learned it analyzing The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter in middle school. I learned it from the nut cases dressed as Jesus, dragging huge crosses along city streets and chanting, “The end is near!”

What I learned was all true. I wasn’t told any lies. But– think Star Wars– I experienced only the dark side of the force and not the light. Half the truth is the best lie because it precludes skepticism. If my cultural experience impressed upon me a fear and loathing of impassioned religion, then did I not receive a broken bowl for a paradigm? Certainly it had the shape of usefulness, but not the essence. No wonder when I tried to pour my life experiences into it, everything leaked out and I was left holding air.

At age 27 I got desperate and decided, against the teaching of my youth, to take this Jesus thing too far. What did that look like? Did I have to renounce logic, sacrifice a chicken, or roll around the altar babbling unintelligible oaths? Hardly.

I picked up a Bible and began reading the book of John. I’d been church hopping, a spiritual Goldilocks searching for a fit. I sat through many a pep talk, incantations, scripted kneelings and standings, services full of buttoned up people whose goodwill didn’t even last into the parking lot. One day I met a man who genuinely, ardently loved his god. Here was a thing I’d never seen before: the other side of the religion equation. It goes without saying you can’t just walk into any church and experience true faith, but walk into enough, and you’ll eventually strike oil.

That is, if you really want to. I hope you do. Don’t let the imperfections of Christ’s followers dissuade you from seeking Him. For who is perfect at anything? I’ve gotten my Jesus step wrong enough times, and those are moments I’m stepping on toes. If I think it’s pollen I’m spreading, it’s my duty to double-check every now and again. The easiest error is thinking we help by spreading a loveless message of judgment. It’s not pollen when I forget to love. But in those moments I am definitely a B—-.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. – 1 Corinthians 13:2.

Gandhi and I disagree on what the message should be, but on this we find harmony: My life is my message. As the year draws to a close and our minds are on gifts, it’s a great time to ask yourself if you’ve been the gift you want to get in this world.

Don’t believe the lie that says: If God is any more than a trapping, he’s a trap. Don’t believe religion should be used as the ancients did their spice: to cover the fact that the meat’s gone bad. Jesus made a lot of people uncomfortable when He said he should be consumed. Jesus can’t be taken too far. He is meant to be the main course (John 6:54). Be a pilgrim. Take Jesus too far. That’s not what will actually happen though it may be said of you. If you merely hold out a hand, Jesus takes you too far. And it’s a lovely country.

 

 

fiction

The Prettiest. Flash Fiction.

aura-of-light-800x480“Sometimes it’s better to hide the unsightly with shiny things than to try to fix it,” said the mother. “Grab that box of Christmas tinsel from the attic. And a fork.”

The child’s noisy rifling through the silver drawer induced a clamorous tune, followed by staccato thudding on the attic stairs. She returned breathless, holding a fork in one hand, a dusty red box in the other.

“This?” She asked, fingering the wayward silver strands.

The mother took the bright silver lengths and held them to the light. The tinsels flashed and shimmered, squirming in her arms like a lightning strike. She gravely handed the tinsel to the child. “You do the honors. It’s your first time.”

The child wrapped the silver noodles around her fork and jammed it in an eye socket.

“Yes, that’s it,” counseled the mother, “Now hold the tinsel down with your fingers and gently slide the fork out. Now the next one. We can stuff her mouth with dryer sheets soaked in cinnamon oil, so she doesn’t stink. Grab the red sequins and we’ll sew her mouth closed, but we’ll leave slits like a sachet. See?” The mother beamed with pride as her daughter bent to the work, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“Yes, like that. Sew her mouth into a smile. You just have to pull hard on the thread. She can’t feel anything.”

“I think I hear her crying,” the child protested. See, where she’s coming apart?”

“Just use more tinsel. Wrap it like a necklace and no one will know her throat is cut.”

The child obeyed, her eyes widening at the transformation. A slight smile played at the corners of her tiny mouth.

“This is the prettiest Christmas doll ever, Mommy.”

“Almost as pretty as you,” murmured the zombie.