19 December 2017      

Welcome to this week's issue of Living Life Fully's e-zine--we're joyful that you're here.
The Christmas season is upon us once more, which means that many people are sharing thoughts
and wishes of peace and good will more than they usually are, and all of us benefit from the
fact that more people are willing to share and focus on others these days than they are most
other days of the year. Please enjoy this holiday season that is focused on giving and sharing.

The Gift
Rachel Naomi Remen

Christmas Fancies
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

A Simple Christmas?
tom walsh

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Blessed is the season which engages
the whole world in a conspiracy of love.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.

Harlan Miller

Christmas is for children.  But it is for grown-ups, too.  Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.

Lenora Mattingly Weber

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.

Calvin Coolidge

  
The Gift
Rachel Naomi Remen

Every Christmas Eve when I was small my father and I would take the subway to downtown Manhattan and go shopping for presents for my mother, my aunt, my friends, my teacher, and other important persons in my life.  These were special, even magical times.  Everything was decorated for Christmas.  The windows of the stores up and down Fifth Avenue were magnificent, and some even had whole mechanical villages that moved or a mechanical Santa that waved.  It was almost always cold, and the nighttime streets were crowded with smiling people carrying beautifully wrapped packages, the women in furs and the men in overcoats with velvet collars.  Thinking back on it now after more than fifty years, it seems to me that I could see the joy in people shining in the streets.  Christmas music poured out of every open doorway.  In my memory, it is always lightly snowing, and everyone had snowflakes on their coats and in their hair.


We would start at Rockefeller Plaza and stare in awe at the enormous, beautifully decorated tree, debating whether this year's decorations were more beautiful than last.  They always were.  We would watch the skaters for a while.  And the we would move slowly down Fifth Avenue, stopping in every store, thinking of the people I loved, one at a time, looking at many, many things until I found just the right one for each of them.

At some point during the evening, my father would hand me his big gold pocket watch and tell me that when it chimed I was to come and meet him right where we were standing, and then I would go off alone in whatever store we were in to find his present.  While I was gone, my father would do a little shopping of his own.

I got to stay up late, far later than my usual bedtime, and it was often close to midnight when we got home, our arms filled with boxes, each of which had been specially wrapped at the store.  My mother always had cocoa waiting, and we would show her the beautiful boxes and tell her about the wonderful things we had found for everyone--but not, of course, what we had found for her.

It was a chance to think about each one of my beloved people, who they were and what might make them glad.  I remember the indescribable feeling of finding each present and the joy of recognizing it as just the very thing.  There was much pleasure in choosing the paper and ribbon and watching it wrapped in a way that was as special as the person it was for.  I loved finding these presents.  It made me feel very lucky.

In thinking back, I realize that I never actually saw many of these presents opened.  They would be mailed away or left under other people's Christmas trees.  Somehow this never mattered.  The important moment wasn't in the opening, or in the thanking.  The important thing was the blessing of having someone to love.
  

   

    

    
Christmas Fancies
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, 
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, 
    And etched on vacant places 
    Are half forgotten faces 
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know-- 
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near, 
We see, with strange emotion that is not free from fear, 
    That continent Elysian 
    Long vanished from our vision, 
Youth's lovely lost Atlantis, so mourned for and so dear, 
Uprising from the ocean of the present surging near.

When gloomy gray Decembers are roused to Christmas mirth, 
The dullest life remembers there once was joy on earth, 
    And draws from youth's recesses 
    Some memory it possesses, 
And, gazing through the lens of time, exaggerates its worth, 
When gloomy gray December is roused to Christmas mirth.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis 
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss. 
    Not all the seers and sages 
    With wisdom of the ages 
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss 
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

For life was made for loving, and love alone repays, 
As passing years are proving, for all of Time's sad ways. 
    There lies a sting in pleasure, 
    And fame gives shallow measure, 
And wealth is but a phantom that mocks the restless days, 
For life was made for loving, and only loving pays.

When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes, 
And silences are melting to soft, melodious rhymes, 
    Let Love, the world's beginning, 
    End fear and hate and sinning; 
Let Love, the God Eternal, be worshiped in all climes 
When Christmas bells are pelting the air with silver chimes.

Poems of Power
* wis--to suppose, imagine, deem
   

   

   

It was a thrill to wake up and find an orange in my stocking, and I'll never
forget how excited I was the year I got a banana!  We were a country
preacher's family, and we were poor.  But we had a mighty good time.

Norman Vincent Peale

   

 
A Simple Christmas?

One of the things that I like about getting older is the way that my tastes and desires have simplified so much.  Over the years I've come to learn that the simple things in life are more than enough, and that everything past more than enough is simply excess, and completely unnecessary to life in general.  If we want to be happy and loving, and if we want to be able to share that happiness and love, then we truly need to simplify our lives in order to give us the opportunities to serve and share with others.

Simplicity at Christmas time is extremely important, too.  As a holiday, Christmas has become complicated over the years--we need to get just the right gifts at just the right stores; we need to make just the right foods at just the right times; we need to go to just the right parties with just the right people.  All in all, it's turned into a very difficult time to get through easily, without feeling compelled to complicate our lives and the lives of others with demands and needs that really do fall into the category of "excess" rather than true needs.

I'm happy to have simple tastes.  I'm happy to get a deep sense of satisfaction from a gift of a tee shirt or a book or a cd--I don't need anything expensive or complicated or rare or unique to tell me that a person has thought of me, has considered my likes and dislikes in order to get me a gift.  The gift that I hold in my hands, after all, is only part of the gift--the much larger part of the gift is the thought and consideration that went into getting (or even making) it in the first place.
   

When we work so hard at our preparations for Christmas,
we often feel cheated and frustrated  when others fail
to notice the results of our efforts.  We need to ask
ourselves why we are doing the things we choose to do.
If love motivates us--love for our families, for our neighbors--
then we are free to simply enjoy the actual process of what
we do, rather than requiring the approval and admiration
of others for the results of our labors.

Ellyn Sanna

   
My best Christmases have been my simple Christmases.  I suppose that's not too surprising when I consider that I grew up in a family that had very little money (my father was in the military), and that our Christmases tended to be sparse in any case.  My parents did their best to make them great, but you can't make them too extravagant when the money just isn't there, can you?  Of course, as young children we never knew that there was a difference between our Christmas and Christmases in families that had more money that we had--everything was simply as it was, and that was that.  And in the long run, it was much better for me personally because I learned to be satisfied with very little--I never grew up thinking that I could only be happy with more or better of anything.  I had to be happy with what I had, or not be happy at all.

Over the years that truth has come to be a blessing, not the curse that many people would consider it to be.  I hold no regret over not having "nicer" holidays.  We still baked and cooked and had trees and traditions.  We still got to buy gifts for the other members of our family, and we still received gifts from everyone.  We still heard Christmas music and drank egg nog and watched the Christmas programs on TV.  Our holidays were simple, but they were very real for all of us, and they were ours.

To me, a simple holiday doesn't need to be an austere one.  We don't need to deprive ourselves of the things we like in order to simplify things--we just need to be able to discern between things that complicate life and things that don't.  That new cell phone may seem like just the gift to give, but it also comes with monthly charges that have to be taken care of all year long.  Do I really want to give a gift that's going to obligate someone else to pay monthly fees?  Clothes can be nice, but only if the person I'm buying for has seen and liked them--otherwise they'll sit in a drawer or hang in a closet forever.  Some shirts can be easy if we know how a person's taste in shirts run, but the more complicated things--and generally the more expensive things--can be more problematic than helpful.
    

We expect too much at Christmas.  It's got to be magical.  It's
got to go right.  Feasting.  Fun.  The perfect present.  All that
anticipation.  Take it easy.  Love's the thing.  The rest is tinsel.

Pam Brown

    
One of the most important elements of keeping Christmas simple is to not buy too many gifts.  Two or three each person, for the most part, tends to be enough, and they don't need to be expensive at all.  To me, the most important part of choosing a gift is simply keeping the person's likes or dislikes in mind--I'm really flattered when someone says, "I knew you'd like it," and they're right.  Unfortunately, though, for many people this is a difficult task because they really have no idea what the person likes.  They either haven't been paying attention to that person or haven't been around that person enough to know what they'd like as a gift, so when it comes time to get a gift, it's an extremely difficult task.

We also keep our decorations simple.  Right now we have a four-foot artificial tree that we've had for years, a couple of stockings, and about four other decorations that we've placed around our living room.  If we get more into it, the whole process of decorating becomes much more time-consuming and stressful, not to mention the fact that we start to dread having to take everything down.  And honestly, these few decorations do it for us--we don't feel that we need to have everything decked in boughs of holly for the spirit of Christmas to be alive in our hearts.

At its heart, Christmas is a simple season.  We are the ones who have complicated it over the years, and we pay a heavy price for those complications in the stress that we feel and the conflicts that often arise as a result of that stress.  We can turn the season into a dreadful ordeal when we pile too many expectations on ourselves and others, but on the other hand we can turn it into a delightful experience if we just slow down, stop trying to please everyone else, and quietly and peacefully consider the beauty of a season that encourages us to consider our love for others.
   

Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer,
but always it will be a day of remembrance--
a day in which we think of everything
we have ever loved.

Augusta E. Rundel

   
How can you simplify your holiday?  First, look at all the things that you "must" do--are they truly obligations, or do you simply see them as such?  Is that fourth Christmas party that you've agreed to go to necessary, or are you going because you feel you have to?  Perhaps that would be a good evening to sit at home, put in a Christmas movie, and drink some egg nog and have a cozy, homey evening.  If you're truly stuck on what to get someone as a gift, maybe it's time for you to consider a gift card--they're not exactly the most personal of gifts, but they can be great stress relievers when we consider people who are hard to buy for.  Perhaps putting up fewer decorations can be just as effective as the entire rigmarole, and the time you save can be spent curled up on the couch reading a nice Christmas story or two.

By no means am I suggesting giving up all the traditions of the holiday.  I'm not suggesting an empty Christmas with no preparations and no decorations.  We would never do that, personally.  But there's a difference between "complicated" and "unnecessarily complicated," and it definitely can be worth our while to take a step back and consider just how much of what we do for the holidays is necessary, and how much is simply too much for us to be able to do it all and still enjoy the peace and the beauty of this very special time of the year.  After all, the birth that we're celebrating took place in a stable, of all places, with nothing at all special about the setting.  Perhaps the more complicated we make things, the further away we get from the simple peace of the actual origin of the celebration.

   
More on moderation.

   

One of the most important elements of living life fully is awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively. In the twelve years of livinglifefully.com's existence, this essay series has been a mainstay of the weekly e-zine--a series that has explored not just the things that exist and that happen around us, but also our reactions to those things. The first five years of the column are now available exclusively on Kindle.

   

  

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What is Christmas?  It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.  It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

Agnes M. Pharo

  
The Art of Keeping Christmas
Wilferd A. Peterson

How can we best keep Christmas?  How can we best defeat the little bit of Scrooge in all of us and experience the glory of the Great Day?

By sinking the shafts of our spirits deep beneath the sparkling tinsel of the surface of Christmas and renewing within us the radiance of the inner meaning of the season.

By following the Star on an inward journey to Bethlehem to stand again in awe and wonder before the Babe in a Manger.

By rediscovering the faith and simplicity of a little child, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

By being still and listening to the angels sing within our hearts.

By quietly evaluating our lives according to the Master's standards as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

By reaffirming the supremacy of the spirit in man's conquest of himself.

By rededicating ourselves to the Master's ideals of Peace, Brotherhood, and Good Will.

By resolving to give ourselves away to others in love, joy and devotion.

By using the light of Christmas to guide us through the darkness of the coming year, refusing to go back to the dim kerosene lamps of the spirit when the brilliant electricity of Christmas is available to show us the way. 
   

  

Next morning an orange in one's stocking, along with candy and popcorn,
was the greatest treat.  For with no fruit stores as we now have them,
oranges were to be found in the stores only at Christmastime.  An orange
for Christmas!  That was something to remember and feel proud of
having received!  It was something worth telling to your playmates.

Fred L. Holmes

    

  

   

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