Just be kind.

As Christmas approaches, the general pubic is trying desperately to determine what their loved ones need. We search and search for just the right thing and it brings us great joy when we feel like we have found what will bring a smile to the faces of those that we love so deeply.

My husband has been fretting. He wishes he could get me a “surprise”, not something that I picked out for myself. He feels badly that he can no longer do that for me. He doesn’t get it though. It’s not what is important to me.

What is important to me is the basics. What I want more than anything is genuine kindness, trust, and compassion. Our children are missing this in the public education setting because our focus is so grossly focused on standards and testing results. Many don’t possess the basic fundamental skills that don’t have anything to do with academia. It has to do with basic human characteristics that focus on basic human interactions: love, kindness, trust and faithfulness.

I want that. I want that for and from everyone I come in contact with. I just want to genuinely care for the people I come in contact with and for them to reciprocate my feelings.

So what do I want for Christmas? I just want people to be kind.

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When Things Are Not “Okay”

I love the Christmas season- especially the music and the decorations. I love gathering with people I love most, while honoring my creator and celebrating the birth of His son. I blame my husband’s family for the endless baking, the insane amount of decorating, and the multitude of Christmas movies that must be watched. I thought my family enjoyed the season, until I was introduced to his side of the family. Grown adults are reduced to children as they chase one other around the house bopping one another over the head with wrapping paper tubes. Gum drops cannot be eaten until they are thrown at each other first- leaving gum drop shaped welts on the skin. Traditions must be adhered to, specific food must be baked, and at the insistance of my side of the family, services must be attended and Jesus must be sung to.  It makes my heart sing when my family is together and getting along. Their laughter fills my bucket. But what happens when things aren’t really “okay’?

Force joy. The best advice I can give is to “fake it until you make it”, and to do things that bring you joy. We have a few things that help in our home that I thought might be helpful to share.

The 24-hour rule. We have 24-hours to have a pitty party, which is sometimes necessary. At times life is unfair and we need to take time to be sad, frustrated, and disappointed so that we can move forward. We need to have processing time. In our home, it is up to the rest of the family to let you know when your 24-hours is up. At that point, it is time to come up with a practical plan. My husband has always been particularly good at helping us to come up with those next steps.

Do something. Both my husband and I come from families with a huge work ethic. We have always worked hard and we appreciate others who make that a priority. In fact, we have little toleration for those who can, but don’t work. It is actually how my husband and I “speak” love to one another. Nothing brings us more joy than working side by side. It is amazing what physical labor will do to ward off frustration and force a new mindset. At the end of the day, when we have worked hard, we can look back at our accomplishments with pride. We’ve had lots of think time and are ready for some quality rest from honest physcial labor.

Force a good attitude. Attitudes are contagious. We force ourselves off the couch, off the phone and social media, and get ourselves on the floor to play a board game or tickle a baby. It costs nothing to play and interact with the people we love. Laughter improves the spirit. My husband particularly enjoys watching practical jokes on the internet. His laughter can bring me out of a funk quicker than most anything.

Go for a walk. Physical exercise, fresh air, fresh fallen snow, a fuzzy pet, and a friendly wave from the toddler next door is always helpful. We need to get up and get out! I often pray out loud and walk at a good clip so that when I return, I am physically exhausted. It clears my head and tires me out.

Make a pot of coffee. Coffee solves a multitude of problems, especially with a good book, and a friend or two.

Light a candle. Smell helps to bring me out of a funk. I love the smell of a candle, especially when it smells like fresh-baked cookies!

Clean up and get dressed. It is amazing what a shower and fresh clean clothes will do to lift my spirits. I do that even when I’m sick. It helps me to feel human. Sometimes I paint my nails, put on some good smelling lotion, or try a new hair style.

Write encouraging notes. It is amazing how comforting it is to encourage someone else who might need a hand up, from someone else who “gets it”, and is also trying to seek joy when times are rough.

Perform an act of kindness. Kind souls occasionally leave me gift cards in my box at school. Some day it is my goal to pay it forward and to be the keeper of the gift cards. They have been such a huge blessing to me. However, kindness doesn’t have to cost a thing. It is a priceless gift when we share a kind word, a meal, a movie, some quality adivice, and actively listen to a friend in need.

Blast uplifting music. There are some songs that I just love to sing loudly. When they come on in the car, the kids and I just automatically turn the radio up really loud and sing at the top of our lungs. Honestly, I would love to make a soundtrack of those wonderful tunes. (That reminds me, I haven’t heard The Hawaian Christmas song yet this season!)

Take care of yourself. When times are challenging, it is easy to slip into the “poor me’s”. The more I sit and wallow, the harder it is to get off the couch. I try to get 7 hours of rest, eat food that is good for me and will provide me with energy, get some exercise, accomplish something that makes me proud of myself, encourage another person, read the bible, pray out loud, talk to a friend, read a book for pleasure, light a candle and pour a cup of coffee.

So if life is getting you down, and things aren’t “okay”, what are you going to do about it today?

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. Today I am going to have a high altitude attitude.

By the Light of the Tree

Each morning I meet with my Maker. I try to open His word and see what nuggets he has for me. The latest study encourages me to do our PART. Praise God for who he is, Admit my sins and feelings, Request from God what I need, and Thank God for what He is doing. (Jaunita Purcell) During my special time in the morning, when it is just me, the fire, the tree, the animals, and my Maker, I strive for a cheerful heart. But I have to be honest, some days I have to work at it.

By the light of the tree, my first thought is always my children. I reminisce about past Christmas’s. I smile at recent memories of finding and decorating the tree with all of my children. Then my mind wanders to the future. I wonder what it will hold? I wonder how many more family Christmas’s will be held in the house on the mountain? I wonder how many more I will have with my soul mate here on earth?

It occurs to me that nobody knows. You don’t have to be facing a terminal illness to have those thoughts and concerns. That’s why we are called to live in the moment and also reminded by our Maker, not to worry about tomorrow. However, sometimes being told not to worry is like asking water not to be wet. It is just going to happen.

So here is what is on my heart, and what I disclose to God by the light of the tree:

I pray for quality time. I pray that what time my husband has left, is time that he remembers his family. I pray that we can keep him home, and that his pain will be manageable. I acknowledge his diagnosis and have accepted it. I pray that when the time comes, that the Lord will take him quietly and gently, and that I will be with him. I want that to be my last gift to my husband.

I pray for my oldest and his family who are headed to Japan on Monday. They will be there for three years. I pray for the unity of their little family and that their marriage will be strengthened. I pray that the example that they portray to their children will make a lasting impression. I pray for their safety and that they find faithful support and friends who are “like them, or someone they want to be like.” I pray that when the time comes, they will be able to afford to come home to help pay tribute to their father. I am thankful for Face Time and opportunities to see our grandchildren and text to their tablets. Nothing brings us more joy than to receive silly emjois from our little people.

I pray for my middle child who lives and teaches in Arkansas. I pray for her safety and financial well-being. It isn’t easy living alone and 1600 miles away, especially when your father is ill. I pray that she continues to thrive in the school system, and that she finds a church family that can support her when she isn’t able to be home. I am so thankful for Christian co-workers who have been good influences on her, and I pray that in the Lord’s timing, he reveal her soul mate. She has a huge heart, and a kind spirit and I just know that somewhere He is preparing the heart of a very special young man. I pray that the community wrap their arms around our precious girl and make her feel supported, comforted, and cared for in the difficult days ahead. I’m so thankful that she lives in the Bible Belt.

I pray for my baby girl and her family. She is giving of her time selflessly to help care for her father, and I am so appreciative. She is gentle and tender, knowing just when to spend time with him and when to give him some independence. It is a very difficult job working with moods and abilities that are ever-changing. My prayer for her little family is to find their own independence with a home nearby, along with financial security. I pray that we can be actively involved in our grandchildren’s lives because they are such a joy to us. I pray that when the time comes, that my daughter will keep her head and do exactly what she needs to do, and that the final moments won’t leave a lasting negative impact in her mind.

Then I think about me. I wonder what life will be like “after”. I think about how hard I am working to make myself healthy and strong for the marathon that is upcoming. It is challenging to train for a race that you know nothing about: what will be expected or how long it will last. However, I am determined to be physically, spiritually, and mentally ready when the time comes, so that I can be everything my children need me to be. It’s tricky now, but it will be challenging then. I wonder where I will go? Although I love the house on the mountain, it was God’s gift to my husband. He knew that my husband would need the distraction and more projects than he knew what to do with. It will be too much for me. So my plan at the moment is to find an efficient condo or rental that is big enough for company, but small enough for me to manage easily. I want very few responsibilities, to live nearby so that I can commute easily to the farm, school, and church, and close to the ocean because that is where I will feel my husband’s sweet spirit the strongest.

By the light of the tree, my mind wanders to my aging parents, my siblings, my friends and coworkers whom I adore. I lay their needs at the foot of the cross and ask God for his loving guidance as I enter the mission field each day. I thank him for the blessings, and meeting our basic needs, as well as an active prefrontal cortex that keeps me from sticking my foot in my mouth during long meetings that aren’t on the top of my priority list. I aim to do my PART by praising God, admitting my sins and feelings, requesting from God what I need, and thanking God for what He is doing.

One day, one minute, and one second at a time, my prayer is that by God’s grace, we all get through this marathon with as few scars as absolutely necessary.

Tradition! Tradition!

Sometimes I can’t help but hear the famous song from Fiddler on the Roof, especially when I watch my family pick out the perfect tree for their favorite season. I love to watch my girls with their father, and to hear the laughter as my youngest tries to carry the tree on her own while my middle child snaps tons of pictures in order to document each and every outing. I can’t help but reflect on the years gone by. My kids are all grown up, yet they still feel young to me. Picking out the perfect tree has always been a family affair, for all who are around during the season.

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Today I think about my kids and how proud I am of them and although things continue to change, there are certain things we can count on. I am thankful that my son is beginning his own traditions with his little family, and how that little piece of normalcy will provide peace during a time of unrest. I expect that they all will continue to carry on some of the traditions that we began, yet they will create a few of their own. I wonder if years from now, our legacy will carry on through the traditions that we began so many years ago with our children: Homemade egg mcmuffins for Christmas breakfast, familiar cookie recipes, Christmas Eve service at the church after singing Happy Birthday to Jesus, opening just one gift at a time in order to make opening presents last as long as possible, singing about the Hawaiian Christmas at the top of our lungs, making grape nut snow ice-cream, creating snowmen using snow gear from the bottom of the closet, making snow angels in the dark, putting up Christmas lights, the village, and decorating for Christmas BEFORE Thanksgiving. Some of my favorite memories are from the Christmas season, and I just love the memories that we have made and continue making. To my children, keep the laughter coming, and keep snapping those pictures. You make being your Mom a true blessing and I can’t wait to see another traditional Christmas at the Higgins Hotel.