Hope, Peace, Love … Christmas


Christmas quote

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Life Is Short … Sleep Less


Baby Jessica sleepingI’ve always loved sleep … A lot. It’s like one of life’s pure joys.

I hate that fuzzy, grumpy feeling that comes with being tired.

The toughest part about becoming a mom, for me, was the broken sleep, and the fact that for the first few months of her life, Jessica Rose didn’t fall asleep before two am.

The first tell tale sign of pregnancy I always had—and the worst to deal with, even more so than four months of perpetual queasiness—was a constant state of fatigue.

I remember reading, in one of the books in my mom’s vast ‘library,’ that a pregnant woman resting is burning more energy than someone climbing a mountain.  During the times I was pregnant, I had no doubt about that fact.

 

Last night, my son woke me not long after midnight. He had a bad dream and kept me up for the next hour or so as I tried to comfort him, sing to him, pray with him and reason with him.

Today, as soon as I woke up, my first thoughts were, “I’m definitely going to nap today.”

I didn’t.

I tried, but couldn’t. Maybe too much caffeine running through my system.

But more than that was the thought that struck my mind.

One of those weird thoughts that, in my case, unfortunately kept me from slumber.

The thought?

How would I be spending my days if I knew my time on earth was short?

Oh gee. I mean, I know we’re supposed to live each day as if it’s our last and all that, but who really does?

So I started to think about it.

And decided against a nap.

Got better things to do.

Actually, I’ve heard that as people get older, like when they enter their “golden years” they start to sleep less. They wake up earlier or stay up later. My father-in-law, who is in his late 70s, wakes up at 2:30 every morning, spends hours in prayer, and then sleeps for a little while before waking up with everyone else for the day.

Is it a sense that they no longer have “all the time in the world” and a desire – maybe even subconscious – to get the most out of the time they have left?

How would I live if I knew my time was short?

For one, I’d spend more quality time with my kids. Yes, I’m with them 24/7, more or less, but how much of that time is creating lasting memories and some sort of progress and growth in their minds and hearts? Definitely less than 24/7.

I’d also get my writing in some sort of sense-making order, so that if I don’t have the opportunity to finish it, at least I could auction the ideas off to other writers.

There is that logo from somewhere that states, “Life is Short. Play Hard.” Come to think of it, I think I’d need to live by: “Life is Short. Sleep Less.”

Something else I would do is to find a way to tell as many people as possible that they are loved.

That their life has purpose.

And that it’s a beautiful one.

What could be better than living with a sense of purpose and destiny, knowing that you are loved? No matter how short or long our lives on earth, living with meaning, living for love, and living knowing that the best is yet to come – I can’t imagine a better life than that.

Why I Write


quill and inkI ask myself why.

Why do I want to write?

Why do I find such joy in doing so?

Is it just my way to express myself, my ideas, my individuality? Is it cathartic for me in some way?

Is it about me?

I pray not.

For if that were the reason, I would be compelled to set aside my pen and paper.

But what is it?

And why do I feel not only a joy in writing, but a compulsion to do so?

As if something would be lost if I did not write?

Would there be?

And the ideas. Where do they come from?

Some from dreams, some from conversations, some from things I read or watch. They grow and develop and suddenly, they are a creation. But not mine. I couldn’t take credit as the ideas just come to me.

At the same time, I know I must build, develop and expound.

Writing is a crazy thing.

The call to write, even more so.

Yet there are few things more wonderful than to write and post or publish, and someone says, “That’s what I’ve always thought, or felt,” or, “It answered a question I’ve always had,” or, “How did you do that? It made me cry, or laugh, or decide to dream again.”

Writing is more than just self-expression. It’s making your heart, your very soul, available for all to see.

Why would anyone choose such vulnerability?

Perhaps it’s a hope that someone will find, within the words, a reflection of their own soul.

Their own questions and fears, hopes and dreams, passions and wishes.

And maybe then have the courage to likewise reach out to see their dreams realized or to overcome their fears, and find faith. Hope. Love.

This is why I write.

Beyond the Tunnel


waterfall in YosemiteI grew up a couple hours’ drive from Yosemite National Park. Every year or two, our family of eight would venture a day trip there.

The drive always seemed so long as I sat sandwiched between my two parents in the front of our station wagon (my other five siblings having reserved the better seats in the back and the “very back”).

Faithful to the nature of a child, I would intermittently let out the tiresome plea, “Are we there yet?”

But really, I didn’t mind the journey. Fields of yellow and golden-brown tassels bending in the valley breeze give way to fresh forests of sweet-smelling pine.

The wide freeway leads into a narrow winding road, the mountain jutted up on one side. On the other, a thin guardrail borders the edge. Beyond that border, the landscape speeds by. A cluster of trees one moment, each one gnarled and bent by a thousand seasons. A sheer drop off the next minute, the vast valley lying below, shrouded by a grey blanket of smog.

The journey that first seemed to stretch endlessly is nearly over as the toll booth signals the entrance to Yosemite.

Still, the road continues, the pleasant breeze mingling with our lofty thoughts and plans for the day. Another plaintive call, “Are we there yet?”

Now, hills and trees close in the view on either side. Nothing can be seen for a few miles beyond the dense cover, yet we drive on.

There, ahead of us now, the tunnel.

I dread the tunnel.

So dark.

So endless.

The cool breeze is suddenly grey, stark, and lifeless.

Sometimes odd shrieks and bellows echo off the eerily luminescent stone walls.

But finally, a pin of light shines in the distance.

Getting larger now…

Closer

Until…

The brightness almost overwhelms me and I have to shade my eyes for a moment.

We are on the other side.

Yosemite after the tunnelMy dad pulls over to the left and we all tumble out of the car. The small parking area overlooks what is arguably the most gorgeous viewpoint in all of Yosemite. White fleece sprinkled among the vast blue backdrops Half Dome, which in itself stands as a backdrop to a scene of mountains, hills, waterfalls and pine forests.

The best thing is that the day has only just begun. Eager hikes and the adventurous explorations that only the great wild can promise. Misty walkways and powerful waterfalls sliding down the rock’s face as if in slow motion. Rushing streams and breathtaking plunges into the ice cold water. Picnic lunch upon a gentle meadow. Glimpses of wildlife, as a gentle doe stands still, watching with concern, her fawns frolicking in the clearing. The day is filled with photos and fun.

It has only just begun.

 *                *                 *

I was talking with a new friend the other day and the topic turned to death. I asked him what he thought of the concept of life after death.

“There is nothing after death. It’s just darkness. It’s the end. That’s it.”

I considered it for a moment, and felt overcome with sadness at the very thought. I imagined, for a moment, that long journey, its twists and turns and sights … but without the anticipation of something beyond the tunnel. Driving all that way and then stopping at the looming darkness ahead.

That’s it. It’s over. Nothing but dreary shadow and bleak, cold blackness.

But there is more ahead than darkness. Even if you’ve never been there yourself, doesn’t the picture in your mind create a deep desire to see it, to experience the wonders of a day surrounded by nature’s magic?

To make that journey with joy and eager anticipation?

To venture through the tunnel because you know there is so much more beyond it?

But how can we know what is beyond death’s door? Has anyone been there who can tell us, with certainty, what awaits us there?

There are many who have approached death’s door, maybe during a severe sickness or a life-threatening accident. Some have slipped beyond for a moment and then returned to share what they have seen. It is called the near death experience.

What do these people say about that place some call the afterlife and others call Heaven?

A four-year-old boy, who had a vivid near-death-experience recounts the time in Heaven to his father, in the book Heaven is for Real:

“That’s where all the rainbow colors are. … Everyone kind of looks like angels in heaven. All the people have a light above their head. … God is the biggest one there is. And he really, really loves us, Dad. You can’t belieeeeve how much he loves us! … God and Jesus light up heaven. It never gets dark. It’s always bright. … Jesus told me he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad.”

Don Piper also recalls the brilliance of color and light in his experience, in 90 Minutes in Heaven:

“Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen. … Never, even in my happiest moments, had I ever felt so fully alive. … I felt loved—more loved than ever before in my life. … As brilliant as everything was, each time I stepped forward, the splendor increased. The farther I walked, the brighter the light. The light engulfed me, and I had the sense that I was being ushered into the presence of God.”

Ian McCormack, while scuba diving in Mauritius, was stung five times by the box jellyfish—the second deadliest creature known to man. He passed through death’s door before returning with his story, told in The Final Frontier:

“At the moment of deepest blackness, a brilliant light shone upon me and drew me straight out. As I was drawn up into the light, it seemed to touch my face and encase my entire body, as if it had pierced into the deepest darkness and pulled me out. Looking back I was able to see the darkness fading on either side, and could feel the power and presence of this light drawing me up into a circular opening far above me, like a speck of dust caught up in a brilliant beam of sunlight. Almost immediately, I entered the opening and, looking down the tunnel, I could see the source of the light. The radiance, the power and purity that was flowing from it was awesome. I felt the most wonderful peace go right through me. This was total peace. In my past I had sought for peace in education, in sport, in travel, in almost every venue possible, yet it had eluded me. This, however, was a living peace.”

Light, once more, is the part most clearly remembered. Not just any light. It was alive, pulsating, and filled with love.

“I saw a pinpoint of light in the distance. The black mass around me began to take on more of the shape of a tunnel, and I felt myself traveling through it at an even greater speed, rushing toward the light. As I approached it, I noticed the figure of a man standing in it, with the light radiating all around him. … I felt as if I had stepped into his countenance, and I felt an utter explosion of love. It was the most unconditional love I have ever felt, and as I saw his arms open to receive me I went to him and received his complete embrace and said over and over, “I’m home. I’m finally home.” … There was no questioning who he was. I knew that he was my Savior, and friend, and God. He was Jesus Christ, who had always loved me. He was life itself, love itself, and his love gave me a fullness of joy, even to overflowing.”

Those words were written by Bettie Eadie in her bestselling book Embraced by the Light.

The words mirror something promised years ago by someone who knew His time on earth was short.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. … I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2, 3).

He suffered the darkness, entered the tunnel and came out on the other side. And there, He prepares a home…a forever home, where what awaits us is so great that “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

I’m pretty sure, though, that it will be better than a view of Half Dome on the clearest spring day.

And I think that whatever we see in that first glimpse of eternity will only be the beginning.

We’ll have eternity to explore the rest.