Archives for : July2018

Joy in July

Joy in July . . .

After living and working in Milan and Paris, I arrived in New York City 20 years ago, and I saw both the joys and the hardships of daily life.  On July 28, 2006, I was very proud to become a citizen of the United States—the greatest privilege on planet Earth.

Melania Trump, First Lady of the United States

 

May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.

Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, 1947-49

 

I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on summer humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the things that a good God gives.

Ann Voskamp, Author of One Thousand Gifts

 

Here men from planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon.  July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.

Neil Armstrong, Astronaut

 

For you have been called to live in freedom.  Use your freedom to serve one another in love.

The Holy Bible, Galatians 5:13

 

 

Christmas in July?

Rev. Edwin Hollen, one of our favorite guest bloggers, returns with commentary on this month’s theme: Christmas in July? Whoever heard of such? How can that be?

It just won’t seem right without snow! It is interesting how we come to associate certain situations with different events. We had a surprise this last spring. It was time for tulips, lilies, and daffodils, because it was the celebration of Easter – new life. Instead we had snow!

That did not take away from the real meaning of what Easter reminds us of. Do we realize in our own region of the world, when we celebrate the event of God sending his son into the world as a gift to bring eternal life to us, that much of the world has never seen snow? Sand is more common to large portions of our world. I confess to you with the bleakness and bareness of December, a little snow adds a beauty all of its own.

These are associations that we humans get used to. There is no harm done with making associations unless we miss the reality of the occasion. It is quite true that the time of our celebration on the calendar would not coincide with the actual time of year the birth took place. The event that is recognized and celebrated is really so much more than any tradition or cultural customs that come to be carried out among us. Our celebration of the event is one we can and should enjoy the year round.

The established fact is that the “Ancient of Days” (God) planned to give mankind a gift—a gift needed by every past, present and future human. What we know and we learned from the Scriptures was “when the fullness of time had come” God sent us that gift! That gift had nothing to do with when or where as to the value. There are those who would certainly question why there, of all places?

What we know and have come to recognize, an event, a birth did happen that even secular history must acknowledge put this planet on a different course in a multitude of ways.

The great truth that lives on and on is that God gave mankind, at a particular time in history, at a particular place, through a young, virgin woman, a gift in the form of a child—divinely conceived and brought forth—who is to be celebrated, received and enjoyed for time now and eternity.

What about Christmas in July? Why not?

It is the celebration of the Christ Child being born to live among us, to give us his life, so we can receive from him the gift of eternal life. The gift would have the same value, a God gift, whatever time or season it would have happened, so let’s celebrate him continually. Yes, in July also.

I’m not waiting until a white Christmas!

 

Christmas in Hawaii

You’re going to love this guest post by Nicole, who runs her blog, Door No. 2. Nicole Tombers is a Physical Therapist and writer in Palmer, Alaska. She’s an avid reader with a love of learning and a growing interest in educating others. She enjoys eating good food, traveling, and exploring Alaska with her husband, Brad (Mary Z’s grandson).

As vitamin D deprived Minnesotans turned Alaskans, it was strange to spend the Christmas holiday on an island where it is 75 degrees and sunny nearly every day. I had the distinct feeling that people on the islands shouldn’t even bother with Christmas when there is no snow on the trees or cozy fireplaces around which to gather with cocoa and eggnog. But that is an important purpose for traveling – to see something different, experience something new, do something outside of your normal, and share in a different kind of life. And so we soldiered on through the warm sunshine… *sigh*.

For our first few days on Kauai (including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), we stayed at the Palmwood Guesthouse – a beautiful bed and breakfast tucked in the hills of Moloa’a which is private, charming, and loaded with zen. We were greeted by Ina, our host and chef during our stay, who was most gracious and provided positively delicious, locally sourced meals for us each morning, including a lovely bit of fruit and croissants left at our door on the day we had to be up early for our helicopter tour. Each morning was different, but somehow just exactly what we needed to start the day.

As we took a walk around the grounds, the attention to detail was clearly visible – the house beautiful and modern, the landscaping pristine, and the amenities seriously on point! We stayed in the West Suite, one of three rooms at the Palmwood, each with its own private outdoor space and each unique in some way. Our piece of paradise offered a large outdoor lanai with an outdoor shower, small jacuzzi hot tub, hammock under the palms, and a bubbling water feature that softly sang us to sleep each night. And then there was a pool. (OMG you guys, the pool. It was basically made for Instagram.) When we were not out exploring, it was morning yoga by the pool and afternoons in the hammock with a beer and good book. Every moment at this place was peace and serenity. It was paradise on a whole island full of paradise. If you are visiting Kauai and it is available, I recommend The Palmwood with the highest of praise.

While every day at the Palmwood was fabulous, Christmas Day was a special one. But not in the way you might expect. While our families back in Minnesota played games and opened gifts with a fire blazing in the hearth and lights twinkling on the tree, we shared dinner with strangers. And it was amazing. On most days we simply crossed paths with the other guests who we shared the house with, but on Christmas we all came together for a wonderful multi-course dinner carefully prepared by Chef Ina. We shared the table with Mario & Christine, honeymooners from Toronto, and Shawn & Katie, fellow Midwesterners now living in Seattle. Three couples, of similar age, taking a break from their busy professional lives, who had come from different places to spend Christmas at the Palmwood.

Maybe it was because we’re millennials, maybe because we had good food and wine, or maybe because we were strangers with no preconceived notions about who we should be or how others knew us to be, but we had such great conversation with these people over dinner and late into the night. We talked about everything from work & family, to politics & religion, to excess of choice & the search for happiness. We found that when you begin to dip deep and get meaningful with others, we’re often fighting all the same battles within ourselves. In a world where we so easily get bogged down in image and “success” and meeting expectations, it was one of the most refreshing evenings we have spent in a while. We are lucky enough that we do not have to struggle through each day, each month, each year, to have securely conquered the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy in a way that many have not. We are lucky enough to have choices in abundance. I fully recognize that there are many who do not have this freedom, whether due to poverty or poor health or discrimination or lack of access to resources. What WE have are truly “first world problems” and, though I am sure we often fail, we make a conscious effort to recognize our privilege. We have a deep desire to do great and wonderful things – to be profoundly generous, kind, joyful, and honest. To live our best life, and use our privilege to do what we can to give others the chance to do the same. On Christmas, it was reassuring to know that we are not alone in our struggle to figure out what that looks like.

As I was telling one of my patients about this recently, she said, “If you tell parents that you had a great trip or you really enjoyed yourselves, that’s just whatever, BUT if you tell them you learned a lot then they’ll think it was worthwhile.” We were sorry to have missed out on time with our family at Christmas, but we really did learn a lot on this trip and are better people for it.

Here’s to meaningful time spent with friends and strangers alike, and to living your very best life.

~ Nicole Tombers

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…it seemed crazy. We would to be celebrating “Christmas in Australia!”     By Mary Zigan

Waldo, I and the children had arrived from Minnesota to Australia on a perfect, sunny day in March. The year was 1971, we were on a new adventure with a two-year work assignment. We sailed into the Sydney harbor with full view of the famous opera house.  We walked off the gangplanks into the unknown. Our feelings were mixed: excited, anxious, apprehensive.  Everything was unfamiliar.  We thought we knew English but we couldn’t understand a lot of the “blokes.” The Australians thought we were the ones with the accent! We arranged to live in a hostel until we could find permanent housing. Within three months, we were in a small house in a charming neighborhood, the children were enrolled in school, and I was learning to drive on the wrong side of the road in our Volkswagen Bug.  And we were approaching Christmas and would be celebrating what felt like “Christmas in July.”

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…but with a temp of 78◦ we certainly weren’t going to light a fire in the fireplace. But, more disconcerting than that situation was, we had to find a Christmas tree that didn’t look barren and sickly. We finally found one that would pass and put a few decorations on it. It just didn’t “feel” like Christmas does back home we moaned.

Waldo and I decided it would be fun to spend Christmas Day at the nationally renowned Bondi beach only a few miles from our new home. With Barb, our nanny, age seventeen, along with our two children, ages nine and six, we were bound for our first all-day experience as a family on a famous Sydney beach. We packed a picnic lunch and off we went. As you probably know, San Francisco and Sydney are compared as sister cities for glorious weather and this day was no exception. Waldo and I mostly relaxed on one of the provided chaise lounges while visions of sugar plums danced in our heads.

When, what to our wondering eyes should appear…but the water patrol boat roaring up right in front of us. We wondered what all the fuss was about and whose kids were rescued. When in tow appeared Barb and Terri with fear and panic on their faces, and to our horror, what could have easily been a double drowning. Needless to say, that frightening experience brought that day to a full stop for all of us.  That night, when the children were nestled all snug in their beds, as we peered in on them, ringing in our ears were the water patrols words as he drove out of sight;    “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Mary Z