Monthly Archives: December 2020

Reflection from Sarah

Recipe for a Happy New Year.

(Anonymous)

“Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor, and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past – have them fresh and clean as when they came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts.  Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many people spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and spoil the flavor of the rest), hope loyalty, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing – don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution.  Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.”

2020 will draw to a close late Thursday evening and this recipe for a Happy New Year is a creative way to shape the season ahead.  Although the 12 months are the same each New Year, it’s the process of cleansing them from the past that gives the new season its freshness.  The second step; dividing the year into equal parts, is a cue to live in the day, not worried about the future.  Lastly, the importance of seeing what each day can be with the well selected ingredients added.  Special attention is paid to the ingredient of work which brings meaning to rest and rest which is a required ingredient. 

Enjoy selecting your own special ingredients and may your New Year be a fresh beginning filled with faith, hope, and love.

– Sarah McEvoy, CPE Intern

Reflection from John

Opening my eyes to my surroundings also opens me to the possibility of hope and insight. My favorite surroundings are woods, in any season. I go there daily, even if it is a fleeting visit in my imagination.

The late poet Mary Oliver wrote a poem about eyes being opened to hope and comfort – “When I am Among Trees” – in summertime, but it resonates for me in midwinter, too:

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

– John Terauds, CPE Intern

Reflection from Cherie

Beauty and Frailty

I came across this quote and it halted me, “The beauty and the frailty of life are not opposing qualities. It’s precisely in the frailty, and our response, that the beauty is uncovered.” – Kerr

I suppose it’s because this year, 2020, has left me feeling soul weary. I suppose it’s because I have been swimming in a sea of unknowns, fears, loneliness, and loss. And because everyone else it too, everyone is working hard to keep each other buoyant. But the waters are thick and cling to our limbs and every single move takes more energy than it’s supposed to. Weariness is multiplied by weariness and we long for light.

This year has been the opposite of whatever walking on the moon must feel like where astronauts float a little between each step. There is no floating. Instead, gravity keeps us heavy and all of our exertion brings us up close to our own frailty. We have limitations; we cannot do it all – all of the time – with no end in sight.  

Soon this year will end. The new one will arrive. We will wake up in the morning on New Year’s Day still needing to grab a mask before we stop in the store to pick up some milk. The waters may still feel thick and clingy. We may still feel tired.

But if I revisit the quote that captured me, “The beauty and the frailty of life are not opposing qualities. It’s precisely in the frailty, and our response, that the beauty is uncovered,” I can find hope. Maybe it’s not in spite of this difficult year, but because of it, that I will connect with the beauty of my own soul, marvel at the beauty of the souls around me, who in the murkiest of thick waters remain aware of other souls struggling to stay afloat. Maybe feeling weary and peering at my own frailty is the crucible in which deep and profound beauty waits. It awaits our response while we sit weary and soul tired before it emerges and fills us with strength.

Here lies the hope, here is what captured my longing soul. When we come to the end of ourselves and sit depleted it is within our ability to respond in a way that allows the beauty around us and within us to strength and sustain us. As we shift our gaze from murky waters to sunshine’s warmth, from struggle to love, beauty will greet us and sustain us with hope.

– Cherie Shaw, CPE Intern

Reflection from Marianne

Merry Christmas!

On this Christmas Day, I am grateful for this holy season that celebrates birth and renewal, and the spirit of love. I am grateful to work alongside HHH staff members who embody the spirit of love by providing care and compassion to our beloved residents on Christmas Day and every day throughout the year.

On this Christmas Day, instead of going to a large family gathering, like many others, I am spending a quiet day at home. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle, it’s a day when I’m quietly reflecting on past Christmases. One very sweet memory is the special Christmas cake my Aunt made. It was 8 inches high with multiple layers of homemade puddings and creams. It was her masterpiece and we oohed and aahed as each morsel of sweet ecstasy melted in our mouths. When we asked my Aunt for her recipe, she would tell us, “the magic ingredient is love.” If the true spirit of Christmas is love, then my Aunt infused her cake with the true meaning of Christmas.

As delicious as the cake was, the most special part was – my Aunt wrote “Happy Birthday Baby Jesus” on the top – and we engaged in the family ritual of lighting a candle on the cake while gathering round to sing happy birthday to the baby Jesus. The youngest child was given the great honor of blowing out the candle while we all clapped with joy.

Those seemed like simpler times, and since I was seeing them through the eyes of a child, they were simpler. This Christmas is different. It is almost incomprehensible how much the world has changed and how many lives have been lost in such a short time. Yet, during this time of uncertainty, loss, and grief, we have also experienced the miracle of babies being born. Each year about 140,000 new lives come into the world, each one bringing the promise of love and hope to a weary world.

On this Christmas Day, let us rejoice, not only the birth of Jesus, but the birth of each child. Let us celebrate the miracle of love and light that comes to dwell in and shine forth through human form in every baby that is born. Let us sing Happy Birthday to all the newborn babes and pray they too bring peace on earth, goodwill to all.

May the spirit of Christmas bring you and the whole world love, light, hope, and peace this holiday season and may it last throughout 2021.

Marianne DiBlasi, CPE Intern

Reflection from Mary Anne

HOPE

I thought I knew what hope is until I had to define it and put it into words, and now I have to ponder. Hope, faith, and love are elusive concepts—I know it when I feel it. Hope is delicate and mysterious. Hope is deeper than mere optimism. Hope is believing that things will work out—that there will be a better world. It helps me get through whatever trial I may be experiencing. If I stop and still my soul, I remember how I have weathered difficulties in the past, and I have survived. By recalling these times, I am able to remain calm and peaceful. It is important to develop and cultivate hope. By doing so, I can foster determination and grit, and an ability to bounce back. I can then remain determined despite failures and setbacks. As I survive each trial, I become stronger and more confident that I will make it through the next time.

Hope looks forward, not backward. Hope remains in the present and looks for the future. I cannot hope for a better past. The past is in the rear view mirror. Hope can give energy to my soul. I hope for a better new year—one where restrictions will be lifted and I can be with friends and family again. COVID-19 is merely a place holder for something greater that is to come. It just has not been revealed to us yet. I love the snow, but I do hope it will eventually melt and that spring will come. There is great assurance that is true. At times when I have lost hope, I can feel deep despair. I try not to go down that rabbit hole, but turn to find inspiration in the words or deeds of others.
Music, poetry, and faith also help to boost my hope. Likewise, I can offer hope to those who are in despair or are experiencing fear and uncertainty.

LIFE IS A TWISTED ROAD

Life is a twisted road dominated by unexpected twists and turns,
However, at the end of the day, it is from them that we learn,
And in spite of being so hard to cross,
The flame of hope always bright and strong,
For as long as hope reigns, nothing can go wrong.

—Monica Partridge

– Reflection provided by Mary Anne Totten, CPE Intern

Reflection from Jennifer

Even in the best of times, the holiday season can bring mixed emotions. Our holiday memories might be a mixed bag of both positive and negative experiences. Often we grieve for our loved ones who are no longer with us to celebrate. This year the pandemic has already caused us all so many losses, big and small, and it will no doubt impact our holiday celebrations. While we will hopefully find some happiness and joy this holiday season, we still might feel a sense of loss for our family traditions or sadness that we can’t be with those we love.

The coexistence of joy and sorrow seems to be part of the human experience. According to a Czech proverb, “joy and sorrow sleep in the same bed.” I really appreciate that image; joy and sorrow sleeping in the same bed conveys a sense of comfort and familiarity with one another. Perhaps they complement each other well, like a longtime couple.

I recently discovered a poem that captures these feelings. I find it helpful to read this through slowly several times, and I like to pay attention to what words or phrases most capture my attention:

Holding Joy and Sorrow in the Same Hand: A Poem of Acceptance
by Beth Bruno

Holding joy and sorrow
in the same hand
I rest.
Ceasing my attempts to extinguish the sorrow
I wait.

There is wisdom in both
joy and sorrow.

One cannot exist without the other.

Sorrow tempers joy,
bringing
sweetness
tenderness
refinement.

Joy leavens sorrow,
bringing
air
space
lightness.

Opening my hand to peer in,
I see what it means to be
human.

My compassion is awakened.

I reach out my hand,
filled with
joy
and
sorrow,
to a world hungry for
compassion.

I offer what I have,
bringing
empathy
tenderness
grace,
to a world also holding
joy and sorrow
in the same hand.

May you rest in the assurance that it’s OK to carry all of the emotions you may be carrying this holiday season. And may our compassion for one another be awakened as we realize we are all holding both joy and sorrow in our hands.

Blessings & peace to you,
Jennifer, CPE Intern

Reflection from Sarah

Christmas Mail
By Ted Kooser

Cards in each mailbox,
angel, manger, star and lamb,
as the rural carrier,
driving the snowy roads,
hears from her bundles,
the plaintive bleating of sheep,
the shuffle of sandals,
the clopping of camels.
At stop after stop,
she opens the little tin door
and places deep in the shadows
the shepherd and wise men,
the donkeys lank and weary,
the cow who chews and muses.
And from her Styrofoam cup,
white as a star and perched
on the dashboard, leading her
ever into the distance,
there is a hint of hazelnut,
and then a touch of myrrh.

This poem by Ted Kooser reminds me how Christmas can bring extra meaning to even the routine things I do. The poem describes a mail carrier delivering Christmas cards and ‘stop after stop’ describes the ordinariness of her daily routine. The Christmas story in the images on the cards brings the divine to the day-to-day. The dashboard, with the white cup leading her, like the star, toward to the blessed holiday, flavored with hazelnut, then a hint of myrrh; one of the gifts brought by a king to the Christ child.

During this Christmas week may you see in the ordinary, day to day things that you do:

folding laundry,
printing billing statements,
delivering meals,
shoveling snowy driveways and walks,
mopping floors,
passing medications,
answering the phone,
answering call lights,
tending lonely hearts,
the presence of the divine.

“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” – Julian of Norwich

“Hanging laundry on the line offers you the chance to fly prayer flags disguised
as bath towels and underwear.” – Barbara Taylor Brown

Reflection by Sarah McEvoy, CPE Intern

Reflection from John

Snow.
It’s like people.

Each snowflake is different.
So is each person.

You can catch a snowflake on the tip of your tongue.
You can poke your best friend in the ribs.

A single snowflake makes a difference, because it’s beautiful.
Like a person.

A whole pile of snowflakes makes for great skiing, or a beautifully decorated pine tree.
Maybe the fresh white covering is crying out for snow angels.

Each snowflake is special.
So is each person.
Can you see angels waiting to happen here, too?

John Terauds, CPE Intern

Reflection from Cherie

Let’s Start with Grace

When a word continues to cross my path, I often feel like it is politely trying to introduce itself to me but I am too busy to notice. After several attempts, the message finally gets through. Lately, the word grace has popped up over and over, so I decided to give it some attention.

Grace is a holy word, but it is also a woman’s name. It sometimes starts a meal as we bow our heads and say grace. It’s what I think people are really asking for when they say, “Hey, I just need a break!” Grace creates images of swans on water and ballerinas on point. Some bills offer a grace period. Sometimes a person’s words arrive wrapped in grace. Those are the best kind.

The word nerdy part of me reaches for the dictionary and a variety of sacred texts as I try to give form to this word – grace. Webster’s covers it all. Grace is poise, special favor, mercy, being considerate or thoughtful, a virtue coming from God.

This is how I see it. Grace is something that comes as gift from the Divine and brings wholeness, liberation, salvation. Because it is rooted in deep compassion, it invites, calms, and opens up tight spaces. There is a beauty that is felt if not seen. It is the quality that creates safe and brave spaces where we can all live together as our truest selves. Grace gently touches our shoulder, softly takes our hand, and says it’s ok to breathe.

Thinking about how wonderful it feels to receive grace compels me to be one who offers it to others. In so doing, we step into a beautiful flow that is rooted in authentic love. May we all receive grace: may we all offer it freely to others. May we start each day, each interaction, each activity, each conversation with Grace. Let’s start with grace.

Cherie Shaw, CPE Intern

Reflection from Marianne

For most Christians, this is the season of Advent, a time of waiting for Love to be born into this world. This year, it is hard to forget we are in a time of waiting. We are waiting for a vaccine, waiting for an end to sickness and isolation, waiting for justice, waiting for these strange days to be over. On the third Sunday of Advent, the Advent wreath candle is lit for Joy. During this time, how do we even think about joy? I share these reflections on joy by Rev. Elea Kemler with you.

The old stories we retell at this time of year have clues. They tell us something important about the nature of joy—that joy can break through like starlight or candlelight in the darkness, but that it is surrounded by the hard stuff of everyday life. Maybe that makes it all the more precious. The stories remind us there is still and always joy in this world, and it is for everyone. But it usually comes right alongside the struggle.
Mary and Joseph make a long, tired journey to Bethlehem, before the joy of the baby’s birth. The Maccabees live in the hills, fighting desperate battles and impossible odds before winning back their city and the oil in the temple lamp burning for eight days. Winter Solstice arrives in the midst of the deepest darkness. The joy comes alongside the waiting; it comes alongside the pain and fear and uncertainty, and has nothing to do with ideal circumstances.

Maybe all we can do is issue joy an open invitation and then start paying attention to how and where it shows up. We may discover that joy is already happening, smaller and quieter and braver than we realized. We may find joy is in the taste of an orange, the smell of coffee, the view of the night sky, the sound of the violin.
This is a difficult season in a difficult year. May joy find you, however and wherever you are.

Marianne DiBlasi, CPE Intern