Friday, December 16, 2016

Catholic School Girl Memories and Turning 42

                                            (The big red sock I started my life out in)

As I approach the day of my birth, I can't help but become a tad bit nostalgic. Please indulge me beloved reader as I head down memory lane a bit. 
Most of my life I have known there is more than what we see here on this earth. When you are born only a week before Christmas and named Noël you can't help but seek out why that name is so special. You wonder at a very young age why your name is Sung out with such sweetness, and why it is all over town in bright lights. Right from the very beginning of my small life I was taught about someone bigger than myself. That was the greatest gift my parents could have ever given me.

I was told that originally I was to be named Natalie(now the name of one of my beloved friends) after Natalie Wood, but because my due date was on Christmas day the vote changed to Noël. My very European grandparents argued that it should be spelled Noelle, but my mom insisted it would be spelled the way people see it all over the world and the compromise was to put an umlaut over the E ... that's the dots you see over my E for those of you who don't know what an umlaut is. Don't feel left out if you are just now learning what an umlaut is. I didn't really know that's what it was officially called until much later in life. I also didn't know how to put it on any typed email, text, or blog so I would sign off as No..el, hence the nick name No Dots for short! You're welcome ... you now know what an umlaut is and should feel very European hence forth. Ha ha giggle.

I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't being taught about the big man in the sky or a time that the month of December wasn't so special, and I think some of this might be because I came home in a stocking. I mean not many people get to say that they started out their life coming home in a big red sock. Maybe it is because from a very young age until this present day my birthday that was almost shared with the day we celebrate baby Jesus coming to earth has been so closely linked that it's no wonder why I'm always talking about him. 
Is it because we were almost birthday buddies or possibly because I started learning about him from such a young age?
I'm not really sure but bare with me as we head down the road of Noël's Christmas past, present, and future. 

             (My niece Savanah Rae in the Peanut Cracker as a toy soldier)

I started my education in a private Catholic school called St. Teresa's, and  for the first years of my academic life I had to wear a uniform, call some strange man Father, and go to confession weekly. 

I have some very fond memories of those days, but I also had a lot of confusion about those days as well.

I remember as a young Catholic girl that there were a few things about this whole God business that I didn't really understand.

I didn't understand how believing in God correlated to having to wear a uniform and look like everyone else. I was a girly girl who wanted to dress in all kinds of style and fashion, but instead I was limited to a white dress shirt, a plaid pleated green and blue skirt every day, oh and plain navy blue pants in the winter. Bleh!!
Maybe this is what happens when you come home in a big red sock, dunno?!
Needless to say, the moment I went to public school all the girly girl came out in full splendor!

I also didn't understand why we had to go to confession. I was a young girl whose only sins at the time (that I knew of anyways) were being irritated by my little kid brother, calling him a bad name or two,(which back then would have been something like doo doo head) and ...yea that was it! I would often times go into confession on Saturday and or Sunday which ever day we went, and I would make up stuff. Which then of course was lying so I would confess to lying while I was currently doing it!!  LOL ... now that there is some funny shit or I mean doo doo!

And finally, I didn't understand why I had to call this man I didn't really know my Father and be very, very well behaved around him especially because he was really important and special. I was always timid and shy around the priests, and I never, not once walked boldly up to them because they were in my young mind untouchable and beyond holy.  

I don't in any way want to sound as though my time as a young Catholic girl wasn't for the most part a wonderful experience. My childhood memories there are for the most part sweet, and full of a lot of laughter and love, except for maybe having Ms. Janet as a teacher. That's a story for another day ;)

I'm thankful for the nun at St. Teresa's that was kind and loved animals. We would walk the school yard together with her cute white poodle, and sometimes she would give me some of his snacks...Ew! Ha ha ....just kidding not about eating dog snacks, but the Ew part because they were real beef jerky treats...(at least I think they were,  ((insert wide eyed emoticon face here)) either way, I loved them and her!

I think about that young kindergarten  girl who ran around St. Teresa's with her best friend Julie(that I'm still friends with today) and I think about what a good life this has been.

I'm grateful for the beginning of  my spiritual journey that did indeed start at a very young age, but I also know that this journey isn't over until the day I stand before my maker and my time here on earth is done. I will continue to try and fully know and understand more about this "God Business" (yes I did just quote myself)and how I can better serve him all the days of my life. 

It wasn't until later in life when I came to know Christ in a completely different way that some of that confusion started to make sense. Some of the things I was told to do there were in fact NOT biblical and other aspects of my early days as a young Catholic school girl still have molded me today.

14 Since then we have da great high priest ewho has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, flet us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest gwho is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been dtempted as we are, hyet without sin. 16 iLet us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 I'm glad that I now know my High Priest, Jesus. I know him and he knows me. I know that he knows my weaknesses and sins before I even say a word and he sympathizes with me because he knows I'm human and prone to make mistakes. I know he loves me and that there is nothing that can ever separate me from his love. There is no sin, no earthly mistake that I could make that would stop him from loving me and that gives me the ability to come to him daily with confidence and security. 

A throne of grace is where I humbly bend my knee now. I gladly bend my knee now, not because I'm told it's what I should do, or because Jesus and I were almost birthday buddies, but because I know the King to which I give my allegiance. He is a good king full of mercy and unending love for me. 

I'm thankful that although my mom and dad were both raised very Catholic they came to have an understanding about Jesus that is outside of the four walls that a church building would provide. They love people genuinely and not just on Sundays. They have loved each other sincerely and without reproach for over 45 years now and they have shown me what it looks like to follow after Christ in a way that doesn't seem hypocritical or arrogant. They are real, and their devotion to Jesus is real. 

 I have had 42 years of goodness and I choose to give glory to God for this one small life. 

          I never knew that life could be this good.

 I'm beyond grateful that my eyes have been opened to a world outside of this very temporary one. I think that every year I'm given here on this planet is a gift not to be taken for granted. I don't fear this aging body because I know that my soul continues to grow bigger every year as I love more people and learn to love God more fully. 

I'm glad that I now understand things about God and his relationships toward men and women that I didn't then. I know without a doubt that his love for me, for all of us, is unfailing and that he always wants us all to know of this love that has the capacity to make every day feel like Christmas. 

      He is all that makes sense in this temporary life. 

He is a very GOOD GOD and the greatest gift this life has EVER known is the gift of my salvation.

I'm grateful that I just don't have to exist here on this planet until my time here is done, but that He makes every day "fresh with no mistakes in it".(Thank you Anne of Green Gables for that quote) He makes life full of hope and it doesn't fade after the Christmas lights come down and the fun Songs stop being sung.

He is the reason I have a song in my heart, a smile on my face, and a soul that knows it's worth! My Christmas wish or prayer would be that you too, beloved reader know your worth and that once the lights come down and the big day is over next week you will have this gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas

Emmanuel - God With Us
I was talking to my youngest son Isaiah the other day about the "Spirit of Christmas" and why this time of year is so special and magical.
We were driving in the car when this conversation about Christmas took place.
This is where most great conversations take place with my kids. 
When we are on the go, out and about in the world.
We passed by this corner in our neighborhood that is always decorated with lights at Christmas time. This corner has stood out to us since we moved here over 3 years ago now, and I will tell you why.

This corner lot is a community corner. 
This corner isn't in someones front yard.
It doesn't belong to anyone really, but every year a couple comes out after Thanksgiving and puts out a beautiful light display for the world to enjoy every Holiday season.
They work hard every year to bring a little holiday cheer by bringing a little light to the world that gets so dark every winter. 
Emmanuel - God With Us
Isaiah is 12 years old and loves people.
He has been a people lover from the day he was born.
I have said that Isaiah has never met a stranger because he makes friends wherever he goes.
When he realized that this couple goes out to put a light in the world simply because they have the "Christmas Spirit" we got talking about what that really means.
We talked about how people love to give this time of year.
We sing songs, wear silly hats and overall just seem happier.
He wondered, Why is that?
Emmanuel - God With Us
I mentioned that the true heart of God is that we would all be like this all year round and that the true "Spirit of Christmas" might in fact just be God's Holy Spirit that we have in us all year, but we just don't pour it out like a cold drink offered on a hot day. 
We talked about what the world would look like if we all started thinking about how we can make another life a little brighter and their load in life they have to carry a little lighter. 
Would if we were givers rather than takers all year long?
Would if we greeted one another with a smile and genuine love in our hearts?
Would if we sang praise to God all year long like we do at Christmas?
It was a great conversation that got me thinking about one of the names we call God;
Emmanuel- God With Us. 
It made me realize how grateful I am to have God's spirit within me, changing me, helping me to see the world through the eyes of faith, hope and most importantly love. 
It reminded me to have hope for others because this is what life should look like here. 
It is only a prayer away that would keep this life of love and cheer, of light and hope going strong all year long. 
The prayer is a simple one... it goes something like this ;
Creator of the Universe
Help me to see the good.
Help me to be the good.
Help me to live in a way that makes life easier, not harder for others.
Help me to give and not take.
Help me to sing and smile and hug freely.
Help me to love.
Help me to accept.
Help me to forgive. 
"And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- the Spirit of TRUTH, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but YOU know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
 John 14:16-17
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