It’s Truly a Wonderful Life

Merry Christmas, dear friends! I can’t believe that in just a couple of hours, it will all be a memory. I didn’t marathon Christmas movies this year like I usually do, but this was the first year I ever watched the classic It’s a Wonderful Life. 

It's_a_Wonderful_Life

Although the list of classic films I’ve viewed is shamefully short, this one is now a favorite. It made me laugh, more than I expected a movie from 1946 to, and it’s kept me thinking since I finished it. If you’re like I was, and aren’t yet familiar with the story, here’s a quick summary:

George Bailey dreams of attending college and traveling around the world, but circumstances continually leave him stuck in his tiny hometown, Bedford Falls. Years pass, and with them, many opportunities George must pass by. One Christmas, everything he’s tried to hold together falls apart. Left with only ruin and the worst luck ever, George wonders if the world and his family would be better off without him. Then Clarence shows up on the scene, sent from Heaven to help George. The angel grants George’s wish of never being born, and in doing so, helps George realize how much his life truly means. 

Bedford Falls

Even 68 years after its release, there’s something about the story of George Bailey and Bedford Falls that resonates. I think we all feel like George at times. Desiring to try new things and explore different horizons, we work and plan for those dreams, saving up and counting down. Yet as much as we talk about “dreaming big” and how “dreams don’t work unless you do,” not all dreams actually do work.

I know, Christmas is the season of dreams coming true; of magic in the air and miracles everywhere. I fully believe that dreams can and do come true, but I’ve also realized it isn’t always the case. Like it did with George Bailey, sometimes life happens. There are situations that require us to place down our dreams and pick up responsibilities.

When we want to escape the sameness, but that’s where we are needed, how do make the best of it? When we’re going through the day-to-day, yet everyone else is going off on adventures, how do we keep going? When nothing seems to work out, none of our dreams have come true, and even what we sacrificed them for is failing… what then? For George Bailey, it meant questioning everything- even life, and what good his had really done. It took an angel named Clarence to show him all the people he had impacted. Without George Bailey, everything was darker, emptier, poorer. As Clarence said, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 

George finally comes to realize that even though he’s been stuck in Bedford Falls and has never toured Europe, attended college or became wildly successful in business, his life has value beyond measure. He wants to live again.

It's a Wonderful Life

So he’s given a second chance at life… And it’s a Wonderful Life. 

George’s story made me think about my own. Granted, George Bailey was approximately a couple of decades older than I am, but in some ways I still relate to the feeling of being in “Bedford Falls.” In this season of life, I’m just doing the “day-to-day.” There are people around me getting ready to leave, to chase their dreams somewhere new, but for right now, I’m remaining here in my Bedford Falls. When I’m quiet and honest with myself, I wonder if I’m really making a difference with my life. I question if there’s something else I should be doing, some bigger dream I should be pursuing right now. Have I failed in some way?

I haven’t had a visit from a kindly angel named Clarence, but watching the black-and-white classic was close. Clarence’s parting words stuck with me: “No man is a failure who has friends.” 

 it's a wonderful life note

George didn’t fulfill all of his dreams, but his life was still wonderful because of the countless others he touched. Perhaps the greatest impact we have can’t be measured by where we go or what we achieve. Maybe it’s in the lives we touch, some of which we will never know of.

Clarence probably won’t pay you a visit tonight, but maybe I can be Clarence for a moment? If you feel stuck in the same place, your “Bedford Falls”; if you’re thinking of all the unmet dreams, unchecked boxes, all the broken resolutions… Stop. For a moment, look over here instead. Look at the people around you. Every single one, from your elderly neighbors to your tiny cousins.  I can guarantee that you have touched their lives. At the end of the day, you have made a difference. Maybe it wasn’t in the way you expected, but the fact remains that your life is immeasurably valuable. You have touched more people than you will ever know this side of heaven. Perhaps the person you chatted with in the checkout line desperately needed someone to show them kindness that day; maybe the student you shared lunch with wouldn’t have eaten otherwise or the waiter you tipped extra was down to his last dollar. Because of you, someone else may have kept going. God uses people to touch people, and you’ll likely never be aware of the numerous ways He has used you.

We all have dreams we’re chasing, but I think I’m starting to realize something. Even if I don’t catch my dreams… Even if things turn out differently than I expected… it’s a wonderful life. 

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2015 is a year of wonder! Thank you for being here, and reading this. In so doing, you have touched my life.

You are wonderful.

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12 Days of Christmas {Prompts}

When I was ten or so, I decided to memorize the lyrics for the Twelve Days of Christmas carol. I wanted to know every single gift that “my true love gave to me.” Never mind that the true love was rather bad at selecting presents. (He gets points for creativity, though.) How many pipers were there…? Or was that fiddlers…? I did eventually figure it out, although I had to look up the lyrics again tonight to check…

Never mind how many pipers were piping; we’re officially into the Twelve Days of Christmas!

In honor of that, I’ve made a short list of Twelve Christmas Journal Prompts, very loosely inspired by the true love’s unique presents.

Twelve Days of Journal Prompts

Spread them out over a dozen days, or do a few at once. (Or, if you’re like me, wait until the end of twelve days, then do them at once.) Make up some of your own, too, if you like, and share them in the comments!

12. Which twelve Christmas songs are at the top of your playlist?

11. List eleven people you are thankful for. Say a prayer for them and send some kind words before Christmas!

10. Think of ten ways you can make someone’s heart leap for joy.

9. What are nine things that make your heart dance?

8. What eight chores or tasks are on your to-do list this week? Is milking one of them?

7. List seven ways you can unwind and find stillness this season.

6. Write about six of your fondest seasonal activities.

5. Make a list of five things that glitter with cheer.

4. Who are four people you need, or want, to call?

3. Which three countries would you most like to visit? What would you do there?

2. Write about two peaceful Christmas memories.

1. What is your one Christmas wish or prayer?

Merry Christmas, even if you aren’t given a partridge in a pear tree!

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Still Christmas

Silent Night

It seems as though most of my recent posts have started with, “I can’t believe it’s this time already!” or some such exclamation.

Once again, I can’t help expressing that feeling of where has the time gone? Christmas is in less than two weeks. (Don’t panic!) Just a couple of years ago, that wouldn’t have surprised me. I would have been anxiously counting down, practically to the hour. I could have belonged in Dr. Seuss’s WhoVille, with the massive Christmas Clock and bedecked everything.

In recent seasons, though, I’ve lost track. I don’t have a countdown, and I’m not wishing away days until the 25th. I still love Christmas, just not in quite the same way.

You see, for most of my life, I’ve equated Christmas with a glittering celebration and an entire season devoted to decking the halls with mistletoe and holly, belting out slightly-louder-than-necessary songs, and watching reruns of the same sappy, seasonal movies. It couldn’t fully be Christmas if every surface didn’t have a decoration, if I didn’t devote time daily to planning the season, and if – heaven forbid! – I listened to anything besides Christmas music.

All of that was so fun, until I got a little older. Then Christmas began to come and I would feel joy but also a twinge of melancholy. Why? This was the most wonderful time of the year, and everything was going wonderfully! What right did I have to be sad? I couldn’t be a humbug, for shame!

So I charged ahead, fa-la-la-la-la-ing and hustling and bustling. I could not slow down or give anything up, or I would have no Christmas cheer. Right up until last year, I made Christmas happen as I thought it should, even when I didn’t feel like going all out. Even when it wasn’t fun, or didn’t feel so jolly, I pushed through as if plowing fresh snow.

I expected to do it again this year, but I haven’t.

This Christmas season, I’ve actually allowed myself to slow down, to stop, think and simply breathe. Seasonal stress is no longer filling up my heart, so I have more capacity for joy. My calendar isn’t crammed with extra Christmas festivities; my gift wrapping doesn’t measure up to Pinterest; I haven’t set a record for mailing cards; and I’ve even listened to non-holiday music from time to time. (Shocking, isn’t it?)

And you know something? It’s still Christmas. It seems so simple, and it has been said before, but this feels like the first year I’ve believed it. Maybe more than ever, this year I am starting to realize what Christmas truly is. Not chaos and pressure, but a celebration of a Silent, Holy Night. Even when traditions are overlooked, the meal is a little simpler, or there are fewer gifts under the tree, it is still Christmas.

Jesus still arrived in an overlooked stable, and was bundled in a plain scrap of cloth. Yet in that simple, unimpressive wrapping, the greatest gift ever was given. It is God’s incomparable gift we celebrate at Christmastime! I can’t help but wonder, though, would I have more time to truly celebrate and reflect on that first silent night if I made my life a little quieter this Christmas? How many Decembers have I spent anxiously preparing for one day, instead of embracing each step of Advent and focusing on what- and Who- I truly want to celebrate?

If you feel more stressed than silent this year, may I encourage you to pause for a moment? It will still be Christmas, even if some bows are untied or not all the decorations are hung. Christmas memories don’t consist of what the house looked like or what was under the tree. For me, my most treasured holiday memories are about the people I enjoyed it with; the blessings I experienced, and the ones I shared.

So this Christmas, even though I love festivities and lights, I want to focus on one thing even more: A Silent Night.

What are you focusing on this season? How do you feel about the holiday hustle and bustle? Is there anything you would like to set aside to spend more time in silent joy?

Wishing you a calm, bright Christmas!

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A Janeite Must Be in Want of These Gifts

Happy December, dears!

I keep recounting the days, but there’s officially less than a month until Christmas. Gingersnaps.

I always have great ideas for gifts throughout the year and then the generous creativity freezes up right around December. And then, in the middle of figuring out what I should give others, they ask me what I want.

Um… How about… socks? Leg warmers? I don’t know. I want too many things all year, but nothing at all around Christmas.

So partly because I personally like these gifts, and partly because I would LOVE to give them, I have assembled some geeky gift guides. I listed more categories than I originally planned, so this will actually be a series.

The first installment is in honor of my favorite authoress ever, Miss Jane Austen.

As most of my friends and all of my family can attest, it is a truth universally acknowledged that I am a bit obsessed with all things Austen. All right, perhaps more than a bit. 

To all my fellow Janeites, and the people who shop for them, I present gifts that a Janeite must be in want of.

Note: I was not compensated in any way for these links. I am sharing them purely because I love these items. 

Jane Austen Gifts Collage

  1. Jane Austen Couple Postcards from Castle on the Hill, Etsy – I love everything about this artist’s Jane Austen prints, especially that the background includes text from the novel! These postcards especially caught my eye because the set includes all the favorite Austen pairs. I’m not sure I could bear to mail them; they would probably end up framed instead.
  2. Mr. Darcy Proposal Scarf from Brookish, Etsy – This entire shop tempts me mercilessly. I’m particularly fond of how soft this scarf looks, and the color is lovely, as is the script of Darcy’s famous proposal.
  3. Pride & Prejudice Pouch from Out of Print Clothing – I never have enough pouches for things, and I could never resist one with a Jane Austen design
  4. The Jane Austen Handbook, available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble – One of my best friends gave me this for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I never get tired of reading through it. This little guide is both witty and insightful; I appreciate the Regency world even more now, and thanks to this book, might be able to survive if I were transported back in time.
  5. Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennett Artwork from Masha Laurence, Etsy – This artist renders the most exquisite Jane Austen prints. I have three of them framed in my room, and wish I had space for more. Especially this charming portrait of Mr. Darcy and Lizzie.
  6. Mr. Darcy Note cards from Brookish, Etsy – Once again, I would probably never send these, but they are lovely.
  7. Places of Pride & Prejudice Tee Shirt from Brookish, Etsy – It makes no difference to me that the general public may not know where Longbourne is. I would wear this most proudly.
  8. Captain Wentworth Slouchy Sweatshirt from Brookish, Etsy– Move over, Mr. Darcy. I personally consider Captain Wentworth’s proposal to be the most romantic of all. This tee shirt proves it.
  9. Pride & Prejudice Mobile Phone Case from a Case of Creative, Etsy – I do believe I need a new case… 😉
  10. Half Agony, Half Hope Mug from Brookish, Etsy – Further proof that Captain Wentworth deserves more credit. I also like this quote on the mug, because it reminds me of the “half full, half empty” way of looking at a glass. Odd, I know.
  11. A Jane Austen Devotional, available from Barnes & Noble or Amazon – Yes, there is even a devotional for Janeites! This little book is truly inspiring, and through it, I have learned a great deal from my favorite Austen characters. Besides, who wouldn’t want another way to infuse Austen into your daily routine?
  12. Jane Austen Library Brooch from Jezebel Charms, Etsy – Two of my favorites: Austen and the Dewey Decimal System. Purely awesome.
  13. Pride & Prejudice Tote from Out of Print Clothing – A bag to match the adorable pouch! A perfect pair, like Darcy and Lizzie.
  14. Jane Austen Quote Tea Towel from the Velvet Vine, Etsy – This charming tea towel is printed with one of my favorite Jane-isms: “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

And there is nothing like giving a Janeite an Austen inspired gift! Are you a Janeite, or do you have one in your life? What other Regency presents would you add to this list?

Happy Christmas!

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