Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Dry a Tear

As the holidays approach, you have so much to give. Your gift, however, doesn't have to be purchased in a store or wrapped with an elaborate bow. It doesn't have to be the latest fad or break your piggy bank. 

Your gift is invaluable when it is your caring heart.

This season, what if you made it a practice for your gift to be that of kindness? How badly our world needs kindness! Every day, we encounter people who are hurting, who are injured by the circumstances of life, whose way is rough and who could use some compassion. 

Open your heart to others. Offer a word of encouragement. Dry a tear.

This holiday season, give love. Give compassion. Give kindness. Give patience. Give respect. Give your undivided self.

You don't have to buy a present. Instead, be present.

Today, this week, this holiday season: Be a gift to others by being kind and spreading compassion.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Explore!

There is such joy in learning new things. Your understanding expands. Your perspective grows. Your assumptions are challenged. Your self-confidence increases.

Perhaps that learning experience comes from listening to the radio or a podcast. Maybe it's through watching a television program or an online TED Talk. Perhaps it's through reading a newspaper, a book or a resource on the Internet. Or maybe it's through a conversation with someone. 

Learning can happen anywhere and at any time (including at any time in your life), if you're open to receiving and considering new information.

When you are open to such newness, you feed your curious self and, as a bonus, you feed your soul.

That's what lifelong learning is all about: A joyful journey of expanding, growing and becoming!

Today, this week: Explore! Give yourself the joy of learning something new, no matter how small, every day. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Song in Your Heart

Television star and orchestra leader Lawrence Welk used to end his weekly TV programs by reminding the audience to keep a song in their hearts. When I think of the weeks leading up to Christmas, I carry a song -- actually several songs, carols and hymns -- in my heart. For me, the joy of the holidays is synonymous with the joy of singing the music of the season.

My love of holiday music began as a child when my parents bought the latest Christmas vinyl LP albums offered through Firestone tires. I couldn't wait to climb back into our station wagon and get home to listen to the new album on our hi-fi stereo record player, complete with speakers affixed to the sides and a turntable that could tilt back into the equipment's housing when not in use. I looked forward every year to that latest Firestone Christmas record album making its appearance in the store so we could buy one.

Each of those annual record albums featured a wide array of famous singers and groups performing Christmas pop standards and classical orchestral works. By listening to those records over and over, I came to love the smooth silky sounds of Andy Williams, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Vic Damone, Doris Day, Robert Goulet, Carol Lawrence and Rosemary Clooney.  I was introduced to the holiday music of Bert Kaempfert's orchestra, Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" and the magnificent orchestral arrangements of everything from "O Holy Night" to "Toyland." 

As a six-year-old, I began singing in our church's children's choir, wearing a white "angel" robe with a big black bow tied at the neck. I was also given the wonderful opportunity to sing solos at Christmas Eve church services, beginning as an elementary school girl. "Winds Through the Olive Trees" and "I Wonder As I Wander" were two of my favorite solo pieces from those years. 

Throughout the years, my Christmas performing opportunities expanded to madrigal dinners, as well as vocal duets, trios, choirs, harp-vocal duets and even as a member of an a cappella women's group called The Cheddar Chicks (It's a Wisconsin thing!). I continue to enjoy participating in several of those small ensembles to this day. 

During my growing up years, there were Christmas concerts at school from the time I was an elementary school student all the way through college. In high school, I was a member of a girls' sorority that entertained our community's grade school audiences at Christmastime with skits and songs. One year, I wore our family's green felt Christmas tree skirt as part of my elf costume as I helped lead the children in singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

As a member of other youth organizations and groups, I helped bring music to those who benefited from being uplifted by song as they healed at our local hospital or resided at the local nursing home or at a senior housing facility.

Regardless of the age of our audiences, whether seated cross-legged on a grade school gymnasium floor or in wheelchairs in a nursing home's activity room, there was something about singing Christmas music together that transcended age and promoted joy. And it still does today.

As an adult, I have had the pleasure for many years of singing with a local caroling ensemble called The Village Voices. We wander the downtown retail district, caroling a cappella sacred and secular Christmas songs, in and out of shops and cafes every Saturday during the bustling holiday shopping season. We also sing at the lovely mansion associated with our county's historical society. I look forward to caroling season every fall.

While I have enjoyed singing a wide range of Christmas music over the decades, I consider it to be among the highlights when I have sung with scores of other singers in performances of "The Messiah," filling the hall or church with the moving strains of Handel's great work. Who doesn't get a chill up and down their spine when hearing "The Hallelujah Chorus"?

Some of my Christmas musical performances haven't been ready for "prime time" or any time! For years, a dear friend and I would get together to watch "White Christmas," the popular holiday movie classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, and we'd sing along! My friend could sing every single lyric to every single song, where I seemed to only be able to sing the chorus or perhaps a line or two of most pieces, except of course the iconic "White Christmas" after which the movie was named.

Even when I'm not doing the singing myself, I find that I'm drawn to the Christmas music that others perform as they lift their voices or their instruments in jubilant song. It seems that my husband and I attend every Christmas concert available all December long. I even enjoy Christmas music in other more mundane settings, tapping my toe to the beat and humming along while standing in line at stores where Christmas music is playing over the sound system.

Christmas shouldn't have to be the only time of year when we feel the music deep inside of us. Lawrence Welk reminded us of otherwise. 

Whether the tune be merry ("Jingle Bells"), silly ("Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"), reverent ("Silent Night") or celebratory ("Joy to the World"), consider making your own joyful noise this holiday season. 

Keep a song in your heart.

As I close out this year's series of reminiscences, I'm going to take a hiatus from the longer Sunday afternoon blog posts in 2020. Please join me next Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. central time and again each Sunday morning in the new year for your weekly dose of "Sunday Sunshine" where my goal is to offer you rays of hope, encouragement, joy and gratitude for your day and week. Blessings!

Sunday Sunshine: Fill in the Blank

A small, hand-printed sign appeared on a tiny table in our church's fellowship hall one Sunday morning. Its message read: "One thing that made me happy was...." If you weren't looking, you might have missed the sign. But how important that fill-in-the-blank is.

Every day, we learn of people who are hurting due to losses, illnesses, relationship stress, work stress, financial stress and other difficulties.

Think about one thing that made you happy yesterday and one thing you did to make someone else's yesterday happy. 

Now consider what will make you happy today and how you might spread that sunshine to someone else. Let the good vibe ripples flow. 

You have the power to make your day one of happiness, joy, gratitude and discovery. It's all in what you choose.

Today, this week: Remember that you have the power to make your day a happy one. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Live a Life of Thanksgiving

It's the week of Thanksgiving, that lovely holiday when we reflect on all that is good, all that is blessing. Often on that day we gather with others to share our bounty. Often, we break bread together, sharing a meal of larger-than-normal proportions. 

Perhaps your Thanksgiving table will be laden with turkey, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, that ubiquitous green bean casserole, and maybe even a pie or two. Perhaps those around your table will hold hands, share laughs, share love. 

Or perhaps your Thanksgiving will be quiet, maybe just you or maybe in an intimate experience with one other person or a small group. Perhaps your meal won't be of feast-like proportions.

In whatever ways you spend the holiday this week, whether quiet or loud, solo or surrounded by family and friends, we all share the same opportunity to enjoy it with a spirit of thanksgiving -- giving thanks for what you have in your life.

As you express your gratitude for your blessings, spread that gratitude, joy and love beyond Thanksgiving to the other days in your life. Being thankful shouldn't be reserved for only one day a year in November. Make the most of every single day by treating it as a gift to be savored and appreciated. 

We each have abundance in our lives. When we spend time reflecting on that abundance, it becomes clearer to us and our opportunities for thanksgiving grow.

Today, this week, this Thanksgiving: Be thankful for the abundance in your life. Spread bountifully your gratitude, joy and love. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Be Grateful for Your Restlessness

Wouldn't life be easier if everything was neat, orderly and clear? Wouldn't it be nice to have a definitive road map where the answers arrived swiftly at our feet so we knew when and where to take the next steps?

Alas, life isn't so clean, neat or clear. It can be a tangle. It can be a fog. It can be a dark night without a flashlight.

Rather than stress about the uncertainty, embrace it! Be grateful for it! Experience fully the restlessness that resides within you. Be okay with not having a clear road map for your every move. Being restless can help you remain open to newness. 

When you're restless, growth potential finds its way into your path as a signal that good things are coming.

Today, this week: Experience your restlessness fully. Be grateful for it. Celebrate all of the potential it holds.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Sunshine: Feel Peace

Life can be rather a stressful experience. There are all kinds of reasons to feel stressed. As a culture, we thrive more and more on conflict -- with others and with ourselves.

It seems these days that people tend to like feeling stressed and conflicted. We surely talk (or tweet or post) a lot about those things that make us feel that way. We zip about quickly, trying to do too much. We don't take good care of ourselves. At the end of the day, we're exhausted and spent and perhaps even a bit lonely as we isolate ourselves from others, hidden behind our electronic devices.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day in the United States. As those of us who live in America reflect on the men and women who have heroically served our country and continue to do so around the globe, let's also take a few moments to pause and express gratitude to them -- perhaps through your thoughts and prayers, perhaps through your words and actions. Think healing thoughts of peace for them.

Then, think about how you can diffuse the stressful, conflicted moments in your own life so that you feel grateful, connected and at peace. Once you feel that sense of peace, be generous with it. Spread it around so that when others feel stressed or conflicted, they'll feel your peaceful energy and find that they, too, can live in such a wonderful state.

Today, this week: Feel peace. Spread peace. Live peace. Be peace.