Monday, December 24, 2012

Carolers, Joy, Neighbors, and the Gift that Keeps Giving




friend loves at all times, 
And a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17



I collect carolers and found these on eBay last year.  Love them!




Friday night I invited students from my kids' high school choir classes to come over for a night of caroling, hot apple cider, treats, and games.   We had great time.  My neighborhood has a lot of elderly and the group of carolers managed to bring three people to tears by their simple songs.  There was no rehearsing, the caroling was spontaneous, with a dose of goofiness thrown in for good measure.



Isaiah 40: 11
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: 
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, 
and carry them in his bosom, 
and shall gently lead those that are with young.




One elderly woman was very surprised at our visit and you could tell that she didn't quite know what to do.  She had her television on.  She asked us to wait while she turned off the television, apologizing that the television keeps her company because she's alone.  From behind her screen door, she looked out among our group and noticed a student wearing a NY Yankees baseball cap.  She opened the door and told us the NY Yankees was her husband's favorite team.   Then she disclosed to us that he had been gone for four years.  She had a smile on her face as she reminisced about her lost husband.  She had originally come to the door with a sort of displeased expression - it was a bit late for her, maybe she wondered who was going to try to sell her something on a Friday night.  But when she saw the kids showing kindness and love, the expression on her face changed.  As she spoke to me, she opened up, wanting to share what was going on in her life.  



Psalm 24: 7 - 10
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; 
and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? 
The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; 
and the King of Glory shall come in. 
Who is this King of Glory? 
The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory. 


Even after the carol was sung and the kids started walking away, she continued talking.  She was so thankful we stopped by and expressed her thanks, but continued to apologize about the television being on because she was not expecting company.  She and I ended our conversation as the carolers were a little ways down the street.  The young lady with the cap told me she felt bad for wearing the cap - that it might have made her sad.   I told the sweet student that her cap brought the woman joy by reminding her of happy memories with her husband.   I think I'm going to take my own kids over to visit Frances during the year.  She very excitedly told me that her son, and clarified 'one' of her sons, would be visiting on Christmas eve to spend time with her so she wouldn't be alone.  I was glad to hear that.


We walked two doors down to the house of an elderly widower.  My kids and I rarely see him outside during the year, but I vividly remembered his response last year when we caroled at his house.  The house was dark and it took him quite a while to get the lights on.  He apologized profusely for having it so dark - - he didn't want anyone to get hurt on the walkway and said he wasn't expecting company.  He wanted to give us something, something to eat, but we told him we weren't there to get anything - that we just wanted to sing for him.  I remember his tears last year.  This year, as I reached my hand out to him and reminded him again that I am his neighbor from "down the block and over there, the house with all the boys," he hung on to my hand and then my finger as I walked away.  He had a smile on his face.  We were probably the only visitors he's had in a long time.


Further down the road, we surprised a woman maybe in her 50s.  She lives in a very nice home.  She smiled as the kids sang their carol.  After the song, she asked what school the kids were from.  They told her they were from the "other" school in the district (meaning they weren't from the high school down the block).   She asked why they were caroling.   The kids told her they were simply caroling because they wanted to share their singing with others.  There was a shocked look on her face.  I think she may have thought we were expecting a donation, and when the kids responded, she let out a gasp, uttered some words I could not hear, touched her hand to her heart and expressed a very heart-felt thanks. I could see the tears in her eyes:  she got a gift from strangers with nothing expected in return.



1 Corinthians 15: 51, 52
Behold, I shew you a mystery; 
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: 
for the trumpet shall sound, 
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, 
and we shall be changed. 





Such a simple thing - carolers - neighbors - a connection - a song to sing.  Seeing the response from those three people was so special.  But even more than that, seeing how the kids noticed their responses was priceless.  The kids saw how their gift of music and connecting with someone brought joy.   This is the gift that keeps on giving.  



1 Corinthians 15: 54
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, 
and this mortal shall have put on immortality, 
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 
Death is swallowed up in victory. 



That is how I have felt this past year.  I got a gift from strangers with nothing expected in return.  Most of you were strangers to me when I shared my story.  Yet, you came, you connected with me, you prayed for me, you shared yourselves with me.  I am blessed by having you in my life.  Some think of online relationships as "not real".  I can tell you that I have cried many, many times by the words of yours which have touched me, some in sadness, some in joy.  You all are very real to me.  You come to mind when I am at the grocery store, when I'm driving my daughter to her volleyball games.  I thank  you for the gift of relationship, for reaching out to me.  I am a different person today than I was nine months ago because of the friendships I have made here.  


Thank you, friends.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  


And for those of you who might be alone emotionally or spiritually because of circumstances or abuse, my heart aches for you and I am praying especially for you.  


~Julie Anne





Revelation 5: 12, 13
Saying with a loud voice, 
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, 
and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, 
and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, 
and all that are in them, heard I saying, 
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, 
be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, 
and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

Amen






In addition to caroling next year, it is my dream to do something like this with a group of kids:



Update:  Just after I posted this, I checked on Facebook and one of my friends posted this as her Facebook status:

Flash Mob Caroling at Clackamas Town Center. Brought me to tears…

(Clackamas Town Center was the location of the recent mall shooting in which two people were killed.  How cool is that?!)

24 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas Julie Anne,

    Thanks for this post, for sharing your love and service. I count you as a real friend.

    Craig

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    1. Craig, It's very mutual. Thank you! Merry Christmas to you and Kelly and your family.

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  2. it's a spiritual thing, sister, the reality of our relationship in the Christ.

    this post brought tears to my eyes, thank you.

    what an absolute blessing you are to the world, Julie Anne Smith!

    Joy and Peace and Righteousness in Him for you and your family and all those your blessed life touches.

    Happy Birthday, Gentle Savior!

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    1. Thank you, David. It is our Savior who has brought us all together and now we celebrate his birth. Merry Christmas, friend!

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  3. Julie Anne, I loved reading how the caroling affected the different people you saw. Brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes it is the very simple things that end up meaning the most to someone.

    In this world anymore, we have gone to a more impersonal time. All the electronics, while they can be great and have a place, have often replaced face to face interaction. A tweet, a FB post, an e-card will never ever replace and mean what doing something personally will do. And the further we move away from the personal touch, to me the worse off we become as a society.

    I hope the children can grasp what they did to brighten the lives of those they touched. Thanks for helping them to make a difference in the lives of those people.

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    1. This was a pretty neat group of students. I think most of them understood at least part of what they did and why it was so important. I think I'm going to post most of this note on their choir Facebook page. I want them to know how much it touched ME :)

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  4. Hmmm....thanks for posting this. It is bittersweet, but I needed it, too.

    I'm spending this Christmas alone - and it is hard. When I was younger, we used to carol every year. It was one of my favorite things. For a while, I was in an a capella group - 8 people, six to 8 part harmony, that sang at festivals - we specialized in Renaissance Era music and costumes. My favorite was December. We'd don our costumes and go caroling - to houses, businesses, the town's parade of lights, nursing homes. I really miss that.

    It can change someone's attitude in a moment.

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    1. Yes, I can imagine it would be bittersweet. Wow - 6-8 part harmony with an average of 1 p/part - yea, those are tight harmonies - how fun. If we ever meeting in person, we must sing together. Merry Christmas, Jeannette.

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  5. I think the cute little Yankees lady would be one to definitely go back and visit! Yea, I'm a sucker for the cute little oldies...my primary patient population. :-)
    I had the chance to go caroling about a week ago. My vocal coach organized it up in Boulder. We didn't go house to house. We sang in front of her and her husbands coffee house in a busy shopping area. It was pretty cool to see people stop and listen for a few and leave.
    Oh, and there were a lot of peeps that showed from our choir at our old church. It was good to see some peeps I haven't seen in a long time.
    yea, caroling...well, music ROCKS! This is all making me want to go play my keyboards right now(SOOO fun and therapeutic)!!! :-)
    Merry Christmas!
    -TC

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    1. You sing, too? What do you know! Singing in front of a coffee house sounds very fun, too. Hope you had a great Christmas, Tammy!

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    2. It's kind of an interesting story how I got into singing and playing keyboards. But, most of mine has been through choir and then, the same choir leader as my vocal coach and she REALLY helped me a lot after my jaw surgery. I'm sure I'd be "preaching to the choir" to explain to you how all the various techniques can help in "rehabing" a jaw back to normal function(part of the loss of function included the back right part of my tongue). The only thing I every played and sang in front of anyone was "I hope you dance"(Leann Womack...one of my fav songs) and, that's it. If I ever get a chance again to sing, it will ONLY be choir related...that's it. Same with the keyboard...as far as worship only.
      And, the keyboard was very therapeutic too. When my movement was coming back into my arms and hands(after my cord contusion), I would play(or at the time, attempt to play)and it was a HUGE help in getting my motor control back. I have writen a couple of posts on all of this and music being therapeutic in MULTIPLE ways if you are ever curious. Or I'll email the story one day. God was really looking out for me.

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  6. Headless Unicorn GuyDecember 25, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    Julie Anne, something about those figurines creeps me out. Those mouths just seem so... WRONG....

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    1. Oh, HUG, I'm glad my carolers are safe in my home - lol. I look at them from a choral standpoint. Can you see the perfectly formed "O"? That's so you hear the perfect vowel tones. That is so important, ya know? They have an important message to sing. :)

      Merry Christmas, HUG!



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  7. Merry Christmas and may God bless your new year, love The Varela family

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    1. How funny, Meaghan - I was just looking at your food coma pics on Facebook :) haha.

      Merry Christmas, Meaghan and Tim and family!

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  8. Julie Anne, Thanks for sharing. I remember caroling when I was teenager. It makes a very good memory.
    Merry Christmas Everyone.

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  9. Thanks for these wonderful stories, Julie Anne. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas, with an amazing and blessed New Year to come!

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    1. Thanks, Serving. Hope you had a great Christmas across the Pacific!

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  10. Awesome, totally awesome. I think you are going to see more and more of this. People are fed up with a few people forcing secularism down everyone's throats while screaming about tolerance. Tolerance of everything except the real meaning of christmas.

    Like the cheerleaders that defied a court order and still wrote scripture verses on banners. The higher court finally oked it since it was student led and protected under Julie Anne's favorite amendment. Then my favorite, the valedictorian that was ordered to not mention anything about her faith at graduation or she would be disqualified. So she gets up, gives her testimony and then prays. She ended up refusing the honor of being valedictorian because of the attempted suppression of her faith. Then the next kid in line for it refused it saying "she learned it". In the end she was valedictorian and a blessing. Just when you get discouraged about the condition of our country and secularism, someone like that comes along and just blows through all that with courage and enthusiasm for our savior. God bless them!

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    1. Andy, I think you could be right. I was noticing something while shopping for Christmas gifts this year. Not one cashier said "Happy Holidays" to me. Every single person said "Merry Christmas". I remember hearing in sermons how society is purposely taking "Christ" out of Christmas. We heard of store managers telling their employees that they may not say, "Merry Christmas". At least in my area, it's reverted back.

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  11. Julie Anne

    Thank you so much for this story. (Tear running down cheek.)

    It was precious. Very, very, precious...

    Thank you Jesus

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  12. L. O. V. E.

    The - L.anguage O.f V.ictorious E.ternity - is

    L. O. V. E.

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  13. I'm a day behind, but I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends. Hopefully the new year will build some new relationships with your neighbors!

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