Love Like Jesus

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Today many people in the world are celebrating Christmas. We open our presents; we visit with family; and we eat too much.

For centuries, this time of year resonates with celebration from Hanukkah to winter solstice. But the actual celebration of Christmas began as a way to honor the birth of Jesus. So on this day, I offer what I believe are some of the most important lessons we can incorporate into our lives, and they come from the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus taught through words and example about love. It’s the simplest concept in the world, but the hardest to embrace at times.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

In my humble translation, this does not mean to brag or announce your light, but to let your light, your example shine through your existence. In the writing world, it’s called “show, don’t tell.” You don’t have to shout out “I’m a good person.” Be that good person and the world will know.

Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Tough one, I know, but it’s worth the effort. It takes a lot less effort to love someone than to hate them. To love is to forgive and when we forgive, we unleash a sled full of negativity. Forgiveness is simply the choice to change our perceptions.

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

A woman I admire recently told me she lives by this teaching. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort in our everyday lives to incorporate this, but it is worth it. And when we act unto others as we wish them to act unto us, we pay it forward as well. There’s a chance our actions will multiply out into the world, and I’d much rather positive energy repeated than negative.

Matthew 7:1-5 Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye?

This is one of the most important teachings. One thing I have learned during my five decades plus on this earth: Unless you’ve walked in the actual shoes and footsteps of another person, you have no idea the motivation behind that person’s actions. We tend to look at a person and put our experiences and background on his behavior. I don’t want to be judged by another person’s experiences. Judge me only until you have experienced what I have experienced in this lifetime. I catch myself judging others too often, but I’m able to recognize it most of the time. All of the other teachings of Jesus fall right into line with this one.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

There’s really nothing more to add except to wish you all an abundant and peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah, winter solstice, Kwanza, or whatever else you choose to celebrate at this time of year. Whatever you celebrate, do it with love, and 2013 is sure to be the best year ever.

 

My Birthday Story

angel birth?

angel birth?

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’ll admit today’s post is highly self-indulgent and probably borders on sheer fiction. But it’s my birthday, and to paraphrase Lesley Gore, I’ll write anything I want to. This is the story of my birth as told to me by people no longer around to dispute my account of it. All memory is fiction anyway, so here is mine.

On a dark and dreary Thursday afternoon two days before Christmas, my mother felt the first contractions.

She ignored them as she prepared Christmas for her four sons, ranging in age from sixteen to five.

By four o’clock, she could no longer fight the eight-pound bundle knocking down below. As snow began to fall outside, she called my father at work.

“Meet me at the hospital,” she said.

My mother walked the four blocks to the large rambling house serving as the hospital in our small Michigan town. The snow, heavy and wet, continued to fall.

Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.

Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.

With the holiday looming and the snowstorm producing, the doctor on duty sent home his staff by the time my mother arrived. When the doctor determined my imminent birth, he did the only thing he could. He enlisted my father as his assistant.

The year was 1954, and my mother had given birth four times before. Fathers didn’t go near the delivery room in those days. It’s doubtful if he was even at the hospital when my brothers were born.

The doctor instructed my father to hold the bottle of ether under my mother’s nose as needed for pain as the contractions came closer and closer together. My mother said my father became stingy with the anesthetic at one point, and that was a mistake.

“Give me the damn ether – I’ve done this a few times before, and I know what I need,” she screamed.

My father gave her what she desired.

About two hours after my mother’s call to my father, I entered the world at 6:15 p.m. My father stared in wonderment at the screaming creature in his hands.

He gave my mother news she’d wanted for a very long time, “It’s a girl.”

Baby Patti with her mother

Baby Patti with her mother

My father rushed home to my four older brothers watching my family’s first black and white television set purchased only months before. He rushed into the living room and said, “Boys, you have a baby sister!”

They looked up from the TV. One of the brothers asked, “What’s for dinner?” before turning back to the tiny screen in the large cabinet.

Four boys and a girl - 1973

Four boys and a girl – 1973

My mother stayed in the hospital for ten days and wrote my brothers a note, which I still have in my baby book. However, I can’t find the baby book, and I can’t find a photo of me with my father except for one printed in a newspaper when I was ten. In all my moves in the past seven years, things have been lost and rearranged. As a result, I write this blog in honor of my fifty-eighth birthday on December 23 as a way of preserving the story of my birth.

My brothers eventually took an interest in the sister they never quite understood, my mother kept me in ribbons and lace until ’60s hit, and for the rest of my father’s life, I remained “Daddy’s little girl.”Tigers

Christmas Traditions

DSC02211By Patricia Zick @PCZick

DSC02192

An ornament celebrating Robert’s and my first Christmas together

I grew up in a family steeped in traditions during the holidays. This year, for various reasons, I almost didn’t put up a Christmas tree. Since we won’t be in our home for the actual holiday, we decided it best to not go to the local Christmas tree farm and cut down an eight-foot evergreen and haul it home. That’s a tradition my husband and I started on our first Christmas in our new home two years ago, and I missed it this year. Instead, I hauled out the spare artificial tree I’ve had for nearly two decades and put it in the showcase spot in our front room.

It may not smell like the outdoors, but once I decorated it with all my ornaments, I realized in my living room now stands a story of my life.

An ornament made by my  mother with a photo of my daughter

An ornament made by my mother with a photo of my daughter

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My first ornament – he’s lost his arms but not his charm

I don’t make sloppy joes on Christmas Eve, but my brothers’ families still adhere to that tradition. I didn’t put up the ceramic nativity this year, and I already regret it because it always brings me peace to gaze at those small figurines depicting the true story of the season. My brother Don and I painted and repaired those characters each year although I haven’t done much of anything to them except glue the baby Jesus’ hand back on with super glue last year. There weren’t that many happy memories from my childhood so I treasure the good ones I do have. I also treasure the memories of Christmas Eve when we set up Mom’s old sewing table in the living room in front of the tree. Mom always found an appropriate tablecloth and placed candles on either end. One of my brothers would read the Christmas story from the Bible. Afterwards, I would sing Away in the Manger. Then I’d hear my oldest brother say, “Ho, ho” from the top of the stairs, and my family always expected me as the youngest to believe it was Santa. Like most families, we mixed our holiday metaphors and celebrations into one big happy pot of tradition.

My Michigan roots

My Michigan roots

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My Florida years

My family isn’t all that unique. There many things we didn’t do well, but we knew how to celebrate Christmas. My parents have since passed. Santa brother and manger-painting brother both died several years ago.  I’m left with memories, some ornaments, and a warm feeling in my heart for this time of year. But I’m also here to make new memories with my husband, my daughter and her boyfriend, and other family and dear friends.

What are your favorite holiday memories (from any holiday)?

Happy holidays whatever form they take. May you find peace and love in all you do.

To Everything There is a season

Resting in the winter garden

Resting in the winter garden

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

And so it is with gardening. The winter season of gardening is a time of planning, considering, and enjoying the bounty of the previous seasons.

Almost every night we’re eating something from the freezer or from a canning jar. But we also enjoy a few vegetables thriving in the cooler weather. Beets rest in the ground covered with leaves.

Beets in season

Beets in season

We may need to pull them all out before the first major cold snap, but we’re enjoying them several times a week now. They are still delicious, although they aren’t quite as sweet as the earlier warm weather harvest.

During the summer, a ground hog took a liking to the brussel sprouts. Finally in early October, my husband managed to capture the cabbage-loving rodent in a Havahart trap. Hopefully that ground hog is waiting to see his shadow on the banks of the Ohio River. With his departure, the brussel sprouts recovered and at least once a week they grace our plate, small, tender and full of flavor. We should be able to enjoy them with reasonable winter temperatures and some snow cover as insulation.

lovely brussel sprouts

lovely brussel sprouts

Stakes and strings are removed, and leaves cover the floor of our garden bed. Onion seeds are ordered. We discuss the poor showing of peppers and beans this past summer and consider the options for our location. We know the peas underperformed because of the addition of mushroom compost when they were just sprouting – too much, too soon. But we’re puzzled by the sweet peppers that never seem to get very big before rotting. Cayenne and jalapeno peppers thrive in our Pennsylvania garden for some reason. Our green, string, and lima beans also produced very little this year. Anyone else ever have these problems? How did you solve them?

Soon the process will begin all over again with modifications and adjustments learned from last year to fulfill “every purpose under the heaven.”

canned tomato sauce, frozen pesto, corn, and spinach, and fresh beets

canned tomato sauce, frozen pesto, corn, and spinach, and fresh beets

Recipes:

canning tomato sauce

freezing spinach

pesto