Christmas Nativity

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………December 9, 2014

Well, it happened again. Christmas arrived before I did with it’s carols and lights and trees and store hype while I am still back in flags and fireworks and patriotism.  Christmas just seems to be on a faster track than I am.  I need time to allow the great Spirit of Christmas to seep in slowly so I can adjust and clear my head of incidentals like bill paying and house dejunking and family crises and Church callings.  But Christmas doesn’t tip toe in quietly and slowly raise the blinds until you can get used to the light.  No, it jerks you awake with a thunderbolt of hoopla which I never seem to be prepared for.

Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest part, is that Thanksgiving came a week late this year.  A whole week!  There should be a law against that.  Why can’t Thanksgiving be on the 3rd Thursday of November, not the fourth?  That would help immensely.  Then as soon as Thanksgiving is over we could be more attuned to Christmas and its incredible hustle and bustle. Actually, I think we’re all trying to do the H & B all year long and just accelerate the moves in December.

Last year I made a great attempt to be ready spiritually and physically for Christmas, trying to do something every day in its honor.  I was inspired by Scrooge’s classic sentence, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  I sort of petered out by June but I was more ready for the season when it came barreling down the calendar and blasted into December—or rather, October.

But this year I can’t gather the warm blanket of Christmas wishes around me tight enough and I’m rather hanging out of the season’s joy.  Here it is December 9th.  Many of my neighbors’ lights are twinkling like little Christmas giggles and their trees are triumphant in their showcasing windows.  But our house stands in unlit shame and the Christmas tree still needs to be dragged from its year long cardboard entombment across the dry grass of the back yard and into the house that has just been scrubbed clean by the God-sent cleaners.

The many “So, are you all ready for Christmas?” inquiries made by well-meaning OCD individuals, who are just looking for conversation, embellish the problem.  They make you feel that if you are haven’t lit, hung, decorated, bought, wrapped, baked, read, visited, photoed, written and sent by the day after Thanksgiving, you might as well not bother.

This is about when my yearly mantra chimes in, “I will just make it through this year’s celebration and do better next year.”

But wait.  I can change that.  I can fling that sentence out of my head’s storage of useless jabber.  The years are thinning out for me and to miss the full joy of even one irretrievable Christmas would be counter to a life well spent.  So ready or not, it will not be hard to fill my mind and my soul with these sentences instead.  They can bring peace not only to me but to all:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

What else matters?  Merry Christmas!



Time Out 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

The other day our namesake grandson pushed his sister making her cry.  I’m afraid Bapa’s and my voices were a little harsh because Barrett ran off and we couldn’t find him for a while.  After a bit of searching in back bedrooms and closets, we found him sitting dejectedly on the stair.  He had put himself in “Time Out.”

A few days later, Barrett threw a football in the family room which his Bapa didn’t catch.  He’d been told not to throw the ball in the house (it definitely wasn’t Bapa who gave the command since, as always, Bapa was very much in the game) but Barrett threw it anyway, knocking down a lamp with the in-completed pass.  “I’m going to Time Out,” he said and promptly put himself back on the stairs.  This action sounded very much like, “You can’t fire me, I quit!”

We all sometimes need a Time Out and it’s better if we recognize and acknowledge it ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to suggest it.   Time Out allows us time to think things over, reevaluate what it is we want to do, make plans for a new direction, breathe.

One of our daughters puts herself in Time Out often.  Her kids think she’s punishing herself but Jana is delighted to go to her room, shut the door and be alone for a while.

When all my kids were little, I used to dream of a long Time Out, preferably at my Aunt Blanche’s in Rexburg, Idaho.  I could’t think of a better place to catch my breath and be well cared for at the same time.  It never happened, of course.  Getting to Rexburg from Gilbert, Arizona, isn’t a very convenient trip.  But I thought about it and what it might feel like to get away from constant requests and unlimited deadlines.

Some of my best Time Outs were Time Ins.  I’d stay home and catch up while Brad took the kids away.  When they returned, I was ready to resume our game plan.

Now that the kids are grown, I still have to put myself in Time Out.  Getting on my bike and driving around the canal while I listen to a good book, working through a Cryptogram puzzle, going to lunch with friends, singing with my daughters–those work.  A favorite Time Out is to get in the car with Brad and drive to the cabin. That makes a good get-away from decision making and demands since there isn’t a whole lot you can do while riding in a car except sip on a 44 ouncer, eat pepper chips and keep the driver awake.

And if family meets us at the cabin, it is the best Time Out of all!







Elizabeth Willis Barrett


In Barbara Walters book Audition, she makes this statement:

“Young people starting out in television sometimes say to me: ‘I want to be you.’ My stock reply is always: ‘Then you have to take the whole package.’”

That thought has made a major change in my thinking.  Whenever I make the mistake of wishing I had what someone else has, I remember: “Then you have to take the whole package.”

Being a famous actress used to sound enticing.  I did get to play Maria in our town’s version of “Sound of Music” years ago.  It was a great opportunity and I thought I was pretty good at the time, but looking back I know I wasn’t.  I don’t need show business in my life and I know I would never want the “whole package” of an actress.  Their lives are often bedraggled and difficult.  For one thing, think how hard it would be to memorize lines day after day.  Who would want to do that?  I can hardly memorize a short poem that I have written myself.

For another, most of their family lives are less than golden.  In some cases, there is more than one person in the family vying for the spotlight and when the light dims, the ensuing shadows must bring on deep despondency.   It’s hard enough for regular people to ward off depression without needing to depend on a public’s reaction for feelings of self-worth.  Having the paparazzi zooming in on one’s every move rather sullies the package, too.

In considering those who have received honors for their fine service to the community, I often think that it would feel good to be highlighted occasionally.  But when it is someone I know and  I am aware of their greater “package,” I know that I wouldn’t want to trade places.

For a long time I wanted to be a renowned speaker, telling huge crowds how to live and be happy (like I know) or how to avoid some of the gaping potholes I have stumbled upon myself.  But after thinking through “the whole package” deal, I don’t think it would be worth it.  I was almost on my way to speechdom when I was asked to deliver words of wisdom to a group out of town.  But the speech time was when one of my daughters was coming here with her family and so I declined.  I didn’t want to miss my daughter’s visit just so I could have thirty minutes of glory.  When I have my children and grandchildren around me, I ask myself if I’d rather be off somewhere giving a speech.  The answer is always “no.”  Famous speakers must miss lots of time with their families.

I’ve always wanted to be a great writer.  But I just listened to the book Dearie, a biography of Julia Child.  She paid a huge price of time, effort, sacrifice and emotion to get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published.  I think she had a wonderful life but she never had children and her husband had a stroke later in his life that caused Julia much sorrow.  I wouldn’t want to take on her “whole package.”

I also just listened to Dan Rather’s book Rather Outspoken.  He’s had a magnificent life of fame and fortune as he has fulfilled his reporting dreams.  But again, his whole package would be rough to unwrap.  I’m sure he wouldn’t want my whole package either, of course.  Can you imagine?!

I don’t think anyone would really want my whole package just like I wouldn’t want anyone else’s.  I’d like the best of one person’s package and the best of another’s and the best of another’s.  But life doesn’t work that way.  It’s the “whole package” or nothing.  That being the case, I’m keeping the one handed out to me.   It contains some pain and some heartache, some doubt and some worry.  But it is also full of delight and happiness, triumph and testimony.

Therefore I will hold my own package fiercely to my un-ample bosom until my soul is squeezed of envy, leaving room for only gratitude and joy.