Henry’s Christmas Bells

I’m sure many of you have heard the Christmas Carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. It has been performed by many different musicians throughout time. The song is actually based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 1800s.

Longfellow was already a respected writer when he wrote this poem, but what makes this poem so astonishing are the events that led up to his publication of this poem. He was in a dark place following the death of the love of his life, Fanny. She died following a horrendous accident in which her nightgown caught on fire by a candle. Henry was heartbroken, grasping for strength to carry on for their 5 children.

During this time, Civil unrest was very present in the United States as the South was trying to secede from the Union. War was beginning between the North and the South with slavery being a main point of emphasis. Henry’s oldest son, Charley, much to his dismay, was in the military-fighting for the Union. (Henry preferred his son to stay out of battle).

Charley was wounded in battle with a prognosis of possible paralysis. It was while Charley was recovering in the Longfellow home that Henry was walking outside, and heard the church bells and felt compelled to pen his poem.

The parallels between his feelings at Christmastime in the 1860s and mine in 2020 are not lost on me. Towards the middle of Longfellow’s poem a selection reads “Then from each black accursed mouth, The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned, Of peace on earth, good-will to men!” He can’t even hear the chimes of peace on earth, good-will to men because of all the explosions and noise going on in the Civil War happening around him in his day to day life. It’s hard for us to ignore the Civil unrest we are facing today as well, isn’t it? Lest we get close to forgetting, all we have to do is long onto the internet and we are quickly acquainted to it.

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song. Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

He looked around and didn’t see peace anywhere. That’s easy for us right? Covid. The Election. The race discussions that have once again become paramount. It’s easy for us to feel depressed and overwhelmed right now. It would be justified if we didn’t feel too much in the Christmas spirit this year.

But I love how this poem ends:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

We have hope for brighter days. God does not sleep, nor does He slumber. One day, all wrongs will be righted. The righteous will one day prevail. In the midst of Longfellow’s unhappiness, the bells reminded him of that truth. I hope you take a moment to listen to the tune, or even read the poem-and take a minute to be reminded yourself.

The Frailty of Life

It’s been a while since I’ve wrote anything.  Things have been a little busy around here, but also I struggle with content and how I am relaying what I’m trying to say.  In all my endeavors, I strive to make God known and give Him the glory.  If I can share a joke or laugh in middle of 5 children under the age of 8 in our house, it’s because God has given me joy that exceeds my circumstances.  If I can look at a sunset and be in awe of it’s beauty, God is the one who created that beauty.  If I can handle 4 kids in my home on a regular basis, it’s because God gives me grace to…again and again.  If my husband can keep adoring me even through all of who I am, it’s because God is present in the marriage.

I occasionally take a break from sharing or writing because I like to evaluate what I’m trying to relay to people.  Am I coming from a place of wanting to exalt myself or exalt Him? Am I coming at this in love-for every single person created in the image of God?  With that, I have a heightened desire to write today.

The last few weeks have been heavy, even for someone like me who attempts to find joy or meaning in every circumstance.  I have been surrounded by people who are dealing with job complications, people dealing with a tragedy or death relating to their child, friends exhausted with seasons in their lives, my kids pushing boundaries, and trying to meet friends in their specific areas of need.  I’m sure the list could go on, but I don’t want to keep you here all day.

After I had Tripp, I would say I definitely struggled with PPD.  It wasn’t diagnosed, but I know myself and I know those extreme mood differences I was living in at the time.  I would almost have panic attacks when I thought of death after having him.  For some reason, having kids here definitely changed my perspective of death.  Really, before kids, I never thought much about it.  After kids, there were times it consumed me.  Tyler would have to hold me while I cried and panicked.

I would say that it’s really been in the past year or so that death doesn’t seem to have a hold on me it once did.  Does that mean I don’t struggle with certain situations in life? Absolutely not.  Do I understand why God would take a 7 year old child from their parents? No.  Do I know why God would let a woman who yearns to be a mother, have infertility struggles while allowing those whose children end up in state custody, continue to keep having babies? Nope.  I also know, those are the things God originally intended for us to have in our lives.  Because of the fall, and the resulting brokenness we will now live in fallen and broken places and circumstances.

Over time though, I have come to accept that death is just another part of this life.  (Like my rejection or acceptance would have changed anything regardless).  We are all going to face hardships, and often different ones, throughout this life.  We are also all going to face death.  I heard the other day that 50% of all children die by the age of 8 in the Himalayas.  We take for granted the fact that we are given life, and often abundant life here in America, and spend it helping or entertaining ourselves.

I read in my Bible reading this morning that we are called to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of God saving us for His own purpose and grace.  We know our time here is limited.  Even if you don’t want to face it, you KNOW it.  It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact.  Even when times feel heavy and I feel like I’m thinking of and praying for a new circumstance throughout entire days, these times have purpose too.  We spend so much of our lives toiling for things that won’t really have a generational difference.  We should work while we’re here.  We should have friendships.  We should help and try to make a difference for the time we are here.  There is one thing that I know will have a lasting effect on each and every one of us- and that is eternity.

Because, we will face a day in eternity.  We will behold the glory of the God who never left us.  The God who comforts me beyond comfort when I am feeling defeated.  The God who upholds me with His strength when I don’t know how I’m going to find the strength to continue.  The God whom I consider it a privilege to be counted worthy TO approach His throne of grace with prayer requests and hurts.  None of the hard days have to consume me because this life isn’t all there is.  I KNOW that to every season there is a purpose.  While we have more entertainment, longevity, and materials to distract ourselves from that truth; it doesn’t change the truth.

“You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world.  But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and be willing to live and die for them.”                  -John Piper