My senses not only help me navigate my world by teaching me the qualities and measures of my surroundings, but also trigger memories, both the hauntingly good and the debilating bad.

For me, my senses of smell and taste are the most acute. I can suss out a recipe just by smelling a dish or I’ll smell a certain aroma and be immediately transported to another time and place. I tend to take for granted my senses of sound and sight, delegating them to the background as long as I’m not bothered by loud noise.

My first trip back to Lebanon as an adult proved me wrong! Yes, the insistent, jarring Beirut traffic noises challenged my nerves, but the soothing Mediterranean waves lapping against the beaches still had a way of calming my soul.

On my first Sunday morning back home, I awoke to clanging noise. However, it didn’t bother me! I lay in bed with my eyes still closed and a huge smile on my face. I had forgotten about the old familiar cacophony of competing church bells bouncing off the mountain walls, echoing invitations from one village to another to come and worship.

I’m remembering these noisy bells and challenging myself this holiday season to reinterpret the busy cacophony of mixed-up family gatherings into joyous bells of gratitude because of the hope shining in each grandchild’s eyes, as well as the hope reflected in the best practices of each represented adult. I want to exemplify the love about which 1st Corinthians chapter 13 speaks. 

“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. . . Love is patient, love is kind. . .”

What messages are your Christmas bells sending this year?

I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet, the words repeat, of peace on earth goodwill to men.

Henry W. Longfellow, 1807-1882

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