"As hokey as it may sound," says Penne Laingen, wife of diplomat and hostage Bruce Laingen, "I have never been a super-religious person, but I have put myself -- and my psyche -- in God's hands during these past days . . . and am determined that life will go on."

"I've hung a Christmas wreath on the door and have taken out our Advent candles and as we've always done, I'm lighting one every Sunday. I know that it's what Bruce expects me to be doing.

"And it's always been a Christmas tradition in our family to go out to the country with another couple and chop down our Christmas trees, then stop for a chicken dinner at a favorite little restaurant in New Market. And that's just what we're going to do this year."

Her thoughts on dealing with the frustration and rage: "Above all, be constructive. Any act that you can do -- in the American way -- helps to show Iran that their methods simply will not work. Anything constructive that you can do -- in the name of the hostages -- helps to get across that message."

She suggests that people who want to do something might make donations or buy Christmas gifts for the needy and send them "in the name of the hostages." bEven sending Christmas cards in the name of the hostages "is still another symbolic gesture that helps to get the message across that we care -- and our country cares -- about its own as well as others."

Laingen says that the candlelight vigils around the area and throughout the country represent the same kind of symbol. "Not only do they provide a measure of comfort and unity for us, but they, too, are a message for the rest of the world."

For Penne Laingen the minutes that made her feel best during the past five weeks were those spent pulling the ropes to ring the bells from the tower of her church (All Saints' Episcopal Church, Chevy Chase).

"That purely physical act of strength -- and just hearing those sounds that I had helped to create -- did something special for me. It was a feeling that I can't explain.

"So I'm standing and waiting and praying . . . and one of these days Bruce is going to untie that yellow ribbon. It's going to be out there until he does."