Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This Post Sponsored by Perspective

I've been a terrible blogger. I haven't posted in over a week and a half. I haven't visited other blogs, or left any comments. Instead, I'm knee deep in cookies, packages, and projects and I'm looking at serving some hard time in the kitchen and in my studio in order to finish the things I want to do to make Christmas merry. Although there's usually time for both, lately I've only been able to live the journey instead of logging it. See, I'm committed to enjoying December. I don't want to reach January and realize I lost a month to stress and obligation. So what I've had to let slide lately is the regular posting. I can live with that a lot easier than missing a moment of the season. I wasn't always this chill on December 23, and I'm quite aware that I'm just one Bad Decision away from succumbing to overload. So in the interest of late-season perspective, I'm posting one of my December newspaper columns that ran a few seasons back. I hope you have a moment to kick back and take a breather--and maybe leave me a comment to let me know you're still with me :)

Daily Press, December 11, 2004

Every year a veritable army of gingerbread men, bears, and toy soldiers march from my attic in December.

At tree trimming time, it becomes apparent that I’m on the fast track toward a holiday edition of one of those home reality shows where Patient Organizers attempt to rehabilitate committed pack rats.

“Tell me about this,” the Patient Organizer might say, raising a skeptical eyebrow toward the paper bird with the upside down wings that I made in grade school.

The sheer volume of inherited glass balls, mementos from classmates and students, not to mention everything either of my own children have ever made during the month of December would present a formidable challenge.

Now, I’ve seen enough of these shows to know what the Patient Organizer would say next. “The memories aren’t here,” she say, in a sweeping gesture across the flotsam. “They’re here,” she’d explain gently, patting the left side of her chest.

But they’re MY ornaments and they’re ALL important.

Once, I went to a friend’s tree trimming party. Having raised two children and beginning to accumulate the mementos of grandchildren, her ornament collection dwarfed mine.

Mentally pitting the size of her tree against the stack of boxes, I immediately began to stress. How on earth were we going to do this? How could we pack all of these obviously important treasures on one little tree?

Panic set in as I envisioned a triangular heap with an angel perched in blessing at the top.

We’re not going to use everything, my friend laughed. Just the ones that are right for us now.

Utterly horrified, I flashed back to the year when upon un-decorationg, I discovered a blue checked bear overlooked in a wad of tissue paper. Dismayed that he’d been missed, I hooked him over the knob of a cabinet for year-round display in an attempt to make up for the oversight.

Intentionally excluding hundreds of important relics was a concept foreign to my thinking. I would have gone through the trouble of putting up two trees before leaving something out would have crossed my mind.

In today’s society, we’ve taken the pack-rat mentality into choppy and uncharted waters. We collect titles, projects, and activities until we’ve effectively multi-tasked every moment we have. We’re shocked at the suggestion of paring down because everything we do is so important.

December typically adds another layer of must-dos clamoring for our attention. We cram shopping, recipes, traditions, and yes, even church activities into already overloaded schedules.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

Our modern day Christmas season doesn’t have many still moments, but the original Christmas story is full of them.

A couple waiting alone in a stable to witness a miracle.

Shepherds watching sheep on a hill.

Kings who found wisdom in a night sky.

Today, the only character in the Christmas story most Americans can relate to is the one with “no room.”

Being still means keeping space open for possibilities.

It means leaving room for moments of wonder.

It means not running the risk of being “too full” to assist in a miracle.

Too often, our lives resemble my overcrowded Christmas tree. We’re sure there’s a lot of beautiful things in there somewhere, but we can’t see through the clutter clearly enough to recognize them.

Being still means taking time to prayerfully discover if we’re investing our time in things that are right for us now.

For my friend, the presence of a two-year-old grandson meant that the soft ornaments turned out to be the right ones for them that year. The others went back to the attic. Some might be a good fit another year. Others might become memories stored only in the heart.

Her tree was beautiful and held only what could be appreciated.

May the same be true for each of our lives this Christmas season.


Bradley J said...

I often think that Sesame Street has done millions of us more harm than good in causing us to care too deeply about the feelings of the inanimate.

Julie Schuler said...

My hats off to you, for thinking about the season so deeply. I have been cured of my holiday overdoing by a bout of stomach flu. Instead of Christmas Eve dinner with heaps of shrimp, calamari, and seafood chowder, then ham and kielbasa and ten side dishes, we are having Chicken Soup. But I've named it our Saturnalia Chicken Soup... so that's festive.

Kathleen said...

Wow, Cynthia, what an amazing article! Thank you for posting it!!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a wonderfully blessed 2010!

Gropius said...

"Being still means keeping space open for possibilities." Love it. And shall reference your post in my final one before the big day on the 25. I've missed your postings, but am glad you're sticking to it with a firm resolve to enjoy the month with one less unnecessary obligation.

Bernie said...

Merry Christmas.



KB said...

Thanks for the reminders to allow some space for deep-felt pleasure. Our family has a Christmas tree filled with the most diverse collection of ornaments one could imagine- everything from glossy Disney characters to glittering pine cones and hand-painted "sputniks" made from sweetgum seeds collected while we were traveling. The real pleasure comes not from just having them but from the memories each recalls as it is placed in the perfect spot on the tree. In recent years a new source of pleasure has come from sharing the memories with our ever-curious grandchildren. So a pack-rat's cache can be a lot of junk or a treasure chest, depending on what use one makes of it.

kys said...

That is one of my favorite Bible verses. And one that I often need to reflect upon.


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