Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What to do with expectations

It was written all over his face. Disappointment. All December (and November) long, little Eliot had waited for Christmas with a childlike wonder so intense it could have put A Christmas Story's star toddler, Ralphie, to shame. Now the day had finally come and, by the look of dismay on the little boy's face, the holiday wasn't living up to the hype.
But Eliot's forlorn response to Christmas morning is not all that unusual, at least not for six year olds. In the mind's eye of a six year old Christmas should be magical. Sugar Plums should come to life. Frosty should dance and frolic. Snow should fall in cloud-like blankets and soften the ringing bells of Santa's sleight as it dashes through the sky.
For the month leading up to the blessed Christmas morning Eliot had spent his days playing with wooden nutcrackers and hiding a stuffed Elf on nearly every shelf in the house. Eliot lived in a Polar Express inspired dream world all December long.
And then the morning came. The whole night had passed and he hadn't heard a single reindeer paw or ringing bell. The lawn outside his window wasn't snowy white. Frosty was no where to be found and not a sugar plum in sight.
Downstairs, beneath the tree, there was a bounty of presents but they weren't all for him. To Eliot's tragic dismay, it turned out the biggest boxed surprise didn't even have his name on it.
The rest of the day visitors came and went. Grandpa and Grandma, Aunts and Uncles. They all brought gifts and goodies. But it was too late to save Eliot's Christmas. He had already decided it wasn't magical. By dinnertime there wasn't a gift nor cookie on earth that could change Eliot's mind. He was depressed by a Christmas reality that didn't match his storybook fantasies.

I trust that someday Eliot will outgrow his childhood magical, fairy tale Christmas expectations and anticipations. In time he'll have to learn the truth about reindeer and Santa. Soon a day will come when he won't look for sugar plums and the Elf on the Shelf will be just a sweet memory.
But that doesn't mean Eliot won't be disappointed.
Each of us experience Eliot moments in life. We open a gift, go on an adventure or embark on a new thrill only to be let down. The present isn't what we asked for. The adventure is anything but smooth sailing. The thrill only lasts a measly three seconds and then the fun is over. Setting expectations by a standard of fantasy is a no-fail recipe for disappointment. When reality doesn't match the dream the dreamer goes sour on reality.
Eliot was sour on Christmas when the presents, the very day itself, didn't live up to his imagination. As a result of his disappointment Eliot missed out on the true spirit of Christmas. He missed the fun wrapped beneath the tree, tied with ribbons and bows. When his cousins all played with their remote controlled cars Eliot didn't even take his out of the box. While the rest of the family indulged in the array of sweet treats infiltrating the kitchen counter, Eliot passed on every cookie and didn't experience even a moment of sugar high.

Grown ups and kids alike are prone to disappointments because we are all prone letting stubbornness take over our imaginations. But there is an alternative.
We can turn our expectations into exultation. We can turn our pout into a praise. We can set anticipations aside and life up adulation instead. 
There is no excuse for a bummer of a life because God doesn't give sub-par gifts. The plans God has for our days are never mundane. God doesn't incorporate ordinary into any of His designs.
The cause of dismay and dissatisfaction with God's will and ways is not due to any inferior plans or gifts from Him. It is in our inability to release expectations and embrace what God has placed underneath our tree. We only miss the goodness of His gifts when we choose to lament our lot and fail to look and see the joy in living fully in the life God has given. 
We can all learn from Eliot's Christmas day expectation exasperation. Don't live in a land of expectations and miss the beauty in the land of reality. Instead, turn your expectation into exultation and thank God for His presence.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dreaming of Christ on Christmas

Everyone has been dreaming of a white Christmas. Or at least that's what the season's favorite holiday songs would lead you to believe. And judging by the carols and tunes of the Christmas season, everyone is dreaming of a special someone, instead of a special something, underneath the Christmas tree. And we're all putting our faith in a deer with a red nose to guide you in inclement weather.
But this year northern Pennsylvania didn't get a white Christmas. Folks might have been headed here for the homemade pumpkin pie but they didn't have to head through snow on the journey. Instead of white flakes we've had a misty drizzle.
Not exactly the makings of a holiday hit single.
All December long I've been right there with my fellow carolers, wishing and hoping for a white Christmas if for no other reason than to sing, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" on the actual morning of the big day. But I woke up this morning with less snow than I'd seen out my window when I went to sleep the night before.
As every child expected, Santa came as promised and left a bounty of presents but must have forgotten to leave behind a dusting of snowy white. And so all of us dreamers will have to retire our song of precipitation hopes till next year. Unless we decide, instead, to retire the whole notion of the White Christmas carol along will all of our other wishing, dreaming, hoping sounds of the season.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas music. I'm one of Christmas music's biggest fans. And I like hoping. A lot. In fact, my whole life survives on hope. I am a dreamer, and happily so. I am a wisher who can never be disappointed too many times as to be discouraged from wishing again. But I'm not dreaming of a white Christmas one year longer. I'm not singing songs of wanting a particular "you" for Christmas or a date on New Year's Eve. I'm retiring the songs of this dreamy season because my merriment doesn't hinge on those dreams coming true.
I used to be certain that I knew what I wanted for Christmas and that it was written in a song. But, oh, how wrong I was. I don't want a white blanket of snow. I don't want a love interest named "you" or "him." I don't even want pumpkin pie. All I want is to be at home in Christ for this holiday. That is the one dream that I am resting my December and my entire life upon. My one wish is wrapped up in the hope of Heaven.
This Christmas wasn't white but I've learned that I don't need my Christmas to look like the lyrics in a song. It doesn't need to be white and it doesn't need to be romantic. The only thing I need on this Christmas is Jesus. That's it. In fact, He is all I need all year long. He is all any of us will ever need. And if I have Jesus - if you have Jesus - I promise, you won't even miss the snow on Christmas morning.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Ornaments

Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, I've received a special "Christmas ornament." The ornament unveiling occurs every year like clock work. The moment comes when Mom and I are decorating the tree. I say "Mom and I" not because I am a fatherless child. Just fatherless at Christmas tree decorating time. The picking, purchasing and putting up of the Christmas tree has always been performed by my Mom. And happily so. She wouldn't trust anyone else to pick her perfect Fraser Fur or the traditional, yearly ornament gifted to her daughter as a special token to remember that one particular Christmas.
I have ornaments dating back to my toddler years. A few have been lost or broken along the way but most remain delicately wrapped and stored for eleven months of the year. Then, come December, the ornaments of Christmas pasts are unveiled and given a prominent place on the Christmas tree. 
Every year, as Mom and I decorate the tree she always sneaks away to her bedroom for a few minutes - sometimes longer if she can't find the bag or the box in which she's hidden my annual Christmas tree decorating gift. When she reappears she has hidden within her hands the perfect ornament wrapped up in tissue paper. The ornaments are always unique, like the skiing squirrel of 2014, and perfectly suited to the past year's events, like the NYC bulb presented on the Christmas following my first trip to the big city. The ornaments are always a testament to the year gone by and to the love of a Mom that has a talent for making holidays, and her children, feel special.
This year Mom and I were together again in the living room decorating the Christmas tree. We wrapped the tree in strands of little white twinkle lights, like we do every year. Then we opened up big boxes full of ornaments and unwrapped each one with tender care. Delicate ornaments made their way to the top of the tree while soft cotton mittens and fluffy snowman were affixed to low branches. In the midst of our tree decorating I disappeared up to my room and returned with a little white bag. The Christmas ornament tradition has now become my own. Now I too buy a special ornament and present it my Mom while we decorate the tree. She unwrapped the tissue paper to reveal a rustic wooden ornament decorated with beach glass in the shape of a Christmas wreath.
The newest Christmas tree addition was placed on a prominent branch and then the decorating resumed. The rest of the boxed ornaments were hung, broken ornaments were fixed and some had to be ditched. With a few strings of red beaded garland the tree looked complete.
Except for one thing.
There was no "Stephanie's Christmas Ornament of 2016" hanging on the tree. The whole Christmas tree decorating ordeal had come and gone and Mom had never slipped away to her room. She never revealed a white bag or wrapped box or tissue paper wrapped treasure. For the first time in twenty six years, Mom didn't give me a Christmas ornament.
But she didn't need to.
The time in my life has come and with it a new understanding has dawned. Christmas isn't about getting; It is about giving.
It has taken too long for me to get here - maybe it takes too long for all of us to get here. But short or long, delayed or early, the time has come when I no longer need to receive a special yearly Christmas ornament. The only special ornament I need is the one I'm giving away.

I've often heard it said that it is better to give than to receive and at Christmas time I am reminded of why that saying is true. Because Jesus was a giver, not a getter.
This Christmas and all year long, I want to give like Jesus. I want to give, not because I'm hoping to receive, but because I'm hoping to bless. I want to give because I want to show Christ's love. I want to give sacrificially in order that the receiever will experience the joy of knowing they are special and treasured.
For my 26 years of life, my memories of Christmas tree decorating have been wrapped up tissue paper, in the special gift I was given. But not this year. This year my tradition, and what made Christmas tree decorating special, was wrapped up in what I gave and the special woman, my Mom, who I had the gift of blessing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

HIS strength

I wanted to cry one of those truly cathartic cries that is all at once exhausting and invigorating. In theory it was the perfect moment for such relief. First of all, I was already soaking wet, in the shower with no mascara to mess up. I wouldn't have needed a box of tissues since my face was already drenched. I could have wept with all of the pathetic emotionalism of a school girl and no one would have known.
But as hard as I tried I couldn't cry. It was as if my tear ducts were in a season of drought. Not a drop of salty moisture broke the barrier of my cornea. I kept blinking, willing the floodgates of my eyes to spring open but they kept coming up dry.
To bring about the sobs I so desperately desired I thought about the pain I was experiencing in that moment. My left side was terribly flared. My muscles felt like stretched rubber bands on the verge of snapping. This is the terribly distressing sensation I have during every warm shower. I've had it for years now. Warmth hits my skin and the left side of my body reacts violently. Most mornings in the shower I try to ignore the tension and bite my tongue to buck up under the pain. But not today. Not this shower. Instead I thought of nothing but the pain. I told myself that this excruciating physical agony was just cause for weeping.
But even justifying my desired tears couldn't bring a single one to the surface.
So I touched the side of my torso and intentionally lingered on each bone. I cringed as I considered my sharp ribs. My lack of cushioning has caused me such physical and emotional grief. As I reflected on my gaunt frame I hoped a stream of tears would flow.
But not even a drop appeared.
I couldn't cry. I couldn't even whine. All I could do was stand still under the heat of the piercing waters, immobilized by my spastic left leg, and simply listen.
And that's when I heard it. Or should I say, when I heard Him.
The moment I stopped trying to force an emotional break down that wasn't coming I heard God speak right into my soul, right there in my shower. "What you've gained is more of MY strength because you haven't been able to develop any of your own."
Standing in the shower, naked and vulnerable, I wanted to think about what I had lost. I wanted to feel sorry for myself because of my condition, my size and my glaring weakness. But God wanted to show me strength. His strength. By being stripped down to nothing, emotionally, physically and, in that moment, quite literally, God was able to make His message clear as a bell; as obvious as everyone of my protruding ribs.
In taking away my health God has shown me what is truly good - He and He alone. By draining my body of its strength, size and stamina God has shown me the power that is unconquerable - only the power of His indwelling. By prying my dreams out of my hands God has removed every distraction so that I can see clearly the only eternal glory - the glory of His presence.
This morning while I was set on wallowing in the sorrow of my weakness, God wanted to show me the beauty of His strength. Without this weakness and frailty I wouldn't know the power of God to be as real and mighty as it truly is. Without my sickness and lack of weight I wouldn't understand the gravity of 2 Corinthians 12:9, "for my power is perfect in weakness." Without this illness I would still put my faith in my own strength. Without MS, flared muscles, protruding bones and ailing digestion I would not know the miracle of God's grace that sustains me.
God has carried me when human logic says I should be falling. He has enabled me to live against all odds. And He has done it while I've been utterly frail and weak, without any strength of my own to depend upon. He has done it entirely with His power.
God hasn't let me develop my muscles or gain a single pound. But He is making me strong. Stronger than I ever thought I could be. This morning God showed me a glimpse of the greater purpose in His plans for my physical failing and spiritual soaring.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

I still have my eyebrows.

I've lost a lot in the past six years...
I've lost weight. Lots and lots of weight. I've lost cushion on my bottom and covering on my chest. I've lost color in my skin and what little thickness I had in my hair.
I've lost my body's ability to digest, absorb and nourish. I've lost my physical ability to thrive. I've lost temperature regulation and vision. I've lost the dependability of balance and my hands capacity to grip and hold.
In illness I've lost the security of health and wellness. I've lost the memory of what it feels like to have a chronically normal, symptom-free body. I've lost the remembrance of waking up without urgency. I've lost the serenity of living without hot flashes and muscle flares. I've lost the comfort of sitting without pain and spasms.
In the past six years I've lost more than physical functioning. I've lost love, experiences and relationships. I've lost future plans I thought were a sure thing. I've lost dreams that I had come to cherish. I've lost fantasies I so wanted to hold onto.
I've lost memories of family gatherings. I've lost friendships that I couldn't sustain. I've lost opportunities I couldn't capitalize on and adventure I couldn't commit to.
At times I've lost my humor. And even my ability to laugh. I've struggled as I've tried
not to lose my smile.
But I've never lost my eye brows. My thick, always-in-need-of-plucking eyebrows. The eyebrows that ladies at church have always envied. The eyebrows that needed tending to since I was a young girl. The eyebrows that plagued me as a teen with their furry, unified shape. Those eyebrows are still the same.

And so is the girl wearing them.

The past six years have been years of loss in a million ways. Physical, emotional, relational. I've lost more than I've gained. But what I've gained is more valuable than what I've lost. What I still have is more important than all of the multitudes of features, comforts and securities of memories gone by.
What I still have is more glaring and permanent than the diligently plucked uni-brow above my eyes. I still have God's promises. I still have His utterly holy, gracious, merciful spirit sustaining me. I still have Christ's strength and power that can't measured in pounds and ounces. I still have vitality that doesn't run physical races because it's too busy running spiritual marathons.
There are so many things chronic illness has ripped out of my life. It has caused me to lose things I wanted to keep. Things I couldn't imagine living without were pried out of my weak, sweaty hands. But from all of this loss I've learned something. I've learned that I've only lost what isn't lasting and what I don't truly need.
In the past six years I've lost the things that used to keep me from seeking Christ. I've lost ignorance that has blinded me to my pride, arrogance and sin. I've lost false security and make-believe peace. I've lost the chains of my past and misguided visions of my future.

And I've gained my soul.

So I guess you could say I haven't really lost anything at all. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The baby

3,988,076. That's the number of babies born in one year in the United States. All of those babies become born without much of a fanfare. Celebrity babies get a bit more recognition, especially when their parents name them "Apple" or "Blue Ivy." But even celebrity babies are forgotten after a few short days on the Entertainment TV news real. Babies are a big deal to their parents and their immediate family. There aren't press releases for every one of the nearly four million babies born in a single year. The country doesn't stop and celebrate 335,000 times a day when a baby is born.
But we do celebrate one.
We celebrate Jesus.
Have you ever stopped to truly think about the wonder of the Savior of the world being born as a baby? Take a moment and let that sink in. A baby. A tiny, helpless being that can't speak or feed himself or even change himself. Through the most vulnerable means possible is how God choose to enter the world. He decided to come as one of the millions of babies born every year.
Jesus' entrance into the world was entirely average. According to scripture there wasn't even an earth quake or a unprecedented meteorological event. Nothing to alert the world that this one baby was about to change everything. The only sign that God gave the world was a star. That was Jesus' "big" birth announcement and it didn't even come with a trumpet's revelry.
And yet that one birth changed everything. That one single birth has been celebrated more than every other birth combined. The birth of a baby born in a stable to a young girl, surrounded by farm animals has been written about in more newspapers, press releases and books than any ruler, king or president. His is the only birth that is celebrated annually in every country in the world. And it has been, He has been, for thousands of years.
Suffice it to say, that little baby is kind of a big deal.
This Christmas some people will somehow miss the whole point of the celebration. They'll get confused and celebrate sugar plums. Instead of looking for a star, they'll look for Santa. But the blessed miracle of Christmas is that it only exists because of a baby. Even those that don't acknowledge the coming of the Savior are impacted by His birth. We all are. It is impossible to miss the celebration of the one baby that changed history.
So next time you hear someone avoid the word "Christmas" and replace the Savior's name with "Holiday" don't be discouraged. Instead, be full of joy because this world is still celebrating. The Savior is still alive and relevant and active in this world. He is still a very big deal. And He always will be. Because this world can't deny that something happened thousands of years ago in a little town called Bethlehem. A baby was born. And not just any baby but the one baby that would cause worldwide celebration every year and every day to come.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Smoke gets in your eyes

For 25 winters I have watched the smoke rise from the chimney of my neighbor's wood burning stove. Russel tended to the fire for most of those years. It had been his duty and he had done it happily since 1950, the year he built the home with his own two hands. Then, five years ago, Russel passed away. He was 89 years old.
Ever since Russel passed away there has been a definable absence in the neighborhood. His duties were taken over by his sons and wife but his presence could never be duplicated. The lawn is still mowed and the driveway still plowed but the peaceful, smiling man in the train conductor's style hat hasn't been sitting on the riding mower for years now and I miss him. We all miss him.
But no one has missed him more than Gloria, his wife of over fifty years. Gloria and Russel had been a pair, a duo, a matching set. Where one went, the other went, too. Russel mowed the lawn, plowed the driveway and fixed everything around the house. Gloria cooked, baked and tended the flower beds surrounding their house. The two loved to drive out to the local hunting camp and enjoy afternoons with friends at the lodge. They had a small group of faithful companions they met regularly for breakfast. They had a life that was simple yet they were content. They had a steady and happy routine that suited them.
Today I walked over to visit Gloria and her sons. Just a short month or two ago I received word that Gloria was sick with terminal cancer and that she would be denying all treatment. At 91 years old she didn't want to put up a fight. She's lived a good life, a full life and now she's ready to go home. She's ready to go see Russel again.
As I walked the short few steps across the street and up to Gloria's back door I was met with a familiar scent in the air. The wood stove. From the rooftop I could see a faint cloud of smoke rise up and touch the gently falling snow. So much had changed across the street. Russel was gone and now Gloria would be soon. But the wood stove still burned.
Inside Gloria was lying in her bed under a mountain of blankets. She smiled when I entered her room and thanked me for coming. We chatted in that awkward way you do when there is so much and so little to say all at the same time.
In the background Gloria's radio was playing some of her favorite old standards. As our conversation quieted and came to a close, as if on cue, Frank Sinatra began to sing, "Smoke gets in your eyes."
I made my way out of Gloria's bedroom, down the hall and out through the living room where her son was tending to the old wooden stove. I told him how much I loved that wood stove. I told him how the smoke that rose from their chimney comforted me each winter. It's always smelled like home.
Jerry agreed as he poked around at the hearth. He was carrying on his father's job of keeping the home warm and toasty, as it has always been. But in that moment I know my heart was warmer because smoke was still getting in my eyes. Things have changed across the street. The comings and goings of Gloria and Russel are no more. But the wood stove is still the same. The scent in the air still reminds me of home.
I made my way back across the street breathing a bit deeper, breathing in memories and years gone by. And when I breathed out all I could say was "thank you." Thank you to a couple who showed me what a simple, quiet and beautiful life looks like. Thank you to Russel and Gloria for being steady and sure in love and commitment to one another. Thank you for keeping an eye out for this young girl across the street, for putting up with her lose rabbits and rambunctious dogs.
And thank you for never letting the wood stove burn out in the dead of winter.
Today, I noticed the smoke that has gotten in my eyes for the past 25 years and realized how the life Gloria and Russel built across the street has so profoundly impacted my own. I am the person I am today because of my neighbors and the smoke of a faithful wood burning stove that has been a blessing to my eyes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Running retirement

Her stride was smooth as silk. From my road-side view she appeared to be gliding. Her cadence was graceful. Her posture was perfectly aligned. Her arms pumped back and forth in a controlled yet relaxed rhythm. Even her breathing looked effortless. She was running tall and strong.
With her every fluid movement forward I became more and more jealous. It has been months since I've traveled at more than a speed walk. The last time I attempted to run I felt so weak and fatigued I barely completed a mile. At the end of my pathetic run my left side was flared, my lungs were winded and I felt more whopped than energized. Every fiber of my compromised being screamed out at me, "no more!" I walked through the door, untied my running sneakers and stuck them in a box downstairs. I didn't even need a few days and a drink of water to contemplate my running future. I knew it was over.
That fateful day of running surrender was months ago and still the sight of strong, healthy, capable runners brings me sadness. I used to be like them. I used to be healthy, too. I wasn't always a slave to my body. But now I am and some days it utterly breaks my heart.
Not every day is spent pinning after the health I don't have but I can't claim jealousy immunity. When I am feeling particularly weak, limited and fatigued I ache at the core of my being for a new physical body. I long for powerful muscles in my legs and a layer (or two) of cushioning surrounding my gaunt frame. I wish my body were different, not this stick of a figure constantly at the mercy of a faulty digestive system and fritzy muscles.
But wishing and hoping won't bring my running sneakers out of retirement and up from the basement. Longing and yearning can't change my body's condition and won't touch my fragile weight.
So I have a choice. Watch the runners glide by with resentment, jealousy and angst in my heart. Or rejoice because they can glide. Celebrate because they can stride. I can choose to be happy for the healthy.
Jealousy is a destructive emotion. It has no benefactors and doesn't do anyone any good. The jealous person might as well drink poison. The coveted person might as well drink a hot chocolate. One gets warmth the other gets a cold heart and a dead spirit.
As I've watched runners bound past my car window for months I have taken a sip of poison with every stride but I'm putting down the bottle and picking up the mug. I'm going to drink something warm like a hot coffee. Black, no cream. Resenting their physical capabilities has done nothing but harm to my own heart and hasn't helped my health. There has been and will be no benefit to my jealousy so why drink the poison?
No matter what the future holds for my running shoes I have reason to rejoice because God blesses feet, not shoes. He smiles down on runners, speed walkers and wheel chair drivers just the same. God is the God of bodies regardless of speed. So I will move at the pace God has set for me and rejoice in it because this is the pace He has made especially for me.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hallelujah what a Savior!

Hello, my name is Stephanie and I am immature, short fused hothead with a stubborn streak. I'm well versed in angry outbursts and disgusted rants. My voice is well tuned in hostility. I'm skilled at harboring resentments and internalizing frustrations. I have an uncanny ability to hold grudges and withhold forgiveness.
In short, I am a vindictive, irrational, cold-hearted sin-aholic.
But I'm here to announce that I want a change. I'm here to say enough is enough to my sin. I have come to admit that I'm in over my head, too far-gone and in need of help. I'm here to fall on the sword of who I am to be raised up as someone new, someone remade, someone restored. Someone holy.
Alone I am incapable of cutting the chains of my sin addiction. I'm chained too tightly. I'm in too deep. I'm trapped. The ugliness of who I am is too much for me to make beautiful.
I need help and a way out. I need a chain breaker, a redeemer. I need someone to rescue me from myself, my anger and my rage.
So here I am at the throne of God's grace surrendering who I am from the inside, out. I know that the hostile, wretched bleak heart I've harbored is slowly killing me so I'm choosing crucifying it in the name of new life. I'm choosing to give myself over to the Chain Breaker because I don't want to be shackled a moment longer.
And God says I don't have to be.
At the throne of His grace and forgiveness God releases me from my internal bondage. He severs chains I'll never budge by my own strength. He destroys my every ounce of resentment and white washes every layer of my hateful heart.
God has always said that the moment I would fall completely before Him, He would completely remake me. Why did I wait so long? Why did I refuse to allow light into my inner darkness even though I cursed it for keeping me blind and causing me pain? Why was I so stubborn? Why did I hold onto the sin that I knew was trapping me?
God lifts from me the burden of my darkness and the burden of my confusion. He takes away the questions and restores to me new life, new peace, new purpose. He gives me a way out of my pit and into the light - a way out that has been there all along.
The only way out of my sin has always and always will be by way of the manger. Through the perfect, spotless, blameless life of Jesus my slate is wiped clean, my past is forgiven and my heart is revitalized. My chains are broken because of the Babe in the manger who went to the cross to set me free.
Hallelujah what a Savior!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Everywhere I look I see clutter. Even Christmas decorations are overwhelming me. The "stuff" of this life is just getting to be too much. The gifting stuff that comes wrapped in ribbons and bows. The shopping stuff full of isles of glitter and shiny packaging. The buying, spending, browsing stuff. The decorative, nic-nak, cutsie stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff. There is just way too much stuff!
I want simple.
Today as I opened up crammed boxes of Christmas decorations I hit my "stuff" max. Enough finally became enough. After de-cluttering every surface in my bedroom and dusting hidden nooks and crannies I realized I didn't want to unpack all of my Christmas decorations. I didn't want to refill the space with fourteen nutcrackers and an array of woodland creature ornaments. I didn't even want to put up a little tree adorned with strings of cranberries and popcorn. I wanted simple.
As I stood frozen in the middle of my bedroom surrounded by all the stuff I had accumulated over my twenty six years of life my eyes fell on a framed quote leaning on my dresser. "Live simple. Give more. Expect less." That quote had been staring me in the face for years and yet I never took note of its message. With all of the other nik-nacs surrounding my space, vying for my attention I rarely ever took a moment to look at it, let alone reflect on its message. But now I saw the sign and its words hit me square between the eyes.
I want the message of that simple sign to be my motto for a simple life. I want less stuff and more simple. I want less getting and more giving. I want less expecting and more existing.
The trouble with stuff is that it is distracting. When all the focus is put on accumulating and adding to an already overflowing abundance there is no time and energy left for truly living. Stuff won't allow it. The more stuff the more time taking care of the stuff, cleaning the stuff, organizing the stuff and buying more of the stuff. There is less time to give priceless treasures from the heart and serve with hands holding only the invaluable gift of love. Physical stuff holds us back. I know it has held me back. I have been shackled by my stuff.
So today I begin my quest to de-stuff. Less will be more. Giving will be better than getting. I'm going clear and uncluttered. I'm embracing the simplicity of a life focused on that which is intangible. I'm going to make my life about more than the physical stuff I fill it with. I'm determining right here, right now, to turn my gaze on that which cannot be bought or returned. I'm making my life about living simply and simply living for Christ.