Are you ready for Christmas?

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The calendar had barely flipped past November when I started getting the question.

“Are you ready for Christmas?”

Translation:  “Do you have all your Christmas presents purchased and wrapped, your house impeccably decorated, 100 Christmas cards sent, dozens of cookies baked from scratch, and holiday family gathering plans finalized?”

My typical response is, “Uh . . . not yet, but I’m working on it.”

What they don’t see, is that under my ugly Christmas sweater, I’ve broken out in red and green hives. Just thinking about the expectations behind the inquiry stresses me out.

One of my coworkers, however, doesn’t let it phase him.

It was only a few days into December when someone lobbed the question to him during a staff meeting. Without losing a beat, he responded: “YES, I am ready for Christmas.”

At first, we didn’t know whether to be impressed or jealous. But then he left everyone speechless when he stated matter-of-factly, “I’m ready because I have purchased zero presents and that is exactly the number I plan to buy.”

Inwardly I applauded his audacity for bucking the system.

“How nice it would be if ‘being ready’ didn’t equate to running about in a frenzy for a month and going into credit card debt,” I thought.

Then one day, I was poring over my mile-long holiday “to-do” list and flipped on the radio for some background music. As I numbly hummed along to “Joy to the World,” a phrase suddenly broke through and hit me between the eyes: Continue reading “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Is anywhere safe?

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I was standing in line at Walmart when the thought crossed my mind, “What would I do if gunshots suddenly rang out?”  I knew it could happen, because shoppers in a Colorado store recently experienced it.

Driving home, I passed my church, and reflected on the massacre in a house of worship in Texas only a week earlier.

Nearby I saw the college where I work, and envisioned our regular “active shooter” drills.

It seems as if our country has become a place where we can’t buy groceries, attend church, or go to school without fear that bullets will begin flying.

Maybe like me, you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rapid-fire succession of news stories detailing mass shootings.  I’m almost reluctant to turn on my TV, computer, or smartphone, for fear of hearing about another incident. (In fact, since I began writing this blog, several more horrific gun violence incidents have been reported.)

It’s tempting to live in a state of denial, become de-sensitized to tragedy, or exist in a constant “fight or flight” mode in response. Yet none of these options are healthy over the long-term.

So, how do we keep engaging life with a sense of peace and purpose when nowhere feels “safe?” Continue reading “Is anywhere safe?”

Can’t get no satisfaction

I think I’m becoming a binge-watcher. Well, perhaps more accurately, a binge-recorder.

Dion-Freeview-Tv-Recorder320GBtwin-tunerpause-tvseries-rec-Monster-scart-_57[1]Lately I’ve been DVRing multiple episodes of TV shows in a row. I recently got hooked on the home improvement show, “Fixer Upper.”  Now in its fourth season, I had never seen it until a few weeks ago. (I didn’t discover Downton Abbey until its fourth season either—what’s up with that?)  But I digress.

Each episode of Fixer Upper draws me into the thrill of watching Chip and Joanna Gaines transform a dilapidated, outdated house into a show-stopper worthy of a cover on Better Homes and Gardens.  In the process, I’ve learned a lot about the latest trends in decorating.  (I confess, I had never even heard of shiplap before!)

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There’s only one problem. When I turn off the TV and look around my house, dissatisfaction creeps in.  I notice the outdated color pallet, the so-yesterday oak cabinets, and the cheap countertops.  I begin to envision what my little fixer-upper could look like if Chip and Jo got a hold of it.

But my life’s “reality show” will not include a visit from the Gaines’. Even if it did, I know that the results wouldn’t bring me lasting contentment.

Continue reading “Can’t get no satisfaction”

A hand to hold when you need it

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Enjoying the shade of a Sycamore tree

It had been ages since I went hiking.  I was on my first visit to Arizona, and was excited to see the local flora and fauna up close.  My brother and sister-in-law suggested an easy trail in a state park nearby.

Trying to avoid the heat, we embarked on a mostly-shaded path that wound near a stream.  I marveled at my first sight of a Sycamore tree and its pale jigsaw-puzzle bark.  My sister-in-law and I couldn’t resist breaking into an old Sunday School song:

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man; a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a Sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see!”

I could visualize Zacchaeus scurrying up one of the sturdy appendages of a Sycamore tree to get a better view of Jesus.

A bit further, I posed by a massive Yucca plant, taking care to avoid its pointy leaves.  Later, I heard the grass rustle and caught a glimpse of a quick-moving lizard (I was glad it wasn’t a rattlesnake)!  As we rounded a bend, we came to a bridge and spotted several deer foraging along the creek bed.  IMG_20170522_104234 (2)

After quietly snapping a few photos, we finished the crossing.  Though it was a fairly long bridge, the sturdy guard rails made me feel secure.

The next bridge, however, was a different story. 

Continue reading “A hand to hold when you need it”

Loosening anger’s grip

Listen when I talk...I opened the email and immediately felt my temperature rise.  Someone had stirred up a situation I thought had been settled.

“Oh, that makes me angry!” I uttered out loud.  (To confess, my language was a little stronger than that.)

My irritation boiled the remainder of the day.  I craved the instant gratification of calling the person and unloading my feelings.  Equally as powerful, I fought the urge to run to a third-party to vent my frustration.

The voice of wisdom and experience whispered inside my head, “don’t do eitheryou’ll regret it later.”

Still battling these temptations, I went to bed smoldering, bypassing the counsel of Ephesians 4:26, which advises, “do not let the sun go down on your anger . . .” (NRSV) Continue reading “Loosening anger’s grip”