Naughty or Nice?
Well…here I am after several months of not posting on my blog. The year has been tremendously busy with caring for elderly parents (topic of another blog). But, I confess, I was also doubting myself and wondering why I ever thought anyone would ever want to read what I had to say. But, a recent incident just compelled me to put thought to paper (or electronic tablet).
My 4 year-old grandson, Sawyer, recently woke up one morning on the wrong side of bed. For whatever reason, he was being particularly and very deliberately naughty. First, he was playing with the family’s Elf on a Shelf. For those who don’t know…one must NEVER touch Elfie or he will lose his magic. After Sawyer was admonished for that, he then defiantly went around the house pushing Christmas decorations on the floor and knocking things off the walls. Sawyer’s parents work hard to make sure there are decorations for the children which belong to them and that they are allowed to be played with. But, they also make it very clear which decorations are to be admired but not touched. Sawyer stopped at nothing that morning to make his grumpiness known.
Out of frustration, Sawyer’s dad downloaded an app which allowed him to give Santa a call. (I know…there is an app for everything.) Anyway, after talking with Santa, Sawyer was informed that he had been placed on the ‘naughty’ list. I admit that I found the entire episode to be rather amusing. But, unfortunately, while it got Sawyer’s attention, he also took the phone call to heart.
Sawyer is a tough little boy and he is the last one to tell you if he is hurting. So, even though “Santa” told him that there was plenty of time to get back on the ‘nice’ list, Sawyer had resignedly decided that he had already blown his chances for getting anything from Santa. He was devastated.
I felt so badly for our little tough guy. How sad to feel so helpless and so hopeless. How many of us have felt that way at at least some time in our lives? And it’s especially hard when we realize that we are personally responsible for consequences in our lives. That’s where Sawyer was a week ago.
This got me thinking about the entire naughty/nice scenario and what this means to children. I tried explaining to Sawyer that we are all naughty…even grown-ups. But, that our goal is to be nice more often than naughty. I truly don’t think he really heard what I said.
I am a great fan of Santa Claus. (Elf on a Shelf…not so much.) I collect Santa figurines and the are in every corner of my house at Christmas. But, when I asked Sawyer what Christmas was about. He responded “Santa and getting presents”. This didn’t surprise me. It’s the response I would expect from a 4 year-old. And while I think that Santa is a delightful part of Christmas, he isn’t the reason for the season.
I must clarify that Sawyer’s parents don’t place undue emphasis on Santa and they both have a deep, abiding faith in Jesus. It is their goal to raise their children to have a personal relationship with our Lord as well. So, it’s not as if Sawyer hasn’t heard the story of Jesus. It’s just that he is a little boy and that he is focused on those things that are exciting to little boys…and that’s Santa and getting presents.
But Jesus is indeed the reason for the season…and I think He also can be tied to the entire “Naughty or Nice” concept. There is no elf reporting to Santa whose naughty because we are all naughty. However, Jesus came to earth and it’s as if all our names were crossed off the naughty list and, instead, were replaced by his name. And, the incredible gift that we can receive is not a gift from Santa but is rather the gift of salvation. It isn’t by doing nice things at all. It’s all about the grace of God.
I know that someday Sawyer will truly understand the real reason for the season. He just needs a few more years under his belt. Oh, and after another call to Santa, Sawyer was excited to find out that he had been put back on the ‘nice’ list.
My blog post today has totally been inspired by another blog called Momastery, written lovingly by Glennon Doyle Melton. Glennon is this incredibly flawed woman who spends her days encouraging other flawed women (and men) to simply carry on. She let’s us know that sometimes, when you can do nothing else, showing up is an achievement. And, by simply showing up, we can accomplish great and difficult things.
Glennon is an open book…inviting all of us into her life…warts and all. She calls those who follow her blog “Monkees”. It took me a while to figure out the name before the light bulb went off. “Monks” are those who live in ‘monasteries’. DUH!! How did I miss that? I’m proud to call myself a Monkee!!
Last week, Glennon did a five-day series called “Our Sacred Scared”. Glennon described the series as being “about refusing to be ashamed of our humanity. The world is changed by scared people who JUST GO AHEAD AND SHOW UP SCARED AND FULLY HUMAN instead of waiting to morph into some sort of superhero before they start living. World changers show up, with their insecurity looming and their knees shaking – long before anybody gives them permission to show up. Don’t wait for permission and don’t wait for perfection. Do what you need to do. Fail wildly and try again. Fail again and try again, again. Keep failing and trying ’till you die. THAT’S THE STUFF. All the magic and connection and excitement and LIFE is in the flailing and failing with other messy, beautiful, brave folks.” You can read more at Momastery.com.
Glennon invited ten people to write a few paragraphs on their ‘sacred scared’. These nine women and one man are writers, activists, teachers, pastors, and motivational speakers. And, each one is very successful at what she or he does. Yet, everyone of them has a ‘sacred scared’. It’s a secret ‘narrative’ that repeats over and over again in their mind, heart, and soul…telling them repeatedly that they are unworthy and undeserving of their success or accolades. It doesn’t matter that the reality of their life shows success. Every one of them felt completely unworthy…a fraud in some aspect of their life.
When Glennon started this series, I was, at first, drawn to the title, “Sacred Scared”. I love words and I love when they can be used cleverly. And, I really loved how two words that evoke completely opposite emotions and sensations can be connected in a real way. I also loved how just a slight rearranging of the letters changed one word into the next. I added one more word to the title which I think belonged…”secret”. And it’s because that’s what the “Sacred Scared” is. And, it’s something many of us, if not all of us, share.
Glennon has inspired me. So,even though I am not a successful writer, activist, or even a successful blogger, I decided to share my “Sacred Scared”.
My mother was an amazing woman who thought I could be and do anything and everything. Yet, regardless of that, I feel that I must have been a terrible disappointment to her. She was kooky and avant garde…and creative. She delighted in being different. My aunt once told me that when they were young women, everyone else would be dressed to the nines with a hat and gloves. My mother would show up with fresh flowers in her hair. She pulled it off and was never self-conscious about being different.
She tried to instill that same self-confidence in me. She wanted me to embrace being an individual and not follow the crowd. Yet, that was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to be invisible. I’ve written in my earlier posts about being physically and sexually abused. Because of that, I felt ugly and dirty. I didn’t want anyone to look closely at me because I was sure they would see my shame.
Lastly, and most importantly, my mother had a prejudice against overweight people. She was tiny and shopped in the junior department for most of her life. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit her genes and have battled my weight my entire life. Until recently, I wasn’t just overweight, I was fat. I was morbidly obese. There is no other way to say it. I know that must have bothered her immensely.
One thing about being fat is that you rely on other things in hopes that people will see that instead of your weight. I’ve discussed this with other overweight women and many of us do the same thing. While we might not be able to control our weight, we can make sure that the rest of us is put together. We may be fat, but we don’t want to be considered sloppy. My mother rarely wore makeup or did her hair. She truly didn’t care what people thought of her appearance. I probably care too much about my appearance. I spend time on hair and makeup every single day…whether I go out in public or not. I decided a long time ago that if I couldn’t be thin, I was going to aim for elegant.
Over the last few years, I have lost a significant amount of weight. While, I can’t say that I’m thin, I am at least at normal size. I still struggle with not seeing myself as a fat woman. I think I will always see myself that way. Probably my biggest “Sacred Scared” is that I will sabotage myself and that I will gain the weight back. I am working hard to insure that it doesn’t happen.
For the first time in my 63 years of life, I am embracing exercise. Who knew it could really work? My husband and I have joined the local YMCA and have made regular exercise part of our life. Of course, we are retired now and have the time. But, do you want to know one thing about going to the “Y” regularly? Doing one’s hair and makeup is a complete waste of time. I worked with the same group of people for almost 20 years and they never saw me where I wasn’t totally put together. But, my new friends at the “Y” have only seen me at my least attractive. And, that’s okay.
The people who provided articles for Glennon’s “Sacred Scared” series also included untouched photographs of themselves without makeup. So, I decided to include a photo of myself as I look after a morning of water aerobics and exercise. Warning…this is pretty graphic and it’s as real as I can get. Every blemish, every wrinkle and every wattle is there for you all to see. (I can’t believe I am putting this on the internet…but here it is.)
The news media reported the deaths of two men recently. One died at the age of 95 after a lifetime of achievements. The other died in a fiery car crash at the age of 40 at the height of his film career. I’m, of course, referring to Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker.
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Although he was a man with human faults and failures, these were overshadowed by his huge list of human rights achievements and successes. He won the Nobel Peace Prize!! And, he did all this without the benefit of today’s social media.
Paul Walker was not anyone I’d ever heard of before as his films were not ones of my taste. I probably wouldn’t have given his death more than a passing thought, but he died a few miles from my home. The accident was within a few feet from where my daughter and her family attend church. We’ve been to this church many times. The accident happened a quarter mile from ‘our’ Walmart! The crash site created enormous traffic jams as crowds went there…some to pay their respect and others to simply gawk. So obsessed were fans with the site of the accident that two young men were arrested because they ‘stole’ some remnants of the crash. They face possible jail time for acting stupidly and impulsively.
I didn’t know of Paul Walker but he was immensely popular. Those who knew him personally spoke of what a decent man he was…down to earth, genuine, and concerned for the environment. He even attended the school that my daughter-in-law attended and where two of my grandchildren now attend. Yet, his life was cut short because of a lapse in judgement.
Social media played a big part in spreading news of his death.
While the news reported these deaths, it seems as if this holiday season brought us personally news of several other deaths as well. Every few days we heard of the passing of someone…old friends, friends or relatives of friends…young and old. But, with all the news of people passing, it was the death of one young man that impacted me the most.
I’m in my early 60’s, so it isn’t unheard of that I would have my contemporaries pass away. My best friend died almost 7 years ago at the age of 56. It was way too soon to lose her, but not unimaginable. But, the unimaginable did happen on Christmas Eve. A young man named Kevin Hill passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. He was a husband and father of two little children…and a dear friend of my son and daughter-in-law. Before locating to Atlanta a few years ago, Kevin and his wife, Rachel, were members of our church. They returned to California frequently for Kevin to get treatment. And, it was here, in an apartment in Burbank, that Kevin took his last breath.
I never had the opportunity to meet Kevin or Rachel personally but I feel as I have gotten to know them through a Facebook page and blog that Rachel started to document their journey. Social media brought them into my life and into the lives of many. Kevin and Rachel are people of faith and they never doubted where Kevin would go if he lost his battle with cancer. But, that didn’t mean that they didn’t fight and research all treatment options. Most of these options were quite physically demanding and grueling. But, it didn’t matter. Kevin still fought to stay with his family. And, Rachel was right there beside him…encouraging him and being his advocate when he was too sick and too tired.
Kevin’s death really threw some of their friends for a loop…even those with a strong faith. To young couples in their thirties, they can’t picture not living to see their children grow up and get married or not growing old together. It is completely unimaginable. And, that’s how it should be. We shouldn’t spend our youth worrying about what could happen. But, when something like this does happen, it can cause enormous crises in faith.
What impressed me the most in reading the blog about this family’s journey was the incredible maturity and grace exhibited by them both. Rachel wrote with sensitivity and was extremely articulate. She revealed their lives to us at a deeply intimate level. She exposed their strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, courage and doubts…and, she shared their absolute faith as to God’s will in their lives. But, most of all, Rachel shared their belief in the blessed assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ. While going through the toughest time in her life, Rachel still encouraged other women whom she never met simply by her example of a godly woman.
I kept up with this family through social media. And I learned of Kevin’s passing the same way. And even thou this information didn’t come to me via national or network news, that doesn’t minimize the impact, nor the example of grace they shared with so many. Kevin’s death may not have touched as many lives as Nelson Mandela or Paul Walker, but his life and death were indeed far-reaching.
Kevin and Rachel Hill did not choose this journey, but they traveled it with Jesus by their side. If I’m ever in a similar position, I can only pray that I can follow their example.
This past Christmas was the first time we really got to take advantage of our PVC Tote Storage Organizer…and it works perfectly. No more did we have to move a bunch of totes to get to the one we needed. Yes, we still go crazy when decorating the house for the holidays. But, both the decorating and un-decorating took less time. And…it all looks so nice when it’s put away.
When I started this blog I said that I would include different kinds of posts…including craft ideas. This will be my first post of something my hubby and I actually did in our garage. It was one of the first ideas I pinned from Pinterest and it was inspired by the following picture:
This seemed like a perfect solution to our problem. We have over 50 totes of various sizes stacked in our garage…most of them holding Christmas decorations. (I go a little crazy at Christmas time.) Anyway, it never failed. Regardless of how we planned, we would always need the tote at the bottom of the stack. At the end of Christmas, we would take extra time and put the totes back in a particular order…knowing how we typically decorate the house. It didn’t matter…we would still need totes at the bottom of the stack. With a system similar…
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I love it when the New Year is here. It’s like a blank slate…a chance to ‘do-over’. If the past year has been difficult and full of trials, it is a chance to forget and start again. If the past year has been full of blessings, it’s a chance to bask in contentment and look forward to more. In reality, it’s just another day, but civilization has created a defined end and beginning with the start of a new year. Regardless of the religion or calendar used, the passing of one year to the next is universally a time of reflection…on looking back on the completed year and a time of planning for the upcoming one.
What I hate about the New Year are those pesky resolutions. Statistically, less than 10% of resolutions are kept. And, it’s no wonder why. Most resolutions focus on our faults. Will we lose weight, will we exercise and get more fit, can we get more organized, can we get out of debt, or will we spend more time with family? While we can all use a little self-improvement, I think that New Year’s Resolutions can be self-defeating due to the unnecessary burden we place on ourselves.
The origin of New Year’s resolutions dates back for hundreds (of not thousands) of years. The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. Some churches hold “watchnight” services on New Year’s Eve at midnight so that Christians can prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions.
There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Catholic fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility, in fact the practice of New Year’s resolutions partially came from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.
So, by tradition, resolutions have always been about self-improvement. But, I wonder if we might be more successful if our resolutions weren’t so much about us. Perhaps, we would do better if we focused more on doing for others…or better yet…doing for God. I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I do know that if I do have a resolution for 2014, it is to be more positive in my life…to worry less and enjoy the moments more. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
My Christmas post was inspired by the sermon delivered by my pastor this past weekend. The message really resonated with me and I want to pass it on with my own personal take. I also wanted to give credit to Pastor Wade Mikels for the inspiration.
At this time of the year, people are always talking about gifts and analyzing what the true gifts in life are, and so on. But, Pastor Wade talked about the actual process that we all go through when purchasing gifts for other people. To some people, buying gifts for people is a chore and they get the first thing they can grab. They might throw it in a gift bag or quickly wrap it up. And, even that is more energy then they want to spend. It’s not that they are thoughtless. It’s just that while they want to give something that will be enjoyed; they haven’t a clue what that would be. Planning the perfect gift is truly an art form and not everyone is good at it.
I’m one of those people who LOVE finding the perfect gift. If I do say so myself…I have a gift for picking the perfect gift. Part of it is that I am observant. I pay attention when someone says they like something or they collect something or they need something. When I was younger, it was only necessary to make a mental note. But as I’ve aged, I’ve found I need to maintain an actual list of possible gift ideas. I also know that a perfect gift doesn’t have to be expensive or over-the-top. It can be something simple or quite practical. The perfect gift is not about the actual item but rather that it shows the recipient that he or she is loved, valued and important to the giver. When our son was working full time AND going to school full-time, my husband and I gave he and his wife the gift of a gardener for the year so he didn’t have to worry about it. Would some people think this a good gift. It wasn’t something that one could hold. But, this was the perfect gift to them.
I also believe that how I package the gift is part of the gift itself. I love making beautiful packages. Everyone knows when I have wrapped something because I take particular care to use beautiful paper and make gorgeous bows out of coordinating wired ribbon. I also will embellish packages with appropriate decorations in addition to the ribbon and bow.
This love of making the present look beautiful goes back to when I was a young teenager. My mother was quite busy and asked me to help her wrap some presents. She took some time showing me how to do a good job and she passed on many of her artistic gift-wrapping tricks to me. From then on, I was the one who wrapped most of the presents in our house…even my own.
While I worked at Disney, our department had great gift givers, particularly at Christmas. At one time, everyone gave every other person a gift, albeit a small one. But, over the years, our department outsourced several of the functions and our staff was reduced significantly. We changed our gift exchange process. Rather than each person having a gift for each co-worker, we got together and came up with one group gift for each person. And these weren’t small gifts. Most of us had a Disney character that was our favorite and we would frequently receive a very valuable collectable of our favorite character. As a group we worked together and looked hard to find just the perfect item for each person. And finding that perfect gift went on all year. And, as the recipient, we all felt loved and valued. I cherish each and ever item I received over the years and I display them in my home.
A gift serves two people…the giver and the recipient. It is a means for the giver to show just how important the recipient is to him or her. And, it’s a way for the recipient to understand just what they mean to the giver.
And here it is Christmas, where the exchange of gifts between friends and family seem to dominate the day. But, it is also where we celebrate the greatest gift of all. When God sent His son to die for us, He was sending the perfect present. He sent us what we truly needed. And, He valued us enough to make this gift so very significant and important. He gave us the gift of salvation. And it just wasn’t a general gift for mankind. It was a personal gift for Kelsey Ramirez-Raub. It was a personal gift for (insert your name here.) He so loved us that He gave His only son. When I think of the effort I spend in finding the perfect gift, I fall so sort of what our God did.
So, as you give gifts this year and receive them, what are these gifts saying to you and about you? Do you think about your gifts back to God the same way you think about gifts to family and friends? Are you even giving back to God. God should be at least as high on my gift giving list as my family and friends. How high is He in your gift giving priority? Consider praying about it. I know I will.