Orginally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ January 2010 ~ SGMRadio.com
The twist-ties from the Made in China extravaganza litter every hidden crevice of the house. The food that inspired belly rubs and third helpings is wrapped in its Gladware, likely until trash day. The cookies, initially attacked while they were too hot to eat, are reduced to stale crumbs, and my insistence on playing Christmas carols until New Year’s Day is now met with rolled eyes instead of goofy sing-alongs. The decorations feel like clutter. Oh, and at least two strings of lights plus the tree top are now officially burned out.
Post-Christmas can be depressing. Nothing looks as magical as it did the weekend after Thanksgiving. The anticipation is gone, and it seems the wonder is as well. We know the answer to this: it lies within the misplaced good intentions of what we make Christmas. This Christmas night, after a good cry, I told my husband it will change next year. I will not spend all day in the kitchen. I will not spend all month writing cards to people I never see and shopping for that “perfect thing” when the kids are happy with Target’s dollar-bin spatulas. I will not let another Christmas Eve AND Day go by without heading to church to set aside time, real time, to reflect on the Reason why we bother, or at least, what is supposed to be the Reason. The build up and the aftermath of our Christmas this year was simply lovely, but the day seemed empty, and that’s part of why my “resolution” for the New Year seems so clear. It’s time for a cleanup.
When we got back from our “2nd Christmas,” the one in Ohio with Rod’s family, I spent the evening indulging in my OCD with several categories of trash bags, baskets, and bins, organizing the girls’ new toys and getting rid of things with missing pieces or whatever they don’t play with. I made a stack by the tree of unopened packages to return or give away, because I don’t think more than one set of creepy giggling Elmo hands (yes, HANDS) should be allowed in one household, and I don’t envision my husband, who keeps his shoes on until bedtime, relaxing in a Snuggie, ever, even if it is Kentucky blue. Rod laughed at me as I classified art supplies, play-kitchen accessories, and plastic musical instruments for our 3 and not-quite-2-year-olds, but the process was cleansing for me… and inspiring, too. As I sorted and tossed, I smiled at the memories already being made by our young children, how Kaity excitedly refers to our “Christmas Treat” (tree), how we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, how the most animated Miranda was on Christmas Day was when my dad blew bubbles for them in our family room, how they love to dance at the end of every movie with their daddy and me.
Why, in light of all the simple and good that comes naturally, do we feel the need to fill our Christmas with Stuff? Just one more DVD, gift card, shirt, baby doll with party and play clothes, Meaningless Thing? It’s the same reason, I suppose, we do it to our lives. There are so many pretty, snazzy, hi-tech, competitively-priced gems out there that are often hard to resist. Who doesn’t want a bargain coffee grinder? A two-for-one zoo membership that can only be used on Wednesdays? A gift with purchase?
I think, for 2010, my answer to those questions is Me. I don’t want anything else. I don’t want another item in my house (I even resisted the Kitchen Aid mixer offer. You cooks know how hard this was! But you also know how much space one of those requires, and my counter doesn’t have it). I don’t want another activity, no matter how fun or reasonably priced, written on my calendar.
What I want is to take care of what has been given to me as a steward, a disciple, and a leader in my family. I wrote last month about simplifying, and that theme continues to build as I ponder the unnecessary. I don’t need to dress my toddler in a sweater/coat/hat/gloves/boots to take her to music class when we can sing and dance in our kitchen. She won’t need a full pasta dinner for 30 to celebrate her 2nd birthday; she’ll be happy with familiar faces and macaroni and cheese. And 500 people on my Facebook list whom I haven’t seen in 20 years or who never comment on anything likely don’t care if the pictures of her in her birthday dress make it online before midnight.
I am not criticizing any of these things, but I am making it my goal for the year, for my family, to put away and when necessary, throw away, that which muddies the space, regardless of how pretty it is. The model for the family we have is as simple as this: Our kids need us, and we need God. It is more important that I spend time with my Lord than I spend time categorizing our digital photos and correctly tagging my blog posts. It is more important that I spend time hugging, singing to, and blowing bubbles for my kids than baking them a castle cake (which will inevitably look like a misshapen lump anyhow) or finding them the perfect version of “Jesus Loves Me” on iTunes (what could be more perfect than our, ahem, special version of three-part-harmony?). It is more important that I call a friend or my cousin or my Gramma when I have 10 extra minutes than I scroll through to see what 30 random people are cooking for dinner (Note: I’m not leaving Facebook, just putting it in perspective).
When I look ahead to the coming year, I see opportunity run amuck for my family. The tasks we’ve already taken on are growing. New doors are waiting to be opened. Likely, we will be forging new ground that will change everything for us. We don’t have room for anything extra, be it gadgets, pounds, or organized play. Time is precious, that which we dedicate to our Father and that which we share with our loved ones. How will we spend it?
I vote for spending the first portion of that time clearing the space. Then I vote for singing and dancing on whatever floor we find ourselves.
Happy Clutter-Free New Year. May God bless you with health, opportunity, and many reasons to celebrate.