Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Failing Friendships and Learning to be Kind

I've heard it said that, even more than their lessons, educators teach who they are as people. Students learn about their teachers' passions, annoyances, available buttons to push, and amount of care they hold for their pupils-perhaps even more than they learn about their coursework. As a teacher, I have seen this happen. As a former student, I've learned that the most important person a student can learn about is oneself.

Of course, I recognize that academic lessons in school are necessary. I still remember the pride I felt on the day I mastered spelling that word: necessary. I feel a sense of pride each time I spell it correctly, with only one "c" but a double "s." There are also personal lessons to be learned that have a huge impact on a child's future. Failure is a frustrating but useful tool to guide a student's holistic education.

Growing up, the walls of my classrooms and libraries were covered in motivational posters about how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, or how Thomas Edison failed "x" number of times before he successfully lit a lightbulb. The details of those stories may be more myth than truth, but the lesson was clear: "Don't let failure hold you back. Don't give up. Keep trying."

Failures are not fun, but they can be valid and helpful experiences in shaping who a person becomes. Looking back, certain childhood failures might not seem as monumental as they did at the time. However, I certainly learned more from a few notable negative experiences than I did from any lecture. Memorable failures from my school days taught me how to trust my young self and motivated me to grow into the person I hoped to become.

During my adolescence, I experienced one such memorable "failure." It involved a good friend. Those were the days of embroidery thread friendship bracelets and halves of heart necklaces, so she was my best friend. In typical teen fashion, we started to drift apart as she became closer to a different friend who would replace me as "best." I remember feeling confused and a little desperate, willing to do whatever it took to win back my friend. Changing my hairstyle or going to parties didn't help. Laughing at dirty jokes or trying to like sports didn't help. Not even pretending I knew the band Nine Inch Nails helped. Honestly, I was probably pretty unconvincing on that one.

This all seems ridiculous now, but the fact that I couldn't hold onto a best friend made me feel like a gigantic failure. I stupidly loved decades-old music and had hair that was impossible to de-frizz. I couldn't succeed at being a girl or a teen-least of all a friend that people wanted to be with. Most of us remember sad and lonely times like that from school. It felt like I was forever doomed to be friendless and worthless.

One day the alliances of friendship suddenly shifted again. Thankfully, this opened my eyes to the fact that my friendship problem did not rest with who I was as a person. I realized how incredibly unhappy I had been pretending to be someone I wasn't. It didn't work anyway, so what was the point? In time, my world expanded, and I learned that there are many opportunities to make friends. First and foremost, I needed to be comfortable and happy with who I was. It was okay to trust myself to be me. I might not always be happy. I might sometimes be lonely. But I had the freedom and peace of knowing that a fake identity is not satisfying.

Sometime later, I had a much better friend. She was unendingly fun and truly kind. We made mountains of memories that I treasure (although they would be pure nonsense to anyone else). With her I could definitely be my odd-music-loving, frizzy, dorky self. But there was a moment in this friendship that taught me that "being yourself" shouldn't come without warning.

We were both smart, but very silly. She was better at math than I was, but she was a horrible speller. I knew that she was sensitive about her spelling. It had come up in discussion many times. I still cringe a little when I remember the day our group was talking and teasing each other and people started making fun of my friend for a basic word that she had misspelled. "You can't spell worth crap," a friend said. To which I immediately chimed in, "She can't even SPELL crap." Beat.

It wasn't a big deal in the world of insults. I only saw surprise and a tiny bit of hurt on her face for a second before she started laughing with everyone else. It was funny, but that had never before been the tone of our friendship. We didn't talk to each other that way. We told each other that we were beautiful and wonderful.

She might not even remember that moment, but I will never forget it. It was when I realized that I wasn't always "nice." I must have been delusional, but I truly didn't know until that conversation that I could be purposefully unkind to a friend. "Nice, kind, and sweet" was who I was. People had always described me this way. No one had ever said that I would be willing to betray my friend (even in a small way) for a joke. The point really wasn't that I made fun of her spelling. The point was that, in my heart, I knew that I had made this silly joke on purpose for attention to get a laugh. I knew that it would be at the expense of her feelings. I had failed my friend.

Failure is okay. It helps us grow. Michael Jordan and Thomas Edison's experiences attest to this. Teachers believe this. When pressed, even most students will admit that it's true. Frizzy-haired, smart-mouthed girls everywhere should take heart. Failure, though painful at the time, is often beneficial in the long run. I am thankful that I know how to be me. My mouth has gotten me into less trouble than it could have because of the lesson in kindness that I learned. Where would be if we lived our lives free of failure? Perhaps without any great success. Learning from failures helps us to grow in honesty as well as compassion. Those are two of the greatest successes that I can imagine.

Written by Elizabeth Rehwaldt

You can let us know what you think by by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What We Hate Most in Others

"You hate most in others what you hate most in yourself," Mr. Baxter said, as he looked around my seventh-grade class. Then he focused his gaze on one of my fellow students in particular. She knew those words were meant for her.

I saw her tense up. She did not take his words kindly.

Why? Because instead of allowing for her to judge another pupil with impunity, Mr. Baxter turned the tables and pushed her into a moment of honest (and most likely scathing) self-reflection.

You hate most in others what you hate most in yourself. Ouch!

I don't quite remember what it was that my classmate was upset about, or what aspect of her personality Mr. Baxter's words called her to give consideration to, but for me, the quote stuck. In fact, it has become a kind of "life axiom."

Legitimate self-reflection can be hard. It can hurt. It can burn our egos and slight our psyches. In the end, however, using axioms like Mr. Baxter's can help us have a principled view of ourselves and a more grace-filled view of the world.

Mr. Baxter's adage has become that for me. That's why when I find myself critiquing, condemning, or commenting on the shortcomings of others, his words often give me pause.

They interrupt my self-righteous disapproval and judgment of others and invite me to think about what it is that I find so annoying or aggravating about them. Moreover, they guide me into honest self-evaluation and reflection.

When I am upset with someone who I think is overreacting to a situation and stressing everyone else out, I pause to reflect on how I can often be found doing the same with my family and friends. When I think people need to take a "chill pill" and not be so worried, I try to give them some grace and note that I often find my anxiety hard to control and can be a ridiculous stress-ball over some of the simplest things in the world. When I find someone's evaluations of my work objectionable or mean-spirited, I stop and think about how some people feel that way when I level my critique in their direction.

Not letting my reflection end there I try to do a conscious assessment of my attitudes and postures toward colleagues and coworkers and appraise my relationships with friends and family.

In this way, Mr. Baxter's axiom helps me lead a more examined life, which deepens my experience of life in general. Best of all, coming clean about my character flaws, habitual shortcomings, and many missteps helps me learn how to be more merciful toward others and, in the end, more forgiving of myself.

I find this type of self-evaluation truly helpful but be warned: this axiom can be a double-edged sword.

Self-reflection and criticism are healthy disciplines, but they can turn toxic if used as a bludgeon against our own psyches. Self-evaluation and growth can be painful for mere mortals like you and me, especially if we don't give ourselves some grace. Without that, we are only left with the hate. The loathing. The self-criticism and censure. Then we are miserable, endlessly evaluating everything we do and feeling worthless, discouraged, and hopeless.

The trick is to not let valid self-evaluation turn into unfounded self-hate. That is sometimes easier said than done.

After all, with Mr. Baxter's axiom we are evaluating what we hate-in others and, ultimately, in ourselves.

To avoid the trap of self-hate, I try to turn that dislike into energy for change. It motivates me to assess myself honestly, to make a plan for persisting in healthy habits and disciplines to replace the negative ones, and to realize that in the long run wrath against myself isn't a way to wellness.

Instead of letting self-evaluation become a constant barometer of our success or failure in making ourselves a perfect person that we would admire, like, and generally want to be around, it should eventually lead us to be softhearted toward ourselves.

That's really why Mr. Baxter's axiom is so healthy for me. Just like I can't change what I hate in others, I also find it really difficult to change what I hate in myself. I've found some success and made some better choices here and there. Self-improvement is definitely possible.

But, when it comes down to it, wellness is not the same as perfection.

Wellness and healthy self-evaluation mean having an honest, but compassionate, view of others and ourselves-faults, failures, foibles, and all-and letting our hate dissolve in the face of forgiveness and charity.

So, may you use axioms like Mr. Baxter's (or your own collection of truisms) to enter into a process of honest self-appraisal. May this lead you to wholeness and health. But, may you not get caught up in self-hate. Instead, may you change what you can and give yourself grace with the rest.

May you give grace to others as you also give grace to yourself.

Written by Ken Chitwood

The old expression "Hate the sin, love the sinner" can be applied to ourselves as well. Do you find it hard to forgive yourself for past blunders?

Do you find yourself turning the flamethrower on those who commit the same errors you do?

Is there hope for self through the love of Christ?

You can let us know what you think by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Benefits of Discipline

For many people, the word "discipline" is a negative. A disciplined person is not spontaneous or fun-loving. It seems that being disciplined means giving up freedom and joy.

The truth is the opposite. Discipline is the path to freedom and joy.

I play piano, acoustic guitar, and bass guitar. I love playing in bands. But learning to play a music instrument requires ... you guessed it—discipline.

In my case, my parents enforced the discipline of piano practice which I didn't appreciate at the time. But I sure appreciate it now. Without the discipline of practice, I wouldn't have the freedom to play music or the joy that comes as a result.

Now to the present.

I am dealing with a lot of uncertainty in my life right now. I am facing a layoff. There is serious illness in my family. A close loved one has moved out of state. I can't give you details because it involves my family. But, rest assured, I am facing stress.

I want to share with you two of my daily spiritual disciplines. These disciplines help me stay joyful and present during each day. They help me sleep peacefully each night.

The disciplines I am talking about are meditation and prayer.

First, I credit meditation with enabling me to go through each day being present to my life and for my loved ones. Meditation helps me embrace today's joy rather than worrying about tomorrow's potential problems.

Before I started meditating, my mind would often wander to unpleasant places. It would jump into the future, offering me anxiety about bad things that might happen. It would jump into the past to call up things I regret. It would remind me to worry about things over which I have no control.

My thoughts still wander into bad places, of course. But it happens a lot less and I have a lot more control over it when it does.

I meditate almost every morning. I use an app to provide a timer and some background nature sounds. I sit still and try to be only where and when I am. I focus on my breathing. When my mind wanders, I gently and non-judgmentally return my focus to my breath. When I first started, I could barely endure two minutes. Now I enjoy 10-15 minutes and occasionally indulge in 30 minutes. I have meditated for up to 60 minutes at a time.

Sometimes I include prayer. Sometimes I tell God I want to connect with and be present to Him alone during this time. Then I return to the practice of being fully present to the moment.

Meditation has made a real difference in my ability to not let negative thoughts get ahold of my mind. With physical exercise, lifting weights enables you to lift more weight. When I practice controlling the focus of my thoughts, it enables me to go through my day more in control of what I think about. Less anxiety. Less regret. Less worry. Yeah, it's been pretty cool.

Second, I want to share a specific prayer discipline with you. This prayer helps me sleep peacefully. It's a prayer of release.

Every night I either sit on my bed or kneel beside it and pray something like this: "Well, Lord. Here I am. It's the end of the day. I've had all sorts of stuff go on during the day. But now I'm going to bed. I can't do anything more about this stuff tonight. So, I'm releasing it to you. If I need to deal with it in the morning, you can give it back to me then. But for now, here it is." Usually I start my prayer with my hands balled up into fists with the palms facing upward. As I pray about releasing my stuff for the night, I open my hands in a gesture of release. Sometimes I even blow on my palms and picture all the stuff of the day floating away on my breath. I see it like the fluffy stuff that floats away when you blow on a dandelion.

Now that I think about it, Jesus did these same things. He often went away by Himself to pray for hours. He must have spent part of that time in silence. When He was facing His crucifixion, He prayed about His impending death and then released it to His Heavenly Father.

Something inside me still recoils when I hear the word "discipline." That's probably from my childhood. In my adult life, I've discovered that discipline is the path to freedom and joy.

Is an active and nearly daily discipline a part of your life?

You can let us know what it is by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

An Unforeseen Hero

I've never been much of a comic book reader. I have, however, enjoyed many of the comic book-based movies from DC Comics and Marvel that have been popular in the last 10 years or so.

The popularity of these movies, which seems to drive Hollywood toward making more and more of them (perhaps not always good ones), makes me wonder why our culture is so interested in these films. Add to the superheroes and their story of fighting against some kind of overwhelming evil, all the various others like it. There's Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and a variety of other enchanted worlds featuring vampires, zombies, werewolves and more. In all these, we see the power of immense evil against the feeble and tentative good, which nevertheless prevails (or at least with Game of Thrones, this is what viewers continue to hope!).

What is it with these sorts of stories, that they are able to get a hold of our attention? What makes them all so attractive?

I wonder if it is perhaps the fact that we, as 21st-century Westerners, live with a fairly flattened, disenchanted, scientifically bland reality. These films and stories present a very different world. In them is magic, mystery, a cosmic battle between good and evil, a hope united around a common good, and (usually) a happy ending in which the plot resolves in favor of the "good" and the salvation of all from whatever sort of evil was threatening.

In our world today, beyond the fact that we not only can explain away most things that appear mysterious (e.g., the rainbow), we pride ourselves in it, we also experience significant chaos that often produces feelings of being out of control, hopelessness, and despair.

This got me thinking about the "incarnation"&#8212the Christian story about how God became a human, like one of us. The story of the incarnation is really a story about a hero. It involves a fight between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness. It's a story about a world that is up against the odds, hoping against hope that a hero might save them.

In this story, the great enemy is human sin. God, the creator of all humanity, called upon his creatures to be holy"&#8212perfect like he is. But this was impossible. Try as they might, no human was able to achieve the standard that God set forth. It was if evil had already won and was found already at work in the lives of humans to prevent them from living in any sort of way that might win God's favor. So they needed a hero.

And that hero came in the most unlikely form. He was a Savior born just like every other human. He emerged from his mother's womb feeble, weak, crying, and needy, just like every other child. But he was not like every other human. He was special. He was conceived in a mysterious manner, his mother becoming pregnant not in the normal way, but by the power of the Spirit of God. His life was a marvel. At a young age, he was deemed as wise beyond his years by elite members of his culture. He later performed miracles, turning water into wine, healing the sick and blind, and even raising back to life those who had died.

But those who were in charge during his lifetime were afraid of him. The message he proclaimed about the coming of the kingdom of God undermined their authority and offended them. So they killed him. But he was no mere man. He was the God-man, Jesus Christ. And to prove his identity, God raised him from the dead three days later. And everything changed.

Perhaps you think this is just a story Christians tell. Maybe you doubt Jesus even existed, or maybe you think the man whose birth instigated the Christmas celebration was just another wise teacher to go down in history. When Christians say Jesus is God or that he saves them from sin and evil, maybe it sounds like a narrative and a philosophy that happens to work for people who grew up with it, or people who need help facing their weaknesses.

Those are good challenges to raise, and I won't pretend they have simple answers. I'd like to humbly propose a question of my own: what if our modern interest in hero films and books is an echo of our awareness that some kind of battle needs to be fought in the real world, and we need a hero?

In the most unexpected way, I believe Jesus became the hero we needed. The incarnate God, Jesus the God-man, took on the greatest evil the world knew in a cosmic battle for the fate of humankind. And he won. The consequence of sin in the world meant death would swallow us all. But now death itself was defeated and put to death when Jesus came back to life and offered to share his victory over sin and death with us.

The next time you find yourself drawn into a hero story, maybe pause for a moment or two and give it some thought.

Written by Chad Lakies

You can let us know what your favorite hero story is by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Community Is Generosity

I think when we have found community, then we have found generosity. Sharing yourself and your time with those around you is the essence of both of these ideas.

I see small generosities every day at my job and in the world. People will give up their seat for someone else on the bus, drop some change into a musician's case, or offer a hug and a friendly ear. These simple kindnesses are all around us, but what drives us to give them?

Being generous involves a gift of sorts: a giving of oneself to another. When we all begin to give to each other, we form a community.

When I think of my community, I think of the theater. It is my career, but no one gets into theater for the money. We do it because this is our tribe. These are our people. We all know the sacrifices we are making. We know the stories we want to bring to the world. We also know that in order to do some good in the world with our art, we have to be good to each other.

I work with other actors and with crew members backstage. One of the basic tenets of acting is being generous on stage. Giving another actor your full attention -- listening to them during your scene-is half of what acting is all about. Backstage we are generous in other ways: sharing cups of tea, snacks, and jokes. We do all of this because we are a community.

Being generous in my profession gives me the energy to be generous in the real world. When someone has been kind to me and has given me something of themselves that day, I find it easier to pass that on. A small cup of tea shared is a nice gift, but the time and attention one person gives to another is the greater generosity.

My community also extends to my neighborhood. On my block, we look out for each other. I have had neighbors take in packages so they wouldn't get stolen, I've returned lost mail to the rightful residence, and we all come together once a year to throw a block party where everyone shares food and drinks. When we spend time together getting to know one another, we form a bond. Yes, we are being generous in the small way of sharing food and drink, but this also feeds a larger generosity of spirit that we take with us all year.

Hopefully, we are learning to be generous to ourselves, as well. Perhaps we allow ourselves the time to grieve or to relax, or we give ourselves the space to learn and grow. Trusting your community to be generous with you when you need it is as important as stepping up when the community needs you.

This is what true generosity is all about: the ongoing simple kindnesses grow over time to form us into generous people. When a whole group of generous people come together, you have community. When you have community, you have hope and solace and love.

How do we take this out into the world? We can be mindful of other people's time and attention. Realize you are not in too big of a hurry to talk to your cashier, your mailman, or your neighbor. We can be generous to our planet by picking up some trash in the parking lot. Be generous with the gifts that you as a person possess by baking for the family with a new baby, or by volunteering to help your own children with their math homework. Once we recognize the capacity we all have for generosity, we can begin to spread it around, and we can accept it as a gift when it is given to us. Everyone is lifting everyone up, and in that way, we are all being lifted.

Written by Jess Kenyon

You can let us know what your strategy is by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Getting Real About Money and Limits

I'll be honest, I'm not writing about my financial health because I'm financially healthy. I'm writing about it because I'm not great about my money ... and it bothers me.

A lot of people in my life would say that I'm a pretty good adult -- perhaps that I have been since I was about four. It's a hazard of being an only child. And in a lot of ways it's true. When I'm presented with a task or an area of my life that I'm responsible for, I tend to grab it by the horns and figure out a system to make sure I take care of it in the rhythm of my life. I build these rhythms because to not do so leaves me in a state of overwhelming distraction where I can't be present in the moment (a.k.a. my own personal hell). So naturally, I'm pretty motivated to stay on top of things.

What makes this harder with money? It's not that I'm terrible with finances. I pay my bills on time (thanks, automatic payments), and I don't have very much debt. But I've also been working for four years, and I don't have a reasonable emergency fund, much less any other savings account that would prepare me for large future expenses, aside from a bit in a retirement account. My savings account is smaller than it was four years ago when I was three months out of college and had moved to a new city.

So, what gives? Why does a generally responsible person have a hard time bucking up and saving for expenses that I know are coming?

I think the hard truth is that I struggle with accepting limits when those limits cost me something I find important.

For example, I eat out a lot. I know I do it more than I can really afford for my income level. Sometimes I do it to be social. Sometimes I do it because I want regular access to fresh food, and I'm not willing to take time away from other things in my life to cook more than once a week. Sometimes I do it because I just need to get out of the office during the day for my mental health, and I'm not sure where else to go.

I know when I do this over and over, many times a week, I am failing to build my emergency fund. I am failing to move beyond my emergency fund and save for a house, or school for my children, or make investments that will have a higher return later because of how much time I have left for the interest to build.

Having an active social life, eating fresh food, and mixing up my environment for my mental health are all good things. Building an emergency fund, saving for my family, and keeping myself from being a burden on others when I can't work anymore are also good things. So really, I think, what's hard for me to accept is that I might not have the means to do all the things that keep me feeling like a healthy, balanced person. That I might not be able to do all the things that are, or seem to be, good for me to do.

So, I'm in denial about it. I don't feel like I should have to make that choice, so I live as though I'm not making that choice. Even though I am.

I think the solution, for me, is to get my nose into my finances more. To force myself into the reality of the fact that I'm making choices when I spend my money. And once I accept that I'm making choices, I think I'll find myself naturally making the ones I need to make. Learning to cope with the places in my life where I choose to give something up -- that will be a separate issue. But at least I'll know I'm facing the reality of my limits and doing the best I can with what I have.

Written by Megan Panarusky

Do you make any big resolves concerning your finances when the new year rolls around?

You can let us know what your strategy is by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Seeking Meaningful Holiday Celebrations

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I remember the childhood magic of unpacking our Christmas decorations every year, the anticipation of eating the candy cane cookies that my dad and I twisted into perfect pink and white hooks, and the joy of finding at least one special present under the tree. For years, I told my parents that someday I would get married at Christmas; eventually, I fulfilled that promise by getting married during the middle of a Michigan snowstorm, a few days after Christmas.

But somewhere along the way, Christmas lost its magic. Gradually, Christmas became a time of endless obligations, grading deadlines for report cards, and a growing list of gifts that needed to be purchased in order to deliver the perfect Christmas.

The birth of our children helped to turn around my Christmas slump. When our kids were finally old enough to do more than put wrapping paper into their mouths, their excitement over decorations, stockings, and finding that special gift under the tree became my excitement.

But even that joy doesn't make up for the pressure that I often feel at the height of the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Because we love having guests and cooking for others, for several years we launched the season by hosting Thanksgiving dinner. We spent weeks planning and cleaning and finally, on the day before, preparing a full spread for as many friends and family members as were able to make it to our Indiana home. At the end of the day, we were always thankful that we were able to go to sleep in our own beds without having to drive home from some other location.

Then two years ago, a couple of months before our second Thanksgiving in Texas, my husband suggested that we look into camping during the Thanksgiving holiday. After all, we didn't have any family around, the weather was going to be fall-camping perfect, and we had some extra days off of school. It was the perfect time for us to plan a trip several hours away from Houston.

So, we did it. We packed up all of our easily transportable outdoor cooking equipment and loaded it into our camper, bought the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner for four, and headed down the Gulf Coast, settling on a state park less than two hours north of Corpus Christi. We spent the day before Thanksgiving driving down to Corpus and then all the way to Padre Island National Seashore, sightseeing and watching our kids pick up seashells along the coastline. The next day we enjoyed a small -- but complete -- Thanksgiving dinner, and on that Friday, we didn't even realize we had missed Black Friday shopping.

Last Thanksgiving, we made reservations just south of Dallas, and although it was cooler than our Thanksgiving on the coast, we once again enjoyed the escape from civilization. We were joined by friends, their two young daughters, and my sister-in-law and her family. This time, instead of spending our Black Friday on the road driving home, we spent it hiking, hopping across a river, and exploring fossilized dinosaur tracks.

It was official. Campsgiving was here to stay.

It is so easy to let the season from Thanksgiving to New Year's take on a life of its own. We convince ourselves that everything has to be perfect. We over plan, overspend, and overstress. We spend time with people we would prefer not to see and are so busy being busy that we don't spend quality time with the ones we want to see most. We say that we are thankful but don't demonstrate that thankfulness. We say that, "Jesus is the reason for the season," but then we fill up the space under the tree with things that we don't need while others receive nothing. We make New Year's resolutions but mentally prepare our contingency plans for when those resolutions fail.

But what if we just said, "No!" to all of the things that detract from the holiday celebrations and distract us from each other?

We discovered a holiday contentment that we had never before experienced when we made the decision to escape it all and camp for Thanksgiving. I wasn't freaking out about the house; we weren't scouring newspaper ads for things we didn't need and -- although we ate a huge Thanksgiving dinner -- we hadn't been bored. We didn't sit around eating food we didn't need before and after dinner out of boredom, because we were enjoying life in the great outdoors. It's refreshing. It's been so refreshing, that in addition to Campsgiving this year near New Orleans, we have also planned a Christmas camping trip to southwestern Texas. We intend to leave after church and a quiet Christmas morning and return just in time to ring in the New Year.

I'm not suggesting that the answer to all of our holiday busyness is to just drop everything and head outdoors. I spent most of my life in the cold, snowy north; that kind of outdoor living is only for the truly dedicated. But we do need to give ourselves permission to cut the things that prevent us from truly celebrating. Maybe we vow to buy fewer gifts and be truly intentional about the gifts that we do buy (and stick to it). Maybe we focus on experiences like zoo and museum memberships instead of more toys that will just get broken and forgotten. Maybe we volunteer at a homeless shelter and spend our time serving those who have nothing instead of sitting around watching football and holiday movies. Maybe we sit around the kitchen table to play a game instead of allowing everyone to retire to their own corners with the electronic devices of their choosing.

Instead of seeking the perfect holiday experience, maybe it is time to seek to better know our loved ones, to show compassion for those who are suffering, and to glorify the God who made our end-of-year celebrations possible.

But we can still enjoy a piece of pie.

Witten by Sarah Styf

You can let us know what you think by clicking here and leaving a comment.

You can let the folks at THRED know what you think by clicking here.