LtDan gave me a tremendously thoughtful Christmas gift.
Two days of it,
at our favorite hotel,
just me, myself, and I.
I know the exact moment he had the inspiration.
We were sitting in the family room together,
and I could feel him looking at me with great concentration.
He was trying to decide what to give me for Christmas,
and I’m sure that my weary, worn out countenance and an angel on his shoulder
told him what gift would be appreciated more than anything.
One of the reasons I was yearning for nothing was just for the sake of a break.
But because of how I’m wired, part of my desire for nothing had to do with needing to pause
for a minute, contemplate, plan, aspire and resolve for the new year.
And so I did.
I looked back over 2012,
which was a very full and happy year for us
and also for those near and dear to us.
There was much to celebrate, and much to be thankful for.
Two weekends in particular stood out to me, however.
These were weekends that we did nothing.
No one came over, we went nowhere,
and I spent a good part of those weekends working on things
that had been on my to-do list so long they were chiseled on a stone tablet.
I remember these weekends because they were out of the ordinary …
and because when the second one came along, I realized something:
nothing feeds my soul.
Have you ever taken one of those Spiritual Gifts tests, where they help you identify
what you’re good at, where your gifts are?
It seemed to me kind of obvious information when I took the test.
Now, however, I see that having an idea of the variety of strengths we have can be helpful,
because sometimes our gifts compete for our focus.
We’re interesting balls of wax, we humans.
God gives us strengths that when tuned and balanced rightly,
there’s great joy.
Life is rich.
One of my favorite bosses was a pistol.
She was smart, she was beautiful, she was funny, she was super confident.
She was fun to work for, and she was never afraid to diplomatically tell it like it is,
usually with a great illustration so you could remember it.
Take, for instance, the volume knob on a stereo.
(Do people even have stereos these days?)
Volume is a good thing.
Turn it up, and everyone can hear the music.
The melody comes out, the bass line hums, the rhythm pops, the room is filled with music.
But turn the volume up too much,
and the sound is distorted,
the speakers buzz,
the walls shake,
and no one can hear anything else.
Or the neighbors call the sheriff because your music is too loud.
That can happen too.
Twenty plus years later, I still think of Barb when I get myself into trouble.
It’s because of her volume illustration.
She was talking about one of my strengths: taking responsibility …
who? Me? awww, shucks!!!
and how like any great thing, when you turn it up too much,
it’s no longer a great thing – it’s too much.
Awww … shucks.
One of my gifts is hospitality … I have always loved to throw parties.
I love to have people over.
It feeds my soul.
One of my dear cousins has a similar gifting.
She also has the gift of frank and humorous honesty.
And so as she expressed appreciation for our hospitality at a family gathering, she said,
“so how was pulling it all together today?
I always found that having a party was good for at least one pre-party melt-down.”
It was a relief to know I am not alone.
Because more often than I’d like to admit,
having a party can be good for one pre-party deep blue funk
that doesn’t end until the first guests pull through the gate.
Hospitality turned up too high … and I am worn thin.
Impatient with my family.
And not the generous hostess I would like to be.
One of my other strengths is organization.
[I really hope the people who looked in the closet under the stairs at our New Years Eve party never read my blog.]
A friend of mine explained to me once why she loves her job as an accountant:
when she puts the numbers down and they all add up, it makes her feel good; it’s soothing.
I’m not so much an organizer on the accounting side of life,
but let me organize the pantry, put together a new chore list, clean out the laundry room,
make a new schedule, and yes, it makes me feel good!
When my hospitality is turned on high and takes up more space in my life than it should,
I get off balance, disorganized and unhappy.
Turned up to too high, the dark side of my gift of organization looks a whole lot like perfectionism,
and I can’t. stop. working.
These gifts balance each other out!!
God hasn't given me these two gifts to drive me crazy after all ...
because after the guests arrive, it’s all good.
I know things are as good as they’re going to get,
the pressure to get it all done disburses
and it’s on to having fun and the festivities.
In my grand and glorious Weekend of Nothing, I did nothing, but I also contemplated and organized my thoughts. And I resolved to better balance of the gifts.
In the height of our holiday festivities, our hospitality wasn't just for fun,
it was a necessity, because we actually had a white Christmas,
and some of our guests were literally stranded.
And they were gracious and thoughtful
but I was already worn thin
and it showed.
And I kept remembering Proverbs 24: 10:
If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your strength!
My Holiday 2012 translation:
If your hospitality isn’t genuine in time of real need,
what good is your gift?
God didn’t leave me there with just a smack down though.
He gave the answer to my problem in verses 3, 4, and 5: By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
The wise prevail through great power,
and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
Before you prevail, you have to muster.
Muster means to “gather, summon or rouse”.
And now for me, it means you must engage in Nothing Weekends
so your organization gift can come out to play, too.
I had a lovely Weekend of Nothing on the first weekend of 2013.
But I invited LtDan to join me for day two.
Because nothing loves company when it’s had a little time to muster.
Happy New Year!