Of course, I’m talking about the holidays! Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner: so let the craziness begin. Why is it that we can be perfectly sane all year long, but throw in a few days of being with family and all hope of sanity is gone? What is it about family that can make full grown adults like us act like elementary school playground adversaries?
And the food! If someone doesn’t make the gourmet potatoes or grandma’s green bean casserole, World War Three will break out! In some families, it can come down to who cooks what, and how it is prepared; something like this will make or break the day!
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and others this time of year to live up to what is really a dream; the “perfect holiday”. If I think back to my youth, there are a few key things that I remember surrounding the holidays. Being with family, a fire burning in the fireplace, my cousins and I running around the house as all the dads gathered in the living room. Playing games, waiting restlessly for midnight to come, and the smells of food coming from the kitchen as the moms kept a seemingly endless stream of food coming, these all played a part in those special days every year. We ate the same food every Christmas at midnight, then we opened presents. Throw in the fact that my birthday is Christmas Eve and you get a picture of what I expected from Christmas. But what I have come to realize is my memories of Christmas are a composite of over twenty years of Christmases smashed into a memory of perfection. I am sure some years were not as good as others; I know I got some socks and probably even some underwear as gifts, but those aren’t the ones I remember. I remember the ones that were exactly what I wanted.
I have to begin by saying that few subjects make me as uneasy as the subject of healing.
When our son Kyle was born, he was two month premature. My wife went into labor and within a few hours we were parents. They whisked him off to the neo-natal intensive care unit. So much was going on, doctors swarmed and machines were all hooked to my son helping him breath or monitoring him. It really was a blur. I remember just praying that he would live; that was all I could muster. I was in overload and could not really form complex thoughts, let alone prayers.
The subject of healing really didn’t come into my mind, even when we received the first possible diagnosis at six months, and then the official diagnosis of cerebral palsy at age two. I’m sure I thought about it, even wondered if it was possible. I know I prayed about it, but without much hope.
To tell you the truth, the whole question of healing really didn’t come up for me until Kyle was seven. Kyle was featured on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast, and afterwards letters started arriving for Kyle. Most letters told Kyle of what a blessing he was to the person writing, and how encouraged they were by what he talked about. There were a few, though, that talked of miracle cures. Just take this thing or that, use our exercise equipment; even people in our church, typically as part of some “multi-level marketing” scheme, were selling miracles.
It’s time for the annual ritual of making resolutions that usually don’t last the month. Oh, I confess that I have made my fair share of resolutions in years past—and 2009 is no exception. So here it is: I resolve to work off the extra pounds I’ve put on over the past 12 months.
OK, so it’s not the first time I’ve made that resolution, but every year I start off with good intentions. It’s not easy to watch what I eat, exercise, work full time, take care of my family and do all the other things I am supposed to be doing. Life is busy, and I can get weighed down with the thought that it’s too hard to keep up with everything.
I know I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed. Many of us keep adding to our pile: the car needs an oil change; the boss has a new project list that demands attention; the family is asking about a vacation. We feel guilty when we don’t get everything done.
So why do our resolutions—rather than those extra pounds—seem to melt away? I think that it’s a strange way of prioritizing our already over-extended schedules. I’ll stop occasionally to step on the scale, only to lament my lack of discipline. Then I reach a point where I justify the lapse in my commitment. Eventually, I’ll move on and entirely forget that I made the resolution.
My son, Kyle, asked an interesting question the other day:
“Why does the ‘new year’ began on January 1st?”
Admittedly, I didn’t know the answer. I’ve since discovered that it’s a short question with a long and fairly complicated answer.The snapshot version is that Roman emperor Julius Caesar wanted to flex some political muscle and put the entire empire on one consistent calendar. The date January 1was selected because it was the day that new consuls were chosen.
If your family is like ours, and has children in school, the year tends to revolve around the school calendar. For others, the four seasons help to mark and measure the high (and low) points of the year.
But the passage of time is a funny thing, especially when you try to measure its quantity in relation to tasks, or attempt to figure out why some years seem to fly by and others seem to last forever.
A friend of mine told me of a sign that covered the clock in his 8th grade classroom:Time will pass. Will you?Fortunately, he did.
Why is it that the year my son was born, a joyous time to be sure, remains, according to my memory, at least, as one of the longest of my life?Was it because he was in the ICU for a month, then strapped to a heart monitor for six months? Is it because we practically lived at the doctor’s office and our days were full of appointments and all the stress and worry that accompany a premature child?
At the same time that years seems to have lasted forever, it feels like it all happened just yesterday.How could my little son grow so big, so fast? I once pondered the possibility that this strange sensation and differential regarding the passage of time could be explained or proven by a mathematical equation. Could it have something to do with a ratio, such as the duration of the event, coupled with the energy and emotion expended during its occurrence?
In other words, does the memory of struggle help keep a memory more vivid than a season of ease?Maybe yes, maybe no. But does it really matter?
As I walk down my family’s hallway of memories, I’m struck by the fact that each and every moment, whether they seems like they happened yesterday or twenty years ago, have shaped us in profound and meaningful ways.In fact, there are plenty of days lost to the ages, and the winds of time, but they, too, have left there mark on us.
It’s my prayer that in this coming year your family and mine will embrace the time we’re given.As Family Circus creator Bill Keane once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery. But today? Today is a gift.That’s why we call it the present.”
I’ve been hearing the word “happiness” a lot lately in various venues: movies, advertisements, the bestseller list. Even a radio program dedicates a whole hour every week to the subject itself.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to think about big issues and ideas – especially when so much of the world quibbles with small problems most every day.
The problem I have, though, is in defining and understanding what part it has in my life. Afterall, what exactly is “happiness”?
I don’t want to describe it as a smile on my face or a temporary good feeling that ripples though my body on payday. Those might be happy moments, but from my perspective, “happiness” is far more than a temporary thrill. It’s not less than that but rather much more. No, “happiness” is a product of a life well lived; it is to see something in totality as “good; it is to enjoy a spirit of contentment.
Growing up, I remember reading and enjoying the comic strip Peanuts. The lovable loser, Charlie Brown, used to say that “happiness is a warm puppy” and everyone would sigh. Looking back on that, I now realize that what Charlie Brown was saying was that, in reality, happiness is caring about others more than caring about ourselves.