Sometimes simple comes by way of unwanted complications. Complicated situations may seem to be a hindrance at first, but closer introspection and proper adjustment on our part; just might present unique opportunities for clarity, valuable lessons–and yes, even simplicity.
As a brain injury survivor and Multiple sclerosis warrior, I have to be very careful to protect my compromised immune system from outside germs and viruses this time of year. Visits to our home are pre-screened by, “Have you, or anyone around you been sick the past two weeks?” A “simple cold” to those with a normal immune system can put me in the hospital within days. And that’s exactly what happened recently.
A surprise visit from some friends revealed a child’s runny nose too late. The “simple” cold spread through our household, making all of us sick. Everyone else recovered quickly. I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia, which set off an MS flare. It’s been several weeks and I’m still battling a very long, and difficult recovery. With Christmas, and all its preparations looming, I was forced to scale things back to the bare minimum and create the simplest Christmas I could. I was pleasantly surprised by the gift of simplicity my recent complications presented me.
As a Jesus-loving Christian, I find the commercialism of Christmastime a hard pill to swallow. Each year, it seems to get worse. Big box stores start peddling their Christmas wares long before Thanksgiving, vying for the attention of customers looking to get the best deal on the “next big thing,” (ironically, only to be long forgotten by the time Christmas rolls around again next year). Normally well adjusted folks losing their minds for deep discounts on “gotta have” items, bringing out the absolute worst in people. Stuff. Things. Rushing. Stress….these are not the adjectives that should describe our Savior’s birth!
I’ve always been a perfectionist. My “type A” personality has been both a blessing and a curse; pushing me to achieve what I didn’t think possible (when I was striving for Olympic gold), yet often driving me headlong beyond wisdom when the situation clearly warranted a more thoughtful, careful approach. While an all-or-nothing attitude may be beneficial for chasing elusive Olympic dreams, it does not behoove one with serious health issues. And so, I had to find a new way to adapt to disability-related complications in my life. The answer was simply, simplicity.
The benefits of simplicity transcend every area of life, no matter what circumstances one may face. When we strive for simplicity, we give ourselves the gift of freedom–freedom of choice. We can choose chaos, or we can choose peace. It’s ultimately up to us. Okay, I didn’t choose to get sick with a months-long recovery, but I can choose what I choose to do about it. I’m choosing simplicity.
I chose to let go of the “perfect” Christmas holiday I had in my head (perfectly decorated tree, perfect meal, perfectly clean and decorated house, perfect gifts; all brought about by the deluge of media, commercialism and worldly viewpoints), and imagined a stripped down version… then set out to achieve that, step by rest-in-between step.
My family and I go into the mountains each year to cut our Christmas tree. We hike, have snowball fights and enjoy a fresh-air filled cook out over an open fire to celebrate our tree hunt and each other. This year, I couldn’t hike so we found a tree close to the forestry road and set up our grill nearby, where I enjoyed good food, fresh mountain air, and watching my family play from a seat by the fire. I just soaked it in; every moment of it. I devoured it, hungry for simplicity I didn’t know I’d craved.
We live in a house which is in the process of renovation (ha, aren’t we all!?) My goal was to have the partially-painted living room/dining room area fully painted and finished by the time the holidays rolled around. It didn’t happen. It’s not going to happen. I’m okay with that. I didn’t fail to reach my goal. I chose to let it go. That gives me my power back.
I truly love my family and friends. They mean the world to me and I consider myself blessed to have them in my life. What I will not do, however, is to go into debt to prove my love. How many times have we done this in the past? Find that “perfect” expensive gift for a loved one, knowing that it will set us back for months to come, yet do it anyway to somehow prove that love?
True love has already been given to us in the way of Jesus Christ our savior. The ultimate gift, that cost Him everything, yet is freely given to each of us who accepts it. THAT is the true gift of Christmas. The real gifts of this season aren’t found under the tree, but around it! Love. Attention. Time. Affection. PRESENCE….not presents! Gifts that mean everything, but which a price cannot be placed upon. I’m simplifying my gift-giving this year, and that takes a huge burden off of me, knowing that I can’t afford to give much in a worldly perspective, but I have an untapped surplus of divine riches at my disposal.
And so, my world has stopped spinning so fast, giving me time to truly enjoy my family and the extra time I’ve been blessed with to spend with them. My mountain-grown Christmas tree sits in the half-painted living room, partially decorated. I’m enjoying trying new crock pot recipes from my previously under-used Pinterest board. My shopping and to-do list have grown exponentially shorter in my simplistic adaptation of gift-giving, and my volunteer time to my church, our family ministries and my community has opened up, providing me with the greatest gift of all; the gift of giving of ones time and talents. I’m simply blessed.
I wish you the very Merriest of Christmases, and pray this year you will take the time to jump off of the spinning merry-go-round of stress-induced busyness and choose to discover the true magic of simplicity. ~Kimberly