Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Contentment Part 1: Peace and Hope United

The overall theme of my thoughts these days has to do with contentment. I struggle with it every year at this time. It's because of Christmas Wish Lists. I realize it’s so much easier for everyone to shop if they’ve got a list to work with. I’m that way. I’m hung up on a few gifts right now because those people haven’t given me any idea of what they’d like. I’d love to get creative, but that entails time and risk. I’m feeling a little short on both right now.

Here’s the thing with wish lists: you have to come up with something to put on them. You have to think of what you’re missing out on. Or what you wish you had. It’s always hard for me. I’m generally content with what I have. I don’t feel like I’m lacking anything. But if I think hard enough and look through enough catalogs, store ads and window displays I’ll find some things I didn’t realize I was wanting. One example: my kitchen towels are honestly very shabby; they’re faded and a few even have small holes. I was okay with that until I noticed some cool eggplant-colored micro fiber towels that would match my new kitchen d├ęcor. Now the old towels seem…well, old. I’m not as okay with them any more (hint, hint, dear).

I also feel like I’m encouraging a spirit of discontentment at times in my children when I pull out the toy catalogs and say, “so what do you want for Christmas?”. I don’t do that much any more. For one thing, they snag the toy ads pretty quickly on their own now. But the other thing is I’ve learned to pay attention and make note of things they might like so I can create their wish lists for them. It’s always fun to see how surprised they are to get things they’d forgotten they’d wanted. Or, my mom’s favorite: things they didn’t even know they wanted (I love when she says that before I open a gift from her – she’s pretty much always right).

Now, I don’t want to knock wish lists entirely. There’s this thing about gifts and wishing. It’s called hope (although not the same as the hope we have in Christ). Think about it, isn’t there at least one thing you’d love to have, but almost don’t dare to wish for? Sometimes we get too practical in our Christmas gifting. We need to think more of getting people the kind of things they’d like to have but would never buy for themselves (another idea I learned from my mom). And then maybe we can start asking for those kinds of things ourselves (so forget I mentioned the kitchen towels, hon). It leaves this little spark inside you that burns brighter the closer Christmas comes. It’s that tingle of excitement we had when we were kids and wondered if Santa would really bring that one thing we wanted most of all. That’s hope, temporally speaking.

So this year I’m trying to be content and at peace with what I have and stop wishing I had things other people have or better things or newer things. And mostly I am content. But I’m also trying to rekindle that spark of hope (actually I know what big wish-list item we’re getting this year, so it’s more a spark of anticipation). Most of all, I’m glad the two - peace and hope - can coexist. And I think there’s something of the First Christmas and what it means in that whole concept.

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