As another year comes to a close, I thought I’d take a look back and briefly summarize how my life has changed in 2016.
I started this year by working a night job I’d been at for over five years. I was feeling more and more burnt out as time progressed and in some ways losing touch with reality. But for a few anchor points, I could barely keep days straight, as one bled into the next. Also, due to my awkward sleep and work schedule, I missed out on opportunities for social interaction, which helped perpetuate feelings of isolation. I felt trapped and didn’t know how much longer I could take it.
Things began to change within a few months, as I started looking for work elsewhere. In mid-April I found a different job that seemed a good fit, even though it was a line of work I wasn’t familiar. From my brief interaction with some of the employees while interviewing, they seemed to enjoy what they did. In addition, it was better pay and hours. After accepting the job offer, I soon began to feel a pending sense of freedom. I think I’ve spent the past several months still recovering from the physical and mental damage of having worked nights for so long, but that time shift alone was enough to begin recovery.
After being there less than a month, one of my coworkers tried setting me up with her kids’ former nanny. About a month later (this was June), I was meeting up with a wonderful woman for what would become the first of many dates. By the end of October, we were engaged and are now looking forward to our wedding in April.
What started out as a somewhat bleak year in my life has ended up becoming one of the best. There were high and low points during this year. Some bad decisions and some good decisions were made along the way, but by God’s grace I made it.
Onward to 2017! It’s going to be an interesting year.
A time for laughter
A time for fun
Time to ask Santa
For a new BB gun.
If your family doesn’t know
That you’re left alone
Do your best to protect
From burglars your home.
Way up in Vermont
Where snow is so white
Yet it’s not seen at all
Until the last sight
A toy super cool
Was promised to get
Many antics so crazy
And Sinbad were met
His wish was granted
He hadn’t been born
But life without him
Was truly forlorn
Past, present, and future
The one thing that stays
People won’t miss you
If you don’t change your ways
Try to steal Christmas
You won’t get away
‘Cause your heart will increase
To three sizes that day
With the man in suit red
You take his place
Since you made him dead.
Born as a human
Yet raised as an elf
Went to find his family
Met Zooey Deschanel
Santa’s not real!
Why won’t you quit?
That man’s just a bum
He’s an alcoholic.
A sad little tree
Made new by some friends
The true message of Christmas
You’ll hear by the end
His mama’s so sick
She’s gonna die
If only these shoes
You’d help him to buy
What do I want for Christmas? What should I get my family? Which store carries what I’m looking for?
This is the time of year when many of us ask those and many other similar questions. From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve each year, people spend so much time and energy looking for that perfect gift, fighting crowds and traffic to find “the one present they’ll never forget.” But I bet if you ask enough people, they’ve forgotten more gifts than they can remember, especially if they’ve lived long enough. Sure, a gift here or there might stand out in memory, but think back five or ten years. Do you even remember who gave you what or what you gave to other people for Christmas?
Every December, people get so caught up in the madness of the season, but how many people ever stop to ask themselves WHY? Why do we give gifts? What is the purpose of this annual tradition that puts so many people into debt and causes so much stress? We spend so much time hunting, buying, wrapping, giving, opening, and then quickly forgetting the presents, and in that there’s a hollow emptiness. You can go through the same ritual year after year, but you’ll always find yourself with things that eventually break, disappear, gather dust, or just leave you feeling empty when you finish. In the gift-giving process, it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important, or rather whom.
When gifts are given, they should point us to something greater; they should remind us of the relationships we have, rather than being an end in themselves. It’s a far greater gift to have meaningful relationships you can’t buy than to receive the most expensive things someone else can. We can give gifts to people we love and care about, but then as recipients, we might get so caught up in the gift itself, we quit thinking about the person who gave us that gift and quickly become ungrateful. Just go online and you’ll see people making big stinks about the gifts they didn’t get. They’re even willing to take out their rage on the people who didn’t give them the gift they wanted or supposedly deserved, all to the amusement of others, instead of being grateful for the gifts they did get or recognizing that someone else loved them enough to want to get them something at all, perhaps at great expense, just for a trinket the recipient won’t remember in a few months. And that’s a great sadness.
But it’s not just the world who does this. How often do we who are Christians forget the ultimate Gift Giver, while seeking to enjoy the gifts we’ve received? We can get so focused on the gifts themselves, instead of remembering the relationship with the One who gave us those gifts. When we get some gift we didn’t ask for or want, or when we don’t get what we want, we throw a fit and get angry at God or other people in our lives. Or we get the gift we want, but then we lose focus on the One who gave us that gift, and we turn the gift into an idol that eventually leaves us feeling empty.
So this holiday season, as you spend time trying to find gifts for other people or trying to figure out what you want yourself, take some time out of the seasonal chaos to remember giving gifts should not be about the gifts themselves but about the relationships you have. Whatever you get someone else or someone else gets you, those gifts will likely be forgotten or go unused in a few years or months time. Instead, remember it’s about the people you have in your life; besides, sometimes the best gift you can give someone else is time.
This is something I wrote several years ago, but it’s become something of a tradition for me to share it each year.
15 Recommended* Ways To Spend New Year’s Eve
…And Have Fun Doing It Too!
- Sleep the day away: When you wake up, it will be a whole new year.
- Write poetry. “New Year” rhymes well: “Two deer,” “Who here,” “You hear?” “Boo! Cheer!” “Bluebeard.”
- Make resolution not to follow the crowd because “Hey, everyone else is making resolutions.”
- Wipe down a chalkboard: Start the new year with a clean slate.
- Prepare “First to do/be/say” list for tomorrow. Start following the list at Midnight to claim bragging rights; everyone else will love you for it.
- Brace for tomorrow’s “I remember last year as though it were yesterday” jokes. Be the first to say this at Midnight because the more times you hear/say it, the less funny it is. (You might as well try to be the funniest person.)
- Get a compass: Start the new year with some direction.
- Draw blueprints: Have a plan for next year.
- Stand on one foot until Midnight, then switch to the other. It is suggested to begin with the left, so you can start the new year on the right foot.
- Make list of things to put off until next year; #1: that list of things to put off.
- Scream at the top of your lungs at precisely 11:59:59 PM: End the year on a high note.
- Figure out some equations and later brag about having used your time to wisely solve some complex problems before the new year started.
- If attending a party, leave hosts shortly before Midnight saying, “I’ll see you next year.” Return shortly afterward.
- Complain about something that will take until next year to complete. Make it simple; everyone else will love you for it.
- Make others groan or laugh one final time for the year: show them this list.
*Not recommended if you don’t have a sense of humor or the desire to be annoying
You know that feeling of excitement kids get when Christmas approaches? The gifts, the music, and so on. And the thoughts of so many people, “What am I going to get so-and-so for Christmas?” I know the feeling.
When kids’ birthdays approach, they probably get excited about that as well and even wonder, “What am I going to get for my birthday?” But for some, it’s more a question of “will anyone remember my birthday?” Do you know that feeling?
It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” unless your birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People get so busy during this time, and what could be a special day for a kid might go by without acknowledgement. Or maybe it does get acknowledged with a combination birthday-Christmas gift, while everyone else around you also gets gifts independent of their birthdays. One might think you’d get twice as many gifts at one time, but how often does one clean up so well? Besides, it’s less special if everyone else is getting gifts too. And each year is about the same; your birthday can become a day that doesn’t stand out and nobody else remembers, even one’s own mother. (That happened to me, but it’s now just a memory of yesteryear.)
But you know what? You get older. You survive. And you celebrate in your own way. You eventually might even realize you’re not alone.
Today is my birthday, and having it so near Christmas used to be not so great, but it’s really not too bad now, even as I look back. Depending on a birthday’s proximity to Christmas, work/school could be a non-issue. Other kids aren’t so lucky; after all, birthdays don’t get most people out of work/school for a day. Now that I’m older, I’d rather be working on my birthday than be unemployed (though being off would be nice occasionally).
You know what else? I got to come home from the hospital for the first time in a stocking. One I still have. Now that’s pretty special.
I’m sure there are other reasons to enjoy today for what it is, my birthday being so close to Christmas. I may not even try to celebrate the way I used to as a kid anyway, but I still enjoy having my birthday, even if I don’t do much with it. Not to mention, there aren’t really any material possessions I want so badly, and I find it more fun to give gifts than receive them.
So if your birthday is close to Christmas, I know how you feel (unless your birthday is on Christmas, which I don’t). It stinks as a kid to be so overshadowed by such a monumental holiday, but it will be okay. Just hang in there.