With Christmas past, clean-up is present. When Christmas clean-up makes its way to the forefront, there are a few things that never cease to amaze me.

First … why is it that everyone disappears when it’s time to put stuff away? The flurry of wrapping paper flying off packages is replaced by silence as all the able bodies have fled the scene and headed elsewhere to test and play with the goods.

“Get your stuff, take it to your rooms and put it away,” says Mom.

“I did.” collectively reply the kids as if on cue.

“No… your stuff you left by the tree… That stuff needs to be put away.” One of them had in fact stashed his stuff (he’s no dummy, didn’t want sticky Future Hoarder of America fingers snagging something), two hopped on the task before I added more to-do’s to the list, one claimed completion.

“I already put my things away.” said the last matter-of-factly.

Hmm…. thinking she had just seen the kid’s goods in the same spot where they were initially handled, this mom moved to confirm her notion. Entering the room, she saw what she expected. An art set here, a bracelet there, some cute rainbow mittens over there… stuff.

Eying the goods took me to my second thought. All the hard work spread throughout the weeks preceding Christmas was undone within minutes. Like our meal later in the day, the hours of work: shopping, peeling potatoes, cooking turkey, snapping beans, washing dishes, setting the table, gathering everyone and everything… it’s all broken down in the blink of an eye.

Mailing cards, taking down the lights, putting away the ornaments, boxing the tree (we went fake a few years ago) – breaking it down – is done so quickly. Planning and putting up seems to take much more effort than breaking it down.

Economic Summit

It reminds me of a job I had several years ago. In 1990, Houston, Texas was chosen as the city to host The Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations. Being young and interested in international affairs, I hopped on the chance to join its staff. I moved to Washington (the effort was part of the U.S. Department of State) before heading back to Texas where we spent almost eight months preparing. My team was responsible for all the plenary sessions at Rice University. We organized, planned, procured, briefed, and supplemented the majestic surroundings to be not only beautiful but functional for Heads of State, Ministers of Finance and Minsters of Foreign Affairs as they negotiated and directed business and diplomacy. Our team orchestrated every detail… from potted flowers lining walkways to stunning tables designed specifically for the meetings, to an air-conditioned platform with its ducts aligned perfectly to avoid any embarrassing skirt flight from the only female Head of State. Our eight months of preparation culminated in three days of meetings. After which, one day constituted the time needed to tear it all down.

One day.

Looking at those presents, remembering that sobering sight on a hot Houston summer day, I thought of my kids and all the preparation, time and work that we pour into them. I thought of the countless words and acts of affirmation showered upon them. I thought of the hours of reading to them, the Scripture we’ve poured over them, the hugs, the laughs, the shared tears. Then I thought of how little it takes for some of it to be broken down. I watch a teen’s countenance turn on a dime when she realizes she wasn’t invited to an event. Another is silently crushed when bullied by “friends” determined to increase their social standing by diminishing another’s. Still another struggles with pressures to look a certain way. All the parental efforts, planning and hard work seemingly broken down in minutes by cruel societal pressures.

Yet, unlike the Christmas gifts, the meal, or my Economic Summit days, the countless hours of work we put into our kids doesn’t disappear. Surface dirt might be easily shaken by societal pressures, but we’re laying a foundation. It confirms the need for my foundational efforts to be based on something that isn’t easily shaken, something that is firm. A foundation based on:

  • meaningful time, not rushed
  • truth, not what other’s think
  • love (as unconditional as possible), not expectations
  • trust, not ideaology
  • faith (in the One who doesn’t move), not me … because I’m going to unintentionally fail them every time I turn around

Food for thought as we enter a new year. But until then, here’s a picture of complete self-unawareness and joy. FHA quickly admitted that his stuff was right where he opened it. Of course when he went to put it away, he couldn’t help but play with it. I couldn’t stop my self from catching it on film.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


(A MOAT Note – I’m going to take a little more time off and see you guys on Monday as we welcome a New Year.)

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