Its been a while since I've "written" much of anything on the blog. Sure, I've managed to eek out an announcement here and there, but nothing of real substance. November was a busy whirl. As a non-profit the fall season is the busiest time of year for us. Our schedule has been packed with shows, trips, publications, promotions and deadlines...none of which ever seem to be met on time. I have been feeling a lot like one of those plate spinners that used to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, running frantically between poles trying to keep each plate rotating. This isn't a healthy or recommended way to live, but at this juncture-it is the sole option.
But if I am to be quite honest, the crammed schedule isn't the only reason I haven't been blogging these days. Truth be told, I've been feeling pretty wordless. The hubbub and intensity have kept me active, but somewhere on my insides, I blew a circuit. This is, I suppose-why they call it "burnt out."
Recently on David Letterman, Jack Hanna stopped by with his celebrity lineup of wild animals, one of which was an exotic Bactrian camel. These are now close to extinct in the wild. This camel is called a "bactrian" because it is double humped and the little one on Letterman was petite and furry. Hanna explained that this bactrian camel stored its water supply in its twin humps. When the water depleted, the humps began to deflate and sag. He thought the phenomenon was quite humorous and urged David Letterman to poke the poor animal just to prove his point.
The lone fuzzy camel stared blankly into the camera while Jack and Dave thoughtlessly thumped its drooping humps. Camel, I thought sympathetically, I know how you feel. Thirsty...tired...running on empty. Out of fuel and short on enthusiasm with so many eyes staring at you. This is the perfect description of my current self.
"The most wonderful time of the year" is upon us once again. Stores are buzzing, sweets are baking and inflatable reindeer are popping up in yards across suburban America. Oh, Christmas! 'Tis the season for joy, family and all around celebration. (Not to mention over-eating and large credit card bills.) Facebook statuses these days are littered with references to hot chocolate, greenery and other enticing seasonal aromas. Unfortunately, the only aroma filling my house these days is the scent of undone laundry.
With all that must be done to close this year in the ministry and begin the next on good financial footing....I feel drained to the last drop and weary with the most normal of tasks. Cooking dinner feels like moving a mountain. And the laundry...well that really IS a mountain. And Christmas? Christmas feels like an unfair amount of unnecessary WORK.
In my defense, I haven't always been so Scroogish. There was a time in days gone by when I was as zealous about Christmas as Tiny Tim. I spent a period of time in high school working as a professional Christmas caroler, getting paid ridiculous sums of money to show up at office parties dressed as a character out of Dickens. In college I insisted our apartment have a full sized tree and spontaneously rallied all of my roommates into a late night Wal-Mart run the same evening we returned from Thanksgiving break. There is an embarrassing photo somewhere in the archives of all of us trying to hang lights on our gutters with the kitchen broom.
But this year I have been unable to tune into the spirit surrounding me. Its like my station got stuck somewhere in between frequencies and all I'm receiving is static. I've tried...I really have. I mean to look through that stack of incoming cooking magazines piled idly on my nightstand. I've dug through the kitchen searching for the cookies cutters I plan to use eventually. Still the ornaments sleep safely in their box collecting dust and my red and green tablecloth is neatly tucked away in the china cabinet.
Last night as we drove home past a series of lit-up residences, Scott said quietly "I don't think we'll do a tree this year." I sighed. It was a sigh of relief. I knew he was desperately exhausted too, but now it was official. I no longer had to worry about rearranging furniture in our jam packed living room to make space for a 6 foot fur. We could simply do without it, and reduce our to do list by one unnecessary item. Now all I have to do is deal with the guilt...
And I DO feel guilty. I can't help but feel that I am denying my child some sort of priceless human experience by hosting a low key Christmas. Its like if we don't sip cider every night or make little snowmen out of cotton balls she will be permanently scarred. So despite my exhaustion and realization that Christmas isn't going to be especially festive, I spend even more energy worrying, fretting and internally pushing myself to be more and do more no matter the cost.
It's fruitless, really. Like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip...or water out of an empty bactrian camel.
Why do I keep trying? And what is it going to take to get full again? Because I honestly don't want my calling in ministry to turn me into a weary Grinch every year when the weather turns cold.
This week as I tidied up around our tiny home I stumbled over my Bible and thought "Oh, thats where you are!" That probably isn't what you want to be saying to the Word of God first thing on any morning. What's worse is, I hadn't even been trying to locate it. It didn't seem to make a strong impression on me that it was gone...
Here I've been worrying about my "busy-ness" interfering with decorations when I hadn't even been concerned that it was causing me to drift away from my anchor. At the end of the day maybe much of the wordlessness I'm experiencing isn't due to being busy working, but rather from being so WORDless.
I always thought I had that "Martha complex" avoided. Like I would never be one of those "busy" women who gets so tied up in serving that she gets distracted from the Savior. But here I am...bustling about my ministry kitchen and blind to the fact that I have failed to drink from the Living Water that keeps me strong. I expect to find in myself the power to provide for everyone and the enthusiasm to deck every hall with holly. Then I get surprised when my insides dry up? Apparently I am less than the spiritual superwoman I expected myself to be.
And just as I start to beat myself up over this gross spiritual neglect, I can hear his steady, kind voice saying "Jamie...hey, Jamie, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed."
I have a feeling that "one thing" isn't a 6 ft. Christmas tree. And since it isn't, I probably shouldn't feel so lame for avoiding the extravagance of it all this particular season and trying to find some rest for my dry, weary soul. Jesus doesn't expect me to ring silver bells on His birthday, but he does expect me to taste and see that He is good.
So this Christmas I want to choose the better thing, the thing that can't be taken from me. I want to worry less about how...or if...I get my home decorated, whether or not I ever make cookies with red sprinkles, or if I ever force some sort of fun filled family excursion.
I want to worry more about where my Bible is...and where I am in it. I want to make sure to find time to sit quietly and gain wisdom from the baby who came so quietly and plainly into the world. To fill up on His goodness and mercy so that I can concentrate on being a vessel of blessing to those I am called to love rather than a fried out philanthropist.
I know I am NOT the only one out there feeling pressured yet listless when it comes to the Christmas season. I welcome you to take a break with me from all the tinsel and allow your Christmas to be an internal affair in 2009. And I don't begrudge any of you who are filled with cheer this Christmas. In fact, I am glad for you. I hope to join you again in Christmases future. But for better or worse this is just where I am right now and I need to be OK with that.