when is enough, enough?

“We must balance the frustration of ‘how far we have yet to go’ with thanksgiving for ‘how far we have come.’” – Orange County Register

Illustration of a stack of gifts piled up in a Christmas tree shape with star on top

Well, here we are … on the verge of what is likely the busiest season of the year. These next four weeks could bring more shopping, wrapping, spending, decorating, traveling, baking, and over-eating then we’ve all accomplished during the past eleven months combined.

I enjoy as much as anyone the coming weeks filled with what I refer to as my favorite “Fs”: faith, family, fellowship, food, football, and fun. But if I let it, my attention can easily shift from the reason for the season to all of the hustle-bustle – and my need for perfection. I can certainly become overwhelmed with trying to impress others by buying perfect presents, preparing perfect meals, and hosting perfect parties at a perfectly decorated home.

It is so easy for me to fall into the comparison trap of mimicking the “perfect” Christmas experience I will witness in all of the advertisements thrown at me this month. “My wife will love me more if I just buy that special ring or necklace” they suggest. The commercials hint that “my kids will think I’m the best dad in the world if only I would buy them this or that”. And, don’t worry, I am told, American Express and Visa are here to help me “pay” for it all.

Can anyone else relate here or am I alone in this?

So, when IS enough, enough? And how can all of this doing and acquiring bring contentment this holiday season? Or is it possible we end up with exactly the opposite result … discontentment … and frustration over how short the surprise of the presents lasts verses how long the credit card bills stick around?

We see people all around us trying to fill their Christmases with as much stuff as possible, rather they can afford it or not. I get it. That was me for a lot of years. But when the perfect Christmas we seek doesn’t meet our ever rising expectations, we can end up frustrated and dissatisfied.

Chasing after what we call the “next, best, latest, greatest, shiny new object, gotta-have- it-now syndrome” can never provide the “enough” we seek in our lives. Stuff will never provide that. Not at Christmastime. Not ever! Only the Christ child born in a manger can do that.

Sometimes we need to stop ourselves and focus on all we have rather than what we want. The Orange County Register newspaper published a really good article titled “Almost may be just enough” which states “When we aim for ultimate fulfillment, we discover that it is a moving target. A tyranny of perfection is a dead end. Rather, we must balance the frustration of ‘how far we have yet to go’ with thanksgiving for ‘how far we have come.’”

Let this Christmas season be one defined by less striving for stuff and perfection and more true contentment. Let it be one that leaves you and your families starting the New Year more thankful for all you have … and less worried about what others have. May you experience more joy … and let others worry about the credit card bills.

Wishing you a season filled with the contentment that is Christmas.

Bob Karcher

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4 ways to give thanks this year

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

– Psalms 9:1-2 (NIV)

Don’t worry, Thanksgiving Day is still a couple weeks away! So why am I writing a Thanksgiving-themed blog now? Well, because I think focusing on being thankful deserves more than a single day. And because it would all be so much more meaningful if we spent as much time thinking about giving thanks as we do preparing for the big meal.

My brother once said that sometimes “it seems as if Thanksgiving is just a speed bump on the road to Christmas”. He doesn’t mean that is how he views it but, rather, our culture seems so driven towards Black Friday and Christmas that we hardly even notice Thanksgiving along the way. And now many retailers open their doors on Thanksgiving Day because we can’t wait to get our hands on the newest gadgets we simply must have.

I think having Thanksgiving as a national holiday says a lot about who we strive to be, even if we aren’t perfect at it. Did you know that in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, at the behest of the United States Congress, set a day of Thanksgiving which led to it becoming an annual national holiday? I’m so glad they did! If it weren’t for it being a national holiday and all the wonderful food we consume, would we pause to give thanks at all?

Okay … that’s enough history for one blog, don’t you think? Now for those 4 ways to give thanks this year …

Reflect – Set aside some quiet time to reflect on how many different ways you can count yourself blessed. Be thorough and journal your thoughts …even if everything this year hasn’t gone as well as you hoped for. Take enough time to include as much as you can think of. Then prayerfully give thanks for each item on your list to the One that makes all things possible. This can be a humbling exercise.

Encourage – Think of someone in your family or social circle that has had a rough year. If you can’t think of anyone, widen your circle – in today’s economy you won’t have to look far. Then, do something encouraging for them … something that makes their life a little better. This doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Remember, time and a listening ear can be the most treasured gifts we ever give to someone. The Golden Rule may be a good one to focus on if you’re still looking for ideas.

Share – Do something generous. We can all find someone that is worse off than we are. Do you have anything you really don’t need or can go without this month so you can totally bless someone? Or, how about inviting someone over to share the Thanksgiving Day festivities with your family … food, football, fellowship … all of it? Again, your idea here doesn’t have to be gigantic. Just reach out … and make a difference because, after all, giving IS better than receiving, isn’t it?

Practice – Take these ideas with you into the coming holiday months and the New Year. In other words, don’t wait until next Thanksgiving to do thankful things. Commit to leading a thankful life as a big part of who you are and the way you live. They say “practice makes perfect”, so why not be perfect at giving thanks? I can think of worse things to be perfect at. And remember, as soon as “Keeping up with the Joneses” gets in your way of giving thanks, ask yourself, Who Are the Joneses Anyway? What about you? What ideas do you have after reading these ideas? What will you do differently? How can you make living a thankful life a part of who you are? Leave your comments here or respond to this email. I’d love to hear from you. And, if you would, please share this post. It’s super easy … just use the social media buttons directly below.

Wishing you the best season of giving thanks ever,

Bob

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