January 12, 2016

The Stuff of Life

Because my husband spent the first two weeks of December on a missions trip, we went to the farm to get our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving. It actually held its needles remarkably well, considering. But as soon as the guests at our last Christmas gathering had pulled out of the driveway on December 30, I was ready to haul the tree out of my living room and get back to normal. I actually waited until the next day, but felt no regrets about winding up the garland and lights and packing away the ornaments. And a couple days later, I reveled in the opportunity to clean and organize my home office top to bottom, too.

My penchant for relative minimalism drives my collector-husband crazy. He has a large home office in our basement which he’s stuffed to the gills with memorabilia of all kinds – a saber from his grandfather’s days in the U.S. Cavalry, models he built as a kid, framed photos of some of the many people he’s met via his travels…and everything imaginable in between. For him, seeing and holding the objects themselves elicits strong memories of his time with dearly loved friends and family. So even when he takes down our Christmas tree, he lingers over every ornament, waxing nostalgic about connections each one makes to some person or event. And he sometimes wonders at my apparent lack of sentimentality.

But I’m just wired differently than he is. While “stuff” energizes him by serving as a catalyst to good memories, it gets in my way. Rooms crammed with paraphernalia distract me; I either feel so claustrophobic I want to leave, or I begin pondering what I might do to whip the space into shape. But when I’m in an organized room with minimal decoration, I’m able to stay focused on building authentic relationship with those who are with me in the moment. And then I store memories of those interactions in the recesses of my mind and heart, drawing them out whenever I’d like.

Neither approach is wrong, of course. The different ways in which my husband and I are able to engage in relationship are merely one small example of the infinite creativity of the God who formed us. Each person on the planet is a uniquely designed individual, and no two people – not even identical twins – have the same mix of personality traits, experiences, and perceptions. Therefore, the exact way in which one person interacts with the world around him can never be the same as any other person.

As this new year gets going, remember that – especially in relation to your kids. Each of your children is, indeed, an individual. Thus, while it’s fair to expect some particular character traits of every child – i.e., diligence, honesty, kindness, obedience – the means by which each one gets there will necessarily vary. Similarly, we ought not ever expect every child to learn or do all the same things at the same time in the same way when it comes to schoolwork or any other endeavor. Just as my husband and I have chosen to accept the differing ways in which we deal with “stuff,” so, too, it’s your job to learn how each of your children is wired so you might use that information to help them all become just who God intends for them to be.

Photo Credit: Kim Davies


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