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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

Reflections on a "Stuffless" Christmas

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

I didn't realize that I would miss my Christmas "stuff" this year. You know, the ornaments that I have collected over our almost 39 years of marriage, the cute little snowman my friend made me, the ornaments my sister-in-law and I made together during the first years after we married brothers. You know, that "stuff." It has been in tubs in my daughter's garage for two previous years and I haven't missed it, but this year I do. I wonder why?

It could be because we have travelled the past two years and it didn't really matter. Yes, that might be it. Or it could be that I really wasn't in a place to even consider decorating. In fact, the first year, I simply laughed and stuck a bow on the wall. Yep. That was all I could do.

More times than I can count, my therapist said, "This is where you are today Janyne, but you won't always be here." She was right. I am not there anymore--and this year, I could have decorated--but I don't have my "stuff." So, I went looking for pictures to remind myself of a few of my favorite things. I couldn't find pictures of everything (there is a lot), but I did find this picture of the tree--with the little girl that was always my daughter's favorite and the Noah's Ark that was given to me by a kindergarten student when I was expecting her.

One day, I will unpack the tub and it will be full of these kinds of memories, but this is where I am now--but I won't always be here. I wonder what my memories of this year will be? I will be proud of this year because I had the courage to not only unpack my story, but also the tree I always had in my dad's room. I felt him watching me as I decorated it--with the same smile he always had as he watched me live my life.

I feel this Christmas is a pivotal one. A year ago, I could not imagine that my life would be what it is right now and I sense that in a year from now, it may be equally different. Every new year has that potential, but I sense this year, maybe more than any other. Maybe I don't really need my stuff right now. Maybe having this pause in my life and time to reflect is more important.

While talking with a friend yesterday, I said, "The book publishing date is marching toward me with the theme from Jaws in my head." She asked me to elaborate. She does that. I said, "It is not that I am afraid to share my story with the world in this way. I have very, very deliberately marched myself through every layer that would cause fear. No, I am not afraid in that way. I just think in my desire to help others, my life is going to begin to look very different. It already does and I haven't published the book yet."

It makes me think about the disciples and how they decided to follow Jesus. Like myself, they made a decision to listen to the voice of God and step into the unknown. Their former lives were probably not easy, but they certainly had no idea what was ahead of them. I think as they walked away from the predictability of their former lives, they had to keep reminding themselves that they had listened to the voice of God. I have been reminding myself of that for three years--but I don't think I have even begun to understand what that decision really means.

What happens when we hear the voice of God and take a flying leap out of everything that was relatively predictable in our lives? We wake up one day missing our "stuff" but understanding it was necessary.

I will come back to this blog in a year. Maybe I am wrong, maybe things won't change too much. Maybe I will just be headed to another rather ordinary and predictable Christmas season and missing my "stuff" again. Maybe my life is going to slow down. Nice thought, but every endorsement that comes through makes me doubt it. Just because I have two book-related trips lined up in the first three months and the potential for three more later in the year doesn't mean anything, right? It could be a slow year, right?

Probably not. Not because it isn't possible, but because the person God created the day I was born, has finally been set free. I have a lot to accomplish with the gift of understanding that I have been given. It is probably good to pause in this "stuffless" Christmas, enjoy my family without all the trappings, and get ready for 2018. I just need to pause and be grateful for this time to reflect on how listening to the voice of God changes everything--because everything is changing.

Merry Christmas to all--with or without your "stuff." We are where we are right now--but listening to the voice of God can change everything. Ask me. I know.

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