Eleven sleeps until Christmas. We're so fortunate, as a family, that this is a generous and simple and exciting time for our tiny five person world.
We've been doing the 12 days of Christmas instead of stockings this year: One stocking stuffer-like gift each day leading up to the 25th. We preamble the exchange with a quick conversation. We started with the simple, "What's one thing we're thankful for from this past year?"
Today, Bob asked, "What's one goal you're setting for yourself in the year ahead?" The boys' initial answers were funny ("Stop walking the dogs." "Stop picking my nose.") but they came up with some good stuff, too (I'll keep those between them and us.). When Bob's turn came 'round we all tuned in more attentively.
Bob's a terrific goal-setter. He sets personal goals consistently and, once he's achieved a mark, he sets new ones to replace the one he accomplished. He talked about some personal things he'd like to reach for and then he suggested a not-so-new new one that we all quickly adopted as our own.
Bob's been out of the boat for awhile now. He's left off old comfort zone attitudes and behaviors in exchange for stretching himself in areas of faith and practical Christianity. "This year," he said, "I'd like to find a way to live even more out of the boat. A way to help or volunteer or something."
That doesn't sound like a big deal on paper, I guess. But it is big in our out-of-community experience. One thing that structured, meet-on-Sunday's Christianity offers is an (unending!) array of opportunities for service. Sound systems need to be run and chairs set up. Children need to be minded or taught. Youth group's need running and prayer ministries need facilitating.
When you're not involved in that structure, opportunities to serve and help need to be actively sought out. And that is trickier than it sounds! We've looked for God in a lot of areas in this, but have found ourselves floundering a little. It's not enough to simply be tuned in to our community and their projects; sure we'll clean ditches and help the neighbors and give at the door, but we're looking, honestly, for a cause that we can give our heart's to as a family.
As I write, I'm wondering if that might be misguided. Maybe the goal should be to become more fully committed to Jesus and to looking for His in-this-moment opportunity for service. Maybe we should be looking to hone that listening-doing lifestyle.
That's an uncomfortable thought. Because many, many days feel purposeless and silent and undirected. It'd be so much simpler (and I so love simplicity) to have one sure thing! Maybe we'll be able to work it out more specifically in the next few stuffed stocking days. Or in the New Year. Or a few Christmas's down the road. Or maybe it's not something to be figured out, but surrendered to and experienced. The thing will be, any which way, to hang out with Bob -- out of the boat.