I watched a promo video for something called Advent Conspiracy recently http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU . While the whole promo was really done well, there was one line that has really stuck with me – “GIVE PRESENCE!”
How often do we make the Christmas season about stuff instead of substance? In many ways Christmastime can become an anxious season where parents try to make up for our lack of being present in the lives of the ones they love by the giving presents. Yet presents are a very cheap substitute for presence. Within a few weeks the batteries in our kids new toys will run out of juice (which can’t come a moment too soon if they make annoying sounds!) and the toys that don’t have batteries will likely end up neglected in no time, but the time we actually spend together will stay with us when the gift cards are used, the clothes returned, and we begin paying back the debts we’ve accumulated in buying stuff for others.
Last Friday I took my wife and kids on a much-needed camping trip in Mississippi. After some foil dinners, smores, and hot chocolate by the campfire we headed to the tent. Friday was a particularly cold night for this part of the country and we realized pretty quickly that our sleeping bags weren’t rated for below freezing. The temperature kept dropping and we were getting colder and colder. It didn’t seem like we were very well equipped for cold-weather camping and that we might have to pack up and go find a motel somewhere or try sleeping in the car with the heater on. Finally I got an idea (likely from one of those survival shows on discovery channel) that we could share the sleeping bags with the kids. So Ezra jumped in my sleeping bag and Tevia in Dina’s. There wasn’t much room to move in the sleeping bags but we did warm up quite well (it’s amazing the amount of heat that a five-year-old can generate).
I can’t say that I actually remember sleeping more than about thirty minutes the whole night due to my face feeling like it was going to freeze off, having a crick in my neck from not having an adequate pillow under my head, not to mention the throbbing pain in my knee from a botched attempt at kung fuing a tree branch for fire wood. However, as I lay contemplating my lack of comfort at 3 a.m., I thought to myself, “There’s no place I would rather be.”
I can say that our couple of days camping and hiking may have been low on comfort, amenities, and even warmth but were very filled with presence. We returned to New Orleans a little sore and in need of a shower but feeling alive, refreshed, and closer as a family. This seemed like just the right way to kick off the holiday season and a reminder of what we need to do more of in these next few weeks – GIVE PRESENCE!