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Finding peace in the chaos. Understanding that less is more

December 18, 2014

I was asked to say prayer at the Police Department before meal today. Something about being Chaplain seems to make them think I should hold this role. The hoops I have to jump through to get a free meal.

I took a moment to ask all in attendance to notice how we all stopped for just a moment to gather and share a lunch together. At this time of year to stop and do anything is a momentous task. Most everything is done at rapid pace, on the run, helter skelter, and only if accompanied by a roll of the eyes and expression of frustration counting the moments until all of this Christmas chaos is over. I looked over the crowded room and saw just a flash of calm in this season known for chaos and stress and I seized that for a learning moment.

I asked everyone in the room to consider how Jesus lived in a meager, humble and non-superfluous manner: born in a stable, raised by a blue collar hands to a labor man, never owned a mode of transportation, hung out with tax collectors (thieves), fishermen (phew!), and wine guzzlers (even filled their empty jugs to keep the party going), refused any accolades, and was never too proud to do the most humbling of tasks (washed his BFF’s nasty dirty feet).

Why is it that we take the annual celebration of a man’s birthday who was known to be nothing short of a minimalist, lived in an extremely simple fashion, and was an outspoken proponent of peace and calm and we repeatedly commemorate that day every year with excess, chaos and stress? I asked all to savor every moment that allows them to find peace in the chaos and remember that the person for whom we are hosting the party or meal, purchasing the numerous (most often unnecessary) gifts to give, or dragging ourselves to celebration after celebration, lived a life of less and demonstrated how to have more.

Right after sharing that tidbit of wisdom and prayer, I then I bolted out the doors and tore a path to get 100 things done in the little amount of hours I now have left in the week until THE BIG DAY. After all I was trying to provide Christmas for more than 70 homes I was allowed to keep my head down, focus and cross tasks off of my most overwhelming list. I didn’t listen to a word I said, but God did.

Just as I was heading over the bridge and onto shopping and task running bedlam, I received a call from the Sergeant on Duty. “Terri we could use your services if you have time.” To which I laughed. Time!!! Of course I don’t have time, don’t you know what time of year this is for me??? Then he proceeded to tell me a family was gathered at Lemont Center around a loved one that just passed and had asked for the Chaplain to come say a prayer for and with them over her. Screeeeeech…. My heart sunk.   How could I be so hypocritical telling others to apprehend peace, know and practice the true meaning of the season, and stop allowing the demands of the retail world to harden our hearts and minds changing the ultimate goal from loving the moment to loathing the lack of them. I think I still have the finger marks on my face from my head being smacked into place.

I arrived in a room filled with grandchildren (teens and young adults), children and their spouses, and her husband of 58 years. I spoke with him then went to her and put my hands on her and prayed asking God to use me as a conduit of words of comfort, hope and love, then I read through a prayer service and found myself immersed in that moment. I asked all in the room to one by one say goodbye. It was heart-wrenching and hard not to keep my own tears from being seen, I was being completely blessed to be in a moment of pure and utter love being shared. Then I challenged them to take some time tonight or over the next few days to write down something that she had left with them because it was clear to me that there was much love, time, and passion that she invested in every single person in that room. I asked them to share those gifts, lessons, words that she had imparted with each other on Christmas Day to help them move through the first one without her. Her husband said to me that there wasn’t “enough lead on earth to write about all of the good she did and love she shared.” Again I swallowed hard, wouldn’t that be a wonderful legacy to leave behind? God blessed this family with a most beloved wife, mom, and grandmother and now they find themselves beginning their first chapter without her- a week before Christmas.

They told me they had just completed all of the arrangements for getting her home to be with all of them as they celebrated Christmas together. Instead, one week from today they will gather without her and it will be truly painful Christmas Day, if my suggestion could in some way help them open the true and genuine gifts she gave to them, that they still and will always hold within, can be shared and opened instead of materialistic gifts, they will be able to move through this difficult time as a family unit and feel her presence, purpose, and love.

In the hall a few of the family shared with me that she taught one to iron, one to balance her checkbook and told all of the girls to always have a secret stash in your wallet for you to do something for yourself. Not one dollar was spent on those gifts she gave to them yet they were priceless, treasured and still remained.

I drove away feeling so completely blessed for the experiences that I am so honored and humbled to be apart of. My core is rocked day after day crossing paths with those who continually teach me about life, faith, priorities, hope and love. This family thanked me as I left but it was I that owed them the thanks, they put my head on straight and instead of heading to the store to get some final things for the Hope and Friendship Christmas and for our family gathering I headed home to seize the moment and write down the latest life lesson hoping it will help me mark it in my head, spirit and heart, helping me to reduce my list of to-dos and to-gets concentrating on offering less things and more memory making moments that will remain long after I’m gone.

I wanted you to know that I said a prayer for all of us, that we all remember the true meaning of this season and for those of us who are trying to raise the standard of the celebration, the gifts, the meal, or the holiday gatherings to drop it down a notch and remember that less is more. Less chaos and stress leading to more concentration on the valuable gift of time, extended from a calm, loving and peaceful person to those we have the blessing to be with at this moment, family, friends, or those we will work side by side with to make great and wonderful acts of kindness happen. What a gift He gives us on His birthday.

Wishing you the unconditional gift of peace, love and hope today, throughout this Christmas Season and through the New Year,



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