Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chocolate and Clementines


Last night I heard about a study relating to children and excessive giving. It concluded that we are guilty of heaping far too many new things upon our children and, as a result, instead of appreciating and enjoying what they've just been handed, the little guys are busy anticipating the next new thing. A cell phone? That's cool. But I really want an iPod. An iPod? That's cool. But what I really wanted was a 4-player Wii Video Game System....

I laughed and thought about how true that rings. Growing up, my brothers and sisters and I got new things at birthdays and Christmas. That's about it. My birthday falls in April, so I had plenty of time to wear out my dolls and games by the time Santa came to town. And I valued those presents! I still have many of the dolls and books and games I got as a child. They meant so much to me. Presents seemed to mean more then. Or is it just me?

If losing your job (and finding yourself either over or under qualified for lots of new employment opportunities) has crashed down anything upon my psyche, it's this: the value of things. I've found, in the past few weeks, just how many excessive things I've been financing. How many things were automatically deducted out of my account that I barely noticed and hardly needed. I've realized how many books and hobby stuff I purchased regularly. How much I spent on gifts and meals. How much money I threw at fancy dog food and treats and toys and puppy daycare (when I was in the city). Seriously. And now that the tap's turned off, I feel... hollow, somehow, but in a calm way. There's been an emptying of things, and the clamoring and rattling inside me is... silent. Could it be gone then, too?

Saturday I got sick again, as I often do when I find myself stressed and the house gets bitterly cold. I had fever and stomach issues and a cold sore. My Mom came to check on me and help out... twice, which she rarely does, and it meant so much. Then on Sunday night Grace unexpectedly showed up with bags of soup and vegetables and coffee and yogurt. And a crate of clementines. The fruit was so beautiful, I thought, piled up and nearly bursting juice out of their fleshy peels.

I let Grace's clementines be until yesterday, when I sliced through the netting and dropped one inside the pocket of my relatively expensive robe (that I'd never worn until this week). Digging into the freezer, I also pulled out the last chocolate square I'd sneaked back from Turkey... damak...(a silky smooth European chocolate with pistachios)... and slid it into my pocket, too. Then I went and sat in front of the library fireplace and watched the Christmas tree lights twinkle and slowly peeled my clementine and ate it with my chocolate square.

It was the best dessert I've ever had in my life. The best. It was truly savored. I felt like Jo in Little Women, when she walks around with her Christmas orange for days, rolling it in her hands and smelling it. An orange. Can you imagine giving a child an orange in her stocking this Christmas? It would get a bigger eye-roll than underwear. An orange. What's an orange to us nowadays? What's a clementine? Nothing. Maybe we've had too many. Maybe our sense of value is too stretched-out to do us any good. Maybe it's because we think about our next meal while we're eating this one. We forget how wonderful it all is. How immensely blessed we all are.

At least I did. It took a thoughtfully-given clementine and a hoarded chocolate bar, which I can't go out and buy here, to remind me. Don't miss the gifts you have right now, they whispered. Don't forget to count up the small blessings as you add up your life.

********

Jesus talked more about money than He did heaven and hell combined. Crazy, when you consider it. He also talked about how hard it is for rich people to come to God. It would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle, He said, than for a rich man to go to heaven. Why? Because people comfortable in their lives feel no need to make provisions for the next. Why would you need God when you have it all, anyway?

********

Yes, life gets simpler over here by the day. And you know what? It's just fine with me. It's good for us, I think, to be brought to a place of dependence on God. It's not fun. It's certainly not cool. But it's an incredible place to be. (When did we start measuring success with a stuff yardstick, anyway? Why can't the "successful" folks be the ones whose kids value what they're given? Why can't a worldly honor of success be bestowed on folks who live day to day, too? Why can't success be a title for a father who makes time for his kids? An aunt who makes chocolate chip cookies? A nurse who sits up with ill? A teacher who never backs down? A mother who says bedtime prayers? A preacher who perseveres? Why can't the "successful" folks be girls in handknitted scarves who sit in old houses, gratefully eating chocolate squares and clementines?)

I'm still thinking on it all. But in the meantime, I'll think I'll go have another clementine and a mug of tea for lunch....

Sure wish that chocolate hadn't disappeared already.... [wink]

41 comments:

Becky K. said...

Excellent post! I agree with you 100 percent!

I sometimes think about what I would do if I did not have something that needed to be done.

Eating a clementine and chocolate in front of a fire and twinkling lights sounds just right!

Becky K.

Kathleen Grace said...

And isn't that the truth!? We have so much we hardly appreciate any of it. It takes things drying up and becoming scarce for us to value them. Supply and demand works for everything. We are in the same boat as you, looking toward Christmas and no cash for gifts. Guess they will be handmade this year. Here is a question, if you got your job back tomorrow would you go back to the way things were?

Innocent Male said...

I thank God for scarcity. Without it, how can we hope to discover the slightest hint of value? Perhaps a clementine doesn't hurt.

Beehind Thyme said...

Oh, Brin... this post knocked on my heart & pulled some strings at that.

Thank you for being so completely honest with us, knowing we aren't in the boat alone. I also know Jesus is there also.

A Deep ~ Heartfelt Thank You, Pamela from Kentucky...

Cathy said...

Amen.. You know when our electric was out for days after Hurricane Ike I felt this weird peace. Now granted we had to stay at the mother in laws and we couldn't cook anything but we made it and it was nice to let all of the noise ie, tv, phone, computers just go. I worked on my quilt in peace (for once)

thedomesticfringe said...

Good post. We do have soooo much to be thankful for...so much more than we really need.

Jen said...

My sister and I always had a tangerine in the toes of our stockings. It's a tradition that I carry on with my girls, and you're right, it doesn't get much appreciation. I've been trying to scale down the gifts each Christmas. I totally went crazy back when they were my "foster" children and I didn't know if it would be our last Christmas with them. Now, I'm trying to concentrate on three main gifts. Three, because of the three wise men. Hopefully, they will appreciate their gifts more, and be reminded of what Christmas is really about.
Thanks for your insightful post.

Sue@CountryPleasures said...

I agree! We have always lived pay check to pay check, still do, and the kids grew up on less, but have so much more! I believe the lean times keep us humble and we appreciate everything so much more! Wonderful post! Enjoy your clementines and that fireplace!

paisley penguin said...

I agree with you 100%. I do give Clemetines in my kids stockings with a new pair of flannel PJ's (this year hand crafted) every year!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Brin, your eloquence is an amazing gift. Your maturity is way beyond your years. And your ability to look at the bright side is to be greatly admired. Reading this thread, I am reminded of some of the great hymns of the Church and the truth of their message.

Today's post reminds me specifically of the image (taken from Revelation as I recall) in "Holy, Holy, Holy" when the song tells of all the saints "casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea." The act of being in His presence will inspire all of us to do that in the hereafter, but it's also an inspiration for now. There is not one thing in this world or the one to come that is more awesome than the love of our Savior and what He did for us so many years ago at Calvary.

That same Savior preached one of the most incredible sermons ever heard about not worrying, and you have obviously listened and learned.

Thank you for reminding me of things I shouldn't take for granted or ever forget.

Blessings and love to you,

Sheila

Lindy said...

Awww... this post reminds me of my mom. She grew up in the 1930's, along with 5 siblings. And she would often tell my sister and me how the only thing they got for Christmas was an orange each. Sometimes the 3 girls got a doll to share, and the 3 boys got a game to share as well. And, oh... what a treat that orange was!

What a stark contrast to my childhood... where every year I got a new baby doll, a new Barbie, and all the latest Barbie paraphernalia... including the Barbie Dream House and camper.

I wasn't spoiled, but I was certainly blessed. And I still have my favorite Barbie, the Dream House, and the camper. ;)

Cotopaxi said...

Your post so reminded me of one of my favourite poems ever, by Brian Patten, one of our Liverpool poets - so I thought I'd send it over the Atlantic to you hoping you like it too...


The Stolen Orange

When I left I stole an orange
I kept it in my pocket
It felt like a warm planet

Everywhere I went smelt of oranges
Whenever I got into an awkward situation
I'd take out the orange and smell it

And immediately on even dead branches I saw
The lovely and fierce orange blossom
That smells so much of joy

When I went out I stole an orange
It was a safeguard against imagining
There was nothing bright or special in the world

The Quintessential Magpie said...

P.S. We always got a Louisiana satsuma or a navel orange in our stockings, also an apple and some money. This comes from a Victorian tradition, and I used to know what each thing stood for... will try to see if I can find it to share. :-)

Sheila

betty r said...

Simplify life..I am so with you! I am working on it..
I remember the pan of peanuts, candies, an orange, a coloring book and crayons being my Christmas gift..I cherish those memories!

Libby said...

I was born later in my mother's life. She was a child of the Depression and I a child of the 60's. While I never wanted for much (except for the ridiculous *S*) I puzzled for a long time over my Christmas stocking always filled with tangerines and nuts in the shell.
It wasn't until my mom had passed away and my own daughter had grown and left home that the bulb light up in my dim head - those things were true treats to my mom, not something easily obtainable at the corner market of my youth.
I plan to begin bringing that tradition back this year. We should never forget what really matters isn't the latest and greatest found in glossy magazines but the simplest of things that are meant to be savored.

Sissy said...

It's a tradition in our family to put mandarin oranges in our stockings at Christmas. I don't know where it came from, but my mom does it every year. And along with the real oranges, I get a chocolate orange, too. Yum.

Janine said...

Thanks for that post Brin! I loved it and I totally agree with you. We are not spoiling our kids this year... I want them to know that they get a few nice gifts and that's it. I am giving food and fruit and homemade items this year... which I already am getting started on ... putting baskets together for the family.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

This is one I need to print out and ponder. Good stuff. :)

The Broms said...

What a lovely post to come across today! We grew up with clementines in our stockings and they were always peeled and nibbled on before anything was unwrapped. Those little cheerfull fruit tie into such great memories for me!

Sarah said...

Brin, I just want you to know I truly do appreciate a clementine. My husband and I bought a box the other day and when he pop the peel off one at home I stopped everything and took a moment to breath deeply. They smell like Christmas and delicious, happy memories to me.

I also want you to know that I've been thinking the same things about our consumer society. We need to check ourselves and then we need to take back to the next generation. Our economy is proof that we are all living outside of our means and have forgotten that money can't buy happiness.

Here's to getting back to the simple things...

Cori G. said...

Just one thought...I THINK I saw those chocolate bars in a middle eastern bakery near my house the other night. I could check for you.
And by the way, it is cool to be totally dependent upon the Lord for everything. I could tell you some stories.
Your in my prayers,

Cori G.

Carolyn (Harbor Hon) said...

Dearest Brin,

I come from a family of 7 children who never had much, but never wanted for more. 4 girls to one bedroom with one window who kept each other warm on cold winter nights.

We relished the orange and candy cane in our stockings every year at Christmas. I hang my same stocking every year and still put the orange and candy cane in it. My parents are both gone now, but this little ritual brings them back to me every time.

I live on a small budget, but I live as well as I can. As long as there's a roof over my head and food in my stomach I count myself blessed. My dear brother gave me this laptop that I use and my landlord put me on his wireless internet service. God has been there for me the whole time and I truly thank him for what I have. xxoo

Victoria said...

What a lovely post! My goal in training my 3 year old is that she will appreciate things just like I did as a kid. I was one of 6 kids so everything was a treat. We did get an orange in our stocking and a handful of nuts! Never understood why my Mom put those in because rarely did us kids crack them open. Now I know it was probably to help fill it up! :)

Loved the paragraph about measuring success!

Amy said...

Great Post!

Terri and Bob said...

This is so true. I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books while I was growing up and one of my favorite chapters is when Laura gets a tin cup, a shiny penny, a heart shaped cake with white sugar on it and a piece of candy. So simple, and I can remember every gift she got. I wonder what gifts my children remember?

Randi said...

Great post. I agree completely. It's SO hard in this world to teach your children to value what they have and to not want everything. They feel deprived instead of blessed to not be weighed down by materialism (but don't get me wrong ... they have too much anyway).

I always got an orange in my Christmas stocking and I still love that memory. We always thanked my parents so graciously for that orange ... it seemed just as good as anything else that might come out of that sock.

sister sheri said...

Gratefulness. It sounds like a good place to be. Contentment. Makes me want to join you by the fireplace.

spidr said...

Brin, I read your blog daily (well, every time you post, I mean) and am blessed again by the way you have shared your faith and your heart. My kids are 23, 17 and 17 (you read that right) and every Christmas I put a mandarin orange in the toe of their stocking. They love it. They know it's there and they can't wait. For them, the gift of the orange is that quiet morning spent in our living room, reflecting on what it means to love Jesus and being together as a family. If that is all they take away with them when they leave home, I am more than blessed!

Mia said...

you're so right... although I do own all those gadgets you mention, I do know that the simplest things sometimes are the biggest blessings. I've beeen thinking a lot about that lately and trying to figure out how to streamline and what I can let go.

And I remember always getting an orange in MY stocking :)

Kim said...

I almost swallowed my gum when I got to the paragraph about Jesus talks more about money than anything else in his word. Those exact words were uttered by my pastor last night at Bible Study. We just finished a series on living simple. Not living without life's needs. Just living without so much stuff and junk and things that tie us to the world. We've been working the past few months on living more simple lives, not needing so much. Spending more time together entertaining each other instead of being entertained.

Thanks for the post - I think God is reinforcing some things for me.

Georgia Peach said...

We have gone from good times to lean times over the years and one thing I found would help me manage. I would ask myself, "Do I really NEED this?" when faced with a buying decision. It helped. You find that you don't need half the things that you buy when times are good. God says He will provide........ that means the necessities. We can all count our blessings. Those things like the children and grandchildren, our health and the warmth of a good friend. God Bless You for being a friend to so many of us each day.

Cottage Mommy said...

Thank you for this post. It is so true and something really good to think about and remember especially at this time of year. I have felt so unsettled so many times recently about the state of the world and it does really remind me of the sweetness and goodness of God in ways I'm not always aware of when things are "good". Sad that it takes trial or fears to bring us closer to God...hmmm...maybe that answers the age old question of why God lets bad things happen?

linda t said...

LOVED this post Brin! I just discussed this very topic yesterday. I had blogged about the fact that the lowly stick was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame... that we may be the last generation to have actually USED the stick to imagine with... because nowadays kids are GIVEN a wand, a gun, a sword, a spear, a sling-shot, a fishing rod, etc. So sad...
I too, only got gifts for birthdays and Christmas... and my husband & I did the same for our three grown kids.
Yes, these times are bringing us back to dependency on the Lord.
God is using you Brin... thank you for sharing truth and may we all have ears to hear.

Sandra Evertson said...

Great blog!
Sandra Evertson

Amanda said...

A beautiful, thoghtful reminder to be grateful of all the many blessings in our lives. Thank you for this wonderful post.

Cecelia said...

Growing up in my family, Christmas wasn't just about what Mom and Dad bought but the time spent together reading the Christmas story. Our stockings had an orange in the toe followed by lots of peanuts in the shell and a handful of chocolate candy. Thanks for reminding me. :)

Sharon said...

What a wonderful post... Everytime I need a AHAH moment I just need to come to your blog...It's like I'm thinking along similar lines but have trouble putting it into words and you just write so beautifully and hit the nail on the head.....but as you said still a challenge to change our bad habits and the need to consume.. I could almost smelll that orange and my mouth was watering reading it... Oh how we take the simple things for granted...Keep the Faith and He will keep us in the palm of his hand...comforting thought at times when things get scary! Sharon <><

Janet said...

Excellent post and we use to always get an orange in our stockings at Christmas and that was just 50 years ago. Not so long in the grand scheme of things.

Janet@Housepeepers

Janera said...

This post ROCKS. So absolutely right! I'm guilty of overdoing it with my own kids to the point that they don't appreciate as they should, yet they have less than most of the kids with whom they go to school. Also? I'm guilty of not appreciating as well.

Thanks for the reminder.

Charm and Grace said...

What an amazingly insightful and precious post ... things that really matter: family, faith, freedom, imagination, health, nature... things that don't really matter: stuff. Sadly, many don't ever learn this and spend their whole life working for the stuff that doesn't really matter. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Praying for you to find that "just right" job.

Blessings,
Christi

Donna said...

You have touched my soul. I too, received Clementines and nuts in the shell for Christmas in my stocking. And a banana. We didn't have bananas in the house all the time. And we might have oranges, but not Clementines that I could peel all by myself. Those were the best times.