January 10, 2020

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Find beauty in the stories that unfold in your life in 2020

Patti LambWhen our house didn’t sell last fall, we decided to do a mini do-it-yourself (DIY) renovation and change the space to make it feel new again.

My husband’s blood pressure might spike when he reads this because he did all of the work himself—from painting and electrical to plumbing and landscaping. He might not consider it a “mini DIY” reno, but his sweat equity allowed me to use my dollars to buy a new couch, an area rug, and some light fixtures. (Thank you, David.)

In keeping with the “refresh” theme, I decided to apply that to our Christmas decorations. Of course, I put up our Nativity scene, but I wanted to update our ornaments and stockings with some more modern finds.

I used up my birthday money and gift cards to buy new decorations, modern ornaments, and candlesticks to place by the Nativity. Then I admired the living room, but I almost had to sleep at the neighbor’s house that night. This new decor was not met with approval in my household.

“Where’s the ornament I made in first grade?” Henry asked, scouring the tree for his painted pine cone.

“And where’s my ‘handprint reindeer on a paper plate’ ornament?” Margaret snarled.

It only escalated. Margaret ratted me out for not putting up the “Our First Christmas” ornament we received as a wedding gift.

I said that I wanted to make the house look better and updated this Christmas. I explained that the living room might be worthy of an Instagram post if I had only secured the white beaded garland from Target before it sold out.

Then my daughter surprised me with a dose of maturity, or maybe wisdom.

“But that’s not our story, mom,” she said.

“That tree could belong to anyone,” she added.

“It has no personality and no evidence of our journey as a family,” she continued.

She was right.

Later that evening, I met two girlfriends for dinner. We laughed and shared our adventures, giving family updates and rejoicing for our friendship. Before leaving, I realized I was wearing my pajama pants. But my friends didn’t even notice.

Driving home, I recalled the words to one of my favorite songs by The John Butler Trio. I played the song when I arrived. Here’s the first verse:

“All you want is
what you can’t have.
But, if you look around, friend,
you’ll see you’ve got magic.
So just sit back, relax.
Enjoy it while you still have it.
Don’t look back on life, friend, and only see tragic.”

The refrain goes on to remind the listener that life’s not about what’s “better than,” and nothing can be better than now.

I glanced at the Christmas cards hanging on the wall. One friend shared that his wife is faring well after a heart transplant. Another shared that her son was accepted into his dream university on a scholarship. Both cards moved me deeply. We share our stories, and they are vastly different and equally beautiful.

Approaching the New Year, I hope to better live my story and nurture my own family, instead of looking around to see who’s got it “better.”

Early the next morning, I took down the new ornaments and put up the old ones. The tree was mismatched and leaning, with strands blinking, on the cusp of going out.

I saw its beauty in a whole new way.

May we find beauty in the stories that will unfold in 2020. When that’s difficult, let’s pray to see through God’s lens.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: