It was October 12 when I wrote about putting up Christmas lights. It’s hard to believe some folks in the neighborhood have had their lights up for more than 5 weeks now, and we are still a month away from the Winter Solstice, and five weeks more from Christmas. This means that those folks will have been “celebrating” Christmas, at least with the outside of their home for 20% of the year. Pretty good for a season that only lasts 12 days. Granted, we have mushed up Advent and Christmas seasons together, and we call it more likely the “afternoon of Thanksgiving after the turkey has been eaten, until the afternoon of January 1, where we have already made – and broken – our New Years resolutions” season. Still, if that’s what they need to do to get by, especially this year, and bring some different kind of light to the world, I’m not criticizing.
I have some time on my hands lately, so I have taken to tracking the weather at least in my area of the country. I have to say that October was an icky month. There was a terrible drop in temperature one weekend, and we said goodbye to 70 degrees, and hello to 40 degrees and falling. The temperature fell like the snow did, about every three days. I was concerned that, on top of the coronavirus, we were going to have to contend with living like the Antarctica’s little brother. Not what we needed.
It was strange and miraculous, then, to have November 1 roll around, and the temperatures start to rise again. Not every day, and we have had a few very cold mornings in single digits, which is the pits, but we have had a number of days in the 40s and even 50s, which for the northland in November is a remarkable and cheering circumstance. Now, I know if you check the weather sites, they will tell you that the average high in November in Fargo is about 38 degrees, but they lie. Maybe November 1st, but after that, you just want to open the freezer in your garage, just to warm up a little.
Hence, the miracle this year. The snow that fell so much in October has all melted. Granted, the trees are all de-leaved, and the grass has turned a nice shade of brown, but it looks more like an April morning than a November one. We count our winters by months, and when November 21 rises on a sunny clear day that is not 5 degrees out, then that’s a win.
So, with a high today expected to be 43, and without our normal 35 mph wind blowing straight from the north, we have decided that this afternoon will be the occasion of the setting up of the outdoor Christmas decorations. Frankly, it’s true that up here in this land, it’s more a matter of temperature than date. You know, when it is this temperature at the end of November, it makes no sense to say, “Oh, we should wait to put up the Christmas decorations outside until we have four inches of snow, and the wind is bringing a -20 windchill…” Instead, wearing sweatshirts instead of parkas, we will bring out and carefully place our white twinkling little stick trees on the front lawn in front of the low evergreens, our “slim noble fir tree” with red twinkling lights on the front entryway, and the big outdoor wreaths to hang on the front of the house between the garage doors. One issue we do have this year, is that we tore out the huge ugly evergreen on the corner of the house, and now that edge of the house is seen, so we might have to go buy a third wreath, which will not match the other two, but “one” of us is trying to convince “the other one” that we could just buy a different looking wreath and hang it in the center as a juxta point. What I’m afraid of is that “we” will get to go buy three new matching wreaths instead. Stay tuned.
Now, let’s be clear – putting out and putting up outdoor trees is not the equivalent of what other, weaker-willed neighbors are doing. We will put them up, but we will not put them on, at least until after Thanksgiving. Otherwise, they are Thanksgiving, or even Halloween lights. That’s dumb.
One of the nice things this year, as we put the trees out on dry grass, is that we can run the outdoor extension cords exactly where we want them, under and behind the bushes so it looks much nicer than being laid on top of a snow pile. Also, to show what a cool house we bought, when they were doing the inspection prior to our buying the house, the inspector found that the front outside outlet was dead. That was disappointing, and meant another thing to be fixed before we moved in. Then, the inspector said, “Wait a minute – can I go inside?” We agreed, not knowing what he was up to. He went in, looked around, and then opened the front coat closet, reached around inside a bit, and then said, “Aha!” He then went back outside, checked the outlet, and it was hot and working just fine. He explained that some houses will be set up with “Christmas decorations” outlets. You take all your decorations and plug them into that front outlet, and then, when evening comes, instead of having to go out in the freezing cold with all the snow on top of everything, you simply open up the closet door, find the hidden switch on the side of the closet, and it fires up the outlet, turns on the decorations, and the biggest effort you can do is smile. Dad would have loved something like that, except he probably would have forgotten it was there, and spend a half hour trying to get the stupid outlet to work…
So, by the end of today, that part of Christmas will be set up, and ready to go, and we can mark that one off the list. Now if I could only get someone to buy the Christmas presents, and wrap them and put them under the tree on Christmas eve…
Part of being intentional is to be thoughtful, and to make decisions not based on arbitrary external things, like a date on a calendar, but on what makes the most responsible sense. There is nothing wrong with keeping traditions – we won’t start decorating the inside of the house for Christmas until sometime after Thanksgiving, and the tree is the last thing to be put up – but when it is something like out door lights, it should be more intentional, even when doing something as simple as our decorating, to do so when it makes the most sense.
Think about other things that you do in your life – maybe give some thought about what makes sense, and act in that sensible, intentional, thoughtful manner. I guarantee the world will be a better place because of it. Slow down the chaos of rote habits and accidental, thoughtless actions. And be sure to turn those lights on when you want to…
Word for the day: vivificate. Pronounced VIV-if-uh-kate. Another great Latin based word, it comes from two very simple words: vivus, meaning “alive” and facere/ficere meaning “to make.” Simply to vivificate is to bring something alive, to animate or to enliven. Actually, some neat words are found with “vivus” – words like “vivid” – a lively color or an active imagination. It really means to take something and give it life, to make it lively, active, full of energy. What needs to be vivificated in your life today?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.