What strikes terror in the heart of most Americans at this time of year? Only 22 shopping days until Christmas? Only two paydays before the holidays? Where is my long underwear?

For me, the burning question has always been, “What can I get Sharon that she doesn’t already have?” Like three million Americans from all walks of life, she is obsessed with too much stuff coming in the door, and too little, if any, going out. In a five-bedroom house, the stuff occupied three. In two decades, I never once saw the top of her dining table. After she was widowed and living alone, Sharon downsized to three bedrooms. Her sunroom took the rap for her overflow. Once natural sunlight drifted in and kept a green jungle of plants thriving. No more. Only mushrooms love it now.

When I came from out of town to visit her, I noted that the patio was free of clutter and decoration. I looked for something unusual. At Christmas, I was proud to have something different for her: a wind chime that was one-of-a-kind.

Sharon’s eyes grew wet as she cried with genuine glee, “Perfect! I love it! I know just where to hang it!” Sharon strung it up on the patio–along with the twelve of them. Soon after, her neighbor came with yet another gift. It was a wind chime! “How thoughtful!” she chirped. “I love it! I know just where to hang it! It’s the perfect even number!”

But in thinking of future holiday shopping and her collections, I wondered if I myself kept too much, too. People know I have sixty-seven hats, several in each box and bin, with photos on the front of each. I have stopped buying more. Rotate that many hats and they don’t wear out.

A gift-giving revelation for Sharon hit me. I winced. “Perfect!” Once, it seemed heartless and without soul, but many today prefers consumable Christmas without fuss, gift wrap, and with no fruitcake made months ahead. Money and gift cards. Hmmm. Sharon had been too ill to cook much and had extended family coming to visit. A few minutes later, I knew her colorful gift card for a tasty local restaurant was on its way in time to take them out for the holidays!

Four months later when I visited her, I asked about it.

“Oh, yes!” she cried with glee. “I love it! It’s so pretty! It’s right here along with another one I got for Christmas!” Filed in alphabetical order along with the Christmas cards of the season, Sharon had it in one of the many boxes on her dining room table.

“Collection” was an integral part of her lifestyle. “Consumable” was not. She was saving the gift cards for “a rainy day.” In the arid desert where she lives, that could be a very long time indeed.

Trusting God for what we need day by day is basic. Jesus said, “Do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” For the pagan run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” [Matthew 6:31-33 NIV]

God has much to say about laying up treasures on earth. When the Israelites wandered around the desert after leaving Egypt, he trained them to take it a day at a time and only collect what they needed. Anything extra would get dusty, rots, or be eaten by varmints.

Do we not see that in our own sheds, barns, and garages? If they are full, do we need to rent more space at a storage facility? Throw in more rodent-killing blocks? Put everything in plastic tubs instead?

Nope. God would say the answer is obvious. It’s time to clean the garage! As for the burning questions of the season, what can you do for someone that would meet their needs?

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, available from her website, buttontogod.dev. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]

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About Jo Russell

Jo’s humor, inspirational stories, articles and devotionals have spanned more than 40 years, with several national writing contest awards for humor. She's a contributing author in Chicken Soup for the Soul—Shaping the New You and Heavenly Humor for the Dieter’s Soul.

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