Gift-less, Part 1: The Reason.

Since the beginning of starting our family, my husband and I have longed to find ways to make the Christmas season more meaningful, more true to what we believe the holiday could be: the joyous celebration of Love born unto the world. And not an imitation or distorted or limited love, but unfathomable Love.

Yet, each year we struggle to focus on Christ at Christmas because there are a number of other festive activities or rituals that distract us. And they are not all bad. There are plenty of wonderful traditions we simply adore. In fact, most of the things we do around the holiday represent some aspect of the love and light we hope to spread throughout our entire lives.

Our main distraction, however, has been and often is, the presents. Gifts have always been a central theme of the holiday for my family of origin, as I’m sure is the case for many families. Christmas was certainly a time for shopping, wrapping, and delivering. Baked goodies (at least!) for all friends and neighbors. Toys for cousins, something thoughtful for parents, and the kids? Spoiled rotten. My brothers and I would be buried in wrapping paper by the end of it all, hardly remembering who had given us the new pajamas or CD (you know, back in the day of CDs). And Santa? That guy. He went all-out in our house. We got the big stuff. And the stocking was my favorite. Overflowing with all sorts of fun surprises. Every small thing that you’ve ever wanted and things you never knew you wanted, were all stuffed in that glorious sock.

Yet, as the years pass, my husband and I have realized that gift-giving has become a less-than-joyous experience on several occasions. Frantically shopping and stressing about what to get the person who doesn’t need anything, trying to find time to wrap and deliver it all, spending more than we should on things that mean little in the end…it can all be quite exhausting. Draining the joy we so long for out of the season. And our kiddos? They hardly know what to ask for each year because they truly have more than they need as far as material things go. They can certainly come up with a list, and they always do after scanning the holiday ads. However, it has gotten to the point where it feels kind of empty on Christmas morning after the boxes have been opened. A huge rush to get the gifts purchased, and then a huge let down after it’s over. For us, it often feels like we are actually giving very little of what is truly needed and losing touch of the authentic source of joy.

This is certainly not true of all gift giving. A thoughtful gift given with love can be incredibly meaningful and bring great joy to another. Yet, the gift-giving craze has become something weighing on my husband and I for the past few years. So, not surprisingly, our family got a crazy idea. A crazy, wonderful idea. What if?

So, last year as the holiday season was coming to a close, I made a declaration. Next year, no gifts. None coming in, and none going out. No, not even homemade gifts, though that’s a fantastic idea Grandma. No, not just one gift per close family member. None. NO material gifts. The Frederick family, in 2013, is going to have a gift-less Christmas.

Yet, we didn’t want to simply get rid of gift buying and giving. We wanted to give. We were not aiming for a give-less holiday. Instead, we wanted to give of our time and love. We wanted to take all that time and energy we normally use in the hustle and bustle, and put it towards what we believe we are called to do in this world: love one another. So, for this past December, we set out to give ourselves through serving others. The only things coming in or out of our home with a bow…would be us.

family pic


Tay Rock Wall

Hunter Hayes has a song on the radio that induces my manic state: “I want crazy.”

Yes! Yes, I do. Ah, he’s speaking my language. How many times have I been told that I’m nuts or insane or crazy for the things I pursue.  And I laugh because it’s all given with lightheartedness and even admiration at times. But this manic side, this side of me that gets a little crazed and aims for the improbable, is a very real part of who I am and it brings meaning and fulfillment to my life.

While Hunter is referring to romantic love (he’s young, we’ll give him a break), if we generalize his song lyrics to a broader life motto, I wonder how many of us have that level of desire? Do we reach for something “crazy” in our lives?

 Or, do we more often sell ourselves short? Do we settle for what’s “reasonable”?

This is a delicate line for me. To walk the tightrope between reaching for the things I’m passionate about, and crossing into the place in which other aspects of my life suffer, is a daily challenge. Yet, I crave the crazy. I confront the reasonable. I want to grab hold of life and soak in all it has to offer. I think we all do to some degree.

First, I need to own that perhaps this idea of reaching for crazy is based on a privileged position. “The American dream” right? To reach beyond our circumstances, to rise above and do what we or others did not think possible. Some goals and passions may require certain resources, opportunities, and freedoms that may not be available to all.

But maybe not. I’ve certainly seen this desire, this passion and energy, in multiple circumstances.  I’ve heard countless stories of people across the world reaching for more, taking risks, and achieving their victories with full hearts and big smiles. People who we couldn’t predict would surpass their situations. But, they do and that inspires and motivates me. Those stories move us. We cannot help but feel good and smile ourselves. I crave that boldness and courage for my own life; to overcome fears and improve the quality of life for others and myself.

To clarify, the type of crazy I’m talking about is not a long list of respected accomplishments. It does not necessarily involve accomplishment at all, especially as it is so narrowly defined. No, the type of crazy that speaks to me is when I embrace a desire within me, when I hear a voice saying, “wouldn’t that be great” and it feels congruent to who I am and what I want to stand for.

And I get tempted to turn away and ignore that voice. I miss a week at the gym and give up for several months. I avoid reaching out to a friend…what do I have to offer anyway? I think many of us can relate. We let that project sit because we feel overwhelmed or discouraged, not believing we can really accomplish it anyhow or that it will be any good when completed. We hold back on sharing ideas because we’re not experts or couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to contribute.

And there is usually some truth to it. We all have our challenges, our weaknesses, and even our limitations. We are “only” human after all and we must come to terms with that. We must “embrace our limits” as a professor of mine would remind us.

However, here’s the error I’m liable to make. I stop right there. In my experiences, it seems that we embody one of two methods of dealing with the boundaries of being human. Either we (a) believe we are incapable of anything more or do not possess the ability to strive for something we want; or (b) we believe we should be able to do everything, but get let down often enough when we can’t that we totally give up on trying. If I cannot do it perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all.  We all do it. In fact, we sometimes embody both methods of being, vacillating between the two depending on the day or situation.

But, here’s the mysterious part…my paradox. When I truly own my limitations, I also understand my incredible potential. I strive to step beyond the doubt and reach for what I know is possible. I think my professor left out the most important part. Don’t simply embrace your limits. Forget that. I say, know your limits, and then fully embrace your potential.

When we grasp what we cannot do, we are then free to capitalize on that which we are capable of doing. And there is of course a balance. We cannot do everything and when we try to, something suffers. I know that struggle very well. I knew that there was no way for me to be a mom and a graduate student in a PhD program without the help and support of others; without making some sacrifices and doing some things in which I’m not comfortable or confident. But, I knew it was possible and believe it to be something I’m meant to do. So, I seek out what I need and I move forward with faith and the courage I can muster. I also cannot simply run a half marathon with natural skill or quality I somehow possess. I need time. I need encouragement. But, I can do it; I want to do it. So, I begin training.

We all have the struggles and obstacles in our lives that can hinder us from taking bold steps towards that which transforms us in beautiful ways. But, human potential knows very few boundaries. And within those boundaries, we have the opportunity to contribute to a beautiful existence, to be an inspiration to others around us.

So, get on with it! Reach for the crazy because you know you can. Be honest about your limits, and then take that next step towards your potential. Make the phone call. Start that document. Take a class. Seek out that which brings you joy and victory. What gets you excited? What’s your next adventure? I’d love to hear all about your crazy.

“Do not dilute the truth of your potential. We often convince ourselves that we cannot change, that we cannot overcome the circumstances of our lives. That is simply not true. You have been blessed with immeasurable power to make positive changes in your life. But you can’t just wish it, you can’t just hope it, you can’t just want it… you have to LIVE it, BE it, DO it.” ― Steve Maraboli

 Cam and Tay carrying boards


A cloud, but not quite. More low-lying, with its moisture generated by that which is nearby.

A mist, but more dense; limiting visibility to a greater degree than a simple gathering of water molecules.

It is a thickness, a mystery, that develops right here among us. And I find it quite intriguing. The mystery of fog beckons me, calls to the part of me that yearns for something more.

A part of me that desires something that is not quite seen, not completely visible, yet it peers at me, flirts with me even, from within its foggy hiding place.

And why am I chasing it? What is it that I pursue? Ah, if only the answer were that simple, I might have no reason to chase it. Perhaps the mystery is that which I desire. The unknown is that which keeps me engaged…dancing with the half-hidden or the unreachable, each taking steps towards and away from the other. Perhaps the dance, the chase, is why the fog is so inviting…even though I cannot fully see what it is that’s enveloped in the white shadows.

Chasing fog.

The name is one that seems somewhat dark to me, maybe a little gloomy, but I kind of like it that way. I wanted the name to represent or symbolize a life pursuit of mine, and that is striving for, or persistently chasing, something that is undefined, often even to me. There is a craving, a deep desire, for something that is profoundly a mystery. And I have enough ambition to chase something even as elusive as fog.

I, like many others, have wanted to start a blog for a while now. I grew up writing short stories and poems, journaling about anything and everything. Writing is still that which allows me to take the foggy storm within me, and make it external. My stream of consciousness is much more than a stream. It’s a river, raging at times, and to gather my thoughts in written word provides me with more internal space. Perhaps it may make room for me to gather more endurance to continue the pursuit of a life fully lived.

Get a theme, a niche to focus on. This was the advice of many when attempting to start a blog. You need to focus on one area, one particular theme. That would be helpful, I would think to myself. Write about baking or being a mom or psychology.

Yet, my life is too messy for that. To focus when running with fog is not a task I accept. Those who know me know that I do not embrace limitations lightly. I refuse to be categorized or to blindly befriend rules or follow authorities. So, I wanted to offer a place where mystery and ambiguity can be cherished.

A place where we can make room for the grey, space for the unknown, because that is what life includes. Thus, this blog is a chance to write about life as it is or at least as it is perceived. A place for us to journey together about life’s pain and suffering, its joy and excitement, and its challenge and mystery.

You have my attention.
You have my attention.