Between The Covers | Dec. 18, 2014

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, Dec. 18, 2014.

All I Really Want by Quinn Caldwell. Abingdon Press, 2014 | $15.99.

Presents wrapped? Check. Tree decorated? Check. Cookies made, shopping finished and Santa visits done? Check, check and check.

You love the holidays, but there’s no denying that they can be stressful. The last thing you want is to put more on your to-do list, but when you add All I Really Want by Quinn Caldwell, you’ll see things from a more-relaxed perspective.

But first, the disclaimer: Caldwell says that this book isn’t meant to be all hints and tips. It won’t help you get organized, simplify or create the “Best Christmas Ever in five easy steps.”

Caldwell says that’s not his job, and it’s not God’s; instead, you’ll find a few complications here, as well as some hope for “a little holy breathing space” – beginning with the first of Advent.

Christmas, as you undoubtedly noticed, didn’t start after Thanksgiving: retailers have had their holiday decorations up for months. They couldn’t wait for the season, but it may seem as though wait is all you do lately. There is a virtue in waiting, says Caldwell, and Advent is when to find it. Pause; “be prepared for little bursts of delight.”

It takes wide-open eyes to do that, though, and time, which is at a premium these days. Caldwell says that lack of time is exactly when you want to “add a holy something to your to-do list.” Volunteer, make a donation to a charity, visit someone who needs you and be kind to someone.

And on that last one: If you “get stuck, look in the mirror.”

Go to church; now’s when you need people around you. Let your kids believe in Santa, because he teaches them about “dwelling in mystery.” Sing with someone, even if you “can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Keep in mind that, like anybody, God would surely rather that his birthday party is “full of fun.”

And yet, if you’re having a bad Christmas, remember that that’s why we have Christmas in the first place. Christmas was “born in defiance of all that stalks the world and tries to snuff its light.”

“If the only spirit you can get into is low,” says Caldwell, “you’re just who God is looking for.”

Two words: De. Lightful. There’s just no other way to describe “All I Really Want.”

And here’s the thing: I didn’t expect to like this book. I figured it was just more guilt-inducing platitudes, more blah-blah-blah-Christmas, but nothing could be further from the truth: it’s joyous!

Caldwell uses humor and a bit of irreverence in prodding his readers into slowing down, noticing, seeing God’s gifts in addition to those under the tree. He makes us think about Mary and Joseph. He makes us laugh about God’s “epic party.”

Sprinkled with Bible verses, meditations and tiny prayers that can be recited day and night, I think this is a perfect book for anyone who’s had enough ho-ho-ho and wants to replace it with more ho-ho-holy. If that’s you, then All I Really Want is a book to check out.

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