I think the first time I really noticed it was in late January. The sign that is. (If you are wondering the correlation to the picture of my studio above, we'll get there).
I drove past and it simply said, "Merry Christmas". Hm. Maybe someone just hasn't gotten to it yet, I reasoned. And then it was February, and I drove past again. It still said "Merry Christmas" in unforgiving, old black letters. That's a little funny. Well, I still have a lot of things on my To Do List that haven't gotten done yet. Maybe they do too. March rolled around. "Merry Christmas" it still plainly read. I smiled and kinda chuckled. Did you see that sign that still says "Merry Christmas"? I asked my husband. He drove by it every day too. No, he hadn't seen it. He hadn't even noticed. He hadn't even noticed.
In all fairness, he's probably not the only one that hadn't. It's pretty inconspicuous. It's kinda positioned on an industrial road that divides corn fields on one side from quiet neighborhoods nestled on the edge of a small suburb on the other. The sign hangs off a partly dilapidated building, connected to some sort of auto-mechanic shop that also seems to sell a few, select used cars in a friendly, neighborly way that somehow doesn't feel seedy, just old-fashioned. The shop is sandwiched between a business that creates commercial concrete piping and a stone quarry. The area doesn't really scream "shiny, new, trendy, or hipster" in any way, in case you thought it did. :) It does tell a tale of hard work, better days and more simple ones. I honestly didn't know the name of the shop or even if it was on the sign or not until I snapped the photo for this post.
After March, I started paying attention to the sign more. It finally changed. And for a brief period, it read something that actually had to do with their business - something about a car that was for sale positioned beneath it. I can't remember exactly. And then, sometime in the summer, there it was again. A message about Christmas. A countdown had begun, mid-year. "183 days until Christmas"... it read. "142 days until Christmas"... a little later in the year. "74 days until Christmas"... it read yesterday. There doesn't seem to be a particular pattern to when the number is changed, at least that I can tell, other than it does change. And as Christmas becomes closer, the number becomes smaller. Imagine that. And it also becomes a little less absurd that we are already counting down, in October.
I don’t know who owns the shop. I don’t know who changes the sign. I don’t know why they count down until Christmas, basically all year long. But they do. They point others to it, day in and day out. In an unassuming, unconventional, but at the same time, normal way. Unapologetically using their little space on their little road to point people to the thing they are most excited about - even if it's half a year away OR it happened a couple months ago. Why do they focus attention practically all year long on a singular thing? Why do they bother changing the sign over and over again with basically the same message? Why do they use the sign to talk about Christmas instead of their business, which might make a little more sense? I suppose we would have to talk to them to be sure of their motives, their reasoning, their logic. But I don't have to talk to them to conclude the following.
In some sense, they've got the right idea. Focus on the one thing you are most excited about. Point others to it. Every day, in your ordinary life. We all have a little space of real estate... a little sign, a little road, a little place that people pass by, figuratively or literally. We are all putting a message out for others to read. And we are saying any number of things. Some of us have messages that bounce around, while others of us remain more focused, more single-minded... on a particular business, a certain image, a specific measure of "success", the number of accomplishments of our kids... you fill in the blank. And this philosophy of focusing, in itself, isn't inherently bad. In fact, it's biblical, in the right context.
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2
We are supposed to fix our eyes on something, or rather, someone. We are called to run the race set before us, always looking to our goal, our prize, the author and perfecter of faith, our Savior, Jesus. And while we are doing that? We are to point others to Him too. Exactly where we are. Day in and day out. Using what we've got. In the here and now. We are to constantly remind ourselves and anyone else watching what matters most by focusing on who matters most.
And guys, this act of fixing our eyes and then pointing others to do the same doesn't have to look fancy or flashy. Or cost a lot. It can look like an old, tattered structure on a cut through street with a few words and a singular focus. It won't look perfect. The countdown on the sign isn't accurate all the time. But it still gets the point across. We are all counting down until we get to experience true joy and everlasting peace, for all eternity. But that only happens through believing in Jesus and then asking God to help us run the race, one day at a time.
Y'all, this office, this website, this blog, this tiny stationery business, this is my sign. This is my space. For now. It may not look fancy. It may not have a lot of foot traffic. But it's where God has me, right here, right now. And I want to have a singular focus with my eyes on Jesus, with expectant hope in what really matters every step of the way. And I want you to too.
You may not have a business or a blog, but you certainly exist somewhere, doing something. It could be an amazing life that you really love, or maybe you are in a season in which you wish life looked different. Either way, God has you somewhere, doing something right now, day in and day out. So what is your tiny (or big) sphere of influence right now? Where does God have you placed to point others to Jesus? Are you doing that? Where are you focusing day to day? Where are you fixing your eyes? Or are you distracted by other less important things? I'm there too friend. Let's shift our gaze, let's join hands and keep changing our focus back to what matters most, every day of the year.
Below a photo of the sign snapped yesterday:)