“My discomfort with the gifts was a result of the circumstances that rendered me impotent to deal with buying them. By the very nature of things, there was a limit to the time that could be expended in acquiring them and an even greater limit to the money that could be spent. While the season’s moralizers will always claim that the amount spent is not important (“It’s the thought that counts”), intelligence and simple observation militate strongly against that position. The thought behind a standard boy’s bike and the feel of a ten-speed racer under that same boy are very, very unequal to a fourteen year old. In 1984, they were also very unequal to my checkbook.
That year, the inequalities and loss of time were multiplied by children, children-in-law, grandchildren, grandmothers, and godparents. The real issue, however, was that children need to experience the security and the largess of having those this-world things that help them fit easily into the patterns and flow of their own lives, both social and domestic, private and public. For fourteen year olds in a farming village, that meant ten-speed racers…
Gifting is a way to demonstrate love. It requires that we study another so intensely as to perceive his or her unspoken desires and meet them. It means to startle with the unexpected, the perfectly chosen. For our children we had always seen it as a way to form a thankful and satisfied adult, to create a readiness for generosity, the early habits of appreciation, and a sense of blessedness.”
I read these words by Phyllis Tickle in her short book of stories from her farm called What the Land Already Knows early in the month of December. A small little book, yet multiple times in the dark night while I would be reading it, tears would prick my eyes. Yes, to feel overwhelmed with the December things–the gift buying, the desire to bless our children and hope to provide them with hearts that understand what it feels like to both receive and give generously. The desire to spend our affections richly on the One to whom the seasons is all about, Jesus, the babe in the manger. The tug and pull of gatherings, pageants, birthdays, meals, Advent readings, the gift buying and wrapping (which largely falls on me and it can bring such weariness even though it is a joy). The questioning of ourselves–are we spending ourselves (both our time and money) well in this season? Are we giving our children too much? Too little?
Her words brought freedom and the reminder of what it’s like to be a child–to hope for an item and to receive it. To anticipate the good gifts of Christmas morning, to work through the ungratefulness and dissatisfaction in our hearts that can sometimes follow. Her words helped me as a mother to wrestle my own guilt and frustrations with myself down–we are finite, limited. We have so many pressures in these years with little ones and so few resources. We cannot hope to dance through this season perfectly, we will mostly limp through it held up by the gracious and loving arms of the babe who came to save us.
This Christmas morning began with a child who wet the bed and then a screaming baby woken up too early. I had slept quite poorly and had a hard time being in a good mood until well into the afternoon, unfortunately. I apologized multiple times to everyone and was mostly very grateful that Brandon was unusually chipper and unaffected by my grouchiness. Three different loved ones gave me products intended to help puffy, tired eyes this year and I do so hope these products do the job! 🙂
We had filled the children’s stockings with dried fruits from nuts.com, chocolates, a stainless steel cup, pencils, a couple of small toys, as well as a pair of knitting needles. Yes, everyone got needles because all three older children are asking now for knitting needles and yarn. 🙂 Phoebe wanted her first pair of circular needles, which I had told her she would receive if she stuck with a knitted project and finished it. (She has mostly done that). Wren received some new rubber bath toys, her first glass sippy cup, new spoons, a rainbow stacker and a ball. Each child got a book, one smaller item they wanted, and then one larger item. Grandparents had sent along new pajamas, dried mangoes, books and such, plus one larger gift: a trampoline! Both Brandon and I had gifts from secret santas (my family drew names for Christmas) and we both got each other a few things when in previous years we haven’t simply because of inability. He bought me a beautiful pendant necklace (theres just something so romantic and lovely about a man giving jewelry to his girl). He treated me to way too many bath salts, lotions, candles, as well as a new ball winder which feels heavenly to use. I treated him to some new tools and carhartt overalls, a new belt and hat. He spent the remainder of the day putting together Phoebes bike and the trampoline and we had a simple dinner of veggies/hummus, cheese and sandwich meat with a little bit of sushi (my favorite!) from our favorite local spot.
After baths and reading together the children treated us to a surprise performance of the nativity while they requested I play “Silent Night” on the piano. It was so precious and sweet and it blessed me so — yes, when it’s all said and done and they’ve been inundated with far more than they really need by way of material items, they do understand what this season is all about. We’ve been remembering the waiting for the Savior and what it’s like to hang in the long dark waiting for His coming and then to celebrate His arrival, Immanuel, God with us. How we need Him! What a miracle it is, God wrapped in such small, frail human flesh–given to us.
It was a Merry Christmas filled with the usual interruptions, bad attitudes, apologies, forgiveness, snuggles, joy and laughter that typically fill a family’s day. All this holy wrapped up and tucked into all this ordinary. I hope it was a Merry Christmas for you too, dear reader. May these days leading up to the New Year be filled with sweet reflections, peace, and joy!
ps. I’ll pop back in here soon with photos from both Noah’s and Phoebe’s birthdays. ❤