Christmas Gifts

The stockings are hung, the presents are wrapped, the goodies are baked.  We’ve rehearsed our Christmas Eve KidStuf show, decorated for the Christmas Eve candlelight service, watched the favorite Christmas classics, and even cleaned the house.  We’ve bought the last minute presents and should be sitting back relaxing and enjoying it.

But I’m on day two of migraines and getting enough relief to barely function but nothing more.  And Michael is on week three of an episode that hasn’t landed him in the hospital but has made me contemplate the need for it many times.  So just like usual, I’m feeling a bit sorry for us, and mostly for him.  He should be able to enjoy this season, but we’re here once again and he’s struggling with the emotional battlefield that creates.

But God keeps sending us these small surprises that help keep us going, and remind me that we’re not forgotten.

First, there was this gift.

As I dug through my wrapping paper supplies, which includes old Christmas cards that I use as tags, I saw handwriting that I hadn’t seen in years.  6 1/2 years actually.

Austin’s last Christmas with us we made quite a few sweet memories.  One of them was him helping me with Michael’s Christmas gift.  Austin was a computer whiz, and I asked him to set up and configure the new laptop that he’d helped me find.  He met me at Panera and we drank coffee while he worked on it, to make sure Michael didn’t see.  He then bought a warranty to go with it as Michael’s gift, and what I found was his handwritten note saying that he’d bought him a warranty.

It’s the kind of thing I’d normally throw away, and I’m not sure why I kept it.  I’m not sure how it sat in that box of supplies for so long without me seeing it either.  But as I sat wrapping presents this year, with Michael asleep near me, and me hoping for a miracle for him this year, I got a small one of my own.  A reminder of my brother and of the love he had for us.

Later that night, last night, another completely unexpected gift was given.

A small company, UnMarketing, who says to ‘Stop Marketing, Start Engaging’ did just that through granting items from wish lists for a fairly large group of people.  They asked you to send them Amazon wish lists, and they’d be selecting some people to pick an item off the list and send it.  No questions, no fuss, no contest.  They didn’t make you share it to win it, or like them on Facebook, or fill out an application.

Within 10 minutes, two items off of Michael’s Christmas list were ordered and a personal note sent about why the man behind this chose those- he didn’t just throw money (which was cool enough on it’s own) but he took time to connect.  They weren’t high ticket items, but they’re items that he’ll love.

And with those two gifts, I’m reminded….

We’re loved, we’re taken care of, we’re not forgotten.

I wish I didn’t have to write a post like this every year- that I didn’t struggle with balancing the great and true Joy of the God we’re celebrating and the kids who have my heart with the heartache of this illness and my brother being missing.  I often feel like I’ve said as much as I can say on these topics, and have nothing more to give.

But maybe, you’re like me and facing the same things year after year and needing the reminder that just because you are doesn’t mean you’re forgotten, or unloved.

He loves us more than we can know, which is after all why we have Christmas to celebrate.

Merry Christmas my friends.

 

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009

 

Traditions

I’ve been gone.  I know you missed me. {despite your silence that would say otherwise.  no hard feelings.}

Every now and then I disappear because I can’t figure out how to write about what’s going on, but every now and then I just give myself permission to take care of what’s going on around me without worrying about sharing it, or enjoy some time without then writing.  That’s what this was- and I find that after I take a short break, I’m grateful to get back and have the chance to share.  Sometimes I write because I’m ‘supposed’ to, much like I do many things in life because I’m ‘supposed’ to.

Especially at Christmastime, when traditions are everything.

We have to decorate and shop and sing and watch movies and make cocoa and visit Santa and make lists and look at lights and make cookies and visit friends and send cards and host parties and volunteer and take photos and and and and…. Oh, and then there’s Ben’s birthday right in the middle and there’s a whole list of must do’s there too, to make sure his birthday isn’t overshadowed.

I LOVE all those things.  But when they become more about checking off a list and making sure we do all the things than about enjoying the things we do, we’ve put tradition over what we’re really meant to get from it.

And this year, once again, I started stressing about what I hadn’t yet checked off that list and when I would.  But then, one of my best friend’s brother died very unexpectedly and I only cared that week about what she was feeling.  And then I got knocked on my butt by a bad cold and days of migraine.  And then I realized that my husband was slowing down and that we were probably entering the pre-phase of a an episode of his chronic illness.  And when I asked friends about what they consider must do’s so I could alter my list, a good friend called bullsh!t and said that nothing was a must do.  She’s a genius.

So, I switched gears and am really trying to focus on simply enjoying what we are able to do.

It’s not as much as I’d like.  I’d always like to do more.

But yesterday, on my youngest son’s birthday as I worried that it hadn’t been magical enough a day, he reminded me again.

Me:  Ben, what do you want to do tonight for the last part of your birthday celebration?

Ben:  Watch Diego and play with my new toys. 

Me:  But I thought we’d go look at lights and get hot chocolate, or …. You really just want to stay home and play?

Ben:  Yep.

Me:  But did you have a happy birthday?

Ben:  Yes!

So we stayed home, ate ice cream and played.

Yes, in my ideal world my husband would be full of energy and able to fully participate, and every day would be full of lifetime worthy memories.

But maybe just enjoying what we do, whatever that is, and being together makes the best tradition.

Do you have a checklist and must do’s, or do you just enjoy what comes?  I’m not sure I’ll ever drop the list without being reminded, it’s my nature.  But I’m trying to learn.

 

minnie

one of the memories we did make- Ben kissing Minnie!

 

Choosing Joy

A few days ago I wrote half a blog post that I couldn’t get finished for some reason.   I was reminded of it this morning, how I’d written about choosing to be happy even in times where that’s tough.  Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote:

“When I was a teenager, the words that could irritate me like no other were “decide to be happy”- usually coming from my dad when something in my teen world wasn’t going quite right- and in the life of a teenage girl, things usually aren’t.  I knew he was right but that didn’t make me like it any more.”

Well, things aren’t going quite right for us this week.  It’s Christmas, the most magical time, a time I truly love.  And today and tomorrow are my favorite days of the year.  Tonight’s plan was our KidStuf show at church, with Michael and I on stage and our boys in the audience, with our amazing and talented team helping prepare hearts of kids of all ages for Christmas.  Then, we were to have dinner with a group of friends we call family, and would end the night with a beautiful candlelight service.  Tomorrow morning we’d wake up to the awe and wonder of our boys’ faces as they discovered the tree transformed with gifts from Santa and gifts from us.  We’d have a relaxing day and one of our favorite meals (a big pot of shrimp boil) before packing the car and making the drive to see Michael’s family for a few days.  As with every day, especially days like this, we would miss Austin and wish he was there.  But it would be a magical time regardless.

view from the room this morning

Instead, I’m writing from Michael’s hospital room yet again, and making sure that all bases are covered for Santa to still visit, and the rest of Christmas Day to be postponed until we’re home.  We won’t be able to reschedule Christmas Eve with our family of friends, or reschedule the trip to West Virginia anytime soon (much too long a drive for a weekend visit, much too expensive to fly and tough to schedule with Drew in school).

Today’s a day I truly have to choose to be happy, but I have to dig deeper than just happy.  Happy is a feeling that is influenced by circumstances, but Joy is part of who you are.  Joy is knowing that no matter the circumstances, no matter the feelings of the moment, your soul has peace.  I could get away with giving into the disappointment today, it’s understandable.  But I won’t.  I choose joy.

I’m joyful for the reason for Christmas, for a savior who was born to change the world.  I’m joyful for the promises made that no matter our circumstances, there is reason for joy.

All around us there are people needing to choose joy because of things happening that make it so difficult.  I see it here- from staff who will be working, to families wishing they were anywhere else.  I see it in those I love who are missing someone or are struggling to provide.  But I’ve seen people choosing joy already today- nurses and food services staff who are cheerful and give no clue they’d rather be home, and family members wishing Merry Christmas to those they see.  And we have many around us choosing to help us find joy by loving us in their own ways, as they have so many times.   What I’ve realized, is that when we choose joy for ourselves, we can’t help but spread it to others as well.

Merry Christmas my friends, what a joyous day it is.

Giving Beyond

Year after year there are discussions about consumerism taking over and making Christmas something other than it should be, about the birth of the Christ Jesus. This year I struggled with deciding how much was too much as always. I don’t want my children to believe that Christmas is about Santa and presents, but know the joy of truly celebrating Christmas.

As I stood watching them with their gifts this morning, I was overcome with the magic of Christmas yet again. My oldest has really struggled with obedience and respect lately, and didn’t deserve to be lavished with all the things he got. But it hit me, that we didn’t deserve the gift that God gave us over 2,000 years ago. He lavished us with all of his love, knowing that we could never earn it. I struggle with disobedience daily and yet He gives. He gave the greatest gift, with sacrifice and with joy. And because of that we can know the depths of His love.

So yes, we can go overboard in presents, but this is one time where we can show others the kind of love that God has shown us. Let’s not make it about the gifts themselves, but remember that because He gave us everything, we can give much.

Give today. Give every day. Give sacrificially and joyously, even when it can never be repaid or earned.

This is what I want to teach my children, that Christmas is about giving all you have to those you love and to thank God daily for loving us so much that He gave all.

Merry Christmas.

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