This Christmas has been somewhat different. In some ways it is very similar to Christmases past....
My children, like many, can be self-focused. heck *I* can be very self-focused. It's easy really. However, as a parent, I attempt to get them focused on the real, the meaningful and eternal qualities of life.
At our church this past month we have been having a Random Acts of Kindness Campaign. Encouraging the congregation to outwardly bless others, in unexpected and random ways. I struggled with this at first because, as a family, I try to lean toward a spirit of outward generosity already. So this campaign felt a little forced because it was actions we tend to already practice. It is almost second nature that as we were instructed to recall and share our acts of kindness, I often couldn't remember what they were. I had to make a concerted effort to try and keep track.
I also try to encourage my children toward opportunities to serve as a family. This is not always the case or possible but for the most part, I include all of them in service projects as much as possible.
One thing we did this season was "Adopt-A-Family" through a local hospital. These families have sick children suffering from cancers or blood diseases. We made and purchased gifts for the family we were assigned. Oldest made most of the 'purchases' while I did most of the 'making' and I included my other children through out the process.
I told them they were not going to be getting gifts this year because we were going to GIVE instead. They are very blessed, they will get at least a few gifts from extended family members, I know this. Although, I know they desire in their hearts for specific toys and other items, they are not in need. That's the other funny thing about Christmas gift giving...it's so unnecessary. I LOVE to have nice, new shiny things....but when I or my kids have a need--I usually acquire it for them, regardless of the time of year. And if I can spare it and find it beneficial, I may give them a treat or reward too.
Here's the thing....walking through the stores, even *I* could feel the desire rise up in my heart. Oh, such wonderful items, fresh sheets, pretty blankets, sweaters, shoes, stickers, glitter, dolls, books, magazines, the list could go on and on. It's amazing how quickly the desire ebbed when I left the stores. I certainly don't have the Spirit of Giving and giving generously, mastered. In no way...but it's something I strive for within the hearts of my family.
We dropped our "adopt-a-family" gifts off late. They were due on Thursday and we were dropping them off Friday morning. At the same time, recipient families were picking up their gifts. When we entered the office, two different families were represented, by a mother and another mother with her child. The mother that was alone had A LOT of bags filled with gifts to carry down to her car. It was second nature to offer to help her carry them down.
She was very grateful and I could tell also a little embarrassed maybe that she was receiving these *donated* gifts...because she began to explain how she hadn't even had a chance to go shopping. I did not care because I already understood. She also had trouble holding back tears of gratefulness...to the givers of the gifts, to us for helping her. Her son and husband were waiting in the car. They could not come up because the son's immune system was extra low and great care needed to be taken to keep him safe and healthy as possible. His eyes appeared extra large in contrast to his hairless head.
He waved and smiled at us as we wished the family Merry Christmas after my kids helped them load up their trunk. I wished I could just grab him and give HIM a big kiss and hug....and his mom & his dad. The tears formed in my eyes.
The shiny things, the gifts--suddenly all meaningless. I know without a doubt, that mother and father would give up every material possession they have if it meant their child would no longer be sick. They'd forfeit ever having Christmas again just to have a healthy, 'normal' day--free from sickness and fear of the worst case scenario.
It's all meaningless. Yes, I know that as a Christian. I know Christ came to save me in my worthless state of being. I've always known it in my mind. Seeing that family, reminded my heart. NONE of this matters, the lights, the trees, the wrapping paper, the tinsel, the glitter.
What matters is what is in the heart. Out of that love, there is no gift that can compare.
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt it's worth.
Sitting my dented mini-van, leaving that parking lot, I knew I could have given more to the family we were assigned. I could have made more, I could have provided more gifts. I know they will be grateful but nothing I have was so important that it could not be done with out. I can't heal their child, but I could give, with a generous heart. I have nothing to with hold because I have been so blessed.
My soul has felt it's worth, only because He has appeared.
What else can compare?
I am still slightly tempted to get my children gifts, and I still might. But part of me thinks if I do...I will only cheapen our holiday in some way. As if a gift can really satisfy or capture the Spirit we are seeking to live, breathe, walk and convey. I refuse to listen to the lies of misplaced guilt and lust. Giving materially is easy. Truly giving of myself, that is the challenge.
Maybe that is my challenge for this new year....to truly give unconditionally, until I really no longer can. No more holding back, being selfish or greedy with my time, my love, my resources. I wonder what will happen if I do.....
My thoughts are a mix of words and emotions within me....I'm off to sleep on it.