Enter Christmas, my best season. The season of full-heartedness.
How I love it! The warmth of the color red. Twinkles. Lights. Sparkles. Jesus!
This holiday really has everything! Meaning, warmth and presents.
In regular life, my heart jumps a little bit at the idea of presents. In spring and summer and fall. At birthdays. 1/2 birthdays. Graduation, holidays, accomplishments of all kinds! For me AND for others. My heart warms at a good and well-placed present. Because. . . presents!
1. Soccer blanket. One year in high school my Mom swore Christmas off, because she was STRESSED out about money. Probably very justifiably. But it was disheartening. Yet, on Christmas morning, I had this present under the tree. It was a woven blanket that had a professional soccer player kicking a ball, hard. It was amazing! It was for me. It was from my Dad. 23 years later, I still have it. It is a reminder that he noticed my sadness, took time to find something that I would like and spent money on me! A warm blanket in place of emptiness. My heart accepted it as love.
2. Diet Peach Snapple. This one day my Mom came home from Big Lots with a beverage that was likely outdated but was tasty and was. . . my current favorite drink! A gift? Absolutely! You see, there my Mom was in this disjointed and over-stimulating store hunting for who knows what. As she wandered around she saw this random item and. . . remembered. Me. On my part, no chatter, reminders or charm was necessary. Somehow, my preference had stuck with her, and she indulged me with an unnecessary treat. Again, love.
And there have been so many more gifts. . . costly, free, from family and friends. At 39, I have been the recipient of SO much generosity and love. Even apart from Christmas, presents are everywhere. Last week my co-therapist bought me beef jerky. Our supervisor told him that meat was my love language (long story, maybe another blog). Love tank? Full!
And now that I am so old and have loads of spending money (think of the contrast of having a 40 hour a week job after only making $800/mo for the last 4 years) I get to be the giver! Giver of good gifts.
1. (Prior to big money) Party hats, noisemakers, tea bags, kiwi’s. When I worked at the library, I always liked to keep little prizes behind the desk. Students were in my heart and there they were, giving it the literal “college try.” They would tell me of the impending disaster (i.e. their next test, paper, etc) and I would cheer them on. Then, they would let me know how they did, and we would celebrate via small gifts like a party hat to wear around for the rest of the night. Or a balloon. Or a tasty candy. Gum. Noisemaker. Fruit. I made it a point of having these on hand so that I could love them.
2. Comfort, stillness, beauty. You- stop arguing with me. I DID give comfort, stillness and beauty! This is how I did it: My friend recently celebrated her birthday. I saw this beautiful, handmade mug at a local coffee shop. It practically spoke her name. It was pottery with a earthy tan base and a creamy glaze. It had a folk flower imprint placed asymmetrically over a peaceful light blue, with 3 dots of red for a splash of color. I knew my artistic friend. She would be calmed by the beauty. And the beauty would top off a still moment in the midst of a swirling life of wife-ing a pastor, mothering, homeschooling 3, learning the organ and earning Taekwondo belts. A mug is what my friend needed. It’s beauty and the warmth of it’s contents would meet her in sickness. Or in the quiet moments after the kids were down, where she caught up with the hubs. A reminder to slow down, find comfort, drink in beauty. All cupped between her two hands.
Ah, gifts. So much power, so much possibility. They can so easily speak love- given and received. And how much joy there is in giving a meaningful and well-placed present! One that gives initially and then keeps right on giving. Meets people in empty spaces. Speaks, “You are not alone” or “You are noticed” right when they weren’t so sure.
When I have one of these to give, I can hardly contain myself. At a friend’s party I might say something neutral like, “When do we get to open the presents?” I will try to gently push us in the direction while waiting. But it is the thing that I want to happen most. My calm exterior belies the dancing party within. Think “toddler trying not to have an accident.” That’s right, my insides are hopping from foot to foot.
Here I stand. Waiting expectantly for the joy and delight I know is coming. And this small, pure part of me. . . that’s just me being like my Dad. I just know it! He is the best at ALL of the love languages.
And so I wonder. I wonder what Christmas Eve was like for Him?
Were there twinkles in his eyes? Was He hopping from foot to foot?
He, who numbers the hairs on our head, and knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. The Father, who would not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. The One whose gentleness makes us great, whose goodness was what He was most proud of. This true, powerful and tender heart had a present.
It was for Israel crushed under oppression, waiting for a word of hope after 400 years of silence. His kids. And us, us too. The Gentiles. . . the weary world.
He was the one who created us. . . knit us together. . . watched. Saw the slave’s tears in the desert. He saw it all, weariness, hopelessness, silence. . . keen need.
My Dad was there, perched on the edge of the BEST GIFT, the one that would make all of our sadness come untrue. And he was waiting there to give it. . . to those who were saddest.
From one gift giver to another I just don’t know how He contained Himself. And the angels? If I was one, I would have been jumping up and down with my hand raised, the universal symbol for “Pick me! Pick me!”
SUCH is the news that we celebrate.