Wow, I have such a hard time being grateful for some gifts I receive at Christmas. I really have begun thinking though, that I can be quite picky and really want to show my children how to receive presents graciously and gratefully.
I think in our culture there are so many choices, so much to be had, that we have learned to be quite picky and yes, even if we feel like we are picking the quality things out of of all the junk, can still just end up being ungrateful.
It is still VERY DIFFICULT for me and all the gifts at Christmas still make me nervous (the quantity and the quality) but I've tried to convey the message that one quality gift is worth far more than 10 not so quality gifts. I've given up trying to explain but I think some family members have become afraid of me! Yikes, I've become too opinionated about some things!! Anyway, it's hard to have a simple Christmas when there is just so much out there. I don't know if this is a good analogy but it reminds me of when I was trekking in Nepal. The Annapurnas is a popular trek and there are teahouses (basic bed and breakfasts) all along the way. But there are people who do the trek and bring their full camping and cooking gear the whole way (a good 18 day trek). We would be eating breakfast prepared by our small hotel with a group in a pitched tent right next to us struggling and truly roughing it, even in the pouring rain. I admired them and thought it would be fun to camp but it almost seemed pointless and exceedingly difficult when there are amenities all along the way. You just want to say, "hey, come on inside where it's warm and dry; it only costs a few dollars". That's how I feel about my lifestyle. Don't get me wrong, we are very blessed financially. We have more than enough to live and our fair share of "stuff". However, living on a social worker's salary does not look like "more than enough" to most people. I've travelled and know how truly wealthy we are but we do not do and have all the stuff some, but certainly not all, of my friends and family do (lawn service, monthly hair appointments, clothing budget, latest technologies, and lots of monthly bills and payments). Sometimes my lifestyle starts to seem pointless when I see the amenities thrown out all along the way by friends and family.
What I am getting at is this: all year we would have to budget and scrimp and buy used and consigned items and then at Christmas all these things given seemed like a waste. But then, Christmas is a beautiful gift. It doesn't make sense. It's not something we deserve, earn, work hard for, scrimp and save for. That is the thing I truly need to remember. I wish that gifts were truly gifts again. A gift is not "Let's spend $20 on each other" or just something you give to reciprocate to those who give you something. A gift is a gift. Period. It should be something we could never repay. You love someone, you're thinking of them and you give them a gift. It may not even be a material item but could be your time and thoughtfulness. It may not show up at Christmas time at all.
Of course, God's perfect gift of his Son is the only gift that lives up to that highest standard. It is a gift in the truest sense of the word. We deserve nothing close to it and could NEVER repay it. Thank you God for your most precious gift and help me to just receive that gift. I, with embarrassment, asked my pastor what my purpose is. I asked, "If there is nothing I can do, if it's all in God's hands, then what is my purpose?" Without hesitation, he replied, "Just receive His gift". I could have cried. That was it; no reciprocation. He did not add, "and then join us each Sunday at church" or "then go spread the word". It really is that simple.
Sweet extended family, I'm sorry for all the times I've complained about, frowned at, thrown away, given away, and simply did not appreciate my gifts at Christmas. What an ungrateful, spoiled girl. The thing is, God knows I'm going to blow it and make a mess of my gift, not appreciate it, or even think it's way too outlandish and unpractical but he's going to give the gift anyway and expect not a thing in return.
Authored by my wife, Shelley