Thursday, December 8, 2016

the presents not for us

it's december 8th and there's a small stack of presents wrapped on my kitchen counter.
probably a rather normal occurrence in many of our homes once we settle ourselves into the month of december. piles of presents and all sorts of other holiday hoopla, scattered here and there.

and though these gifts will be out the door at the end of this week, i have kind of enjoyed the spectacle of them piled high on the counter above the dishwasher and below the cup cabinet.
they are, most certainly, in the way. unavoidable. center stage. 

and they are causing a bit of a stir. 

"are all those presents for you, bella?" incredulously asked a couple of friends who had come to play at our house one afternoon this week.

a fair question to which bella quickly, and, if not a bit dramatically, replied, "no, those aren't for us. my mom is only buying presents for a little girl named serenity." with shoulders slumping and her body sighing, she continued, "everything she buys is only for that little girl who doesn't have stuff. there are no presents for us. none."

you can imagine the looks of horror traded across the faces of bella's friends in our kitchen as they wondered if this christmas mrs. mcnatt had, in fact, truly and officially, finally lost her ever-loving mind and was, indeed, only buying presents for someone other than her own children. imagine!

to hear bella tell it--i had.

presents only for another little girl. a little girl we don't know. a child we haven't even met. 

and nothing--not one single item--in the house for her own brood of children? how can this be? what in the world is this?

a christmas catastrophe? 

a mistletoe mistake?

a present-buying blunder?

a silent-night slip-up?

and where the little girls standing in disbelief around my kitchen counter might think so, my answer is no, not at all. none of the above. because as dismaying as it might seem to a few 8 year olds in early december, this is what christmas should be--a stack of presents in the middle of the kitchen for someone other than ourselves.

now, before y'all start joining up with bella's friends and feeling too badly for her and her siblings, rest assured, the mcnatt children will have gifts a-plenty under the tree come december 25th. but right now, this week, the focus is elsewhere. and it's truly the best christmas gift i can give my children: this gift of knowing it is not all about them.   

i love giving gifts. and i especially love giving to my children. it's a great joy to watch them unwrap something wished for. truly it is. and each christmas we take delight in figuring out a few surprises for them. but, that comes automatic to them--and to us. because of our human nature, there's no lesson needed in teaching them to want and to receive things, but much to be learned in how to give things away; how to think of someone else's needs or wants before our own. 

and, i'm not pretending for one minute in our house, that we always do that lesson well.  honestly, i write this and think sometimes our attempts are weak and unworthy. i know so many of you are doing wonderful and amazing things at the holidays. you are doing it much better. i know that.

but wherever you are and however you are doing it, let's all just agree that christmas affords an opportunity and the perfect occasion to embrace this practice --- and to give and receive and teach this present of selflessness.

it can be a stack of presents on the kitchen counter or a basket of goodies for a neighbor or a box of donuts for the firemen or time spent with someone shut in and lonely. but what a gift it is for each one of us to remove our eyes from our own wish list and turn them toward the seeing of another soul's need.

i don't know about you, but playing santa for my own kids, though joyful, has also come with a bit of heaviness and mixed emotion. when they were all little, it was crazy fun to watch them open one thing after another. rick and i got such a kick out of the chaos and energy spinning wildly around come christmas morning. but years ago, there was a christmas where i began to see it with a different set of eyes. i knew we were headed down that oh-so-tempting, but ultimately ugly, path of excess. it was going to happen if we didn't curb our enthusiasm and give ourselves some guidelines and parameters in our gift buying. we had five kids and when multiplied by many gifts for each child it equated to what felt like a tremendous amount of too-much. and that wasn't what we wanted our christmas morning message to be.

somewhere in that next year, i stumbled upon a little "christmas morning formula." and, loving its simplicity and ease, we quickly embraced it for our own. to this day, it's how we do our gift buying in december. i wanted to share it with y'all, not as the only way to do december, but as one way which has worked for our family. it has helped keep things under control and helped keep that christmas wish list a little more realistic so that we truly can look outside of what's under our own tree and see the reality of others.

it's not only a good guideline, but comes as a catchy little rhyme making it easy to remember! we ask our kids to consider these four items and their four gifts:

something i want.
something i need.
something to wear.
something to read.

that's it. nothing too terribly earth shattering, but simple. easy. clear. and that's how our gift buying for our own children looks. times five kids, it's still a lot, but it has become a lot less chaotic and crazy in these years when we stick to this. and, no, we don't always adhere to it perfectly.  (my husband--especially--finds little ways around it).  =)  in addition to this formula, i should probably tell you we also try to do some kind of experience or family gift -- like, oh-my-gosh, a brand new puppy last year -- TUCKER!

again, i'm not saying this is the only way, but i do encourage you--especially you young mamas--to find freedom with a few good strategies which can help make your christmas more meaningful and your silent nights a little more sane.

those presents on our counter are for serenity. seriously, that's her name. and it's perfect. giving gifts and serenity do go hand in hand.

the very foundation of christmas began with a gift. the gift of a newborn babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. that gift is everything. it is all things. it is the only thing. and dear friends, we must do whatever it takes to keep that simple, extraordinary, most magnificent gift -- the message of our christmas morning.

"in character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."
                                                                                ~ henry wadsworth longfellow

No comments: