Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Beggar

Am I the only one that clings more and more tightly to my identity as a child the older I get?  And maybe (certainly) it has nothing to do with my getting older, and everything to do with my parents getting older.  Trips back home to Kansas and big meals together have always felt like they would last forever.  Until now.  It has finally dawned on me that there is far less time ahead than behind. 

We usually only make it home twice a year, so we typically exchange Christmas gifts while we're there for Thanksgiving.  Only this year, there was no exchange because I brought nothing to exchange.  I thought working was my excuse, but my sister and sister-in-law both have three kids and work full-time and had beautifully wrapped presents for all.  Excuse B?  Ugh.  Empty-handed, again.  "Hey!  Can these school pictures of the boys be everyone's Christmas gift?  I can write their age and grade on the back."  Lame.

In discussing my empty-handedness with my parents, the "burden" of time and money that Christmas often carries came up.  If everybody buys for everybody, we're up to twenty-two on one side alone!  We talked about misplaced materialism (if there's ever a good place for it), and how it overshadows the celebration of Christ's birth.  Meanwhile, our desire for simplicity remains frustrated. 

Before I had children, this effort to maintain simplicity played out as gifts for grandchildren, but nada for their parents.  They were grown, after all.  The only problem was it didn't go over very well.  I wanted to passionately condemn the selfish grown-up kid-now-parent, but I couldn't.  Honesty prevailed.

I'm a grown woman with my own children, and I'm embarrassed to say it, but "I don't want to be left out."  Not by my parents.  Siblings?  Fine.  Friends?  No problem.  Boys?  To be expected.  Husband?  Different story, but not the point here...

There are only three people who know me as a daughter (I am very blessed to have a step-mom, who has been a mother to me in every way).  Four people know me as sister and some as friend, but the rest of the world knows me as a wife and mother.  Most of the time, my identity is as a member of my family.  Most of the time, I'm okay with that.  Thrilled about it even.  But, while I have parents living on this earth, I want to be remembered as their daughter...That person who existed before she married and bore children.  That girl who sat on laps, napped in the closet, pooped by the apricot tree, and loved Smurfs. 

As a mother, I pray that I will always have the desire to recognize and remember my sons as individual gifts from God, particularly on their birthday and at Christmastime.  Whether they become priests, husbands and fathers, businessmen or bums, part of their identity will be as a child of mine.  I want to honor that.

I'm not saying I need lavish gifts or great gestures.  I don't.  But, seeing a gift tag with my name on it, in their handwriting, means everything to me.  The gift tag could be on a pack of lifesavers or a diamond necklace.  Whatever it is doesn't matter.  It symbolizes their thought of love for me - plucked from a particular moment in time and placed gently in the hands of many moments.  Exactly the number of moments that exist while I gaze upon, eat, wear, use, or remember it.

I recognize my hypocrisy and feel embarrassed needing this from my parents.  My gifts are often crappy and always late.  I don't have money, very little time, and every created object seems a mockery of the depth of my love for them.  Besides that, they don't seem to need anything from me.  I don't understand their selflessness.  Until I consider my own children, that is.  I don't need anything from them, either.  I don't need their gifts to understand their love.  Their Dad and I gave it to them in the first place.

So, how does the mother-in-me achieve simplicity, while not depriving the little-girl-in-me of her desire to be loved and remembered?

I think she starts by being honest in admitting her need, which she has done.  From here, I 'll probably bring everybody in on the conversation (if only they'd read my blog!), and see how it goes.  As for Christmas within my four walls, I got an awesome bit of advice from a co-worker today.  She said some families keep Christmas simple by ascribing to the following criteria for gifts.  Each person can ask for four things:

   1.  Something you want
   2.  Something you need
3.  Something to wear
4.  Something to read
(Yes, it rhymes!)  
"Boys, Santa is scaling back this year!" 
Until then, it feels good to name my desire for simplicity and love (especially from my parents at Christmastime) .  On one hand, it is humbling because life is more comfortable when you can meet all of your own needs.  But, on the other hand, it seems like God's perfect design that we are not what we wish to be - sufficient unto ourselves.  As our parents model God's love for us, we are right in knowing that we can never outgrow it.    
Dear Heavenly Father of my parents and me,
Thank you for days to celebrate gratitude, families to share them with, and people willing to do the lion's share of the work to make it possible!  Thank you for my parents, whose love is the closest thing to your love that I know.  Please bless them for their fidelity to You and their generosity with me.  Please forgive my selfishness, and the imperfection of my love, and grant me the grace to improve upon it.  Please comfort and guide all children whose parents have gone ahead of them, and feel orphaned or alone.  Finally, Lord, please show me how to achieve the desire for simplicity You have placed upon my heart, as I remember and await the First Coming of Baby Jesus alongside Mary and Joseph.  Thank you for all.  Amen.