This year, I pray that I may be content in the stable. That I may find beauty in the meekness of a humble manger and not try to manufacture it everywhere else. Jesus is easily found in spaces untouched by the desire to put our own greatness on display. I have to be careful not to hide him.
For December’s installment of Want, NEED, Wear, Read, I’ve put together a gift guide for those wanting to de-consumerfy (google it) Christmas.
But the older I get (and the more children I have), the more tension I feel at Christmastime. How do I create the perfect Christmas without making it all about a mythical being and gifts? How do I strike a balance between nauseating consumerism and fun-sucking religion?
In a season that so easily overwhelms, how can I slow down, lower my expectations, and point to the manifestation of Grace and Love in a way that excites my kids and blesses others?
Several years ago, the diamond fell out of my mom’s wedding ring and was lost forever. Being a family of educators, my parents weren’t really in the position to run down to the jewelry store and pick up a diamond. The obvious fix was to replace it with a cubic zirconia gemstone and wait it out until a diamond became a more feasible option.
That day came last month. I went down to the jeweler’s with my mom to decide between an oval or round cut (oval… looked bigger, duh), before heading to McDonald’s, your typical post-diamond-purchase restaurant. While I sat in the car in the parking lot and fed Hattie, my mom and I mulled over our guilt: why do we care? WHY does it matter? Why do rings and diamonds and presents and flowers and material things matter? Why do we even want them?
Clark and I just wrapped up our fourth Christmas as a married couple, the third in which we didn’t buy gifts for each other. I’ve always felt a little sad about this but never wanted to admit it. I don’t need anything. So WHY do I want him to get me something? Aren’t I being materialistic, selfish, greedy?
The week after Christmas, this thought continued to nag me. Why do I care? Because my husband doesn’t care. He finds it completely wasteful. He has everything he needs. He doesn’t need another gift. So why do I want one?? Am I really that selfish and worldly?
Wives, if you are like me, then you’ve had this internal debate. Hear me out on this, and then you tell me. Maybe it’s not about the gift, but more about what the gift represents.
So husbands, these are 5 reasons your wife wants a gift:
1. She wants to know you know her. She wants to know that you know what she likes, what she doesn’t like, what she wears, what she reads, what she craves, what she pines after. She wants to know that she’s not just a forgotten appendage, something you need and like but sometimes forget about. She wants to know you pay attention, even now.
2. She wants to know she’s worth it. Not the money. It’s not about the money. Really. She wants to know she’s worth the time and energy. It seems like all of that is given to the kids these days. You don’t expend much on each other. This is your chance to prove to each other that you’re willing to go out of your way and spend time you don’t have to bless one another.
3. She wants to know you sacrificed… for her. She wants to know you gave up a night of SportsCenter to go to the mall, a place you detest. Or even just ten minutes of SportsCenter to order something online. We’ll take that.
4. She doesn’t want y’all to forget about “us”. When you get married, romance can wane. When you have kids, romance gets pooped on, spit up on, and then forgets to take a shower. Romance tends to wear pajamas all day and doesn’t have time for makeup. It takes concerted, purposeful effort now to remind each other that you really do love and appreciate one another. A lot. Christmas tends to be all about the kids, which is mostly our fault, but let’s not forget about us. At some point, even if it’s just for thirty seconds in between tantrums and feedings, let’s just focus on you and me.
5. She wants your kids to see it. She wants your kids to see that passion and romance and desire don’t die when you get married. Can you do this a million other different ways throughout the year? Yes. And I hope you do. But she wants your children to know that y’all aren’t just parents, you’re also lovers (Gross. I can’t believe I just used that word). You love to shower each other with affection, and sometimes that may come in the form of a gift.
And let me be clear: she wants to do all these things for you too. She wants you to see that she knows you. She wants you to know that you’re totally worth obsessing over the perfect gift for months. She wants you to open her gift and be floored by her thoughtfulness, to feel like she really pays attention to you. She wants you to feel LOVED, even if it’s mostly her love language. You can speak a foreign love language, right?
So wives, do you feel me? Husbands, do you? It’s not about spending a lot of money. I don’t expect a red-ribbon adorned Lexus in the driveway. In fact, I might be a little upset. Merry Christmas, here’s some debt. If you wrote a long letter about how thankful you were for your marriage, we might cry those happy tears. And that’s FREE. Husbands like that word.
Let’s just set these expectations out on the table. It simplifies things doesn’t it. We want something. Nothing big. Just something. Something that says you love us. Something that says you went out of your way for us because you cared about making us feel adored.
And maybe in return you’ll get a little som’n som’n too… 😉
Like a necktie. Cufflinks. Boxers. Something.
Christmas is over, and I just have to say… Christmas is the best. I mean, really.
I love Christmas year-round, but because of my pregnancy-induced short-term memory loss, I always forget why. But as December approaches my memory is jogged by the Salvation Army greeting me at each door, my mail arriving full of letters, ACTUAL, hand-addressed, letters, children singing at the annual Christmas pageants, all the Christmas lights winking at me as I drive, and just people in general being more joyful, giving, helpful, dare I say Christ-like — like the whole “you better watch out” thing had some sort of Pavlovian effect on us all.
I’ve always considered Christmas to be what dreams are made of. Growing up (well… up until last year…), I spent Christmas at my grandparents’ with all my (seemingly) hundreds of aunts, uncles, and cousins crammed into a three bedroom, two bathroom ranch-style home. We would play hide-and-go-seek with our “other cousins” — the family across the street — until everyone was too old and out of shape. Our last year there, we had multiplied to 37ish people. Sounds awful, but it was Christmas paradise. A part of me melted last year when, due to my grandparents passings, we spent our first Christmas with just my immediate family. My husband thinks I’m crazy for being so sentimental, probably because I’m usually not. I don’t feel nostalgic about much. But don’t mess with my Christmas.
I have memories of staying up, no lie, ALL NIGHT LONG. I wasn’t trying to sneak a peek at Santa or catch him in the act. I was much too wussy to do that. I would just lay there watching the minute hand creep around the clock. The impending excitement of Christmas morning kept my brain from settling into any sort of REM cycle. Being the second-youngest cousin, I was always relegated to the recliner. This meant that as soon as I would fall into a shallow snooze, my body would relax, allowing the recliner to pop back up into the original position with a WHAM! Maybe that’s why I never slept.
I believed in Santa for a long time. Like, until 4th grade… Okay, 5th grade. But, in my defense, “Santa” really pulled a fast one on me. When I was in 4th grade, and REALLY cool, I wrote the following letter to Santa and proceeded to “throw it into the wind” … because Santa is magic, and if he exists, he will obviously get it without the help of the USPS.
A couple of weeks later, I received a reply in the mail from the North Pole in a green and red striped envelope. Santa wrote me back. And Rudolph left his hoof print at the bottom of the letter.
Mind. Blown. He does exist.
Imagine the elation of a 10-year-old preparing to prove all her classmates dead wrong. Imagine that 10-year-old taking that letter to school the next day and passing it around from student to student, standing at the front of the class and retelling the riveting story of how “Rudolph even stamped his hoof print at the bottom of the page! Just like I asked! He must be real!” I wonder what all those kids were thinking. You KNOW there were children staring through slitted eyes whose parents had dropped the big Claus-bomb about three years prior.
Several years later, I met the man who sent me that letter in the mail. Apparently, someone found it in the street that day and put it in the mailbox. The man who wrote the return letter was a friend of my parents. He worked at the post office and did it as a personal favor to them. My mom later told me that when I showed it to her, screaming with delight, she feigned excitement as she reeled over the fact that I was going to believe in Santa FOR.EV.ER. She told me the next year. It’s okay. It was time.
Armed with my newfound wisdom, that next Christmas felt like my first steps into adulthood, like that was my bat mitzvah… in Christian form… but somewhat sacrilegious. A symbol of coming into my womanhood, leaving Santa, and my childhood self, with the ghosts of Christmas past.
So now, I’m perpetuating the lie through my own offspring. But I don’t think of it as much of a lie, as I do the joy, excitement, and suspense that I craved as a child. I liked Christmas a lot more when I was being dooped. Well, until I became a mom. I’ve taken on the role of “Dooper” with a spirited Christmas swagger. Yes, we’re a Santa family. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Merry Christmas everyone! Hope yours was full of all the good things.