The Barbie Camper. The Love Pup. A horse, horse calender, horse socks, soft blanket with a horse on it, Breyer horses, miniature blown glass horse, horse and buggy ride, horse show tickets. Cookbooks. Coffee Mugs. These are a few of my favorite things, some of the best gifts I’ve ever received. So many more times I’ve been thrilled when opening presents but sadly I cannot recall every gift that made me respond that way.
I’ve always loved celebrations that include gift giving. Receiving is great, but investigating, buying, wrapping, anticipating, and giving are just as great. Selfishly what is not great this 2017 Christmas is the lack of family that will gather together on Christmas day. Nurses work every day of the year and my two favorite nurses will be taking care of sick humans on Christmas day. And my mother, the person who initiated all the joy of the season for me from earliest memory will not be here either. It is a very rare Christmas that has not included my mom and dad. My father now resides in the place Jesus prepared for him so he’s off the hook. Again, o-so-selfishly, I would rather have him at my house or be at his previous house by the lake. My mother will be with some of her other kids as she had an invitation to Thanksgiving in Colorado and for Christmas in Iowa. Those siblings of mine got to her first. I did not realize there would come a time when I had to get in line to have Mother Mary at my celebration table, but now I know. Not so selfishly, I am thrilled that she has all the invitations.
When I married my hubby the summer 1986, I got the best gift ever from Mother Mary right before all of the holiday celebrations began. She said: “Laura, you will always be invited but never be obligated to celebrate with us.” I received that gift when young and naive to the dilemma of having multiple families and family members wanting to do the same things on the same days, so many of those days being holidays. It did get overwhelming sometimes, not being able to say no or change traditions or handle missing out on everything or upsetting people. One year, we just decided the best way to tackle the complexity of the season’s relational demands was to simply run away to Disneyland. That my friends, was not the best idea we ever had. My observation of Disneyland on Christmas day, is that a mass of humans decide to tackle the complexity of the season’s relational demands and run away to Disneyland. I mean, if you are into holding hands and walking single file through ten million of your favorite strangers, doubling the amount of time waiting for rides, and misplacing your child in the Disney bathrooms, then go for it.
We’ve figured out a few things since then. No more running away. There are better ideas.
Here’s a tip for thriving this season of celebration: Acceptance. Practice it. John Ortberg (one of my favorite preacher/writers) defines acceptance like this: “A remarkable action, difficult to define, yet unmistakeable when we experience it. To accept people is to be for them. It is to recognize that it is a very good thing they are alive and to long for the best for them. It does not mean to approve of everything they do. It means to want what is best for their soul no matter what they do.” (From Everybody’s Normal Until You Get To Know Them)
Family gatherings are heading into full swing the next week or so. It will be fun. It might be messy. There may be a 2017 version of crazy making, awkward, not-again, arrrggghhhh, moments with those you are related to by birth, by in-law, by distant cousin status, or something more complex than that. This year try a little acceptance in place of trying to change people, or hoping they changed this year. In fact, maybe the very best gift you can give is to grant permission for your celebrations to be less than perfect. That my friends, is a reasonable expectation for people who are.
I just opened up a box from my mom. It is full of homemade goodness – more than one kind of Chex Mix, granola, Grandma Rozie’s brown bread made in the coffee can and more. A very delicious and memory stimulating gift as we are apart this year. What I am giving her? I’m giving back the gift she gave me over thirty years ago. Mom – you are always invited, but never obligated.
But in all selfishness – I get her in 2018. I’m first in the asking line people.
Merry Christmas Everyone
Laura Beth DeGroot – The Caffeinated Woman