(Note: This is not unusual for me. Every year I have high expectations. It’s the one holiday the US and Australia share in date and in tradition. Christmas, for me, is an annual connection with my past with my family. So, Christmas is really important for me. But this year, the expectations grew to a whole new level…)
This was my “first” Christmas. My first time as family Christmas CEO. We are typically with my husband’s family for Christmas but this year the plan was to stay home.
It was our first time to establish traditions for our own little family. My first time to use traditions from Australia and from my childhood. My first time to unravel the 15 years of bandages I’ve wrapped around my tender homesick heart. (Have I really been here for 15 Christmases?!)
Fifteen years of dreams. And here it was: my chance to make them all come true. I was ready to use elements from my childhood, my family traditions, and Australian traditions. I wanted special foods. lots of gifts, and special decorations. I was oh-so-ready for my “first” Christmas.
Except, it was not just “my” Christmas. It was my husband’s Christmas and our children’s. And my husband’s parents were coming to spend it with us, so it was their Christmas too.
Except, our income covers our basic needs, not Christmas dreams.
Except, no amount of recreating my childhood would reclaim the Christmases I have lost with my parents and sister.
There was too much riding on this Christmas. My expectations were ridiculous.
So, I forced myself to unclasp my grip on Christmas and deal with my emotions. Of course, it was the right thing to do. As a wise friend once told me: you have to grieve what you thought you had, so you can love what you do have.
It was good. I got to sift through my heart and find the things that really mattered. My husband and I got to talk about his dreams for Christmas. And we, together, got to purposefully plan for our little family’s Christmas celebrations. Of course, as we talked we found ourselves moving away from “family” traditions and talked more about Faith and relationship with God, about Church gatherings and Scripture, about giving gifts and sharing life.
Christmas is not a Biblical holiday but a man-made remembrance. I love having this blank canvas for the artistry of our Faith and family. And so, my husband and I worked out a plan within our budget. Not the awesome 15-year dream Christmas… but still good. (Yes, yes. I know: It really doesn’t matter what we do as long as we have love and joy. My head knows it… it’s my heart that isn’t convinced.) Slowly but surely, I made peace with my non-dreamy but still lovely Christmas.
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Can I just say, I would like to stop right here? This is a good story. And it has a great moral: love what you have.
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But there’s more… sigh. And it’s very humbling.
I would have been happy with our “non-dreamy Christmas.” It would have been a wonderful time of celebrating Emmanuel: God with us.
The Truth is: God is enough. Who He is. His love for me. My Life in Him. Is enough. Should be enough. He is more than enough.
And yet, this Christmas Yahweh did something very kind to me. Very intimate. Very personal. He gave me a gift: Christmas.
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A Lengthy Epilogue
(Optional reading. For those who really like to know the stories behind stories. Seriously, continue reading at your own risk.)
As I was sorting through my swirling emotions and years of baggage, some amazing things happened:
– The gift of a Christmas tree. We found a coupon for a real tree for $14.99 and the kids and I had so much fun decorating. It might sound silly to you, but having a Christmas tree each year is deeply rooted in my journey with God. He knows, having a Christmas tree is one of my Christmas essentials because it literally brings my Australian Christmas to life. A few years ago, when we were on extremely limited income, a gorgeous tree and trimmings literally arrived on our doorstep. It was a defining moment for my relationship with God. I had been crying and crying out to Him as my homesick heart ached for Christmas joy. Christmas trees are a symbol for me that only He knows the depth of. Finding a tree each year is now firmly rooted in my journey with God. And finding a trying for $14.99 is a silly but beautiful reminder of His love for me.
– The gift of Christmas dinner. A dear friend gave us a grocery card. My husband, amazing cook and “acts of service” guy, got to dream up a special menu to serve his family and parents. Food, or more to the point the “fear of the lack of food,” is an issue in my life. As a child and teen, my family went through some very difficult times and food turned up on our doorstep many times. Those times gave me a strong faith for His provision, but also a tension of fear. For me, food is a symbol of security, stability and peace. God has walked me through a journey of trust in this area. He knew that by filling our home with food for Christmas, He was speaking to the deepest part of my heart.
– The gift of gifts for our children. Our church family gave our kids Christmas gifts and we qualified for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program. There were so many gifts for the kids, I actually gave some away! My “love language” used to be gift giving. When I was very young, I created Christmas gifts for my whole family by taking food from the fridge and putting it in decorated shoeboxes. By Christmas Day (in the tropics), the food was moldy and I remember so clearly my mum gently encouraging my gift-giving whilst speaking correction and direction about the source of my gifts. Not the fridge. Not taking without asking. Needless to say, the next year we made a family trip to a department store and with a ten-dollar-budget-in-total I picked out gifts for my family. I LOVE giving gifts. I said that my love language used to be gift giving. With limited finances, gift giving has lost its joy. I’ve tried hand-making things on the cheap but, despite the birth of pinterest, my creativity has run dry. That to say, my heart was giddy with excitement to have a tree surrounded with gifts to give my children. Once again, my Father God whispered His great love for me. He sees me and knows my heart. So humbling. So affirming. What a generous, personal, merciful God He is.
– The gift of giving. Another dear friend gave me beads and pearls for my jewelry making. Yet another friend gave us another grocery gift card. With these, we were able to make and buy gifts for our dearest friends and my husband’s parents. As I said, I love giving gifts. My husband is also a gift giver. His story is very different to mine, however. He is not a normal every day garden-variety gift giver. My husband is a gift giver of grand proportions. He loves to give the world to the people he loves. It is very difficult for him to think of gifts to give people, because all of his ideas have outrageous price tags. If he could, he would buy houses for everyone he loves. He would own a jet and give people trips to amazing places. He would ease financial pains and fill lives with joy. His dreams are huge and awesome. He is a wonderful man. Sadly, his gift giving heart doesn’t have the financial room to spread its wings. Except this year something of epic smallness happened: he wanted to give people gourmet popcorn. Funny, I know, but you should know it’s the best popcorn ever. AND, he actually thought of a gift that was under a million dollars! We had so much fun giving that silly popcorn. Our Father God invested in our ability to bless others. It was a taste of what our dreams for Christmas are: to thank and bless the people we love.
Christmas 2012 Summary: High expectations, let go. New vision, embraced. Dreams of my heart-of-hearts, come true.