Well, for those of you who have been reading my blog a while and know that I usually do something called "Sunday Dinner" (scripture served with a dessert of music), I won't be able to do it till I'm home. My playlist is only accessible in certain countries and apparently Guatemala isn't one of them. So for now it's going to be nacho night--this and that sprinkled on fragments of my life (I hope I don't give you indigestion).
We had a nice day today. It helps when we're able to do something fun. The coming week will be all business so we went to the zoo with Angela (another adopting mom), her adoptive son Alex and bio. son Joshua, and Tim (an adopting dad) and adoptive son Max. There are animals at this zoo that I'll probably never get to see anywhere else so it was a real treat.
Daniel delighted in every furry and feathered creature we saw--his favorites were a baby ocelote, the lions, and the monkeys. My favorites were the giraffes, the baby ocelote, and a cute little monkey named Daniel.
As we were leaving, Daniel asked for a stuffed animal to snuggle with at night (stuffed friends weren't allowed at his orphanage because of problems with lice). He picked a monkey that has a baby monkey attached to its back. I just tucked them in bed. So precious. I'm so glad he hasn't outgrown the need to cuddle.
Well, while I'm sharing "this and that" . . . I was bummed that I couldn't attend my church women's tea yesterday. I was supposed to speak and, well, haven't been able to figure out time travel, so I wrote something for the gathering and my sweet friend Amy read it for me. The theme of the tea was "What Can I Give?" I'm posting it below for anyone who couldn't be there and anyone else who finds gift-giving stressful.
As always, thanks for your love, prayers, and encouragement.
The Ultimate Gift Exchange
My blood pressure begins to rise as soon as the Christmas decorations appear at the mall. I know I should feel joy and peace in celebrating the season, but instead I feel a knot in my stomach. (Or perhaps it’s that Cinnabon I just inhaled.)
Anyway, the stress I’m feeling is simply the worry over not finding the perfect gift for every person on my list. I’ve actually been known to buy a gift, get it home and have gift-buyer’s remorse, and return it for something else. There’s a customer service gal at Target who knows me by name. She recommends gift cards for my affliction.
Can you imagine if the three wise men had been three wise women? They would have agonized over the gifts for the Baby Jesus. I can hear them now.
“We don’t really know his size,” comments Wise Woman One. “What if we get him an outfit and he’s already outgrown it.”
Then Wise Woman Two pipes up: “Remember that he’s been wearing nothing but swaddling clothes. I’m sure anything would be appreciated. If you enclose a gift receipt, they can always exchange it.”
Wise Woman Three expresses her opinion: “I think we should go with something personalized. Maybe something engraved with his name and birth date.”
Wise Woman Two reminds: “But we aren’t really certain of the actual date. Reading the stars can be so unpredictable and apparently Mary hasn’t gotten around to sending out a birth announcement.”
Well, you see how this could have been a disaster. Can you imagine the nativity set with one wise woman holding a gift receipt, another a Target bag, and another with a monogramed onesie. But if Biblical times are anything like modern day, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were probably bought and wrapped by the wise men’s wives anyway.
These days it’s all about having the perfect holiday, perfect decorations, perfect menu, and perfect gift, . . . it’s easy to fall into the trap that anything less is unworthy. I admit that I’m prone to HGTVism. But several years ago, one of my kiddos helped me see gift giving in a different way.
It was when Olivia was about 4 years old and was invited to one of her first birthday parties at a neighbor’s house. We were new to the neighborhood and Abby was her first little buddy. I remember displaying the invitation on the fridge and Olivia counting down the days on the calendar. We went to the store for the sole purpose of finding Abby the perfect gift. I don’t remember exactly what it was but remember it was an odd shape of plastic and cardboard packaging that would be a challenge to wrap.
I tried to talk Olivia into going with a gift bag (in my opinion it’s an invention right up there with electricity). But, no, she had picked out some princess wrapping paper and was determined to wrap it herself.
We got the item home and, as all good obsessive-compulsive disorder mommies would do, I tried to assist her efforts. She looked up with those big brown eyes and said, “Mommy, this is MY gift to Abby. I want to wrap this all by myself.”
She cut with her safety scissors and folded the paper carefully around the corners of the package. She secured that sucker with a thousand pieces of tape to make sure there was no chance of Abby seeing the surprise before it was time. But that was not enough. She searched through our box of stickers and adorned the package with an adhesive assortment of American flags, cartoon kittens, and red and pink hearts. And the final touches were sequins and feathers glued on top. And it looked . . . like it was in pain. Although the attached card read “To Abby, From Olivia” all I could see was “Help Me!”
It sat overnight on our dining room table. (However it’s hard to remember a time in my life that a birthday gift wasn’t bought on the way to a party and wrapped at red lights.) Brad saw the explosion of paper, tape, and feathers and commented: “It’s taking every bit of your will power not to rewrap it--isn‘t it?”
I blurted out: “Oh, how badly I want to! This is the first gathering with our new neighbors and we show up with THIS. I have beautiful paper and an assortment of curling and wired ribbons and cute little trimmings for the top. I could have done this present in plaid and polka dotted perfection!!!! What if they laugh at Olivia when she brings in her gift? But she is so proud of it, I just can’t rewrap it without breaking her heart.”
Well, we left for the party the next morning. Olivia insisted on carrying the gift. I was relieved because I didn’t want any credit for the gift-wrapped nightmare. We walked in to see a table of gifts that looked like they were taken from a Hallmark ad. I began to pray, “Oh, please God, don’t let anyone laugh at Olivia.”
Olivia ran to the birthday girl and handed Abby the gift. Liv was beaming ear to ear and said, “This is for you. I picked it out and wrapped it all by myself.” It was the longest pause at a birthday party I can remember (with the exception of a shindig where a tray of red-iced Elmo cupcakes spilled onto new white carpet). But Abby’s response was worth all the goodie bags in the world: “It’s soooooo beautiful!!! I love it!” All the other moms saw what was going on and piped up with “oh, I love the feathers, and, wow, that’s a great use of tape.”
It then occurred to me that the most precious gifts aren’t necessarily the ones that are perfectly packaged. They are the ones that are given with the greatest love. The most beautiful gift of song isn’t necessarily Celine Dion backed with a full orchestra . . . it’s a choir of children praising the Lord off-key. The most precious jewelry isn’t found in a blue box from Tiffany’s . . . it’s a necklace made from macaroni noodles delivered with a sticky kiss. And the most special gift isn’t one of extravagance . . . it’s one of complete sacrifice.
As I long to give myself as an offering to the only One who is perfect, I often feel like Olivia’s odd-shaped package . . . I want so badly to be a perfect reflection of my Creator yet most days I’m a mess of tape and feathers and poorly chosen stickers. I’m broken and flawed . . . how could a King so perfect love a servant so imperfect? What could I possibly give that shows the extent of my love for Him?
And then I remember Romans 5:8. The words move me to tears. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)
Wow. He loved me as a sinner. Undeserving of grace. An offering of brokenness. Yet His gift to me was the sacrifice of Perfection, beautifully nailed to the cross.
So as you think about what you can give your King . . . give out of love, out of sacrifice, without concern of imperfections, without thought of what others will think of your humble offering. Don’t be a wise woman seeking a perfect gift for a perfect King. Be a living macaroni necklace delivered with a sticky kiss for your Heavenly Father.