Giving that Hurts so Good

When many people think of Christmas, the first thought that comes to mind is presents, packages wrapped up crisp and neat in festive paper, be-ribboned, and tucked awaygift1 under the bows of the Christmas tree to mingle with the low hanging ornaments. Gone are the days when sugar plums danced in childrens’ heads and shrieks of glee could be heard over a stocking filled with an orange and a couple of candy canes. Now, it’s iPhones and PlayStation consoles cluttering up kids’ noggins and taxing parents’ already stretched bank accounts.

I was a greedy kid. When the Sears Wish Book arrived on our doorstep, we, my sister, brother, and I, were all over that thing like a woman with PMS on a family sized bag of M&Ms. We lovingly lingered on every page that pertained to us and went so far as to circle the items we were wishing for. I’m surprised I didn’t develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

I knew almost every year what I was getting, because I couldn’t tolerate the anticipation. I was simply incapable of living with the fact that there were secret things, gifts for me, gift12hidden somewhere in our home that I was not allowed to see until a predetermined date. When the season descended and the parents were out of the house or preoccupied, I got itchy. I rifled through the cupboards, belly crawled under the bed, climbed on things that never should be climbed upon, to find those gifts that were screaming at me in that high-pitched whistle that only dogs and little psycho kids can hear. One year, the parents must have gotten wise, because on Christmas Eve, I had to carefully tear at the taped seam on the underside of one of my presents to make sure they had gotten the message and that I would be happy come the grand opening.

To this day, I prefer cash to a surprise, tangible gift, which is strange, since I don’t particularly like shopping. Gifts are very personal and I’m picky. I don’t want another thing entering my home that’ll be stuffed in a drawer and donated in the end. I don’t buy things easily and don’t like to own things that I don’t absolutely adore or that don’t serve a purpose, because we all know that more things means more work and I don’t need any gift8more work!  If I’m going to possess something, I want it to be something that made me say, “Wow, I can’t live without that! I want to take it home!” I rarely find such things when I shop, which is more often than not on vacation, so I would never expect even my family to choose something that would please me.

Do we really know what other people like anyway? When we go out shopping for presents, don’t we tend to choose what we like? I think clothing is an especially difficult thing to purchase for someone else. I bought my sister a sweat suit one year, when that sort of thing was in, pink and lime green (I know. It sounds hideous). My sister is a brunette and I’m a blonde. I wore those colors, she didn’t. She never complained, but I saw her wearing it after Christmas and it completely washed her out. My husband bought me a t-shirt once that was given to his mother straight away. She was there at the time it was given and she liked it! I bought my brother a sweater and I never saw him wear it. When I saw his friend wearing it, I was crestfallen.

It’s not just the money we spend, but the actual work of procuring presents, the hours swallowed up wandering through a mall, the bombardment of our senses, the jumbled myriad of colors, textures, shapes, and types of things, the standing, shifting, and inching forward in long lines, the weary, frazzled, stinking masses of people pushing on all sides, gift10the greasy fast food gulping whilst vulture onlookers put dibs on your table, only to purchase things our family and friends neither need nor want. Doesn’t that description just fill you with peace, good will, and holiday cheer? No wonder online shopping is winning the consumer dollar tug of war.

It’s one thing when someone gives you a list with specific items on it and you purchase something from that list. There’s still a bit of a surprise, but there’s also satisfaction on both sides. In this society, most of us have more stuff than we know what to do with much less store, so to buy and give a gift without thought is unhelpful and wasteful. Especially, with those near and dear, we should be gracious enough to investigate. I’ve had the odd time where I’ve chosen something appropriate, without knowing preferences, that was received with joy, but this is the exception. Is it just me or do we all have trouble finding that perfect gift?

I’m wondering if we’ve forgotten the meaning behind the gift giving. Do we give gifts because we love each other or because it’s a tradition or it’s expected of us? Do the gifts we give actually reflect our love? For Christians, this is the time of year when we focus on the story of Christ’s birth. We remember the wise men. Yes, they gave the babe costly gifts, but they had to sacrifice beyond that one expense. There was no fast food, trains, planes, or automobiles in those days or GPS, for that matter. Traveling was undoubtedly physically and financially taxing, yet something compelled these people to pack up a gift3mule or a camel and follow a star, a tiny pin point in the sky, to trudge miles through lonely, arid places to worship a child they’d never seen. I rely heavily on my GPS even in the smallish city I live in. I get lost easily. Direction for me is right or left, not north, south, east, or west. I don’t know that I could have done what these fellows did. They may have found my dried up, sand-dusted corpse a few kilometers from my house. If we take our cue from the one who sacrificed it all, who gave his life for our salvation, wrapping himself in a blood-red ribbon that we might be cleansed, forgiven, and reunited with our loving Father, then shouldn’t that change the way we give? Wouldn’t giving gifts that cost us more than a twenty-dollar bill bring more meaning and true joy to our Christmas celebrations?

According to this article, which I recommend as it’s highly enlightening, purchasing pre manufactured items for the purposes of gift giving began because gift13businesses saw how they could use the custom of Christmas gift giving to increase their sales. That’s right. It all began because of greed! Before this, people made things, baked banana bread and cookies, knit mittens and scarves, whittled toys. They used their skills, their hands, and their resources, and gave up blocks of time to create something unique and personal. Some of the best, most cherished, presents I’ve ever received were made for me. I know there are people who still do this and we need to learn from them, but let’s not stop there. Let’s use our imaginations! A gift doesn’t have to be wrapped or even fit under the Christmas tree. Are you a good cook? Have someone over for dinner, like me, who hates to cook! Maybe you’re a particularly efficient housekeeper. Offer to do a top-to-bottom cleaning of a new mom’s home. Do some laundry for the harried working mother. Bring someone else’s kids along on a picnic for an afternoon so their parents can have break. Take a teen out for a burger and a blockbuster. Purchase an experience, two tickets to the symphony or a play, for a friend you’ve been longing to spend time with. Give a donation to a charity your friend supports in his name. Buy a therapeutic gift11massage or offer to give one to an exhausted caregiver. Do home maintenance, yard work, or shovel the walk for an elderly person. Get a group together to sing Christmas carols at an assisted living facility. It can be something as simple and life-changing as telling the people you care about what they mean to you. A heartfelt letter on beautiful paper filled with words of love and encouragement may become a rumpled treasure read over and over in the hands of a relative or friend. I would be happy to receive such a letter and nothing else!

Probably, what we all need more of is the gift of laughter. I don’t like Secret Santa parties and I’ve explained my reasons above, but I’m all for a White Elephant Party. I’m speaking of the type of party where guests are invited to hunt through their own hoards, no shopping or outlay of funds involved, to find the most ugly, tacky, or useless thing they possess, to wrap it up pretty, and bring it to the party. One year when I was invited to such a party, I was working as a dental assistant and the dentist I worked for allowed me to take an old upper denture he had hiding in the back of a drawer. You can imagine the response when that disgusting baby was revealed. Actual guffaws were had by all!

On one side of our family, we do our shopping, at least for the adults, on Christmas day. We read the Christmas story and then pore over World Vision catalogs with our children, picking out gifts for strangers who have so much less than we do. Each family decides gift6atogether what they can afford and, at the end, we pray and someone recounts the gifts we will send to friends across the sea.

Whatever you do this season, and I suspect many of you have already finished your Christmas shopping, I urge you to consider how you might include Jesus in your giving from now on. Think on the sacrifice our Lord made, casting aside his majesty, removing himself from the comfort and continual tenderness of the trinity, taking up the fragile form of an infant bedded down in a crude feeding trough. If we truly are Christ followers, every choice we make should be patterned after him. Yes, sacrificial giving, investing yourself in the gift before you give it, may cost you more, in the way of thought, time, and effort, but I wager to say the result will be worth it. May he, the supreme giver, infuse our lives with his love, power, provision, and creativity as we seek to emulate him at Christmastime and in every day of our lives.

 

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

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All I Want for Christmas is You

airjordanWant is rampant in our culture, particularly during the holiday season. I’m not talking about the want of poverty where people are subsisting on found food, begging for discards, and suffering and dying of starvation. I’m speaking of the disease of desire, the “must have more” mentality, the mission of acquisition.

If you live in a city, there is almost no way to escape the chatter of the advertisers. The promotion of paraphernalia is painted on vehicles, lettered on road signs, and blasted from billboards. The magazines we buy have become fancy fliers with more product placement than content.

What’s worse is that most of us willingly let it into our homes. The piles of papers that litter our floors tell us what supplies are available at a local level. Turn on your computer, radio, or television and you’ll be accosted by a steady stream of salespeople. The internet and infomercials have made it possible for us to shop the world while sitting around in our pajamas. The logos on our clothing, shoes, luggage, and appliances are there to remind us to return to their source when our want refreshes itself. I’ve been trying not to turn my refrigerator into a billboard, what with all the free magnets and notepads from businesses that appear in my mailbox.

Shopping is something that most of us do weekly, if not daily. With the commercialization of Christmas, we have taken a routine and ramped it up, turning it into a frenetic ritual fraught with anxiety. For those of us who believe that Christmas is about the unfathomable love of our creator who sent his Son to redeem our souls and reunite us with Himself, does this not sound wrong? We give gifts to express our love for each other. If someone gives me a nose hair twizzler, what exactly does she mean by this? Besides, how many times have you heard someone say, “I have no idea what to give her?” It’s because most of us have everything we need. If we want something, we go out and pick it up. We want. We want. We want. Things get ratty, go out of style, or get outdated, and we skitter off to our nearest and dearest retailer.

A number of years ago, we attended a function for a club our children are a part of at the church. They invited an Ethiopian man, Tad, to talk about his childhood in Africa. Hetubesock called the kids to the front to do a craft with him. One by one, they reached into bag he was carrying and pulled out a long tube sock. He then distributed a piece of paper each and instructed them to crumple and roll it into a round ball. We all helped with the fabrication. When they were finished, they were told to stuff the ball into the sock and they would have an Ethiopian sock-er ball.

I told my husband the whole exercise caused me to feel sad. The thought of all those beautiful African children kicking around a tube sock-er ball made me want to weep, until I saw what happened next. Our children began to play. Soon the gymnasium was raining tube sock-er balls. Shrieks and giggles bounced off the walls and upturned faces were brightened with joy.

Above the bustle, Tad reminded them to be grateful for whatever they received on Christmas day and to remember to use their imaginations to make their own fun. I was reminded again that Christmas, even life, is not about inanimate objects, but about the God who loves and blesses us and about people who use what they’ve been given to support, build up, and inspire each other. This is how we can honor each other, by giving ourselves away just as Jesus did. I’d rather have you than a lint shaver.

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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Out of the Mouths of Teens

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My son and his junior high band class played Christmas carols at City Hall one year. Before angeltinsel2they began, the band teacher turned around to explain that the students had only been together for a paltry few weeks. This was the first time, to my knowledge, that my son had played the saxophone. The teacher added that with the limited number of students and, consequently, instruments, the melody may be carried by instruments we were not accustomed to hearing carry the melody.
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Footprints in the Snow

For my husband

Walking together in the chill of a winter’s eve

Bodies craving warmth are bundled into obscurity

Breath hangs like icicles

You trudge on ahead

Diamonds sparkle at the crunch of your heavy boots

I follow sure-footed the glittering path you’ve made for me

I thank you for those footprints in the snow

For the many things you do for me

To make my life a little bit easier

 

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

In Praise of all Things Unusual

I’d rather be weird than boring

When I was first married, living in Edmonton, I used to ride my bike to work from the spring to the fall. Every day, I would pedal by a house where the occupants decorated their garage in a unique way. From the eaves to the floor on the one side, they had nailed garish flea market finds; brightly colored bric-a-brac, things with moving parts, bells, and chimes. My friend said it was ugly, but I was drawn to it. It was so odd and chaotic, it blared like a trumpet in a sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood. What possessed these people to start such a collection and then display it in such a public way?

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The Following is a Public Service Announcement for those Individuals who lead Incredibly Hectic Lives

I know who you are. You’re the ones who drive up behind me drinking your
overpriced, grande slew resembling coffee, with a shot of this and a shot of that, and oh, distracteddriving2yes, a  1/2 shot of that, too, please, chock full of sugar and cream, topped with sprinkles and a tiny umbrella, while clipping your toenails, and texting your BFF about the grave hangover that is at present causing you temporary blindness.
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Ban the Bully

I was living in Bismarck, North Dakota. I’d just moved from Sterling Heights, Michigan midway through the 5th grade. Over that summer, my parents bought a house in another community and any headway I’d made in the friend department was lost as I changed schools again. I was to attend Grimsrud Elementary School just around the corner and down a long hill from our new home.
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My Mother’s Dog

One of my pet peeves is people who don’t pick up after their pets. A walk in the spring is like tiptoeing through the pooch shit.

I had a dog once. The only reason we had a dog was because one of my mother’s clients offered it to us. It was a toy poodle. It was cute, especially when the groomers didn’t turn it into a topiary tree.
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My Children Have Me

For my children

I have children and my children have me

They have my body

They took from me to form

The bricks and mortar of their frames

All mine

They grew inside

And forced their way into the world

And took me with them

 

They have my time

My resources are theirs

Their sustenance and shelter

Come at my expense

My help, consistent and intense

They flourish in the wake of all my tenderness

I carry and support them

 

They have my mind

My thoughts are oft of them

Their lives, their health and happiness

My meditation

Now become my true vocation

They learn and try, excel and make mistakes

And I applaud them

 

They have my heart

They had it from the first

My love for the them far from a wispy, passing notion

More like a sure devotion

No matter where or who they are

I cannot help but love them

 

They have my cells, my time, my care, my mind, my money, and my love

My listening ear

My best advice

My fervent prayers

My biggest hugs

There’s not a day that passes by

That I don’t thank the Lord above

That I have children and my children have me

 

Complete the experience. Listen to Amy Sky’s I Will Take Care of You.

Posts come out every Monday morning, a poem every third Monday. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to receive notifications of my posts via email. Follow me on Instagram username: pollyeloquent. Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

Thanks or No Thanks?

As I write this, I’m thinking of some of you slumped into your couches, warm and dozy, bellies full and rounded, resting in the company of your loved ones. Canada, did you have a happy Thanksgiving?
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