The other day, I sat in mom and dad’s living room and began recalling my childhood Christmases. The subject came up when I told Anna about the time each of my parents thought the other was buying my presents. We call it “the Christmas my parents forgot me.” Their only child. Just one. Me. It’s actually one of my dad’s favorite Christmas stories to tell. Well, besides the one when dad asked me when I was a little girl to tell him if the lights on the tree were working. “Now they are. Now they aren’t. Now they are. Now they aren’t.” I didn’t realize they were blinking lights. My mom, however, hates the story of forgetting me. She was a flight attendant then, and her schedule was crazy. But, dad and I have laughed about that Christmas so many times. I was older, and I got it. I wasn’t hurt or disappointed. But, I laughed. (And, I caught my dad later that day writing a check to stick inside my stocking.) I wasn’t disappointed, because everything I ever could have needed or wanted from my parents I received. I’m not talking about the things. I’m talking about the relationships. The love. The real stuff that doesn’t get old or break or fade.
After I told Anna that story, I began remembering all of my Christmases when I was a little girl. I remembered the Christmas morning I got Dolly Pops. I had wanted those for a solid year. I remember the Christmas where Ken and Barbie were sitting on their Barbie horses, and another Barbie was taking a dip in her pool that mom filled with water. I remembered the Christmas I opened up a my burgundy velvet blazer and navy blue tie. I guess I was channelling my inner Diane Keaton that year. I began to tell my parents and my own children that while I knew my Christmases weren’t “big” by most standards, they always felt big. Dad was pastoring a small church on a very modest income. They couldn’t do the big. But, I told them, “It always felt big. They were the best Christmases.”
I watched tears stream down my mom’s face. Did she not know that they always felt big and were so perfect to me? Did she not know that I never felt slighted growing up but, instead, only loved every part of what the season brought our family? The peace, the smiles, the joys, the laughs, the hugs, the thank-yous, the blinking lights?
Last night, I sat in my own living room with my two oldest children who are hardly children anymore. John Henry looks at me and says, “Mom, can you give my big presents to another kid this year or is that not an option?” Later Anna says, “Mom, last Christmas was great. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves presents. But, I don’t want so many gifts taking up our time together.” Then, in her hilarious Donald Trump voice she said, “I’m going to build a wall around the tree and gifts.” (Seriously, her Trump impression rivals only that of Alec Baldwin.)
“I want to make space between the gifts and this,” she said, stretching her arms toward John Henry and me. “There is nothing I need. I just want this.”
Did I not know that my kids simply loved every part of what the season brought our family? The peace, the joys, the laughs, the hugs, the thank-yous, the lights that do not blink? Not the things that get old or break or fade. The relationships. The love. The real stuff.
In all of your hectic shopping, your worry over if you have bought enough, done enough, given enough….Pause, stop, breathe. Your kids will have more than they need or want because of YOU. Because, you laugh in the kitchen together while making Chex-mix. Because, you put away your phones and look them in the eyes and listen to them. Because, you take a break from homework and laundry and cry together watching This Is Us. (Have mercy, that show is everything right now.) Because, they watch you say something encouraging to their dad. Because, they watch their dad bring their mom coffee. Because, they see stockings for John Henry’s dad and step-mom hung at my parents’ house. Because, they see what love looks like. How it walks, how it talks, how it moves, how it pauses, how it gives.
Make space between the gifts and this. Fill that space with everything you are. Fill that space absorbing everything your children are. That’s what a big Christmas looks like. Make space for the season. Make space for the real stuff that doesn’t break. But for the stuff that gets you through your hardest seasons. The stuff that assures you that God is always for you and will not fail you. The stuff that reminds you to always make space for forgiveness, for gratitude, and for loving well. The stuff that reminds you that YOU ARE ENOUGH and you are amazing and you are INSANELY loved. Make space for that stuff. Nothing else matters. It’s all about your relationships. I can assure you of that.