Gifts

I’m at an interesting place in my life. My kids are (mostly) grown so Christmas at our house is different, now. It doesn’t seem that many years ago that I scoured the store aisles for the elusive White Power Ranger or the perfect Cabbage patch doll. We would make a late night trip to Wal-greens to get those last few things to put in the stockings and stay up late to assemble and wrap gifts long after the children are asleep. Those times are in my past. I still look for that perfect Christmas gift for each of my kids, but some of the excitement is gone.

Now, my kids are asking ME what I want for Christmas. And, I have a hard time coming up with any ideas. I’d rather give gifts and see the smiles and enjoyment that get “stuff” for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like gifts. I prefer gifts from the heart that truly mean something to both parties. When Terry and I were first married, there wasn’t much money to spend on each other for Christmas. So, we agreed to spend only $25 each on stocking stuffers. We had so much fun that year trying to be creative and maybe a bit practical, that we continued the tradition in the following years. My grown children still get stuff in their stockings. My daughter has told me on more than one occasion that her Christmas stocking is the best part of Christmas.

I’ve accepted over the years that it’s not the biggest or most expensive gift that matters. The gifts that mean the most are those that speak the recipients love language. The one thing Terry gave me that I will always remember was ear plugs. Now most people wouldn’t be excited about foam ear plugs. But, Terry snored. Snored LOUDLY. That package of ear plugs meant he was really paying attention to me. He listened and understood when I spoke. He was speaking my primary love language of Quality Time with his gift. He also touched on my close 2nd love language: Words of Affirmation. When I opened the ear plugs he told me that I was important to him.

I am a gift giver. And I don’t always get the right gifts for others. But my prayer for 2014 is this: I will be more attuned to the love languages of those that I care about and I will meet their needs this year. That I will demonstrate it’s not all about the gifts. It’s about caring and sharing and loving the people with which God surrounds me.

Do you know your Love Language?

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Control

I’m a control freak. I admit it. I want to know where we are going, how long we will be there and what we will be doing before I leave the house. While I don’t hate surprises, I prefer controlling the things around me.

So today, after dreading returning to the office and ending my Christmas vacation, I found myself quite calmed by the routine of work. Following days of almost frantic activity, the spreadsheets and formulas that filled my hours were very comforting. Numbers always add up the same way. They don’t break the rules. They don’t argue or get their feelings hurt. I can line them up and make the numbers tell whatever story I wish. Yes, I’m a control freak.

And that’s why I avoid new people and new situations and sometimes, known people and familiar situations. The risk of the unknown, the uncontrollable, often outweighs the attraction of social interaction. I don’t make phone calls because I begin to imagine the faces of boredom or derision on the other end of the line. I would much rather text as I find it much less intrusive. I love to go to dinner or to a movie or just to get coffee and talk with friends. And, I feel as if I’m being tortured when I’m the one extending the invitation. I’m no longer in control.

Every day is a struggle for control of the circumstances around me. I know there a balance between risk and control. But I often find myself opting for the security of riding the seesaw alone: better to stay on the ground alone rather than fly too high. I know I miss out on some excitement in life. But, I’m safe. And a little boring. You see, I’m a control freak.

A New Year

A new year. A new start. Well, sort of. It’s still the same life, the same job, the same issues. There’s nothing magic about January 1. But, it’s a starting point to think about changes. And a time to look back.

I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” yesterday. It was a good movie. I left the theater thinking about the past: my kids past. In the movie, Walter’s life was altered by the death of his father. Dreams and adventures were set aside so he could be responsible. Through most of the movie I kept wondering what dreams my son pushed aside after his dad died.

I’ve watched Zac’s struggle with teenage dreams and adult responsibility. I’m very proud of the young man he has become. But I wonder where he would be if he still had his dad’s encouragement and leadership. Yes, I’m having some
‘what if’ and ‘if only’ moments.

I can’t change the past. And worrying about it isn’t an option either. I’ve shed tears over what will never be. I hope and pray that, like Walter Mitty, Zac realizes his dreams and understands how important he is to the people around him.

Happy New Year!

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? (Isaiah 43:18/19 MSG)