Since my focus is not on gifts anymore, though we do exchange so that everyone receives something, my expectations have changed. I used to plan gifts and surprises and foods for weeks, my focus totally on the look of astonishment or remarks of pleasure that would bring me satisfaction of a job well done. I’ve learned to instead look forward to the time with each one, and yes, the fun of creative gift-wrapping for those who have the time in our busy worlds. Ken and I used to purchase a ‘big’ gift for each other and exchange that at the family Christmas. With tighter finances, we agreed to smaller gifts which we exchanged early Christmas morning before the gang arrived. A lot of my expectations have changed.
Our family has changed too as the kids and grandkids mature with their own families and relocate with jobs and college. This was the first year to have 6 missing from the family and I assume much will continue to change as our “little ones” leave the nest. My Mom is also in a nursing home and due to her changing emotions I hardly know if it would be a good thing to call with Christmas greetings or not. (That’s Mom in the picture holding me when I was even shorter!)
Some things, however, have remained unchanged.
My sweet hubby’s enjoyment and anticipation as I open his ‘trick’ packages, trying to guess what he got and which box, if any, contain a gift. The house bustling with a baby, teens, a new fiance’, newlyweds and all those in-between. The fragrance of all the yummies everyone brought. Laughter as we pile up on the sofa for a traditional and silly versions of the Christmas family photos. The sound of football in the background, hilarity around table games, and the men dozing off a bit from too much food. The fun of opening the creatively disguised gifts (a cat, a star, a huge ball of yarn, a frozen gift-card for a ‘cool’ gift, etc.), and the pre-gift sharing about the meaning of the day – the birth of Christ.
In the past some of my expectations dimmed because the hope had been on believing we could read each others’ mind and find/get what we each wanted. This year my hope was in memories with Christ at the center.
I was blessed with the opportunity to share the story of God enabling me to give my Mom the gift of grace (Rooted Living digital magazine), and the story of the first year our family ‘adopted’ a family for Christmas (Chicken Soup – Christmas Magic). These memories helped root our focus of the day with thankful hearts.
The weather and roads were clear and everyone arrived at almost the same time. Two of the men pleased us by sharing something about the birth of Christ, with a meaningful way to apply the truth to our lives. Our price limit for gifts is small, yet the gifts were fun, useful and personal things. And my Mom – she called, thanking me for “all the loot”, and for taking such good care of her, closing with “lots of love” – the first time I can recall her initiating such a comment.
The morning after Christmas Aimee and her fiance’ Erik went one direction to have their engagement photos taken while I went another, missing a traditional farewell. On my way to completing an errand that evening, Aimee called on my cell saying she’d missed her farewell hug, wondering if it were still possible. Turns out they were about to head home from her other grandparents home which was 3 minutes from where I was headed! We met at the nearby Burger King… can’t you picture the scene: White car, loaded with family, gifts and Quill,the sweetest black lab ever, pulls into the lot and parks facing the street. No one gets out. A few minutes later a red car pulls in and parks a few feet away. Simultaneously both car doors open. A tall blond women climbs out of the white car, as a petite silver-haired grandmother runs around the red car, meeting in a fierce hug. Words are exchanged, but the only ones heard are from the young blond as she turns back to get into the car: “I feel better now; we can go home.”
I couldn’t stop smiling all night. Thank you Lord for a blessed Christmas. All expectations exceeded.