Yes, that’s how long we spent on Christmas Day opening our gifts.
Before anyone starts fuming at how materialistic we must be, I will share that there were a lot of socks exchanged. And underwear. And candy. We have simple tastes.
So why does it take so long to open our gifts?
Well, we did take breaks for brunch, a nap for the grandbaby, to work on food for dinner, and to occasionally try on a piece of clothing or play with Bee and her new toys. And I suppose it would drive some people crazy to sit around in piles of ripped paper and tape, going around and around the room opening one present at a time, and everyone watching everyone else’s reactions.
But we all love doing it this way.
I’ve never tried to figure out why, but now seems like a good time, it being the beginning of a new year, when people try to make changes they feel will improve their lives. And perhaps I should consider this: is the way we do this good, or is there a better way?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with our traditions. In fact, it was very freeing to write the last post sharing with y’all my true feelings. So I don’t think there’s anything bad or wrong about great heaping piles of gifts that we give each other.
But I do think I could do a better job of appreciating them.
In our family, I am famous for the fake smile that accompanies, “Oh, this is a nice…(color, material, idea, or whatever other positive spin I can put on it)”, when the look on my face says I will be returning it. Yes, I don’t automatically love every gift. But I do appreciate the thought and effort. And I try to make sure the giver feels valued even when the gift isn’t my cup of tea.
This whole subject circles back around in my head to something I touched on at Thanksgiving, and that is gratefulness. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, challenged me on the way I experience God, and how much closer I can be to him if I take time to see the gifts he has blessed me with all around me every day. It convinced me that I should make my own list of 1,000 things I see in my daily life that God has used to bless me. Good and bad.
The thing is, I haven’t been very consistent at making my list. Yet. I found the perfect little memo book, portable, 5″ x 3″, and it has my dad’s writing in the front cover. He died over 25 years ago. So, nostalgic value as well as practical and functional.
Even though I started writing in it on September 12, 2018, I am only up to number twenty in my list of a thousand gifts.
As I was reading Ann’s book, I was charmed by the simple yet profound items she listed in her gratitude journal, a sister with a kindred imagination. I figured once I got started I would be off and flying, but at this rate it’s going to take me the rest of my life to get to 1,000.
And that would be a shame, as I am surrounded with unacknowledged gifts from God, the way my family was surrounded with piles of presents last week.
I enjoy the blessings God has given me. But it elevates them, or maybe I should say deepens them, when I consciously take note by naming them. Why does that seem an unnatural thing to do?
Since Christmas I have tried some tea one of my sons gave me, lounged in some new comfy pants that a daughter picked out, drank new coffee, watched movies fresh out of the case. And gave credit to the givers.
Why do I have trouble giving credit to the true giver of all good things at the drop of a hat, in the moment, or after, as I reflect on my day? As a recovering control freak, to accept and be grateful for help is hard for me.
So as I start into this new year of 2019, I don’t have lofty resolutions. I just want to get better at appreciating the life I have, the people God has blessed me with. I want to fill my gratefulness journal with a thousand and more gifts all around me, not just at Christmas, not just as a declaration of a desire to improve my health or circumstances, but as a way to increase my awareness of God with me.
So back to my original question: is there a better way to give and get and appreciate gifts? I can give without tying any of the pleasure to whether I have given something they absolutely love, or picked a dud they will return. I can receive things that don’t thrill me with thankfulness for the giver wanting to give a good gift. Sometimes none of us are in control of whether a gift will be as useful as we hoped it would be.
And when I get those kinds of gifts from God, those circumstances that don’t seem to fit me, I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the perfect giver only gives me what he knows can work out his purposes in me.
Because I think that God would enjoy sitting around with me for hours, seeing me unwrap his great heaping piles of gifts, hearing me name them back as I exclaim with joy or even look at him with a puzzled expression, wanting him to help me see the reason for what he has laid before me.
And not forget to count it as good.