Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas "Surprises"

I remember the Christmas of 1979 like it was yesterday. I was twelve years old and had “discovered” where my mom was hiding the presents, “discovered” being used very loosely. Each day after school, I had about an hour on my own before my mom got home from work, which left me plenty of time for snooping. My diligence paid off as I found a pile of department store bags in the back of her closet, behind her dresses. I remember opening a bag and finding the most beautiful sweater, all the shades I would choose out of the crayon box to color a sunset. Surveying the wrapped gifts under the tree Christmas morning, I wondered which one contained the sweater.

I didn’t have to wait long until the box was opened.

By my sister.

Ugh! Positive a mistake had been made, I snuck a look at the tag to check the size. Nope, definitely not a mistake. It was my sister’s size, and it fit her like a glove. I would like to say that when I opened the sweater meant for me, because we always got the same stuff but in different colors, I was just as enamored, but I don’t remember. All I remember was the disappointment of wanting something so badly that I thought was supposed to be mine.

Every time I saw my sister wearing her sweater, I wanted it. I would try it on while she wasn’t looking, my arms hanging out of the sleeves, the bottom edge skimming my belly button. When we try to wear something that wasn’t meant for us, it rarely fits. I know. I tried to be something that I wasn’t for awhile, and it was really uncomfortable. You smile and pretend that you didn’t notice that something is wrong with the fit, until you can’t do it anymore. There is a relief that comes with wearing your own clothes, physically and metaphorically speaking.

Has that ever happened to you? If your whole life was wrapped up right now and sitting under a Christmas tree, are there “gifts” you’re pretty sure weren’t meant for you? You probably didn’t ask for cancer, but there it is. I’m sure you didn’t have a child with special needs on your wish list, but now you would not trade that gift for anything else. Some of us have experienced things that we are still coming to grips with, but we can see the goodness of God at work in the worst of situations.

Has someone else been given something you are sure had your name on it? Maybe you never married or had kids, but that is not the way you had planned your life. Maybe you had a career path all picked out and you are not doing the things you thought you would be. Did you get passed over for something that you were so sure was the perfect opportunity meant for you, and now you are watching someone else in your place? It’s just hard sometimes to be wherever you are when it is not the place you planned on being, if that makes any sense.

Maybe you are looking at the pile that is left, hoping beyond hope that the thing you want most in the world is in one of those packages. Time is running out, but you still hope to accomplish that one thing. Sometimes we call it a bucket list…those things we always wanted to do. I’m hoping that seeing the Northern Lights, learning to play the flute, and seeing my loved ones come to Christ is still in my pile of presents.

On the other hand, have you begun to open something, shake the box a little for a clue, and been amazed at what might be in that package? My favorite encouragement is knowing that God’s best present is still waiting to be opened. I don’t know what gift that will be, but I know that when He is done giving me the gifts He has for me in this life, He will call me home. At this point in my life, there is a box that is just beginning to open. I’ve been shaking it a little, trying to guess what it really is, but it is more like the Russian dolls…inside each beautiful work of art is another one. God is the best secret keeper ever, too, because as much as I want to see this gift in its entirety, I can’t. No amount of whining, cajoling, or pleading will make Him tip His Hand.

I wish I could say that I learned my lesson that Christmas, and stopped snooping. I honestly just became better at it, checking the sizes to avoid Christmas morning heartbreak. I suppose I am still a little like that, wanting to know what is coming next in life. I wish I could be content in today, with today’s gifts, and not be snooping around the corners.

I know three things, though, that make it easier to wait until all my gifts have been given:

• God is sovereign. That is a fancy word for totally, irrevocably in charge. Whatever comes my way, He already knows and has decided that I can handle it. Good or bad.

• God has a plan. As a matter a fact, a plan that has been set in place since before the beginning of time. (Ephesians 2:10) A random “gift” may be part of a larger picture, and we have no idea how it will all fit together in the end.

• God loves me. Period. In this season when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is easy to remember that the biggest gift of all has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with me, all at the same time. And when someone loves you that much, all gifts are the right size.

It is my prayer this Christmas season that all of the gifts that have found their way under your tree are truly received as gifts, gifts from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). And that you resist the urge to snoop.


  1. Very good use of your free time this afternoon. I love the "things you know" part. I believe maturity is learning to balance the reality of life against those things we believe.

  2. I have been there many times, only to discover that God had something better picked out, something I would have never even thought for myself. I am keeping that in mind these days, that whenever I have lost something it is because something better was waiting, although that waiting time is scary, terrifying, nerve wracking.....

  3. Loved this post. I really like Rachel Olsen's carnival - I have never participated but what a great way to find other's blogs and hear their thoughts. I too have tried to make things fit that just aren't meant too. I also read your post about your neighbors and I will be praying for them. Nice meeting you in blog world!