gratitude

The Gift

There’s only one season, other than Fall, that makes it on my “Top Ten” favorite things, and that is the Christmas season. I love the smells, the food, the music, and since I am Puerto Rican, I get a double heaping and get to enjoy all of those things in two languages/cultures. Bonus reel: my husband and I began to date during this season 22 years ago. We were the stars of our very own Hallmark movie! Christmas is special for many reasons for different people. And yet, it can also be a sad and/or frustrating time of the year that some can’t wait to be done with it.

the gift

Let me set the record straight, I am not a Grinch. This post isn’t intending to make you feel guilty about having either 100 presents or just one under your tree. Whether you’re having 50 of your closest friends over, or if you’re spending Christmas in your jammies by yourself. I’ve had each of those experiences and I can tell you some have been great, and some sad. I just want to share my heart and what I’ve been able to observe and reflect on the past twenty-plus years as it pertains to this special holiday.

 

As Christians, we are told over and over, “Christ is the Reason for the Season,” and all the clichés and guilt trips that go along with that statement; but, do we really understand, or do we just have these sentiments playing on a memory loop as we continue to strive to be all things Christmas, as seen on TV?

 

Not only have I been a witness to other’s sadness and frustration, I too have experienced it. I recall one Christmas where I had become resolute in my Christianese to be “all about Jesus.” As Christmas drew nearer, I looked under the “empty tree” and panicked. I had just seen posts on Facebook of friends whose children had gone from relative to relative opening their hoard of gifts and they still had a massive stash at home to open from Santa. GASP!! Our girls only had about five presents each, and one of them was pajamas. The pangs of guilt (and jealousy, let’s just keep it real) filled my heart and I, the woman who does not like to shop, found myself at the mall panicking and buying anything I could find to place under that tree. I’m pretty sure I emptied the dollar bin at Target that year. I felt like such a loser. Because “nothing was good enough” and how exactly do I put Jesus under that tree and give my children the WOW factor that comes with the Greatest Gift of all. Never mind the “shopping hangover” that I had Christmas morning, between my checkbook laughing at me for emptying the account on worthless items and realizing that my children only enjoyed the original four to five gifts under the tree, I learned a valuable lesson that year.

 

I have even tried coming up with a tradition that would meet all the Christmas movie requirements, so our house would feel “Christmassy,” only to realize that I just want to be available to Jesus for however He wants to use each of us or our family. The best we can ever do is BE the hands and feet of Jesus, and to do that we need to be available.

 

It is so hard for the human ego to understand that you cannot be the greatest gift giver, you never will be – even if you have unlimited spending ability. The greatest gift will never come from you. It doesn’t matter how many presents you place under the tree, in the stockings, etc. The Greatest Gift came from God just a little more than 2,000 years ago. When you know Jesus and understand the cost of His present, it is salve for your soul.

 

The best thing we can do is bless one another and that’s what Christmas has become at our house – a time of blessing. Sometimes those blessings arrive in pretty packages wrapped with love and a bow on top; sometimes those blessings come wrapped in a hug and a kind word. We keep our lists small and our hearts ready to receive and be the blessings of the season.

 

It’s Christmas at our house and carols are playing in the background, Hallmark movies are on the TV, and we are preparing our hearts to be renewed as we celebrate the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind. This Christmas, may you find not just presents under your tree, but the presence of Jesus in your heart. O’ Come Emmanuel!

 

Gratitude & God’s Provision

God’s provision is such a wonderful, amazing thing! He provides for us whether we deserve it or not, whether we appreciate it or not, and even whether we know it or not!

provision

Grateful for gratitude

I don’t know about you, but I really like it when I give my children gifts and they absolutely love what I’ve given them. And it’s even nicer when they are truly thankful for the gifts. It makes me feel great when they give me hugs and kisses or when they say a heart-felt “Thank you!” when they receive my gifts. There’s nothing nicer than being appreciated for doing something nice for someone.

But I often find myself wanting things I don’t have instead of being thankful for what God has provided for me. And when my children do the very same thing, it upsets me! I wonder how they could possibly be so selfish as to want things they don’t have when I’ve given them everything they need and many things they want. And then, without even recognizing it, I’m doing the very same thing!

Grateful for grace

But the wonderful thing is that God provides for us anyway. He doesn’t get angry and cut off our provision when we fail to thank Him. He doesn’t take away our provision when we don’t appreciate what He’s given us. He doesn’t even take it away when we’re ungrateful or when we fuss or complain wishing He’d given us something different!

One of my goals for this year is to start paying more attention to God’s provision in my life. I want to take the time to recognize it when He provides for me. I want to put forth the effort to thank Him when He provides for me. And I want to be grateful for whatever He provides without wishing for or wanting something different.

And to me, being thankful for God’s provision means being happy with what I have instead of always wanting more. In fact, my husband and my youngest child and I are getting ready to go on a mission trip to some very poor areas in Peru. This will be our third trip to Peru, and just like we’ve done the past couple of years, we’ll visit some areas where our team has previously ministered, and we’ll visit some places that will be new to us and some of which haven’t ever heard the Gospel message!

Grateful for the gospel!

As we visit these places, there’s one thing I notice more than anything else. In every single area where the people know Jesus, they have thankful hearts! Many of these people live in complete poverty, yet they trust God for His provision, and they are absolutely content with what He has provided for them. Many of these people literally live in huts made from whatever boards or pieces of tin they can find. They have no indoor plumbing, no running water, only one set of clothing to wear, and minimal food, yet they are joyful and happy people!

provision

It’s so humbling to meet these people and see how happy and thankful they are when we have so much more than they do, yet we only see what we don’t have.

And that’s the difference the Gospel should make in our lives. We should strive to see all the times God provides for us each day. We should be thankful for His provision in our lives. Will He stop providing for us if we’re not thankful? No. He’ll still provide for us just like we provide for our children whether they’re thankful or deserving. But we will make His heart happy in the same way our hearts are happy when our children are thankful and when they recognize our provision for them. And that is reason enough for me.