I remember a Christmas not too many years ago where I felt dread as the calendar rolled over into December. Despite the lack of money, my kids got quite a lot that year thanks to the generosity of friends and family. In fact, they got more stuff than I would ever have bought for them. I remember that particular Christmas day, my kids ripped through their presents – just mounds of wrapping paper everywhere. We were literally surrounded by gifts, and I remember feeling sick with sadness. All this stuff, all these lovely things, and it wasn’t any better. The ache, the hurt, the heaviness of the dark I felt just consumed me. Granted, I was walking through an incredibly difficult portion of my journey at that time, still – I took away such an important lesson:
You cannot fill the void with stuff, no matter how nice it is. You cannot fix the hurt in anyone’s heart with beautifully wrapped boxes full of things that are just things.
And I read my Advent study (The Greatest Gift) this early morning, starting with a scripture out of Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. A prophecy of the Christ child. A prophecy of hope, of LIGHT, of a gift to the world, a Messiah who could really save a planet of people drowning in darkness. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine . . .For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace . . . ” Jesus.
When we get down to it, isn’t that all we ever want – hope? That’s what I wanted that Christmas. I wanted to see the sun cresting over the horizon, all bright and beautiful after a long, dark night. I wanted to believe that there was purpose in my pain and hope for tomorrow and the day after that. And it was right there all along, I just didn’t fully see it. I had a glimmer, but I failed to recognize Him and Christmas that year. Sometimes that shiny wrapping paper can be awfully distracting.
And Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift makes a compelling point: the real spirit of Christmas cannot be fabricated, bought or imagined; it can only be found.
This isn’t to shame anyone for buying gifts . . . I do what I can within my means, but I am not ruled anymore by this drive to buy more, do more, make it perfect. I have less this year than that Christmas years ago, but OH! I have so much more. This post isn’t a call to shame the masses for consumerism, but a plea to be freed of it.
Single parent friends, look here – I bet most of you don’t have much to give to your kids. You can’t do all the activities. You might not be able to get off work to attend your kid’s school Christmas party or give the teacher an extravagant gift, and you might be feeling pretty crappy about that. Facebook and Pinterest alone are enough to make you want to scream as you scroll through pictures of happy family photos in front of a beautifully and perfectly decorated mantle. I know. We think that our kids are going to suffer because we simply can’t do that. Hear me out: Breathe. Don’t miss Christmas and what a gift YOU can be to them this year. I promise you that what your kids will remember and cherish won’t be how many gifts are under that tree or how many activities you shuffled them around to – especially if you’re a Grinch while doing it. Be present for them. You’re doing an awesome job, fellow solo mama and daddy, and no amount of toys can ever compare to that.
Love to you all!