Christmas: 23 Days and Counting - Giving (Love it and Hate it) and the Little Drummer Boy

Song first. One of my absolute favorite versions.
Little Drummer Boy - by Jars of Clay

Come, they told me, pa rum pa pum pum
A newborn King to see, pa rum pa pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pa pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pa pum pum,
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum
So to honor Him, pa rum pa pum pum
When we come

Little baby, pa rum pa pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pa pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pa pum pum
That's fit to give our King, pa rum pa pum pum,
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum
Shall I play for You, pa rum pa pum pum
On my drum
On my drum
I play my drum for Him
So to honor Him

Mary nodded, pa rum pa pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pa pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pa pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pa pum pum,
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pa pum pum
Me and my drum
When we come
Me and my drum 


This blog is hard to start. Where to begin is the problem. I wanted to start with telling about how, as a child, my family celebrated Christmas. One memory was when I was 4 years old, I so wanted a wedding dress. Didn't get it. Another time, I remember taking gifts to all my cousins. My parents must have gone broke that year. I have a lot of cousins.  Then I browsed deeper through memories and found the one moment when my dad told us we weren't celebrating Christmas anymore. (Another story for another time, but it had to do with becoming involved with a church that talked smack about Christmas every chance it had.) I remember crying quietly inside. 

Then I thought about starting it with retelling the time, in 1995, when my immediate family started celebrating Christmas. My children were 14 and 11. They had not celebrated Christmas ever. Sorting through those memories I found a mixed bag of emotions and scenarios. Like trying to get past the guilt associated with doing something I hadn't been "allowed" to do for most of my life. Justifying how much was appropriate given that it was a new experience for our family, and maybe, if it turned out we were wrong, maybe we could get away with doing a few things and no one would notice. Or the scenario that is firmly impressed on my heart, of my son creating his version of Christmas that consisted of sneaking things already belonging to us and wrapping them in newspaper to give each of us. And using a Norfolk Pine from the living room, sliding it into his bedroom, decorating it with tiny little string lights and tinsel. Then he drew a little fireplace for stockings because we didn't have one. After arranging all this, he called us into his room, opened the door with a smile on his face that said, "Merry Christmas, Mom, Dad, Sara....I got this." I still tear up thinking about the sincerity and just how sacred that moment really was and how much I should have realized it then.

Then there was the stories of the many gifts we showered on them, trying to make up for lost time. Buying, hiding, wrapping presents was just so much fun. The anticipation of how they would react to each gift, with the crescendo of the night being the big one, the one they really looked forward to receiving. Not to mention the decorating of the tree while dancing around the living room, each of us in matching holiday pajamas, with "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" music echoing through the house. All that fun for one moment, one hour of time when all wrapped gifts would seemingly explode and the floor, chairs and tables would be covered with colorful debris and lots of tissue paper, ribbons and Styrofoam popcorn. Cheers of "YES!" with hands flying in the air put smiles on my face at a shopping job well done.

But sometimes those happy, wish-we-could-repeat-every-time gift moments are shattered with memories of gifts bought, wrapped, given, only to be met with disappointment, regret, and despair. I made this mistake once and will never do it again. Enter a  well-meaning Mom. Always listened to her children, most especially listening for what might make their life easier. Not always the best strategy however. After hearing my daughter mention several times that the little apartment she lived in never seemed to stay clean and the cat was always making a mess on the floor, it wasn't long after that I saw a commercial for a Roomba. What a cool deal. Put it on before you leave, it's done when you get back. Wow. Seemed like a most logical solution. Fast forward to Christmas. Opening gifts, excitement is high, then the realization of what was behind that pretty wrapping paper became all too apparent, and in an instant my heart sank right along with hers. Great idea. Very bad execution. NOT a Christmas gift. Of course, we made good on it by substituting a really nice Nikon camera. But it barely made up for the lost memory of a Christmas time when all seemed right. I robbed my child of the feeling of being loved enough to give a gift that says so. I robbed my daughter of knowing how much she was valued. Instead, I gave her a vacuum cleaner. Worst Mom e-v-e-r. The words 'vacuum' and 'cleaner' are not in the love language vocabulary. I still, to this day, want to apologize profusely. She deserved so much more.

I know and believe in my heart that God gave me a gift of giving. Part of the learning curve with this gift is knowing when, how, what and to whom should I give. This is not easy to get. I agree it should be, but mistakes are made so often. But I do know this. My heart is always in the right place. Just like this song, we bring our best. Not THE best, but our best. Did my heart mean to insult my daughter. No. Did my heart want for her what might have been good for her? Of course. This little drummer boy gave a gift that came from within, it was his talent, his sincerity, his humility that was so precious. He didn't apologize, feel ashamed, he just did his best. He wasn't competing for best drummer of the year, best musician of the year or going for some award. He was wanting to make a baby smile, his parents smile, everyone around him smile. He was hoping to connect with the young infant King and share a part of his heart.

That's why the title of this blog is Giving - love it and hate it. I love to give and receive. Who doesn't? But I hate the negativity that gets attached to mistakes we make in doing either. It's like all the good, happy, can't-believe-you-got-me-this moments are forgotten.  Maybe it's just me, but the flurry of emotions attached to both giving and receiving can make you dizzy, sad and can ruin it all. 

From here on out, my plan is to always continue to give from my heart. Whatever it is. If you receive a gift from me, know that it was thought out, well planned, meaningful, special and given in the spirit of love. Will you always be happy with what I choose? That's up to you.

Your assignment (and mine): When selecting a gift for someone special, come as close as you can to connecting with the heart. Don't buy it because of the price (or not buy it because of the price). Don't give it because you would like one. Don't worry so much about whether it's right or wrong. It's not a moral issue. When it's all wrapped and the tags attached, give it as if it is your best to give.