The gift that wouldn’t fit into a box…

Due to the recent storms here at home, I had no Internet for the last few days…That is why I am late with this post. For those of you who have been following my blog,  you probably realize that I have only two more posts to make, and my one year’s commitment will end. Because of the many comments and requests that I have received, I have a proposal for you. I have created a FaceBook page entitled, “Just for this week…” If you would enjoy my continuing the blog for another year, please go and “LIKE” the blog on that page. If I get enough “likes,” I will continue… I’m not going to set a goal for the number of “likes” I want to receive, but of course, the more “numbers” I get, the more motivation I will have to continue. Sooooooo…what will it be? Please go to:  www.facebook.com/justforthisweek and “LIKE” us!! Thank you!

I hope all of you are going into this week with a sense of peace, wonder, celebration and love, and that all of your shopping is finished! I hope you are NOT frazzled and frustrated, wanting to just “get through” the next few days. We get so caught up in finding the “perfect gift,” that some times we miss the real “value” of what we are giving, or the value of what we could give. So, this week I will share a story about the “perfect” gift…

I am part owner of a company. Owning a business certainly has perks, but it can also be very demanding, and at times, not very profitable. A number of years ago, we found ourselves in dire straights…no income for a really long stretch of time! (Actually, about two years, but then, who’s counting??!!) During that time, Christmas came around, and I realized that I would not be able to purchase ANY gifts. (And you have probably already figured out that I can be a Wild Woman at Christmas time…) I LOVE giving gifts that individuals want, but would never buy for themselves; something that a person voiced interest in during the past year, thinking that no one was listening… So, to not have money at this special time of year was horrible for me. I tried and tried to figure out how I could get gifts for all of those whom I love. There was no answer or solution.

I was really depressed over the situation, especially not being able to have gifts for my parents. However, all of a sudden, I came up with an idea…what if I wrote them a letter from my heart? What if I told them how much they meant to me, and how thankful I was for the life lessons they had taught me through gentle guidance and example? In this letter, I listed specific, wonderful memories… I detailed actions that I had observed; actions that helped shape my character, integrity, honesty. I explained that through their lives they had taught me to love God, and in turn, to love others. I thanked them for the wonderful childhood they had given me. I told them that each day I made certain that my thoughts and actions met their standards and expectations…that I lived by their instructions…and that I was proud to do so…that the lessons they had taught me allowed me to live a full, vibrant, satisfying life. They had empowered me to do so! I told them that whenever I did anything, or completed a task, I would step back, look at the accomplishment and think…”just like Mama…” or “just like Daddy…”

I watched as they opened the envelopes and read the individual letters in their entirety. I knew Mother would cry, because she was always so expressive with her emotions. However, I wasn’t sure how  Daddy would respond to this gift. I watched and when he finished reading, he gazed out into space for a moment, and then he broke down into sobs…great heaving sounds that took my breath away. He was crying so hard that it was hard to make out his words: “This is the best gift I have ever received!” I can count the times that I have seen my Father cry on one hand. That this letter moved him and touched his heart so deeply, spoke volumes to me. And in that moment, I was so glad that I did not have any money to buy Christmas gifts…

So, you see…it is never about the monetary value of a gift. It is the meaning and love behind the gift. We don’t have to give presents each Christmas that cost a lot of money. Whatever you offer sincerely from your heart is simply enough! Give of yourself this season. Let people know what they mean to you…how wonderful they are…how you cannot imagine a life without them in it…That’s what I try to do. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

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Uh oh! Christmas decorations….

To say that my Mother loved Christmas would be an understatement. Oh, how she loved the season, the family gatherings, the cooking and food, and oh my, THE DECORATIONS!! She delighted in coming up with a very creative, unique “design” for our house decorations each year. She would visualize the concept and bring the idea to my father and me to figure out how to “make it happen.” I will admit that there were quite a number of years that she almost had us stumped as to how we would accomplish what she wanted. But each time, we eventually figured it out…The result was usually magnificent, meaningful, and beautiful. Our house was the one in town that everyone drove by to see. I am not talking about those really tacky light displays you see in some neighborhoods or on TV shows. Each year we created a different winter wonderland of lights and design. We usually won a city award, although that was not the intent. Mother just loved the beauty of it all, and what the season meant. Now for this week’s story…

My family was never rich by monetary standards. Actually, looking back, we were poor; however, we, as children, never knew that. I tell people that I had a storybook childhood, and I did! I can remember when we finally got our first television set. I was probably around seven years old. We were so excited! It was a small black and white TV. There was no way that we could have ever afforded a color television set. However, I had always determined in my mind, that when I grew up, and was making money on my own, that I would buy my parents a color TV set. It was one of those dreams that you definitely want to make come true…

Our family was full of traditions that were followed at Christmas time. The entire extended family would gather at my grandparent’s home on Christmas Eve. We would have refreshments and open gifts. All I ever remember of these times are much love, wonder, and laughter. Each family would then go to their own homes, all of us children (the cousins) almost vibrating with the excitement and anticipation of Santa’s visit. The next morning, after we had all celebrated our individual Christmases, we would return to my grandparent’s home for Christmas dinner. What a feast that was! And all the kids got to play with their new gifts. Wonderful, wonderful memories!

On this particular Christmas, I had returned from college, and had begun working at a local nursing home – the very first position of my career. I was living with my folks at the time. They still had an old black and white television set, and I knew what was in store for them this special Christmas. I was about to make good on that childhood dream of giving them a color TV. However, being my Mother’s daughter, I did not want it to be just a box that they unwrapped…I wanted a little surprise and “creativity.”

One of my old high school classmates just happened to own an appliance store. When purchasing the new television, I had convinced him to deliver and set up the TV at my parents’ home while we were over at my grandparent’s home celebrating Christmas Eve. (Now that is what small town living is like…I even left the front door open so that he could get inside the house!) Upon returning from my grandparent’s home, I was beside myself with anticipation. My plan was to go in first so that I could see their reaction when they entered the living room. I was not going to say anything…I was just going to “be casual” and see how long it would take for them to discover the new “addition.” I walked in like normal and saw that the TV had indeed been delivered by “Santa.” And then I waited….Everyone was bringing in their gifts, taking off their coats, and of course, my little brother noticed the TV first. He just hollered out, “What is that?” My Mother and Father turned around, saw the TV, and then she looked straight at me and started to cry. Of course, by this time, I was crying also. She grabbed and hugged me, whispering, “I could just whip you!” (For those of you who are not Southerners, that means that I had done something I should not have…lol) She never wanted to be the recipient of our monetary success. This is one of my most favorite memories, and I bring it to mind to enjoy during each Christmas season.

For me, Christmas is not only a religious event that I celebrate, but it is a time when I get to show the people whom I love just how special they are to me (although I try to do that every day of my life). It reaffirms for me that dreams can come true, and that there is still some wonder left in this world. I hope you take the time this year to enjoy the “wonder.” That’s what I will be doing! Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

For me, it IS “Merry Christmas!”

This week’s post will not include a “story.” I’ve thought a lot about this topic, and have debated whether to voice my thoughts, but most of you who know me, know that I have never been one NOT to voice my thoughts. So…here are my “meanderings” for this week, and by the way, I do not mean to offend anyone with these musings…

Christmas, for me, is a time for celebration! It is the birthday of Jesus, an event that is integral to the foundation of my faith. I have watched over the years as religion and politics, along with “moral” outrage, have taken the forefront in whether we use an “X” in Christmas, or whether it is politically correct to say “Merry  Christmas!” I have always found it helpful to become more informed and educated about things that I do not know. I, myself, had issue with the “X” in “Christmas,” so I did some research a number of years ago. The following statement gives explanation the most succinctly: “It is said that when the Emperor Constantine had his great vision that caused him to convert to Christianity, he saw the Greek letters Chi and Rho intertwined. Chi is written as an ‘X’ and Rho is written as a ‘P’, but they are the first two letters of the Greek word Christ ‘savior’. ‘XP’ is sometimes used to stand for Christ. Sometimes X is used alone. This is the case in the Chi (X) abbreviation for Christ in Xmas.” Personally, I don’t think most commercial businesses realize that they are using the Greek letter for “Christ.” I think for them, it is simply being able to fit a message on a store window…However, it made me feel some better in having that knowledge.

Now, for the “Merry Christmas!” part… I understand that not everyone in the world is of the Protestant faith. I even “get” that when all of us end up at where we think we are going at the end of our earthly lives, there are going to be a LOT of different religions represented, and quite a few surprises….as in, “I didn’t think YOU would be here…” lol But when I say, “Merry Christmas,” I am sharing an important event in MY life with YOU! I mean no disrespect. I am not asking you to believe the same way that I do. I am simply sharing part of me with you. If someone were to say to me, “Happy Hanukkah,” I would respond, “and Happy Hanukkah to you!”…although I am not Jewish. It would not insult or offend me! I would think that this individual thought enough of me to share their faith with me. And on some small level, I would get to share their joy and celebration of that religious event. So, why am I not afforded the same respect and sensitivity? Why should I have to change my celebratory exclamation to “Happy Holidays!” You see, we live in America, where we are afforded the freedom to worship any way we desire! However, lately, I don’t seem to feel that freedom. Why is that? Here’s the way I look at it, if my saying “Merry Christmas!” is offensive,  it draws into question your religion and faith.

My faith teaches love of all people, acceptance, compassion, sensitivity, forgiveness, grace and understanding. What does it say of your religion if you get upset over my sharing a part of my faith and traditions with you? Why can’t we all be a little more tolerant of each other and our individual beliefs? Why can’t we see the similarities and positives in our lives, as opposed to the differences and negatives? Why can’t we be supportive and celebrate those important events in each others’ lives…yes, even those religious events? It takes nothing away from me or my faith to do so!

I wish for each of you the freedom and comfort to celebrate this time of year as you desire! For me, I will be celebrating a very special birthday…Won’t you join me? Just for this week….