Perfect Gifts, Blondie Records, & Who Moved My Stuff?

skynyrd christmas

No ugly ties or argyle socks for this dad on Christmas this year.  My four kids know me better than that.

Ten days removed from Christmas, the decorations are put away.  My oldest daughter is settled back in at college.  The others dread the end of Christmas break as they return to school tomorrow.  And I smile now as I reflect on the significance of each of their simple gifts to me, the beauty in the uniqueness of their personalities, and the ways they arrived at their purchases.

From Kal, my 9 year-old, the #1 DAD ink pen.  This is most likely my fourth such pen purchased from the elementary school Christmas shop.  It represents some of his first efforts into independent shopping and giving.  The key is to act like it’s the greatest pen that I’ve ever owned (it’s already broken).  The desire to do for others and the joy of giving doesn’t seem to come quite as naturally for boys, so one must work these moments hard.  So Kal knows this is, without a doubt, my favorite ink pen.

From my 15 year-old son, a Lynyrd Skynyrd book.  I taunted him a few weeks back that he had no idea what he was getting for Christmas.  He smiled and proudly exclaimed that “you don’t know what I got for you either…..but it’s from the heart, dad.  I promise”, as he grinned and patted me on the shoulder as I’ve done to him so many times before. I don’t think he’s ever put a lot of effort into gift buying in the past.  But I knew something was different this year as I watched his birthday money going toward handpicked gifts for his brother and sisters (accompanied by his own personal touch of sloppy gift wrap).  Anyway, he has a great appreciation and knowledge for a boy his age of cassette/vinyl era music.  We share a common bond and have great conversations about the subject. So I have this vision of him in the bookstore coming upon the Lynyrd Skynyrd book, and his realization that it was the perfect gift for dad.  The excitement of giving.  Well done my son.  Welcome to the world of “the joy of finding and giving the perfect gift”.

From my 16 year-old daughter, the wallet……and thermal underwear…….and Bengal earbuds.    My thoughtful child.  Starting in November, coming to me repeatedly, asking me for advice about gift-giving ideas for various family members.  Wanting to find a perfect or useful gift for everyone on her list.  She’s always taken gift-buying (or hand-making gifts) seriously since the days of those first #1 DAD pens.  She understands the joy of giving. She’s a detail person, a giver like her mother and I love that about her.   I knew she was watching me for months, trying so hard to find something that I needed.  I noticed some time ago that she noticed my ratty, worn out wallet.  I knew it was coming.   She may have been done shopping before December 1st.  She takes giving seriously.  I love her giving heart.

From my 18 year-old daughter, the Rolling Stones album.  A great gift.  Maybe even a last-minute gift?  I found my albums in crazy order with an album that I would never listen to (Blondie’s Greatest Hits) mysteriously on top on Christmas Eve.  Before gifts were exchanged, I jokingly asked the three older kids which one was out shopping and sent sent the text to someone at home “Hey, does dad have _____album?”, but nobody confessed.

Or the gift could have been almost an afterthought, because my oldest daughter knows me deeply.  We have this wonderfully unique relationship where we share 1,000 words without speaking, exchanging a glance or a smile and knowing exactly what one another is thinking.  I honestly wouldn’t care or notice if nobody gave me anything for Christmas.  Macy knows this.  Sure, she was gonna do something for her dad for Christmas.  But she understands that it’s no big deal if she doesn’t.

We ended up spending Christmas Eve shopping together, not so much because we actually needed to buy gifts…….but just because we could.  And that turned out to be the greatest gift that she could have given me.

She isn’t a worrier and doesn’t seem to fret over little things…….has a lot a confidence in her ability to pull things out at the last second, living by the seat of her pants…….like her dad.  I love that about her.

I sure hope nobody ever frets about finding a gift for me of any sort.  I hope my kids all find joy in giving and doing for others year round.  And I’m so very thankful that God made each of them so very unique.

Sometimes a simple pile of gifts can remind us of so much.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Just as my children are unique and wonderful to me, all people are unique and wonderful in God’s eyes.
We certainly can’t be everything to everybody, but it’s probably safe to say that we can be more to somebody each day by trying to see that somebody through the eyes of God……even if they happen to be wearing argyle socks and listening to Blondie.

The Scars of Christmas Past (not really)

cowboys 001

Like most boys growing up in the early 70’s, my older brother and I played a lot of cowboys and Indians.

TV choices were limited in those days but I remember large doses of Gunsmoke and John Wayne movies.

I recall a Christmas when our prized gifts were matching cowboy rifles with pump action and a real-life firing sound.

My memory was foggy as to the timing of the “accident”.  I thought it was later on Christmas evening, but my brother tells me it happened on Christmas morning (soon after receiving the guns).

I couldn’t exactly remember whose rifle it was, but I clearly remember my dad walking through the house rapidly cocking and firing the gun while referencing a TV show that was no longer on the air (The Rifleman).  At the end of the demonstration, the gun no longer made that cool realistic firing sound.  It made no sound at all.

Memory tells me that I wasn’t too upset at the time.  It could have been because I just didn’t worry too much about stuff, even as a kid.  Or it could have been because I truly believed that my dad could fix anything.  But the truth is that it wasn’t my gun that was broken.

My brother and I revived this story this Christmas when I was asked to share a Christmas memory along with my dad at my church for our Christmas Eve service.  When I told my brother of my “assignment”, he suggested the same story (and filled in some details that I was pretty sketchy on).

But when I brought it up to my dad, he had no recollection of the gun-breaking incident.

Christmas is a magical time in so many ways.  Dad didn’t remember.  But his two sons did…..forty years later.

What a great reminder!  The things that I do and say today with my kids may seem insignificant to me.  But they may be recalling them together forty years later.  That’s a pretty awesome reminder to slow down and least try to see Christmas (and life) through the excited eyes of a child.

Forty years after the broken gun incident, I have a pretty good grasp on the fact that stuff doesn’t matter.  And growing up, my dad really could fix pretty much anything that was broken.  But our Heavenly Father can fix everything that matters.  People matter.  He sent His Son to save all people.

Christmas matters.  The joy and the hope that we feel today as we celebrate our Savior’s birth should not escape us once the gifts are exchanged and the decorations are put away.  It’s a joy worth sharing year round.  Just as the magic of Christmas reminds us of an opportunity to create a lasting memory for a child, it should also remind us that all of our thoughts, words, and actions have significance each day.  Living a life that models our Savior impacts others for eternity……not just forty years.

Merry Christmas.