Shopping at Barnes and Noble yesterday. Daniel and I both felt a little overwhelmed with too many choices. As we entered the store, bustling with Christmas shoppers, I explained that with his birthday gift card, he could choose anything he wanted for $15. But alas that idea never really registered. “I want this!” “I want that!” He was bouncing between the aisles in the kids' section, browsing through books that caught his eye, and then getting sidetracked by the stuffed animals.
“If you get this, then you can't get that,” I informed him. “You have to choose your favorite.”
We wandered around, as Daniel excitedly checked price tags and imagined himself being the proud owner of all the things. I, meanwhile, was growing weary as the options increased. “It's time to make up your mind now. Out of everything you've seen, what did you like the best?” After much consideration, he finally settled on the Christmas teddy bear that he had loved on from the very beginning of his search.
We maneuvered our way back to the front of the store, through the crowded displays and customers right up to an empty checkout counter, then--very fortunately-- just before the cashier appeared, I glanced sideways and noticed a line of people behind a sign “Wait here for next cashier.” So we found our rightful place in the back of the line. When we got to the front, the very friendly cashier oohed and aahed over Daniel's choice. She even gave him a dollar back, which he was completely thrilled by.
After the purchase, as we were making our exit, Daniel happened to notice a stack of advent calendars. “What is this???” I explained that there was chocolate under each of the days in December. “Oooooo. I think I want that too.”
“We're leaving,” I told him. “You made your choice, remember?” So I steered him out the front door and into the van. Now focused just on what he had, he happily cuddled his teddy bear the whole way home. All other choices left behind in the store.
Don't we often want it all? But if we choose this, then many times we have to say no to that.
I could relate to Daniel's I'll take this and that too mentality this morning as I was Christmas shopping online at Christianbooks. (They are having some great deals, by the way, if you're looking for a place to shop.) Several items caught my eye that I considered purchasing for myself, like a Best Mom in the World mug. But no, I kept reminding myself, I need to keep focused on my list of people to buy for.
Two years ago I was really struggling with the Christmas tradition of gift-giving and not at all excited about shopping, so I am happy to be more “into” buying gifts this year. I'm thankful not to feel so anti-consumerism or to feel weighed down by a sense of obligation to buy gifts; instead I feel free to experience the joy of giving.
As soon as Daniel came out of his Sunday School class last week, he told me he learned that it was better to give than to get. His lesson was on Generosity. “That's great!” I told him. He usually struggles to remember what his lesson was about (his go-to answer when I ask him is “Jesus”), so this was huge. Also, I was remembering that two weeks ago, when I was volunteering in children's church, he had asked me to help him write on a card what he was thankful for. “Presents,” he had said.
Daniel was very excited about turning 12 last week and enjoyed having his friends over afterschool for a birthday party. Afterward he said that his favorite part was eating cake and opening presents. One good thing about Daniel is that we never have to guess what he's thinking.
We are thankful that the Giver of all good things takes delight in seeing His children enjoy the gifts He gives. He is a God of Extravagance, who desires for us to experience the joy of giving too.
Instead of being focused on all the things we wish we had, He also wants us to be happy with what's right in front of us.
How are you experiencing giving and receiving this season? Longings and contentment?