“Wish Lists Don't Always Include Good Gifts"
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Eileen Button is a weekly columnist for The Flint Journal in Michigan and the author of The Waiting Place: Learning to Appreciate Life's Little Delays (Thomas Nelson, 2011). Her commentaries have appeared in multiple online and print publications, including Newsweek, Christianity Today, and Holy Bible: Mosaic. She is also an adjunct professor of Communication at Mott Community College.
© 2011. The Flint Journal. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
I have a problem.
Three Christmas wish lists decorate the front of my fridge, evidence of my children’s material hearts’ desires. One peek at the list will tell you that my kids are growing up.
My oldest son, the one who once-upon-a-time wished for a remote control dinosaur, is now asking for an iPad (he’s obviously lost his mind), a few forbidden video games (because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like blowing away your virtual fellow man), and a tanning membership (yeah, right).
My daughter, the one who once wished for “ice skaits,” “plastik slingky,” and a “nekalis,” is now asking for an upper ear piercing (something I call a “gateway piercing”), a go-cart (apparently to ride the streets of our super-cool subdivision), and a trampoline (because one tramp-induced broken leg in our family just wasn’t enough).
My youngest son is taking lessons from his teenage siblings. He’s asking for a slushy machine (file under “stupid small appliances”) a video camera (for a 10-year-old?) and something called “floating balls” (I have no words).
There are other items on my kids’ lists – and some are almost reasonable – but the things they’d prefer to receive are either: a) completely out of my limited price range or b) completely out of my value system.
Thus my problem.
I’ve been seeking the counsel of friends who also manage their children’s outlandish expectations. Some commiserate, while others advise me to buy gift certificates or “just say no.” My friend Kelly jokes that I should give my kids gold, frankincense and myrrh, but gold is expensive, and it’s mighty tough to find frankincense and myrrh at Amazon.com.
Meanwhile, time ticks away as the front of the fridge screams, “CHRISTMAS IS COMING!” I need to do something to silence it. Fast.
Like most parents, I want to give my children good gifts because I love them. In the spirit of the season, I’m wrestling with what, exactly, makes a gift good.
These days, Matthew 7:11 has been rattling around in my brain. “If you, then … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
I’ve never written an official “wish lists” to be posted on God’s fridge, but I’ve prayed for some honking huge things over the years. The gifts I eventually received weren’t always what I thought I was asking for.
For instance …
… I wished for financial assistance and was given the gift of learning to live within our (sometimes meager) means.
… I wished that we might move back home to New York and was given the gift of creating a home here in Michigan.
… I wished for strength and was given the gift of weakness, reminding me that my strength comes from God alone.
… I wished for answers and was given the gift of silence, teaching me to pray, listen and wait.
… I wished for a break and was given the gift of rejection, prompting me to become more teachable, try harder and refuse to give up.
…And, I wished for patience and was given the gift of teenagers, confirming my belief that God has a fabulous sense of humor.
On Christmas morning, my children will open gifts – good gifts – from their parents who adore them. For the most part, they will not receive the things they asked for.
The gifts they unwrap – like the gifts I’ve unwrapped over the years – may surprise them at first. Even so, they’ll be given from the hearts of loving parents who know what’s best.
Printed December 18, 2010; The Flint Journal; Flint, MI
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