Sunday, December 13, 2015

Give Your Gift

I had a bit of a meltdown this weekend.  And it wasn't the meltdown you might expect from the mother of a large family in the middle of December.

No, I wasn't stressed about shopping expeditions, elf-on-the-shelf exploits, baking marathons, or those endless Pinterest Christmas bucket lists, each complete with a scripture, song, craft, recipe, activity and service project for every day of December.

I was stressed about making our family's celebration more Christ-centered.  

It's easy enough to minimize the world's influence at Christmastime, especially if you were raised right--and I was.  We're pretty low-key about presents, decorations, and activities.  We pare down to the basics so we can be financially, emotionally and physically healthy enough to actually enjoy the celebrations we have together.   

But if you're a mom who's trying hard to raise children up to the Lord, it can be really hard to feel like you're doing enough at Christmas.  

Every time President Monson takes the stand, I am inspired by his encouragement to reach out and bless others.  He is a walking example of the power of service, and especially this time of year, I long to do more.  I hear stories of other mothers who have beautiful family Christmas traditions centered on service and on Jesus Christ, and I think, what's wrong with me?

There are homeless people who need coats.  There are lonely people to visit on every street in town. There are people grieving the loss of loved ones to be hugged.  There are soup pantry shelves to be stocked.  

What is wrong with me, that I can't get my act together honor the Savior by serving his children?

It is strange that all the well-intentioned and truly wise advice to us moms about slowing down and enjoying the true meaning of Christmas can actually make us feel worse if we're not careful.  

Our Savior was the only perfect mortal to walk the earth, and he came to bring light.  He came to lift burdens, not add to them.  Are we mothers allowing Satan to twist the joyful celebration of Christ's grace into a series of hoops to jump through?  Even if we have avoided the common traps and trappings of commercialization and frenzied celebration--we can still miss the mark if we're focused on what we're not doing.  Whether we're comparing our Christmas decor or our Christmas devotions to what the neighbors have done--comparison hurts.  

But today the Savior opened my eyes a little bit, and I was allowed to see that I am not failing Christmas.  I am giving the gifts that are mine to give.  

They are small.  And I've given them for so many years in a row, that I've come to feel that they don't even really count.  But they are my gifts.  And these gifts I give to others are really my gifts to the Savior.

Today I smiled big at a young friend walking into the church, and I felt the Lord's approbation.  It's something I do all the time when I see someone who might be discouraged.  It's small, but it counts. Today I bore my testimony of the Savior to twenty kids.  It's something I do most weeks of the year, so it wasn't scary.  Today I took my kids caroling at a rehabilitation center.  It's something my parents did with me, so it comes very easily and it's something I enjoy. 

I wonder how many other moms out there struggle to feel they're doing enough at Christmas?  What if we all just enjoyed what we already do?

Some of us have the gift of baking treats for neighbors.  Some of us have the gift of helping with toy drives.  Some of us have the gift of quietly lifting and serving those who are struggling.  Some of us have the gift of smiles and jokes for the discouraged.  Some of us have the gift of snuggling with kiddos and watching Christmas movies.  Some of us have the gift of sending beautiful Christmas with heartfelt notes of love and testimony.

There are enough meaningful, joyful, uplifting, testimony-building, Christ-centered traditions out there to drive any godly woman out of her mind if she tries to do even a fraction of them.  We must reach for something better.  We must reach for the gifts that are ours to give, and give them in full confidence that the Savior receives them in the spirit we give them.  

When we give our whole hearts to Him, it is always enough.  So don't give someone else's gift.  Give your gift.

(Special thanks to TJ for the graphic.  Special thanks to Georgia for the deep thoughts.  And special thanks to them both for always being willing to listen to me cry.  I feel much better now.)