Every Christmas, my family loves to retell the story of a gift that I gave my aunt a few years back. “Tell it again,” the kids say, and we start from the beginning and end up laughing so hard we cry.
You see, one fall, my aunt moved to a new house. So as Christmas approached, I got the idea to give her a decorative address marker – you know, the kind that you order online, personalize, and put near your front door. I’m usually not great at gifting, so I was pleased to have thought of something personal, relevant, and ahead of time.
I called my aunt right away and explained I needed her new address for “mailing Christmas cards”. We chatted for a few minutes before I quickly jotted down her address and hung up the phone. Dang, now I have to do Christmas cards.
A couple of weeks later, her gift arrived at my door. As I wrapped it, I imagined the response I’d get from the whole party on Christmas day:
“What a thoughtful gift!” – my dad
“Where did you order that? That’s so nice!” – my mom
“That was a really good idea, Karen!” – my sister
The kids would scramble to see what all the commotion is about, my aunt would pass it around for all to admire, and my husband would give me an affirming smile.
In short, I would win Christmas.
It’s hard to look back this part of the story, because the red flags are so obvious. I try to look away, but the ghost of Christmas Past is persistent, and I had a hard lesson to learn.
“Remember, Scrooge, you fashioned these memories yourself.”
I’ll never forget the strange look on my aunt’s face when she opened my gift that Christmas afternoon. “Um, Thank …. you…. Karen!” She left it in the box and started to wrap the tissue back around it.
“What is it?” someone said. “Show us!” “Hold on … what did that say again…?”
What’s wrong? I wondered.
My aunt reluctantly held it up and said, “It’s an address marker. It’s very nice.”
“But wait … don’t you live on Selma?” – my dad
My eyes darted to the words on the plaque. It read “2641 Thelma Avenue”. Thelma?!
“Well, Merry Chrithmath!” my dad shouted and the room erupted with laughter.
“That’s tho thweet!” – my mom
“What a thpethial prethent!” – my sister
“It’s got your addreth on it!” – my husband
The kids clamored to see what all the commotion was about, my aunt passed my gift around, and we all wiped hysterical tears from our eyes.
“Thorry! ” I said, and we cracked up all over again.
My family was funny, but so kind. My aunt thanked me profusely, and everyone made sure I was fine and really, I was. But later that night, things turned dark and I couldn’t shake the heaviness of grief and shame.
My mind tried to talk some sense into my soul: It’s the thought that counts. She appreciated the idea. What’s the big deal? It was a fun family memory… Get over yourself!
But this was about something bigger. I knew my soul needed more than cheering-up. It needed understanding.
Near the midnight hour, we got out of bed, tiptoed into the living room, and sat by the tree, my soul and I.
I sat with my shame, grief, and failure. And for the first time, I chose curiosity over condemnation, bravery over blaming, and kindness over contempt.
And it made all the difference.
That night, God taught me my failure wasn’t in wanting glory. It was in thinking I could provide it for myself.
He reminded me I was made for victory, but only through His win.
I learned my Christmas wishes weren’t shameful. They were just in the wrong hands.
Just like Scrooge, my selfish tendencies are resilient. I still catch myself striving to win in relationships and conversations. I grab for glory at home, work, and even church.
That’s when a mysterious grief pays a visit and my soul awakens, begging to be understood.
The good news is the night doesn’t last long when I make room for curiosity, courage, and failure. And when I’m willing to learn, the Spirit is gentle and kind.
Has life kicked your butt down your own Thelma Avenue? Were you hoping to “win” Christmas – or even 2015? Are you grieving unkept resolutions or unanswered prayers? Or are you ashamed that you had the audacity to dream so big?
Offer your soul a cup of human kindness, friend. Make room for grace and get curious about the One who created you to stand in victory. Give yourself the gift of failure and wrap it in the eternal weight of glory.
Retheive the betht gift ever…
…and laugh in the face of every Christmas Future.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25
Happy New Year,