I’m gettin nothin for Christmas…

When it comes to spending money, nobody would accuse me of being a prodigal (look it up), but I am starting to feel a bit sad about my family Christmas this year.  In years past we toyed with the idea of limiting the money spent on presents by drawing names for our gift exchange (however, we never actually committed to this).  This year once again, when we started talking about Christmas plans, the idea of drawing names was brought up.  But about a week later we abandoned the idea…again.  What makes this year different is that instead of deciding to do the more traditional buy-everyone-a-present family gathering, it has been decided that only the kids (my kids) would get presents this year.

Initially, I was more than happy to comply.  It’s not that I don’t like shopping. Quite the contrary.  I am one of those few guys who thoroughly enjoys going to malls and shops, searching for treasures that may be hidden in the yet unscavanged nooks and crannies.  I especially enjoy going shopping during this time of the year when the air is chilling outside, and the atmosphere is warm and almost magical inside.  It seems that everywhere I go nostalgia is attacking all my senses, filling me with joy, making me whole both inside and out (a little much?).

Anyway, like I said, everybody who knows me knows I generally like to save money when at all possible (At the movie theater I recently asked for empty cups so that I could fill them at the drinking fountain, rather than buying the bottled water they were trying to sell).  But when it comes to buying presents I find real joy in finding the unexpected perfect gift no matter how much or how little the gift may cost (however, I could care less about buying greeting cards).  So, the past few weeks as the time has passed by I realized that something was really missing from the whole season for me.  I was missing buying presents.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am happy to have the extra cash in my pockets.  But it was occurring to me the other day how truly amazing Christmas shopping is.  When else in the year do you have so many people simultaneously going out of their way (and getting in each other’s ways) to spend their money (often in economically sacrificial ways) to bless the people God has put in their lives with things they perceive will bring them joy.   Not just money but the time, hassle, stress and intentionality so often required to accomplish the task of finding the right gifts for the right people…it really just amazes me.

So, why did my family opt to forgo the beautiful custom of mutual shows of love and care through the giving of gifts? Well, in short we all wanted to save some money.   The year has been tight financially for all of us for different reasons. When push came to shove we decided that rather than taxing each other with additional financial burdens, our mutual gift to each other would be to simply be with each other. In some ways it feels like a real let down to me. It doesn’t bother me that I am not getting anything (Oddly enough, the only thing I can think of right now that I want for Christmas is some new white t-shirts. Hardly worth the trouble of wrapping, really).   No, what has been bothering me is that I am not giving anything to anybody.

Well, just this past week an idea popped into my wife’s head.  There is a family we know who we found out is struggling quite a bit.  One of their children has been in and out of the hospital all year with cancer and now they are really struggling financially.  Kristy has begun to try to rally our church to bless this family with a significant financial gift in order to help them through this difficult time.  This has encouraged me to start asking others outside of our church if they could help contribute some money for this family as well.  Perhaps, you reading this blog want to join in and help them out too.  If so, just email me and I will let you know who to make the check out to and where to send it.  revgrannis@gmail.com

I may not be getting anything for Christmas this year, I may not even be giving that much this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help a family in need.   Maybe my family’s decision to forgo gifts this year was just a way for God to free up some money He wanted this other family to have instead.  Merry Christmas and safe travels to all who are traveling.

our little echo box…

As I have mentioned before, our second son is our middle child.  And he is in many ways a classic Mr. Middle (I would like to take this moment to mention that both my wife and I are middle children…my wife much more classically so).  Mr. Middle was learning to talk when his elder brother was beginning a phase of fleeing into large crowds and wide open spaces.  These situations tended to evoke sharp outbursts from either or both of us parents.  There were many days filled with terror and/or frustration.  Those days were soon followed by many more days of embarrassment as our little Mr. Number Two quickly became our family echo box.  His first full sentence very well might have been “Come back here, right now!” (Yelled, of course, in a very stern voice at his older brother.) 

As he has aged Mr. Middle has added many more of our greatest hits to his collection of echoed phrases.   We are not prone to profanity, cursing or swearing , so we have not had to deal much if at all with vulgarity.  Nevertheless, it is a bit disconcerting when your three-year-old turns tyrannical in the midst of a morning temper tantrum, screaming, “Dadda, stop saying that!  I do NOT appreciate this!  That is NOT a good idea! Stop it, right now!”  While I want our children to learn to listen well and obey rules, I also want them to learn to respect authority and be respectful and respectable to others when they are in positions of authority. 

I doubt that our children would be able to eloquently articulate their philosophy of the role of authority in home and society.  But the echoes of my little Mr. Middle speak volumes.  And sad to say I don’t always like what I hear.  It’s not so much what I hear him saying (i.e. what I hear him echoing from my wife and myself ).  It is the tone he uses when he says what he says that bothers me. 

My wife likes to say that we are not raising children, rather we are raising future adults.  That serves as a reminder that how we treat them now will shape their understanding of who they are and how they are to relate to others.  If we show them that power and authority is grounded in yelling and anger then that will be their view of authority.  If we seek to lovingly show them the difference between right and wrong, and teach them the value of seeking and giving forgiveness, then I’d like to think their view of authority will be shaped in much more positive ways.  Rather than learning that orders must be barked and authority feared or detested, they will learn to practice wisdom, reason, self-sacrifice and reconciliation.  These are things worth respecting, not to mention marks of true influence and authority. 

I am happy to say that our little echo box doesn’t just go around all day yelling at his siblings (or his parents).  In fact the most common thing he says to me and the rest of our family is said in a whisper.  Every day (between 10 and 100 times a day) in a soft, sweet voice I hear something like this:

“Come here, Dadda.  I have a secret to tell you…I love you.  Was that a good secret?  Ok, now you tell me a secret.” 

I love you too, little man.