Good Gifts

There is something special about being seven that makes my kids believe in magical things. Each one at that age has sprung a last minute Santa list on us that has included the impossible. Mixed in with Oldest son’s requests for a myriad of Pokemon and pasta was a request for his baby sister not to cry. Baby Girl, in the throws of her only girl-like obsession, handed over a one item list on Christmas Eve for Pixie Dust. This year, Mini Hubby asked for a turtle, knowing full well that mom does not allow any critters in the house that don’t have fur. There must be something about being seven that makes one willing to ask for the impossible.

The funny thing is, even though none of my seven year olds got what they wanted, they all loved everything they ended up getting. Watching Mini Hubby open his Lego gifts and spend an entire day putting together several Super Mario courses with a joy only surpassed by his focus made me think about the many things I’ve asked for, and not received. And how good it has been.

I don’t know about you, but somewhere along the way my Heavenly Father not only took my entire list of requests but also much of what I’d thanked Him for, and gave me something drastically different. I handled it with far less resilience than my seven year old children. I had this beautiful picture in my head and heart in which we were a successful, healthy, family of six. You know, comfortable home, sizeable savings account, honor roll students, good life insurance, new cars, weekend sports tournaments, warm destination vacations, promotions, the occasional cold and basically, nothing we couldn’t handle. On our own.

There was the problem, wasn’t it? My Father only gives good gifts. And a good gift does not include one that leaves me unaware of my daily, moment by moment need for Him. So, He mercifully gave me what I needed. Only, at the time, it didn’t feel like mercy. Children with a genetic disorder and the financial devastation that comes with a medical crisis felt more like crushing disappointment and pain than grace. Less like a gift and more like punishment.

A good gift includes something that makes me more into the image of my good Savior and less into the image of what the world defines as good.

So, sitting and watching my family open Christmas gifts this year I was overwhelmed with the good gifts I’ve been given. Some days, I still don’t want them, but by His grace, most days I am at least grateful for them. Grateful for the way Hubby and I are learning to plan for the future, but live in the grace for today. Grateful for the need to wake every day and surrender my family to the One who loves them more than I do. Grateful that He has not only used every one of our hard gifts to show us how loving and faithful and kind He is, but also to show us how everything else we’ve desired in this world pales in comparison to Him.

Today I’m thinking about you all. I’m thinking about how so many of you have gotten hard gifts this year. I’m praying that someday soon you will be able to stop grieving the gift you wanted, but didn’t get. I’m praying that you will be able to see, although dimly, how the gift you have is being used (If you are Christ’s) for your ultimate good and God’s glory. I’m praying for your perseverance in the hard things, but I’m also praying that you will find joy in the gift you didn’t ask for. Though 2020, for many, has been much more like walking on Legos than getting the coveted pet turtle, I’m praying 2021 will find everyone picking up all the sharp pieces and discovering what our Lord intends us to make with them with the same intense focus and joy as a seven year old that believes in the impossible.

Merry Christmas!!

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Matthew 7:11

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

His hands

We were on our way to dinner at a friend’s, traveling carefully down country roads packed with snow and reflecting headlights off ice that wouldn’t melt until May, when the “highs” climb above freezing and the salt on the roads finally does it’s thing. There were kids bickering in the backseat and Christmas music on the radio and somehow in these sixteen years of family car rides, we had successfully learned to ignore both. And as he’d been doing for the last 21 years, he smiled, reached across the console, and laced his fingers with mine. A couple of miles down that winding road he pulled his hand from mine to turn at the barely visible stop sign and as we rounded the corner he gave me a sideways glance while he absently flexed and straightened the fingers on his right hand, then turned his attention back to winter driving.

And I know what he’s thinking, because, well, 21 years. He’s thinking of the ache in those hands and wondering how long they’ll hold out. About the stiffness after a day of using them and the way they just don’t cooperate the way they used to. Or the way that one finger just won’t warm up anymore since injuring it, and it’s circulation, years ago.

In my mind’s eye I can see the frustration when his fingers don’t grasp and hold what he’s reached for, instead seeing it fall to the floor. I can hear his sigh when he retrieves what he’s dropped and tries again. I know he’s counting those vested union hours and praying hard he can make it until then. That things are still working enough to enjoy some semblance of retirement. That these hands will continue to provide and care for a family of five, six with Auntie Amy, and two with special needs.

So I reached across the console and grabbed that hand again. I see it differently, of course. So much bigger than my own, I have come to love every thick callous and scar. I’ve seen those hands wrestle my tires and my toddlers. Move refrigerators and move me to tears holding our new babies. They’ve moved in incredible gentleness and strength and awed me in both. Those tired hands have worked hard to provide pleasure, comfort, safety and income.

And just within the last couple of years, I’ve had the great joy and privilege to see Jesus through those hands. Seen them do things they’d never done before. I’ve seen them scrape up just enough for bills and be satisfied, sit for patient hours with a pencil doing middle school homework, faithfully hold and study his Bible, fold in prayer over food and friends, placed on shoulders in comfort and serve countless brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve watched as God has somehow made my husband’s hands even more tender, more gentle, and given them greater impact regardless of how well they function. He’s made them spiritually stronger in their physical weakness.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the last week alone, they’ve been required to plow, change tires, replace bearings, brakes and turn signals. They’ve worked hard cutting, scraping and lifting at work to come home and shovel out a chicken coop. They’ve brought home the bacon, figuratively and literally. They’re not done yet. I know my Lord has much more work for this servant. I also know He’ll provide the means for him to do it.

During this Christmas season of not enough time, money, patience and health, what greater gift could I ask for than to be able to rest in the loving hands of not just my Lord and Savior, but the God fearing, Jesus following hands of the husband He gave me?