On the front of our Christmas card this year, I quoted Norman Vincent Peale: “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
Inside the card, I said something to the effect that we could all use a magical wand about now. How some need it for the job offer, the good night’s sleep, or the restored relationship. Yet even without the wand there were times that felt like magic this year. Those moments came as I lead a mountain climbing “expedition” with my boys, witnessed wild buffalo walking down the middle of a street or watched my children’s faces as Old Faithful erupted right before their eyes. And as they tried new things like tubing for our youngest, horseback riding for the third, and skiing black diamonds for the oldest two, I felt the magical tingles.
We moved out of the suburbs and into an urban neighborhood this year. We literally cut our square footage in less than half of what we had in the ‘burbs. With a smaller home, we have simplifed our lives and have tried simplifying our expenses as well.
Instead of exchanging gifts this year, my husband and I decided to take the money we would have spent on each other and choose a ministry, charity or non-profit which we feel passionate towards and gift the money to the particular organization(s) in one another’s name.
As our four boys gathered around the Christmas tree, we asked if they would mind letting us open our envelopes first. They happily (really!) obliged. I had two envelopes. I gave my husband one. I had given the money to our sons’ school because we both believe in the school, in their mission and what it has meant to us as a family. After all, the main reason we moved downtown was to be in the community where the school is located.
When I opened my envelopes, tears filled my eyes. I could barely read one of them out loud. My husband had donated money to the Pourhouse, which is an organization that helps homeless people in our city. We have homeless men and women walking up and down our street. Often they walk on by. Sometimes they stop and ask for money. Some even come to our door. My husband knows how this breaks my heart. For him to give to this organization meant he was paying attention to my heart.
The next donation was just as meaningful, if not more. He gave money to a ministry called “Samaritan’s Purse.” It is run by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, and provides assistance all over the world, including tornado, hurricane and earthquake victims in the United States. Every year Samaritan’s Purse publishes a catalog with several options in which you can give to people in need all over the world. From a $10 donation which will provide a soccer ball to a child in one of the refugee camps, to thousands of dollars which will provide an entire village with a clean water system.
The gift my husband chose made it possible for a family in a third world country to receive the agricultural tools and supplies to help them grow their own sustainable garden. This is the one that really made me cry. If there’s one thing my husband knows about me, it is that I can jump on a bandwagon as often as Joan Rivers has plastic surgery. If I read something that stirs – or even breaks – my heart, I want to join the cause. So it is with the organic movement, slow food and sustainable living. I’ve joined a farmer’s market coop, shop for local items and good food for my family. I am currently plowing through “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” by Barbara Kingsolver. She tells the story of their family’s move from largely unsustainable Tucson, Ariz., to their family farm in western Virginia, where they vow to eat only local foods for a year. Much of it comes from their own farm while the other food is from nearby farms.
While I do not plan a move to a farm, I want to do our part to support those who are committed to growing good-tasting, chemical-free, seasonal foods. I want to quit participating in this give-me-cardboard-tasting-tomatoes-in-January-as-you-consume-way-too-much-in-fuel-costs-to-get-them-to-my-local-grocery-store just because I can.
So even if my husband thinks I’ve jumped on the next bandwagon or not, it’s obvious he’s listening to my frequent book reviews and news reports. He’s noticed the foods I’m bringing into the house, as he compliments me with the new style of simple cooking.
Maybe I’m overanalyzing these gifts but I’m pretty sure he’s paying attention. So not only did these gifts move me in their sheer goodness for someone else’s livelihood, they moved me because they were an expression of love to me from the man I married, the one who shares life with me in all of my craziness.
Of all the gifts I have ever received, the two envelopes on Christmas morn were among the greatest. That surprises me because I’m a pretty selfish person. I love beautiful jewelry, fun clothes and sexy smelling perfume as much as the next girl. I guess what I discovered was that gifts such as these, gifts with meaning on a broader more global scale, are a reflection of God’s love. When someone else is served rather than self, my heart expands for God’s people, and his glory is revealed in me. For his glory to be revealed in me means I am living as I was meant to live. And that feels really good. Magical, even.