This Christmas Elise taught me an incredible lesson: The gift of receiving. Christmas morning, like most mornings, Elise woke up first and as is fairly usual, had a messy diaper. This diaper was so messy that as she walked from her room to ours she left a trail of Christmas cheer from her bed all the way to ours. Lindsey changed the diaper and I began to clean the floor. I muttered to myself, "every morning . . ." Christmas would be no different.
It wasn't that big of a deal, rather routine really, but I thought maybe Christmas morning could be different. We proceeded to get the kids ready to come down the stairs and explore their Christmas haul. Because the 25th was on a Sunday this year, we decided to do stockings first, then go to church and finish the presents following our worship service. While we were eating breakfast we opened a christmas card/letter that had found its way to our home.
The letter was unexpected, and even more unexpected, was the gift inside. Someone had felt prompted to send some help our way. Now for the record, we have never solicited money, donations or anything accept when our two families teamed up to buy Elise a running stroller that we do our half-marathons with, anyway, we aren't rich and we certainly aren't poor but happily somewhere between the two. However, there are expenses and stresses that accompany our situation that are sometimes as unexpected as this incredible gift was. As we opened, gawked, cried, smiled, and reveling in complete stupification and bewilderment, I had two thoughts: My first thought was to shred it or send it back. I said to myself, "We don’t need it, we didn’t ask for it and there are others who need it much, much more than we do." The second thought was that they weren’t actually giving it to just me—they were giving it to us, to Elise.
Now the lesson. Receiving has never been something I have ever been good at. Just as an example anybody who has ever tried giving me a compliment has witnessed me trying to muster some awkward response and denial of what was said—I’m just not good at it. I hate getting Christmas or birthday presents because I always feel like somebody else needs it more, or I'd rather spend more money on the kids or Lindsey. I'm a really bad receiver!
As Elise's spirit is so much more celestial than mine, it was time for her to teach me another lesson. Elise is the most gracious receiver. Her smile when she gets cereal, a tickle, her favorite song, movie or toy fills any despondency, emptiness, or sadness in any person who helps her. She desmonstrates amazing patience and gratitude as she has her diaper changed or help up into the car. Her smile and that look in her eyes helps you feel validated and so good. Elise never complains about not getting enough or getting too little, she just happily receives. She has no agenda, just gratitude.
In life--or maybe adulthood--there is something about receiving charity or kindness that makes us feel shy, awkward, or unworthy when we receive help. Thank you Elise, for teaching me humility, the humility required to constantly receive help, be grateful for it, and acknowledge the goodness of God and the goodness of people everywhere.
And to those absolute angels who so willingly gave, I hope heaven's most precious and cherished blessings will be poured out over your home. We never feel like we need the help (but I suppose we frequently look like it!), we try to do all we can by ourselves to not burden others. Sometimes we say Christmas isn’t really about gifts, it’s about giving not receiving, this is very true; however, at times giving is much easier than receiving and comes so much more naturally. Receiving is actaully a characteristic of Christ. Yes, and obvisouly giving was, but the child Jesus, didn’t refuse the gifts from the Wisemen, he (or Mary and Joseph) didn’t say, “you shouldn’t have.” The Wisemen likewise didn't justify their expense by saying "Oh, it's all right it was on sale, or I got a killer groupon for it." They didn't justify their giving expensive gifts and that little family didn't refuse the gift. When Mary purchased the incredibly expensive spikenard and annointed Jesus, Jesus didn't refuse the gift. It was Judas who said the money should have been spent elsewhere or differently.
Real meekness and real gratitude are evidenced in both the giving and the receiving. I'm thankful for my angel daughter who always teaches me things I should have learned years ago. I don't have a strong enough command of language to more appropriately convey my feelings towards so many people who so willingly help Elise and our family. It is hard for us to be recipients or receivers, but we are incredibly grateful. There have been many, many tearful prayers and moments during this journey, but each of those tearful prayers and tearful moments have been matched with solemn prayers and quiet tearful moments because of the goodness of people and the incredible kindness shown by so many to our family.