Sunday, November 24, 2019

Don’t I Wish—Thoughts on more PRESENCE not Presents

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Ah, Christmas shopping. When you can find yourself completely enveloped in the smell of evergreen. And sometimes pepper spray.

When my five kids were little, I remember sometimes feeling my children thought my Christmas list was some sort of magic lamp. Make a wish, rub my list and POOF! It was under the tree. I might even remember one of them wishing for three more wishes. 

Every year I would resolve not to be manipulated. I would be very determined…as I wrote all their “wishes” down on my long shopping list and headed out to the stores. As I headed out, mind you, to get everything on the list. All of it. Like a bit of a mom-chump. Incidentally, just to attempt to be somewhat responsible, I would try to limit myself to five or six hours of shopping per trip, but it usually took about that long to find a parking spot. 

It was the most frazzling time of the year. I have to tell you, I had a few wishes of my own. Then sometimes I’d be almost finished with the shopping when somebody would come up with a new wish. What? I wonder how many times I heard myself saying, “How ‘bout we have a little less wishing, a little more cleaning your bathroom.”

Yeah…less wishy. More washy.

Then again, who was I to talk about wishy-washy? After all, I was the adult who waffled under the pressure to grant all the desires of all the littles.

In Psalm 27, David wrote about his number one wish. He said, “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire.” Okay, David. First of all, you’re doing it wrong. One thing? That’s not how we do it. 

Then he tells us the one thing: “to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4, HCSB).

The presence of the Lord. That’s the one gift that will actually change us. Toys and clothes and treats and “things” will come and go. But the presence of the Lord will make a difference all the way to the soul. It changes a family from the inside out. 

It’s downright embarrassing that I can so easily get wrapped up in lists and wants, the busyness and the noise, and forget who we’re celebrating. God coming as a human, knowing He was destined for the cross—it’s the most beautiful redemption story. Celebrating His birth in His presence. That makes so much frazzle-free sense. Presence. Not presents. It’s a real gift to our children when we get this in the right order—and when we don’t waffle.

You might be interested to know that I eventually got a better handle on my wishy-washy-“wishy” ways. More presence. Fewer presents. We implemented a three-gift rule. Jesus got gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even the kids agreed they shouldn’t get more gifts than Jesus. We pared back (though I should probably confess here that I totally rocked out the stockings). Most of the time, I shopped, spent and stressed less. Would you believe the kids did NOT feel less loved?

And it might encourage you to know that this year I did my Christmas shopping early and didn’t even need a list. Grown kids and gift cards, thank you very much. Because nothing says “love” and “this is how much I’m willing to spend on you” like a gift card.

Don't I Wish - Thoughts on More PRESENCE not Presents this holiday season from @RhondaRhea on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist for lots of great magazines, including HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and more. She is the author of 10 nonfiction books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person? and coauthors fiction with her daughter, Kaley Faith Rhea. She and her daughters host the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ. Rhonda enjoys traveling the country speaking at all kinds of conferences and events. She and her pastor/hubs have five grown children and live in the St. Louis area.