The (Not So) Cheerful Giver

I’ve been feeling a bit “bah hum bug” this holiday. It all culminated with a mama-meltdown a couple weekends ago. Which resulted in a bit of a blog break for some reflection and prayer.

You see, I have been wearing the same broken bra and holey cardigan for over a year. 

And it’s not a badge of honor. It’s annoying.

Granted. I have other bras. And I have other cardigans. But… they don’t really fit my new mama body or they don’t really work with what I’m wearing or I hate the way they look or they aren’t in style anymore. 

Whatever. Excuses, excuses. Basically, I have other bras and other cardigans, just “not enough.” 

All I know is, this bra and this cardigan were slowly driving me insane. But I couldn’t very well get rid of them. Then I would have one less bra and one less cardigan in my already (I thought) meager wardrobe.

Every time I put on that bra, I get pinched and poked all day. And every time I put on that cardigan, with the hole in the shoulder, I would spend the day thinking I had a cockroach attacking me from behind. Nope, just a gaping hole on the upper right shoulder. 

And with every pinch and poke and every imaginary insect induced panic attack, I got a little more frustrated. A little more sad.

For the past several months, I waited patiently for all the bills to be paid and food to be purchased and errands to be run, so hopefully, I could buy myself one lonely little item. At the end of each month, it just wasn’t there. My little leftover “me” money. 

So I sat on my couch, with my pinchy bra and my holey cardigan on a Saturday night, and tried to crunch the numbers to find some extra money for two monthly “me” expenses: a gym membership and one occasional inexpensive article of clothing. And my budget replied, in Magic 8 ball fashion…”Outlook not so good.” 

And like a big, fat baby, I cried.

For most of the weekend.

Then, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of that week, I went out to buy Christmas presents for all my fantastic, amazing, honored and adored family members. 

I’m so blessed with such amazing family and friends. With every gift I purchased, I was reminded how very much I love each of them. How happy they will be with this special present. How excited I am to share this holiday with every single one of them.

I’d like to say that I had a complete attitude adjustment at this point. No such luck.

Honestly, a little part of me was still mourning my inability to satisfy all my selfish material desires all at once. 

There are all these news stories and blogs and articles and Facebook posts about generosity. About teaching your children to be givers and not need gifts of their own whatsoever. About Advent calendars and volunteering and Toys for Tots and Compassion International (truly wonderful causes), and all these gloriously selfless actions happening all over the place. And I’ve been struggling.

How do all these people sacrifice so easily in so many ways so perfectly?

I feel like I’m the only one who is battling my selfish desires, who is struggling with my sin nature this Christmas.

Because that stupid bra was still pinching me, and that freakin’ cardigan was holey as ever. Reminding me as I shopped that I was once again putting others before myself. (Pity party, anyone?) Reminding me that every gift card I had been given for any occasion over the last 18 months had been used to purchase presents for others or to purchase items for my home or child. 

Though I love buying presents. Though my love language is gift giving. Though I love every person on my Christmas list, this year, I didn’t like it. And I didn’t like that I didn’t like it. In fact, I became angry and frustrated with myself for ruining one of my favorite activities, giving at Christmas.

Angry and frustrated with myself for being so materialistic and so self-focused and so childish and just so bratty. A 32-year-old brat. That’s attractive.

Needless to say, I was deeply convicted.

In previous years, I had been cheerfully giving out of my abundance. But this year, I became a not-so cheerful giver when it required some actual sacrifice on my part.

I am so thankful that my husband and I can afford to have me stay home full-time with our toddler. But I’m bitter that I can’t dress (somewhat) stylishly and go to the gym and sip lattes and indulge in fro-yo like I used to before this bundle of joy joined our family.

I’m thankful for all we have, for everyone to whom we give, but get annoyed when it requires personal sacrifice.

That it means pinchy bras and holey sweaters in order for me to fulfill my goal of being a full-time stay at home mom. That it means skipping a couple lattes and a fro-yo, so I can get a replacement cardigan. That it means choosing between the things I want instead of getting it all. 

The widow’s mite is a great story. I just don’t like living it. To pay the cashier or make the donation, “dropping in my two small copper coins,” knowing someone else is getting something while I am going without. 

In the last week, God has put a number of things on my heart:

  1. I need to regularly spend (some) money on my personal needs. Not just my kid, not just my spouse, not just our household. It is unrealistic and unnecessary for me to neglect purchasing items I personally need. 
  2. I need to be closer to Him. Trying to be a cheerful giver on my own steam obviously doesn’t work. It only ends up in tears and swollen eyes and one seriously confused husband.
  3. I need to zoom out, keeping a broader perspective. Which can be hard when you are at home all day with a toddler. But if the last couple weeks has done anything, it’s given me perspective. With the recent tragedies in the news as well as a number of friends who are going through rough patches, I’ve been feeling pretty ashamed of my temper tantrum over an undergarment and a sweater. I mean, really. Not my finest hour.
  4. I need to zoom out even more, keeping an eternal perspective. Christ lived over 30 years as a lowly human. He gave of Himself for us in so many ways culminating in His death on the cross. And I am spilling tears over some clothes. When I focus on Christ’s sacrifice, my pinchy, hole-y garments become so very small. Such a little thing for me to put up, to give up, with when he has done so much.

Well, that’s where I’ve been. The good, the bad, and the ugly of my insides lately. 

In this time, I’ve felt God lead me in some amazing ways and inspire some great conversation for this blog in 2013.

I know I’ll be growing and changing with Him. So glad to be stumbling through this journey with you.

Would love to hear your true confessions of (not-so) cheerful giving. Maybe it’s not related to the holidays at all. What is most difficult for you to for-go in order for you to bless others?

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