Friday, January 02, 2009

About Gifts, Women, Men and Love

Bob sent me an email some time ago with a link to a Youtube video "Welcome to the Doghouse". Later at church, he and his wife Donna joked with me that I would love it. I hadn't looked at it yet, and wondered why it was forwarded to me and not Dennis. I finally looked at it today and found it was a Penney's ad that went viral over the holidays, featuring the gift giving adventures of the clueless male, which unfortunately, covers the majority of the world's male population. I was appalled that the doghouse wasn't stuffed to the gills with men from every tribe, nation and generation. But the average American male is the target, with the message of "do better".

In my family, Mom had the same problem with Dad, only she got him straightened out in a few years. This was a point that Mom wanted to make to me when Dennis got me a Bible as a gift at our second Christmas as a married couple. It was a study Bible in my favorite translation, with my name engraved in gold on the bonded burgundy leather cover and a loving and tender note on the flyleaf. Mom didn't know that on our first Christmas, Dennis gave me gifts of Chanel No. 5 and a silky nightgown. And that year, Dennis noted that my Bible was inexpensive and falling apart from frequent use. I cherish the fact he couldn't think of anything better to give me for Christmas. And really, he hasn't since.

But that wasn't my first reaction, I'm sorry to say. I was surprised, for sure. Gift giving is a huge way of expressing love in my family, and I was looking forward to my newlywed and very romantic husband making a big impression on them with an extravagant or luxurious gift to me. He was generous towards me in the past birthday and other celebrations, so my expectations were high. It wasn't about the gift, or about him or about love. It was about putting my self esteem in what others thought of me. It was about pride. And my disappointment, after unwrapping and opening Den's thoughtful gift, lead quickly to disappointment in myself when I realized how materialistic my heart became. I valued that gift more than I did the giver. What a sinner I was. And that disappointment, no matter how well I tried to cover it, was not undetected by my attentive and intelligent family, although they probably assumed it was about the gift.

Over the last twenty years, we've gone up and down in gift giving, but gladly my attitude has improved. My parents, when asked what they wanted for Christmas, always answered "Good kids" and I would always sigh with the thought that was impossible, and even if acheived, how does one wrap that up and put it under the tree? My husband gives daily gifts, when you think about it, are pretty rare to find and definately hard to wrap and stick a bow on top of. Yet, again, it goes back to the question a friend from collegiate Nav ministry used to ask me "Do you love him for who he is or for what he does for you?" This year, my hubby gave me a scarf and hat and mittens that match, in an incredibly soft yarn. That's it. I stuck a few things for myself in a gift bag labeled from him and stuffed my own stocking, I knew that he had no time for shopping and as usual, he procrastinated until the last minute to shop. But this year, Christmas wasn't about us, it was about hospitality and focusing on Christ by focusing on serving and loving international students far from home. That I had a husband who glorified God like this was a gift all on its own. I feel blessed. And warm when I go outside.

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