Yesterday we were in the Salvation Army shopping. There is a time when I would not have even been able to utter that sentence due to embarrassment, and to be honest, as I sit here typing, I have been tempted to delete it about a hundred times, but then there would still be no post.
In August 2015, I returned to college to work on a much desired degree in Psychology and Neuroscience. School has always come easy to me, but it has been more than a decade since I have graduated from Nursing School, I am now the Mommy of a preschooler and a toddler, and I have a mortgage and obvious other bills, so needless to say, this journey has been tremendously difficult.
I went from working full time to working per diem to accommodate my college courses and this has meant a huge reduction in money. It has meant we don't eat out or go to the movies. It has meant that I pay for gas in change, and it has meant I do not shop at the mall or online for anything. The Salvation Army and other second hand shops have become the only places I buy clothing. And for the first time ever, it is now the place I find myself Christmas shopping. Another sentence I can hardly believe is coming out of my mouth.
Since I became a Mom, I have prided myself on purchasing high quality toys, learning toys, and beautiful children's books (my real weakness, we have a small library). So having to shop for toys second hand this year has brought me to tears more times than I would care to mention. As a result, I have been forced to examine and re-examine, how the consumeristic society I live in has affected me, and even my view of Christmas. It has meant having to tell my four year old, we don't have money for yet his millionth request prompted by the media, his friends, or some add that has come in the mail.
At first, every time I would have to tell him we didn't have the money for something he wanted, be it Chinese, a new toy, or even a doughnut, I would cringe and almost choke on the words coming out my mouth, as my eyes welled up with tears. I felt like a failure, or like I was somehow letting him down. In the beginning he would cry and I would remind him, of all the ways God has blessed us, and everything we have to be grateful for. Each time, I knew I was talking as much to myself as I was to him.
In time however, something amazing has happened for both of us. I am so grateful for things I have previously taken for granted. And I have had the opportunity to really teach my son an attitude of gratitude and heartfelt praying for others less fortunate than ourselves. I really believed I was already teaching him to be grateful, but it is so easy to be grateful, when you are lacking for nothing. I have been forced to examine and re-examine how much of the consumeristic society I live in has taken over my life and even Christmas for me, not to mention what I have been teaching my children. To be honest I am ashamed of how wasteful I have actually been and I would not have ever thought previously of myself as a wasteful person.
So, to get back to yesterday's shopping trip... I was pushing Gideon in a cart and Samuel had run ahead to the few toys in the store. He happily ran back to me before I had gotten to him, two toys in hand and shouted, "Mommy look at what great thing I have found for us to give Gideon for Christmas, it is exactly what he wanted!" Not just one, but two, perfectly working tickle me Elmo's in excellent condition for $ 2.99. We stood there together talking about how God had blessed us and even provided for the desire of Gideon's heart. Samuel was grinning from ear to ear and I could have just started crying.
As we looked with great anticipation for what other treasures we would find, a very dirty little girl, about six years old, came up next to me and began tugging on my shirt. She said, " You are so beautiful. "Thank you, you are very beautiful too," I said. She then looked at Sammy and back at me and said, "He is so handsome and lucky to have a Mommy like you." I bent down next to her to talk to her about the toys she was looking at, when she whispered in my ear, "I am so hungry." I did not have any food with me (something that will not happen to me ever again. From now on, I will always at least carry a granola bar), so I thought well maybe I could talk to her Mom. But as her mother approached, there was no way for me to get a word in edge wise. And as most of you know, that is not ever a problem for me.
She was clearly high on something, wearing pretty provocative clothing especially for the weather and took no interest in her daughter. She grabbed her daughters hat and began to tug her down the aisle. "Mommy could we get a toy please, " the little girl said. Her mother picked up a bag of broken kitchen set toys, and said "Sure, you can have this." The woman did not care that they were broken or that it was not even what her daughter had been looking at. She had not even cared enough to wash the dirt off the little girls face, and she was no less interested in the desires of her daughters heart.
God is no not like this. He does not leave us with our face in the dirt and he longs to give us the desires of our hearts.
On the drive home, Samuel continued to ask about that little girl and another child at the store with a speech impediment and a substantial learning delay that had hit him for no reason. "I did not hit him back Mom and I was really trying to understand him, was he speaking English?" "Why was that girls Mom like that?" My son is for the first time, seeing a hurting world all around him and the brokenness he sees, bothers his little heart as he tries to understand it.
I hope the brokenness around us continues to break my heart as well as his. Christmas is not about stuff, it is about Jesus who came to heal our brokenness and a God that gives good gifts to his children. If you find yourself as financially strapped as I do during this holiday season, do not despair, Jesus slept in the feed box. There was no lights or amazing decorations, and no elaborate toys. The Kings brought him perfumes for his burial.
Christmas is about the gift God gave us-Isaiah 9:6 -For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. This is what we need to teach our children, this is what we need to share with those around us.