Here is why it is amazing to be a Christian:
God's way is best.
He is the ultimate Designer, Planner. His ways are so much higher than our ways.
I set out this holiday season to bless others and found that in the blessing I received something equal, or even greater than whatever I was trying to give.
My friend Sarah emailed me a few weeks ago with an invitation to do Blessingmas 2012 with her, and I decided to accept. I baked for some of our neighbors, but before I could even walk the goodies over (slight malfunction with the oven... alright, I got sucked into YouTube sitcom bloopers and burned a batch of cookies), my neighbors blessed me.
On Wednesday, Knox dug a half-eaten Snickers out of the bottom of a Christmas gift bag and took a bite. This is significant because my son is allergic to peanuts. Diligent though I have been to ban peanuts from entering my home or car, though I have been a new paranoid monster mommy at church potlucks and childrens' birthday parties, I forgot about the candy from our office gift exchange and forgot to pick it up or throw it away before Knox got home. (I'll probably still be guilt-ridden, talking about this incident in therapy, years on down the road.)
Since Knox was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, it's like we've been waiting for that moment. And there it was. My head said "This is it" and I sort of started to panic. I'm probably making it sound a lot more dramatic than it was. Knox's body's reaction probably hovers somewhere in between 'mild' and 'severe' at this point in time, and definitely nowhere near 'life-threatening'. (Though in some cases reactions progress with each exposure, which is why if we could afford it and they didn't have a shelf life of about two seconds I would buy Epi-pens and give them to every person Knox might ever meet.) Still, we called 911 at the outset because we weren't sure what we'd be dealing with.
Koby (thankfully and reassuringly infinitely calmer than I was in this situation) stood in the front yard holding a blotchy-faced and confused Knox, I was on the phone with the 911-receptionist and running in and out of the house, wielding an Epi-pen like it was the antidote in The Temple of Doom, our dogs raced up and down the fence line, sensing our anxiety and barking their heads off, and Hayes screamed on the couch, his dinner having been interrupted by our mini-crisis. It felt like a spanning of generations, but it all took place in the space of less than two minutes.
And from down the road strolled our elderly neighbor. She calmly walked through our gate and asked if she could help with the baby. Covered in peanut-puke, I gave her Hayes and his bottle and dazedly asked her how she knew we needed help.
"I heard your address on the scanner and came over to see if I could help with one of the babies."
Sometimes it's uncomfortable to help other people - we don't want to get in the way, we don't want to intrude, we don't even know the person needing help, or sometimes we just don't even think of helping at all. I'm saying 'we' - I mean 'I'. But I am so glad our neighbor wasn't hindered as I have been, by pride or fear. She immediately saw a need, she walked over to our house and she sat on our couch and she gave Hayes the rest of his bottle. And the inside of my house became as peaceful as it could have been in those moments.
Suddenly, the cookies I'd dropped on the counter when I heard Koby say "Why does Knox have a Snickers?" seemed like a really small and insignificant thing to give a neighbor.
I wrote a lot more in their card than I probably would have if I had not burned the cookies and been able to deliver them on Tuesday, like planned. I set out to bless my neighbors with refined sugar, but before I got the chance, my neighbors showed me "love thy neighbor". And I am thankful that this is the way my God teaches me to be, and that my family has been blessed because of it.
I also (with a little bit of Pinspiration - not sure I have an original thought left in me) concocted a plan to bless Koby by doing an actual Twelve Days of Christmas. But with more Sour Patch Kids and less exotic fowl.
... it's been harder than I thought.
And not because I had to come up with 78 gifts with which to present him, though admittedly that was hard-bordering-on-impossible.
It's been hard because we're married, and things come up. The logistics have been a nightmare. Factor in sick kids, emergency 911 calls, long days at work, out of town basketball games, early morning practices, traveling for family, new babies and sleepless nights. And then remember that we are indeed married, and some days I don't really feel like giving him small, thoughtful gifts. Some days I don't want to give him small, thoughtful gifts so much as throw them at his head. (Full disclosure, no shame.)
But, I am a stubborn person and in those moments I told myself, "I've committed to this, and I will finish it." And each day (tomorrow is day nine), regardless of whether I felt like giving him his gift at the outset, I've gone to bed glad that I did. Each day, through the act of giving God blessed me with a feeling of peace that I might have been lacking before. And each day Koby gracefully and gratefully accepted my gifts, even if I had been a raging butt-face a few hours beforehand. (Full disclosure, no shame.)
I hope you can see the metaphor for marriage here without me cheesing out totally and writing it.
This Christmas I have felt more of the spirit of the holidays than ever before - both the secular (how fun is it to actually wrap toys for your own kids at Christmas?!) and the spiritual. Even in the midst of a broken world in a time when it literally sickens me to hear the news, I see that neighbors still help each other and I can reflect on the love of my family each night before I go to bed, and so I feel and see glimpses of God's Kingdom here on Earth. I hope you see them too.
Because it feels good.