Last week I gave a short devotional to the sweet ladies at The Well.

It began with a reading of O Henry's classic short story, The Gift of the Magi.  In case you slept through English class during those school years, I will remind you of the story.  The scene takes place in England, and the characters are a young couple who are struggling to make ends meet during difficult times (this seems to be a re-occurring theme throughout history).  In spite of the struggle, they felt so fortunate to have two priceless items in their possession.  The wife had a beautiful head of hair that fell splendidly below her knees.  Most of us women understand the value of a "good" head of hair.  The man owned his great-grandfather's beautiful gold watch.  It was so splendid he consciously avoided pulling it out in a showing manner.  After all how odd that one so poor should own such a splendid watch.  To hasten along to the point, they both sold their prized possessions to buy their loved one a gift.  She bought a fine gold chain to replace the worn leather strap which held his heirloom watch.  He bought bejeweled beautiful combs for her fine hair.  Neither of them could use their gifts, but the story is about the meaning behind gift giving not the gift itself.

In my mind, you become an adult when you finally are more concerned with selecting gifts for others than the gifts you desire to receive.  I have a strong philosophy on gifts.  A gift is a gift--it is often tied up with strings, but it has no strings attached.  Once I present the gift, I also relinquish control of how the gift is used or not.  

NOW~we are headed to the point of the devotional.  The tradition of gift giving at Christmas was begun by The Magi--wise men for you who are unfamiliar with the "King James" translation.  We all know the gifts were very valuable.  We all know the lengths the Wise Men endured to deliver the gifts.  What we don't know---it is NOT addressed in The Word -is what did Mary and Joseph do with the gifts?  Did they dash to the nearest pawn shop and cash in -I am pretty sure they could have used the funds--after all they just traveled many miles on a donkey, resorted to staying in a smelly stable, and to top it all off had another mouth to feed.  Did they put it in a closet and hide it away for a "rainy day"?  Did they put them in a college fund for the baby's future education?  What did they do with the wonderful gifts.  It is never addressed in The Word.  What does this tell us?  In my mind, the giving of the gift and the reason behind it was more important than what became of the gift.  Mary and Joseph could do whatever they wished with these magnificent gifts.  All we need to understand is why the gifts were given and the true value of the invaluable.

We have evolved Christmas into a gift giving frenzy.  Not unlike children, we are consumed with the buying of gifts which in most cases will be a temporary high headed for a place on the shelf of the forgotten.  Gifts are given as an expression of love and esteem.  Personally I prefer little gifts such a pictures of the grands, or even better an experience or adventure-time spent together.  It really is not about WHAT you are giving, but your attitude when giving.  

The greatest Christmas gift was the reason for the season--the gift of the Christ child.  God on Earth.  The Father's Lamb.  Our Get Out of Jail Free card.  What greater gift was ever given? 

I invite you to not become embroiled in frantic gift searches; to put aside any guilt over gift disappointment; and instead remember why you are giving the gift.  Be one with "The Little Drummer Boy", give your best--and give it while being mindful of the purpose of the gift~ a reminder of your love.  

the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Matthew 2:9-12


 I saw a post on social media early this morning~ My friend had missed her niece's wedding due to concerns about exposure to "THE VIRUS".  She has health risks that puts her in the category of those who need to avoid infection.  To add insult to injury, the live stream of the wedding went down before she could catch a glimpse of her beautiful niece walking down the aisle.  Another stolen moment-thanks to "THE VIRUS".  WHAT a disappointment, and how can we possibly take away any good from this loss?

As the months of the year of "THE VIRUS" have slowly passed by, it is easy to become mired in the deep well of What I am missing? .

In an abundance of caution, I have limited exposure as much as possible, but I am weary-most of us are weary- of feeling life is slipping by.  What moments of great importance are being stolen as the days whirl by waiting for a vaccine, a cure, or any glimmer that this will soon be over?

As I thought through this, I remembered, there have been stolen moments in my life due to other circumstances.  My father died when I was 14~I really barely knew who he was because your emotional intelligence level is low for most of us as children.  I missed those moments of figuring out just who he was.  I am left to fill in the gaps by what I am told, what I can remember, and what I hoped was truth. A lifetime of moments were stolen by his early passing.

I missed some of the firsts with my children, because I always worked.  Their sweet babysitters were sometimes the ones to witness those firsts.  I have to consciously set aside "mother guilt" and remind myself, others- who were stay at home moms, also missed some of the firsts due to different circumstances. Unless you glue yourself to their sides 24/7, you will miss some of those firsts.  Some of the firsts, I really am glad I missed, such as the first time they decided to climb on the roof and jump down to the trampoline (OH THE JOY OF RAISING BOYS).

As I have watched my children raise their children--the precious grands--I realize how many stolen moments of joy were sacrificed by me in the quest to have it all together.  OH, my house was clean, the clothes were washed and put away, food was on the table, but what moments of fun and play were stolen with the quest to appear as if I had it together.  I am happy to say, my children have not made that same mistake~they realize what is most important.

It is easy to become bogged down in regret, when we make a choice to mourn and dwell on what we feel has been stolen from us or lost in the shuffle.  The post, I alluded to in the first paragraph, also contained a testament to all the moments of joy she had not missed when watching her niece grow up.  As I thought this over, I realized we have a clear choice of how we react to stolen or lost moments~we can allow those moments to take the lead in our thoughts, or we can mourn them and turn back to those joy filled moments we did experience.  We get to choose where our mind goes when we reflect on our lives.  Am I going to allow the few years which have been REALLY DIFFICULT to become the benchmarks of my life or am I going to remember the MANY REALLY GREAT years and be thankful.

YES, we can all agree 2020 has been tough--one of the toughest for our generation.  Yesterday, I shared with two young friends what my mother and daddy's life looked like during WW II.  All the men had marched off to war, and they were not only separated for long periods of time, but also had to experience all the difficult moments during that time alone.  I can truthfully tell you, neither parent spent a great deal of time dwelling on those years.  We certainly heard some of the stories, but it did not take center stage in their lives.

My friends who served in Viet Nam witnessed horrors beyond our imagination.  They will tell you bits and pieces of those years, but they do not take center stage in their life journey.  Instead they speak of the good years of marriage, children, and relationships, fun trips, great adventures, and lives well lived.

SO as we near the end of this year, it will certainly go down in the history books. We will stop and remember those we lost, those who were extremely ill, and the economic consequences of all that has happened, but it will not be the only story to come out of this year.  I, for one, had a new grandson born during this time.  There are people experiencing high moments of life during 2020, just as "The Virus" has been a low.  

What am I trying to say---

Stay in the moment 

Do not live in regret

Relish the good moments

Mourn and move forward from those lost and stolen moments

Look toward the future with the promised hope of better days.