Friday, December 23, 2011

Robbing ourselves of joy

Have you ever robbed yourself of joy?

Ashley Campbell recently wrote a blog about losing her joy in the midst of Christmas giving. Her story is one that many of us can relate to during the busyness of the season.

Along with her narrative, Ashley posted beautiful photos of a storybook about St. Nicholas that was written by VOM’s Editor-in-Chief, Cheryl Odden (click here for more information about this book).

St. Nicholas lived a life marked by giving and sharing with those in need. Giving gave him joy. Does giving produce the same result in us?

Below are excerpts of the text and images from Ashley’s blog. I hope that during this hectic season you will joyfully give of your time and talents in thankfulness for the gift of God’s Son!

I want to raise givers. I want to be a giver. The saying that it is better to give than receive is so very true. Sure it is fun to get a gift or a special surprise – it is tons of fun – but there is a deeper more sustaining joy that comes with giving. Giving makes a happy heart. I’ve learned that. I’m still learning that. I want my kids to experience the kind of consuming joy that is so much deeper than the happiness of receiving.

This week Chris met the kids and I at Walmart after school. Our church is one of the host sites for Toys for Tots and we were armed with a list of some of the biggest toys needs. I told each of the boys they could pick out x-number of gifts for another boy their age. I wanted them to have fun, to be excited to give, to enjoy the adventure of it all.

There was the part of me that was thrilled to be given much so that along side my kids I could give much. Then there is the part of me that gets tense and high strung when going into a store with all four kids. My kids are well behaved for the most part, but I worry way too much about what others think when they see me out with all four.

The boys were so excited. Their voices were a bit louder than normal. They would pick up a toy and then set it down to look at another. They wanted to dart from aisle to aisle in search of the perfect gifts for boys that may only receive one present this Christmas. A few times they were in the center of the aisle and didn’t move out a stranger’s way quite fast enough.

Basically, I wanted to contain all their excitement and just get the job done. When we checked out, I looked at Chris and told him, “Next year I am just doing this by myself.”

We got to the church. Completely stressed and frazzled, I wanted to just unload it myself and go home. Each of the kids wanted to help unload and carry bags inside. They laughed. They ran, They carried bags bigger than they are….they relished the act of giving. My thoughts were on the spectacle we were at Walmart.

The next morning, I read Ann Voskamp’s words, “Only self can kill joy. I’m the one doing this to me.”

I wanted my kids to experience the joy of giving, but I was so blinded by concern about what others thought of my family…I robbed myself of joy.

Instead of relishing and etching the memory of their joy filled faces in my mind, I chose to focus on the grumpy faces of strangers.

Instead of being in a life changing moment with my kids, I was wanting to change the moment.

Instead of delighting in a shopping spree of fun, I couldn’t get to the check out line fast enough.

I did it to myself.

I missed out.

My kids taught me the unabashed excitement of giving. Instead of just picking a gift and being done with it, they showed me the delight in choosing the best gift even if it means picking up and setting down 20 others first. They showed me a truly happy heart in giving delights in the process as much as the gift….and doesn’t care if everyone else thinks their zeal and delight in giving is annoying. My kids got it this week. And they taught me in the process.

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