Christmas Shopping: “One for you and one…”

I was shopping at Target, when a dad entered the store with his two kids, pushing a big red cart.

The kids, who were very enthusiastic shoppers, darted over near me to look at some of the displays with bright-eyed expressions. You could tell that this dad had done a wonderful job of building up the moment.

The little girl looked like she was about six, and was very, very excited to buy a gift for her mom. She said, “Ooooh! Look, Daddy! We should get her these! Hot pink and leopard!” She held up a hat and glove set that was obviously meant for a little girl. I hid a small smile, and watched as discretely as I could from my spot over by the gloves.

The dad feigned enthusiasm and said, “Yea? You think Mommy would wear that?”

The girl looked thoughtfully back at the set she was holding up and said, “Well… would.”

“I know honey,” her dad said kindly, “but we need to think about what Mommy would like.”

A few seconds later the girl found a charm bracelet and said, “Oh, Daddy, look! It has little charms… There’s some tiny scissors! And an owl!”

Again the dad said, “But Mommy doesn’t really sew. And I’m not sure she’s into owls…”

The daughter said, “Well, it’s a nice owl. I like it.”

“Ok, let’s look over here..” said the dad, moving his eager shoppers to a different jewelry display. But a moment later, he was saying, “Uh… well… that one’s just a little loud for Mommy.”

Last thing I saw, before their cart rounded out of sight, was the little girl holding out a glittery tulle skirt from the girls’ section of the store. And the dad was saying, “Honey, that’s just a little small for Mommy.”

I had so much fun chuckling to myself over this little girl’s enthusiasm for the things that she liked. But then, as they drifted out of earshot, I realized what I had been doing the whole time: Looking at scarves and gloves and earrings that I liked. I was enjoying the pretty things and wondering if I should put a few in my basket–not for those on my list, but for me.

I had come in to the store to purchase some gloves for the homeless shelter our church is donating to, but how quickly I had deviated to my own wishlist. My sister and I laugh about the way we shop for others (and often each other) with our own tastes in mind, saying, “one for you, and one for me,” as we put duplicates into the cart.

It’s so easy to make Christmas about me–my wishes, my tastes, and my hopes and plans for our family. It irritates me that my husband just wants a nap. I irks me that my kids don’t want me to take their picture. And it bothers me that no one appreciates just how hard I’ve worked to make our Christmas celebration match the Pinterest images dancing through my head.

But these reactions of mine indicate how far I’ve drifted from Christmas. Christmas was the day our Lord Jesus veiled his glory and became a man. Christmas was the day he humbly emptied himself and took the form of a servant. Our servant.

How then, can I celebrate Christmas if I’m focusing on my own interests? How can I celebrate Jesus when I insist on my own agenda? These are the opposite of celebrating Christmas.

As we spend the next few days shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping, may we truly celebrate Christmas. May we reflect Jesus, our Lord, as we, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than myself…“, looking not to our “own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phillipians 2:4-7)

(an updated post from 2012)

When Jesus Sends You Into a Storm

Taken from By: Shannon Popkin


When my son was ten, he was diagnosed with a rare skin disease, literally an hour before we left on vacation. That morning he had pulled up his basketball shorts to show me the sores on his legs, which he hadn’t thought to mention earlier. But now they were hurting enough to keep him from playing soccer with the neighbors and big enough to cause my jaw to drop.

I rushed him to an urgent care facility, where a doctor told us that Cole had a rare, autoimmune skin disease. He prescribed enough medicine to get us through the week, then we left town with more questions than answers. As my husband drove, I searched on my phone for information about the disease. As the Internet swung wide the gates of data, dread flooded our hearts. This would be our life now. His life.

I kept glancing at my son in the rear-view mirror. Read more

He Asked if I was Affordable

Last week, Ken and I went out of town for a little getaway. While Ken was running an errand, a man knocked on the door of our hotel room. I looked through the peephole, and saw that he had a red sweater on, which to me, symbolized ’employee’, so I turned the knob.

But the man was not a hotel employee. Through my cracked door, he asked cheerfully, “Are you affordable?”

He asked if I was affordable...I looked at him blankly for a moment before the implication of his question registered. Was I affordable?

“NO!”  I spewed the word with all the disgust I could muster. I could see a flicker of surprise on his face as the door slammed shut between us.

Fortified behind my locked hotel room door, I began pacing around the room. Had this just happened? Had a man just asked me if I was affordable? 

Fuming, I ranted aloud to the man, as I paced. “Am I affordable? Well I suppose that depends on a few things. Are you prepared to support me for the rest of my life–both financially, emotionally, and spiritually? And what about my three kids? Can you be available for their games, their bedtime routines, their tears, and their struggles? What about their college tuition? And are you ready to be the one I call every time I’m angry, upset, sad, or depressed? Are you willing to bail me out when I crash the car or overspend on my credit card? Will you be the kind of wise, reliable, godly friend that I can trust without reservation? Are you planning to love me, and only me, for the rest of my life?

“Because the man who shares a hotel room with me better be prepared to handle all of that.”

Am I affordable? My husband thinks I am, but it will take all he’s got. And since I’ve given him all that I’ve got, it works out well. That’s what sharing a bed is supposed to be about–giving all that you are and nothing less!

No, I’m not affordable. No one is–not outside of marriage. To suggest that you can rent someone by the hour drastically cheapens them and diminishes the dignity they deserve.

Even having someone ask me if I was affordable was outrageously offensive. How dare he.

But mixed with my indignation was something else that surprised me. After he left my door, I felt strangely ashamed. I didn’t want to tell anyone. As if I had done something wrong. Obviously, this blog post shows that I’ve come to my senses, but the experience gave me new compassion for people who don’t know to slam the door–women who are conditioned to think of themselves as void of dignity. This tiny glimpse through the peephole into their world gave me a new heaviness about the mountains of shame they live under.

Men and women deserve dignity. They have souls. They are not objects to be rented. How can we help them see this?

I think it begins with slamming the door when necessary, but it doesn’t end there. Jesus reached out to the woman caught in adultery with compassion. He made a way for her to go and sin no more. And this is what we, as his ‘hands and feet’, must do as well.

Have you found ways to do this in your community? What more can you do today?