I was a new wife. He was my new husband. And I returned his Christmas gift.

It was a jewelry box–one of those big wooden ones–and he spent a fortune on it. But he encouraged me to take it back if I didn’t really like it. I thought I was being reasonable when I took his word for it and exchanged it for something I ‘needed’. But now I think I was being foolish. In fact, if I could talk to my twenty-six-year-old self, here’s what I’d say:

My Advice to Myself, at Age 26

“Ok, I get it. You like to shop for deals. You only buy things on sale. You feel good when you prove that money has elastic in it. And yes, money is tight right now. I get that you want to be conscientious about spending.

But here’s the thing. You weren’t the one spending. You didn’t buy jewelry box. He did.

And yes, of course he said that you could take it back. He did that because he’s a great guy. But did you see that little searching look in his eye, when you opened his gift? Did you see how he watched you, carefully measuring your reaction, as you pulled the paper away from the box? He wasn’t looking at the price tag. He was looking at you. He was loving you, and trying to please you.

Now, here’s something that you don’t yet know about yourself. You’re a Control Girl. You naturally gravitate toward wanting to control. And guess what? Gifts are one of those things in life that you can’t control. You don’t know what will be under the wrapping paper. You can’t control what he’ll buy.

That won’t stop you from trying, though. In the coming years, you will return so many gifts that your sweet husband will lose heart and quit trying so hard. He’ll just go to the store and buy whatever you circled in the sale ad, wrap it up, and hope to see you smile. But by reducing him to a circled-ad gift buyer, you stamp out some of the glowing embers of Christmas.

Here’s my advice: Keep the jewelry box. Keep the sparkle in his eye. Enjoy his choice, and let him choose how much to spend on it. Don’t be a Christmas Control Girl! Be a cheerful, grateful wife, and let yourself delight in your husband’s gift! By doing so, you’ll be a delight to him–both on Christmas Day and the days following, as well.”

Different Year, Same Advice

Now that I’ve given my younger self some adivice, I’m thinking it might apply to my older self, as well. How about you? Are you a Control Girl at Christmas? If so, let me just say that I get you. I know you’re not trying to exasperate anyone; you’re just trying to make everything turn out right!

But let me ask you. When you clamp down on everything from who will buy what for whom to who will open what when, does this fill your family with Christmas cheer? Or does it make everybody miserable?

I’m learning that the only way to conquer my control problem is to do the opposite of taking control: surrender. To give up control, rather than lunging for it. In my book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible

, I talked a lot about surrendering to God, and His plans for our lives. But there’s also something to be said for surrendering to the people that we love.

I’m not talking about becoming their slave, or going slack with no preferences or will. I’m talking about mutual respect between people who love each other. When I doggedly insist on having my way and making everything perfect, the people I’m  most trying to make everything “turn out right” for (my husband or parents kids or cousins or aunts) are only getting frustrated and discouraged.

What Will You Surrender, This Christmas?

Christmas is a great time to practice surrendering. It’s a great time to give up control and put someone else’s wishes above your own. So what’s one thing you can let go of this Christmas? A tradition or an expectation? The guest list or the order of events? What’s one thing that you’d like to control, but won’t?

Perhaps like me, you need to rethink how you respond to your Christmas presents. Gift receiving is a great way to practice surrendering control. When you open a gift from a loved one, this Christmas, why not give in to his or her preferences?

Wear the scarf.

Read the book.

Plug in the appliance.

Delight in both the gift, and the giver. Surrender yourself to the joy of others, and you’ll find more joy for yourself, too! I should know; I’ve tried it both ways.

I have no idea what my husband will get me for Christmas this year. I haven’t even made a suggestion! But here’s one thing I know: I’m going to keep it, and enjoy it, and savor the time with him.


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