When we were little girls, my sister and I knew that it was important to my parents that Santa not get the credit for our ‘big’ Christmas gift. The hand-crafted doll house, the white leather roller skates with purple wheels (still one of my favorite childhood gifts), the Schwinn bike, the Cabbage Patch doll, and so much more. All of these items were saved for and chosen carefully at a time when money was tight. So, to allow jolly old St. Nick to take the credit was a bridge too far and my mom couldn’t bring herself to put his name on the gift tag.
But, one year, we were informed of a new tradition that my parents decided to introduce into our festivities. My dad had realized that many a Christmas morning found him not being aware of what was inside all of the brightly wrapped boxes. As is typical in many a household, my mom did the bulk of the gift shopping and he was often as surprised as we were by what was under the tree.
So, he made the decision that he would pick out a special gift for his girls that would just be from him and that he would give it to us on Christmas Eve.
I still remember the joy we felt when we were told we would be allowed to open a gift on Christmas Eve. And, when we saw the gift tag signed ‘Love, Daddy’, the significance of knowing that he had personally selected something for each of his girls was not lost on us.
Over the years we received beautiful hard-cover books, perfume in bottles that made us feel oh so grown up, pajamas, ornaments and so much more. I’m sure he had some help from my mom. But, unlike Santa Claus, she was more than happy to let my dad have only his name on the tag.
To this day, it feels almost sacred to go into the cold attic and open up the bins to pull out the beautiful Christmas books and place them on my coffee table. I can’t resist opening the front cover of the Nutcracker and reading the inscription written in my dad’s handwriting. In an instant, I find myself in that inexplicable emotional state where I am both little girl and grown up mom in my forties.
This year, the word ‘nostalgia’ was running through my mind as I began to decorate my home to welcome the season. I think it’s one of the most perfect ways to describe the feeling that rises in us this time of the year.
Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
Sentimental longing or wistful affection…doesn’t that just perfectly capture the complex emotions we experience this time of the year? There’s so much joy and yet, at the same time, so much that feels incredibly bittersweet.
Holidays have that unique ability to serve as a very visible reminder of the passage of time and to have us thinking back and reflecting on the past while also looking forward and wondering what the next year will hold.
They are mile markers on our life journey.
Living in that tension between the two emotions hasn’t always been something I’ve done well and it’s often led to me missing out on simply enjoying the moments unfolding right in front of me. After all, they will be the memories we look back on someday, right?
This past year, more than ever before in my life, I’ve come to realize that perhaps our lives are always meant to live in that tension.
Built into my soul is a longing for a home I’ve yet to see. For now, I reside on this side of eternity.
So, I set out with intentionality to make my home one that pays homage to the home of my childhood and reflects the home that waits for me someday.
The treasured items I pull from the attic blend seamlessly with the newfound pieces that will become treasured items to my children (and maybe even grandchildren!) someday.
If they can find a way to happily exist together in that space between the past, the present and the future then I guess I can do it too.
Because, the best part about that tension is that it reveals to us how finite we really are and reminds us of our need for the One who was born in a manger and died on a cross.
My hope and prayer for you this Christmas is that you will be able to experience the joy that comes from being truly present in each moment. And, that you will simply embrace the bittersweet emotions that rise up in this season, allowing them to turn your hearts towards the Savior who is called,
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”