Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Christmas List

For many years now my wife and I have prepared lists each year indicating things we might like to have for Christmas. This was something that she introduced to me when we got married. What is on the list is not what always ends up under the tree, per se. It is, however, a starting point for our Christmas present shopping for each other and for others.

I didn't initially know if I liked the idea of having to buy presents according to a list. My thought was that I should be able to pick something out for someone, if I really knew them. After some time went by, I realized that, while this is mostly true, a Christmas list is a good place to learn about a person's likes and thoughts. People don't put items on their lists that that don't really want. I have been surprised with what I have seen from time to time. It has changed my mind on the writing of lists for sure.

Sometimes people's interests change and you don't realize it. You may have known each other for years, or even live under the same roof. They may have liked something for years and you give them more of the same. They appreciate the gift because you gave it with love, but they also don't feel like they are known for who they are now, just for who they used to be. We are all busy. Sometimes the ones we love most change a little on us in likes and interests and we don't notice. The Christmas list is a good way to express some of those changes.

I know my own lists have changed over the years. When I was younger I wanted movies or electronic gadgets. If it had an on switch, i wanted to have it. Now, years later, I have a drawer full of movies I haven't watched in ages, and a bunch of outdated gadgets. These days I am much more interested in thoughtful gifts and gifts that help me live the life that I have chosen. What do I mean? I am a family man. I cook. I am a professional. New pictures of my wife and son, or things that remind me of them are awesome gifts. Things I can cook or cook with are great ideas. Dress clothes to wear to work...are kind of boring, but are very useful and appreciated. A movie or a gadget? I will still enjoy it, but it is more who I was compared to who I am now.

The bottom line is this: we give gifts to the ones we love, because we love them and want to do good things for them. I want to know my wife and son well enough to give them things they love, but I know that I don't always pick up on the clues. Asking them to tell me what they like and who they are is a good thing. It lets them know that I love them and want to know them. And, it keeps me from giving them something that doesn't fit who they are now. I don't always buy according to what is written on the list, but I do pay special attention to what is written on it. Sometimes I can come up with things that they didn't expect and enjoy more than what they wrote down.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I want to be like good ol Fezziwig!

One Christmas story that I love is about an old man who has lost his way. At one time in his life he knew about what was valuable and why. Over time, he lost this and the important things in life took a back seat to one master passion, gain. In the end, he is shown the folly of his ways and he becomes reformed character. You know his name as well as I do: Ebenezer Scrooge.

One of the themes that I love most in the story is that you can be good in business and still be good to people. We see this contrasted in the characters of Scrooge and his former employer, Mr. Fezziwig.

At one point early in the story Scrooge threatens to relieve Mr. Cratchit, his employee, of his situation (fire him) if Cratchit takes any more coal to put in his fire. Remember, this story is set in December in London in the middle of the 1800s. With no fire to keep him warm, Mr Cratchit was working in a state of intense misery. With no more coal to put on his fire, he had only the light of a single candle to keep him warm. This is a vivid picture of the lack of concern that Scrooge felt for his employee. Making money was his sole focus.

As a young man Scrooge had it much better than Cratchit. Scrooge's first employer was Mr. Fezziwig. We discover about Mr Fezziwig that he was a jolly man and a good man of business. He ran a profitable business and expected those who worked for him to work hard, but he was also kind to those who worked for him. He was everything that the older Scrooge was not. We see this in a conversation between the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge:

   'A small matter,' said the Ghost, 'to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.'

   'Small!' echoed Scrooge.

   The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,

   'Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?'

   'It isn't that,' said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. 'It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.'

Fezziwig was not only good at business. He was good to people. That made him truly successful. The beauty of the story is that Scrooge becomes like his old employer, and even better:

   Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him......it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

What does this mean for the world today? Working hard and earning a profit from it is an honorable undertaking, when done honestly. Providing for ourselves, our families, and others would not be possible without it. We must remember to apply the lessons that Scrooge learned. We should be good to those that we work with and those who work for us. We should show kindness to those in need, for one day we may be in need of kindness. What better time than Christmas to start practicing it?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keeping Christmas Traditions

It is December 1st. Can you believe that this year is coming to an end? Christmas is 24 days away. I have been planning for it and looking forward to it for most of the year. I love this time of year. There are many reasons why. One in particular? Christmas Traditions.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Do you have things that you look forward to doing with family and friends as Christmas  approaches? There are several that I enjoy and am now getting to share with my son: decorating the tree, looking at Christmas lights, singing Christmas carols, reading stories, and many others. We do them year after year and I love them still.

What is it about the traditions that I love? First, it is a time that I set aside to spend with my family and friends to enjoy doing things with them. That is priceless. Life moves at a frenetic pace. It is necessary to slow down and take my time and enjoy things with them. Christmas is a perfect time to do just that.



Next, the things we do together have meaning for us. My wife and I (and now our son) decorate our home on the day after Thanksgiving (a good way to spend Black Friday) every year. We pull all of the Christmas boxes out of the shed and I put up the tree while Marixa decorates the rest of the house. I generally have the movie White Christmas on in the background because I can sing along (and quote most of the dialogue). Why is this meaningful? We are preparing our home for Christmas. We make it a warm and welcome place that encourages us to celebrate the season. We have ornaments on the tree that remind of us of times we have spent together. We have decorations that we have had for years that we can share memories. It is a time to remember where we have been and look forward to the good times to come.

Also, by practicing Christmas traditions we remind ourselves of the important things about the season: Jesus, giving, showing love, being thankful. Traditions are ways we hand down those beliefs and ways of thinking to future generations. Why do we go look at lights every year? Could it be that we look at lights to remind us of the star that called the Wise Men to Jerusalem? Or, of the starry night on which the baby was born? Yes, we like looking at pretty lights, but putting lights up has a deeper meaning and is something we can remember and share.

No two families are alike in the traditions they keep. They shouldn't be. Traditions are things that have to have meaning for those participating. If there is no meaning, there is little reason to do them every year. But, if there is meaning, the traditions hold the possibility of enriching the Christmas season and drawing you and the ones you love closer together. For this reason, we practice many of the same ones year after year. We look forward to them for years to come. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Child Is This?

One of my favorite parts about the holiday season is the music. I am usually the guy sitting at work that has the 24 hour a day Christmas station playing constantly at my desk. (I do have to turn it off from time to time though...there is only so many times you can hear that Grandma got run over by a reindeer.) I usually sit there singing along, oblivious to the world. Sure, I get some funny looks, but it does get you in the mood for the season.

Maybe I enjoy it as much as I do because I have been writing and singing songs for over half my life. I just love music in general. Couple that with everything that Christmas represents and it makes it so much better. From time to time I have taken old sets of lyrics and put new arrangements to them. I tried my hand at "What Child Is This" a couple of years ago, and I really like how it came out. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas is on the way!

It is hard to believe, but another year is coming to a close and Christmas is just 48 days away. (I have been counting down since March!) I love the season that we are entering in to. It is my favorite time of year. 

If you are new to this site, it was started for a couple of reasons:

First, I have written a Christmas book entitled "I Believe: A Christmas Story". I am very proud of the book and want to share it with the world. (It has gone through some revisions over the past year and is better than before.)

Also, I love Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. It has been my favorite time of year for as long as I can remember. It isn't just one thing that I love, but here are a few to get us started:

1. It is when we celebrate Jesus' birth.
2. It is an opportunity to give, give, give.
3. Sharing the holidays with my family is awesome!
4. Some people become a better version of themselves during Christmas. 
5. Looking at Christmas lights is awesome with my wife and little one. 

There are many more reasons I love Christmas. I will be blogging about them and much more over the next 48 days. I would love if you would join me for the ride. I welcome your comments and stories. Let's share this season together. 

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of my book, the link is on the right side of the page. I am sure you will enjoy it. 

I am looking forward to this Christmas season!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas Eve! Merry Christmas to all of you who have been following along with me. This will be my last post this season. It has been a lot of fun looking forward to Christmas with you. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends and that you are full of Christmas spirit!



What do you have planned for Christmas day? My family and I will wake up tomorrow and have some home made Strawberry muffins. We will open presents (probably before the muffins if my little guy has anything to do with it!). We will share the day together as a family. Most importantly, we will pause and remember why we celebrate and we will give thanks to God.

I am excited to give my wife and son their gifts for Christmas this year. It has been a lot of fun thinking about them and what they would like. My son is super easy to shop for. My wife has been a bit more difficult, but I think she will like what I have come up with. It is so much fun to show them love in this way. I hope you have had a blast as you have prepared as well.

Thank you for reading along. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year my friends. Till next year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To give really is better than to receive

Had you told me this when I was a kid (and I am sure some of you did), I may not have believed you. Christmas was about getting presents. Giving was good. I have always known that, but getting...that was the stuff. 

Then, I fell in love. Christmas 1998 was my first with my wife and it seemed like I could not give her enough. I was a college student and didn't have much money (got my first full time job two days after Christmas that year.) But, what I did have I wanted to give her. Sure, getting gifts was nice, but making her happy was even nicer. 



Fast forward a few years. I had gained a deeper appreciation for my parents (as most people do after they live on their own for a few years. Thanks Mom and Dad!) Add with that my wife's family (who I love very much), and add new friends (who are more awesome with every year that goes by), and giving took on a deeper meaning still. 

Then, the boy came along. My boy. My very own. My son. I had no concept for the range of emotions that you can go through as a parent. They are good ones...most of them anyway. Giving to him has given me an even more heightened awareness that it is better to give than to receive.



Fast forward a couple more years. I feel more blessed than I can recount. I have very few real needs in my life. They are there and being addressed, but I am aware that there are many who are not as fortunate as I. I am by no means rich, but I do have a roof over my head, I am cooking a warm meal as I type, and there are presents under the tree for my family this Christmas. For those who are not so fortunate this Christmas I say a prayer and am moved to find ways to help. Giving to them is so much better than receiving myself, because by giving they find what they need and I find even more joy at Christmastime. 

As far as wants, I have them, and they are on the horizon and I have set my sights on achieving them. Some are toys for fun. Not all of the wants are things I can hold in my hands. To me those will be worthwhile pursuits. There are places I want to go with my family. Experiences I want to share with them. Lives I want to impact for the good. These are the things that I want the most. 

How has your view of giving and receiving changed over the years? What events have happened in your life to lead you to this view?




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