Christmas in July

 

A few weeks ago, Momma, Nannie, and Aunt Doris drove up from Knoxville to have lunch with me. Being a newly married woman is great for SO many reasons, one of which is that the "not-so-newlywed" women in my life are excited to share in my joy and are so encouraging during this fragile stage of life. All three of them ooh and ahh over wedding gifts, compliment my interior decorating (which is easy since a lot of my stuff is just what used to be their stuff), and fill our little home with joy from wall to wall. Even hours after they left, there was a warmth about our little place. 

 Foxy Aunt Doris (I only hope I can pull of silver hair like she can!)

Foxy Aunt Doris (I only hope I can pull of silver hair like she can!)

If you are a woman in my family, then your primary love language is probably gifts. Followed oh so closely by quality time (which is a gift in itself, am I right?) When I was still in grade school, I might come home to a note with a pack of gum, hair ties, or nail polish that Momma left for me. When Nannie sent care packages to me in college, friends gathered from all over the dorm to see what goodies were hidden among the styrofoam peanuts. These gifts that let me know they were thinking of me when I was away from them.

 Prettiest Momma, inside & out!

Prettiest Momma, inside & out!

Per the norm, when these sweet women pulled into my driveway, their arms were full of treasures. I am now the proud owner of my first set of Christmas china! Doris even included some gold chargers and I now find myself needing a reason to use these sweet things before December! The place settings originally belonged to her sister, Margie, who passed away some years ago. Margie was like Melanie from Gone With the Wind, only more quick witted.  She was kind, thoughtful, funny, and beloved by all, especially her big sister Doris. It is a great act of love for Doris to entrust these pieces to me. Nannie brought me a serving dish, a creamer set, and, of course, groceries. She does this pretty frequently now. Either she has picked up on how much time I spend in the kitchen or she thinks I'm not feeding Matthew Darling enough! The fresh veggies she brought were gobbled up as soon as he got home.

 One day, we will pull veggies like this out of our own garden!

One day, we will pull veggies like this out of our own garden!

They brought lunch too! I offered to make something myself since, after all, I was playing hostess today, but they wouldn't hear of it. So we made it a potluck. Momma brought chicken salad, Doris brought croissants, and Nannie brought ginger ale, my favorite soft drink. They did leave dessert to me so I whipped up some strawberry lemonade cookies from a recipe I'd been looking for an excuse to make (maybe I subconsciously invited them all down just so I could bake cookies, stranger things have happened).

After lunch we took a quick tour of my town and then they headed home. Arms empty, hearts full.

I get overwhelmed sometimes when people give me things. I can feel my insides seizing up and sometimes the enemy says, "you don't deserve those gifts. you aren't good enough to be loved and doted on like this, now you have to do something to earn those things. Earn their love! Earn it!" It's the same with Matthew Darling. And, unfortunately, it's the same with God. I have to really stay on top of this natural bent of mine to try to earn love. It's definitely an unhealthy place to dwell. My family gives me gifts because they love me, because I belong to them, and because they want the best life possible for me. Matthew Darling gives me his life every day for the same reasons. And God, well he says that he loves me more than I dare imagine. He loved me enough to send his only Son to the cross for MY sins. Now that's a gift!

I found myself praying recently that I would be able to fully grasp that gift. I've been told the story of the Gospel since before I can remember, but it becomes more tangible, a little more real, in different chapters of my life.  I love that. God meets us where we are, but doesn't leave us like he found us.  John Eldredge says that God grows us up. To me, that means that sometimes the pains that come along with this relationship is him "growing me up". Maybe he is making my heart more compassionate through trials, maybe he is undoing some bad theology I didn't know I believed through my doubts, maybe he is revealing more about himself that I couldn't have grasped if I wasn't growing up. The gift that is a relationship with him is always changing our hearts. That's a gift I never want to take for granted. I pray that I don't fall into comfortable routines with him, or that I don't forgo the relationship for the religion. I also hope to never fail to thank him for the gifts that are my Momma, Nannie, Doris, and the other women in my family who teach me about him.

Really and truly, every breath, every moment is a gift orchestrated by God's grace. I'm going to sit in in this place for a while and work on being aware of the outstanding number of gifts I am given daily. What a way to cultivate a grateful heart!