Saturday, December 21, 2013

Treasure Hunting

I do not love shopping. I do not like the time it takes, I do not like that I fall prey to every sales tactic in the book, and I do not like having to talk to sales clerks.  When I do go shopping, I typically have a list, a very specific list. I get in and get out. While I enjoy picking out gifts for people, I just don't care to dilly dally in a store.

My mother, on the other hand, is dilly dallier of professional quality.  Mom must touch everything, smell some things, make new friends, and force others to try on clothes.  There is no list when she goes shopping, there is only going. Mom doesn't really even care where she shops, she takes her task just as seriously no matter if she is at Macy's or Family Dollar.

I am my mother's only daughter, so guess who always won the honor of Christmas shopping with her?

I remember nestling myself among coats and trying to nap while she got her shop on. I would try to convince her that someone on her list needed bedding just so I could find a soft spot to set my tush. I was so disappointed that the bedding under the pretty comforters was not actually soft. Thankfully mother does not believe in shopping without sustenance, so I was promised a coke and a soft pretzel from the food court at some point during our trek.

Oh, my how I groaned, complained, rolled my eyes, and dragged my feet. I must have driven her crazy on those trips.

At some point, though, I started paying attention. I saw how her eyes lingered on a necklace, or how she ran a hand over a book cover. I also saw how she never bought herself anything. For mom, shopping at Christmas was truly about finding something special for the family and friends she loved. Mom never bought a gift just to have something to give, she always put a lot of thought into it.

I'm not sure how old I was when Dad asked if I had any ideas for Mom's Christmas present, but I know my answer was, "We were at this store, and she loved this one thing."

That's how my Dad and I started the tradition of going shopping for mom on Christmas Eve. I would drag my father around to half the stores in Lexington to show him every bauble, sweater, and throw pillow that I had seen Mom admire. As I got older, I got much better at deciphering true longing from mere admiration from my mother. In the beginning I took every 'oooh' and 'aaah' as the gospel, so Mom probably ended up with some real doozies for gifts.

The value in those shopping excursions with my Dad was not in learning how to pick out gifts, it was in getting to see how much my dad loved his bride. I quickly learned that my father would, quite literally, buy anything I suggested mom had admired. He wanted his gifts to be special, and finding something that Mom would not ever buy for herself was the treasure hunt. Dad also wanted the gift to have meaning, it was not just so that Mom had something to unwrap on Christmas morning. My dad is a man of few facial expressions, but watching him watch Mom open was (almost) my favorite part of Christmas morning.  The smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye was, and is, childlike. Oh, and Mom as she opened the gift whispering, "Oh, you naughty man, what have you done?" but grinning like the cheshire cat -  the best ever. I love those glimpses of my parents.  They truly did teach me how to love.

The funny thing is that I do not remember many of the gifts that we picked out. The time with Dad was special, and I could tell that Mom was just thrilled at how much thought he had put into her gifts. I loved going from store to store, and ending our day with lunch  or dinner out.  We'd come home and mom would say, "What have you two been doing?" and we would make a production of acting as if we had no luck. Even though I am married and have children we still keep up with our Christmas Eve shopping trips as much as possible. I suspect that my teenage daughters will soon join in, maybe with their dad.

As I look back on the extravagance my father enjoyed lavishing on his bride, I am reminded that Christmas is a time we reflect on the extravagance of our heavenly father. He sent his son to us as the greatest gift of love, lavishing humanity with redemption. God did not have to fight his way through lines for our gift, but through history. He had the perfect gift chosen before creation, but was patient as he waited to bestow the world with the perfect package, wrapped humbly in humanness. I can only imagine the delight God takes when one of his children discovers the Light of the World, how he must smile, how his eyes must twinkle.

I know that life does not stop simply because it is December 25th, I know it can be heavy. Illnesses do not take a break, bill collectors do not give miracles, and sometimes visiting family feels more like trying to make it safely through a minefield. We can take a breath, though, and remember the gift. We can let the light of Christ fill us, even if only for a few short minutes, and know:

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of heavenly lights,
Who does not change like shifting shadows. (James:1:17)

Take time to remember the decadence from our Creator, the gift of our humble servant, Jesus, and may the light of the Holy Spirit be with you, always.


  1. Love this, Kara! Someday you should compile all your blog posts into a book. I think it would be a New York Times bestseller! :-)

  2. I had great times with you, out shopping. Have a great time preparing for Christmas. Apparently, the crowds are really heavy in Lexington. I have already returned a gift (yesterday) to the mall. Just sat in the car a few minutes until someone left. I got in and out in less than 10 minutes. I still enjoy the crowds, including the UK basketball games.

    Your right! It is Jesus's birthday, not Christmas party day.