I am so thankful for my husband's new job and income so we could participate in giving to our children and our families this year. I love watching my boys think critically over how to spend the little money they had to buy something special for each family member. I love putting up the tree and letting its lights shine in the darkness each night and early each morning. I love baking sweet treats to share with my coworkers and friends. I love the thoughtfulness that happens at this time of the year when we take the focus off of ourselves and think about others. I love learning about the significance behind each of our Christmas symbols that we use to decorate our homes. I love wrapping gifts and watching the pile of gifts beneath the tree grow over the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, knowing that we are all thinking of ways to bless and surprise each other. I love watching the childlike wonder in my adoptive son's eyes as Christmas drew near. I love how observant he is to each tradition he sees us keeping over the three Christmases we've spent with him so far.
We never go all out on Christmas. We've never done the "Santa" thing, and we don't make wish lists (although we did have to ask Juan David to come up with a verbal list of things he might like under a certain price since the original items he asked for were way out of our budget). We have always kept things simple. Even my wrap jobs are simple. Not real neat. No bows. No cute tags. Just covered in whatever paper I can find. The paper all gets torn off, anyway, and it's what's on the inside that counts, right? That's my philosophy.
And if what's on the inside is filled with thought, consideration, and love, then that's what matters.
Which leads me to consider that to be an overall life perspective, one that God began to challenge me with several years ago.
I can decorate and fill my house with a bunch of fancy stuff, but it doesn't fulfill anyone if my house is not filled with love and consideration for others.
I can spend a fortune of time and money making sure I walk out of the house each day with the best personal appearance possible, but if I don't take time to work on what's on the inside, then I've wasted all that time and money on nothing.
I grew up with an incredible sense of insecurity, always consumed with how I looked on the outside. Did I have the right clothes, the right make-up, the right hairstyle? Did I attract the right people? I spent an obsessive amount of time in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, popping zits, putting on make-up, and fixing my hair.
Then one day I started realizing that I saw people the same whether their hair looked good or not, whether they wore a ton of make-up or not, and whether their clothes were in style or not. If I didn't see them differently based on what I saw on the outside, then I realized that other people probably didn't either. I slowly stopped spending so much time on the outside because it didn't change a bit of who I was on the inside.
Then God challenged me to work on making myself beautiful from the inside out. There's only one way to do that, though. It's to let Christ have all of me and to let Him live through me. I wrote a whole chapter in my next book about this transformation that took place in my life, but I realized that if I don't seek Christ first thing every day, then my focus gets skewed for the rest of the day. I start to worry about how I look or appear on the outside, and I forget that it's what on the inside that really counts. If Christ is not at the core of my being, people will just see a flawed, sinful, selfish me.
It doesn't matter how pretty we can wrap ourselves up. When the paper gets ripped off, what gift will others see inside? My challenge is to make sure they see Jesus instead of me.
Here are two songs to encourage you in that direction today and into the new year coming.