He and I didn't exchange presents this past Christmas. At some point during Advent, we agreed. Let's just receive what we already have. Let's not do anymore asking.
And we fell into a Christmas rhythm of waiting and watching and speaking of the real present found in the Presence. The God who comes down.
Backtrack just one month to Thanksgiving and it never fails. Each year the dearest family members begin asking for our "lists." For years I have been quietly defiant, passively refusing to write down the wants. And for years a family has given the extravagant gifts anyhow, always the showering with the tangible, the practical, the visible. For years, I've held my breath in the moment of receiving, never knowing what to say ... my 'thank you' always feeling so feeble. Inadequate.
I've got this sweet husband who says, "This is how they love you well, just let them love you, Ab." And he inherited these giving genes and he can go overboard in the kindest sort of ways ... like the time he imported chocolate cereal from Ecuador after I mentioned it with nostalgia. He says his greatest joy is to give, support, surprise this girl. This is the same girl who wrestles a critical voice like a lion and cries uncle too often under that weighty lie: "You're not good enough for all of this."
We are an awkward pair: he, the ultimate giver and I, a girl who doesn't like to ask.
And let's be honest. It's not because I don't like to receive.
There have been lots of tears these years too, wanting desperately to grasp the art of giving.
Because I want to be a giver too.
I wonder sometimes if it isn't the getting and the giving that can change a person. I have not been great at either ... both all wrapped up in stifling insecurity: fear of inadequate giving, fear of unworthy receiving.
And I think it odd that my Jesus would give me a abundantly generous man to model generous love; that He would graft me into a family of crazy-givers who make me voice my wants, make me hope out loud.
This is the family that asks for snow each year and after years of humoring, I've begun to believe they could actually conjure it up somehow. Anyways, how many of us dare to put out the big, impossible ask?
Isn't it easier to keep the big desires quiet? Whispered only in soul closets.
I have lived in this space.
I wonder about asking God for the extravagant and I discuss with myself on paper. "Can I put out the big ask? Can I anticipate the extravagant yes from the Giver of all good things? Can I also trust the 'no' that may come instead ... if He truly is good all the time?"
He has been good, in the giving and in the withholding. He has known better than I, each time a request went up and out. He will be good again.
And while we didn't give gifts to each other this season, we did select a few for the kids. Intentional and special. As we sat back, sipped coffee and watched them swirl and play, I felt it deep down in a new way: it is good to give a well-timed 'yes' ... to give a good gift with great affection.
On Christmas night, after kids were down and baby dolls were tucked into new doll beds, I sat down with a pen, thought on how the baby born was just that ... an extravagant 'yes.' An extravagant answer to people sick from hope deferred for far too long. I thought about how the infant God-gift was all wrapped up and waiting before their asks ever went out.
I imagine an extravagant God, waiting for just the right moment.
And even though I didn't ask Todd for a gift this year, I did ask the Father for three. (Ah, the other two for another day perhaps??) But the first?
"Christmas is here," I wrote down in a journal "and I've got Africa on my mind ... all those faces ..."
As it went down in ink I knew it was too big, this ask. How does a mama just up and go? Fly over an ocean, land on another continent? There is laundry and school and there are little people with so many needs. A man. No, this one is better left a dream. And I can't get a 'no' if I never actually ask ...
But my pen made the leap and so did my heart. "Can I go? How soon can my feet touch the ground?"
This husband-giver said, "I think it might be time" and then a passport came in the mail. I wrote a country on the wall and we started to pray.
And after all these years of quiet hoping ... we heard an extravagant, well-timed "yes."
Friends, my feet will hit red soil in just. ten. days.
I've been overwhelmed by the receiving, all of your gifts and prayers (you know who you are) coming together to sing a resounding YES over this dream. The thank you's feel far too feeble and I imagine there will be many, many more to say. To you and to the Giver ... there is only gratitude.
I cant wait to tell you more ... these words are all jumbled and fumbling. But I know this: He is teaching me how to receive well, all of this lavish love, so that I might truly be a giver too.
Peace to you. And more Africa info. to come!