I Had No Gift To Bring...Until I Removed Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

We do not have a magazine or Pinterest picture-worthy Christmas tree, and I like it that way.  What we have is a tree trimmed with a mixture of colorful antique glass orbs that came to us second hand, pipe cleaner-beaded candy canes, crayon-framed school pictures, heavily-glittered construction paper cut outs, and many, many other ornaments that share memories, and serve as reminders - like these.

Several Christmases ago when the hubby was still in school and we were just a couple months away from welcoming our first son and  literally counting pennies to get by most weeks, the idea of buying Christmas presents for everyone in our families was just not realistic.  This pained me.  I love giving gifts.  Truly it is one of my favorite things to do.  The whole process of really thinking about specific people, what they like, who they are, the parts of their life and heart they've trusted me enough to share with me, and thenfinding the perfect gift for them brings me such joy and excitement.  So much so, that anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not very good at keeping a gift secret.  

Well, not being able to entertain the usual gift-giving process caused one line from a popular Christmas song to play on repeat in my head, "I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum."  For days, that little drummer boy was beating this into my brain.  Even though I know the song, I could not get past that line.  It was like a broken record.  Then, driving home from work one evening the song came on the radio, and I listened, really listened to the lyrics for the first time.  Without the catchy "Pa rum pum pum pum" lines, this song had a brand new meaning to me. 

Come they told me,
A new born King to see,
Our finest gifts we bring,
To lay before the King

So to honor Him
When we come

Little  Baby,
I am a poor boy too,
That's fit to bring a King

Shall I play for you,
On my drum?

Mary nodded,
The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him

Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum

Well, a drummer I am not, but just like that little drummer boy, I decided I could give my time and talents.    For weeks, I spent every night sitting on the living room floor, surrounded by paints and ornaments as I hand-painted Christmas scenes on about 40 ornaments.  For the most part, the gifts were well-received, and more treasured by some than anything I could have bought. Just as the little drummer boy did, I played my best for them, and they smiled.

The following Christmas found us in better shape, and even  living in the first house we bought, but still not with much left over to buy gifts.  So again I painted ornaments.  Wanting this to still be something with thought and meaning behind it, I painted more specific images.  I adorned a large white orb with a pink and silver bike with white banana seat for my dad because the Christmas I got that bike and he spent the entire afternoon teaching me how to ride it is still to this day my favorite childhood memory.  Other ornaments were similar in sentiment, but served the purpose of letting the person know how special they are to my life. Again, I played my best for them, and they smiled.

The two ornaments pictured are from the first year, and the only ones I did not give away, because to me they were no good.  My husband asked me to keep them, for him.  I'm so glad I did.  Without knowing, he gave me a gift that I unwrap every year. Each year when we pull out the decorations and I carefully peel back tissue paper from the glass goodies, eager to see which one it is, and when I see these I smile and tear up a bit.  These remind me of a time when money was tight, but God always smiled upon us and provided our needs.  A time when  I thought I had no gifts to bring, so I gave my heart. I gave my best.  

I still love to find the perfect gift for people, but even now when I have something to give, the greatest thing it seems I can offer is my time, my talents and my best. And that's truly what He wants us to give.  Pa rum pum pum pum. 


Clarity from Craziness, and an Apology to Baby Jesus

Birthdays for me used to be about the present (both literally and figuratively), and since my birthday is the week before Thanksgiving, it also meant the start of the holidays.  Read: when I was a kid, I ridiculously thought I was so freakin' special that my birthday kicked off the entire holiday season.  HA! It went Amber's birthday, Thanksgiving, then baby Jesus's birthday.  Yup, I was a self-absorbed five-year-old who told Jesus to not only get in line, but get behind the turkey! (Thank you to all who have done the hard work in setting me straight over the years.  You should be granted immediate sainthood). 

As I got into double digits, my focus shifted more towards the future, and birthdays became synonymous with milestones: driving, voting, buying alcohol....I could list receiving a reduction on insurance rates, and renting a car here, but let's be honest, did anyone eagerly await these?! Annnnyybody? They were simply life annoyingly announcing, "Hooray, you made it into adulthood! Now act like it!" 

One great husband, three goofy kiddos, and two decades later, each trip around the sun now serves as a mirror and guide post for me. Birthdays are a chance to look back and see what God has brought me through, how He has blessed even the hardest of times, and a life marker to always look back on when I need a reminder of all the ways He has equipped me (and forgiven me for making His son stand behind a Butterball).

Yesterday I turned 37, and as I reflected on these last 365 days, I'm amazed.  It was by far one of the craziest, most trying, and hardest years, but it was also my best, favorite, and most fruitful year ever.  EVER! Now, when I say crazy, I mean full out chaos.  I don't have enough time, and you don't have enough attention span to share the wildness of the full year, so let's look at JUST the last five months alone...deeep breath, and go - our family moved, we transitioned from small private schools to big public school,  we powered through extensive testing, MRIs, Xrays and exams of our second born who was waking in the middle of the night with severe headaches and eye pain, my husband (who was out of town for work a great deal) and I struggled through heartbreaking issues with extended family, my baby started kindergarten a year earlier than expected cuing a near emotional breakdown for this mama, and without warning in the midst of our loan process for our new home I had to completely shut down my design studio, which was our second income since I left my day job in April.  Annnnd breathe.

Did I mention it was crazy? I have learned the VERY hard way that when things get that crazy and out of control I have to fight my urge to hold the reins tighter trying to self-direct the storm, and instead, just. let. go. I don't mean give up.  I don't mean stick my head in the sand and pretend it's not happening.  I mean, I have to let go of the reins and let someone with much better vision take over.  By opening my hands from the reins, I am able to accept and take hold of opportunities to exercise and fine tune patience, endurance, faith, and hope.

36 was hard, but the craziness was also the catalyst for clarity and growth on so many levels and it drew us closer together as a family, and certainly closer to God who we know did the true heavy lifting of the move - He carried us. Guidepost 36 is my best birthday gift ever and will remind me of the importance and reward of practicing full reliance on Him, and not putting Him second place behind my plans. (And definitely never again third place behind the turkey. I'm so sorry, baby Jesus).

With this new year comes the start to a slightly new direction for me and my studio.  During my sudden static silence, I gained clarity on a few things, including His purpose for me, and how to use my talents for Him. He showed me my core truths. I have a strong passion for unbreakable and thriving marriages. I have a deep desire to help people tell their story.   Designing brightly colored pretty items that help people share their life fulfills me.  I have a heart for encouraging other women, loving on them and seeing them succeed! Embracing these truths, God clearly showed me the full mission for my studio - to create designs and tools that help others share their life, tell their stories, and encourage others.

And the name change? Well, if I'm not willing to put my name on something, then that's a pretty good sign that it's not what I'm supposed to be doing.  I've never been more comfortable in my own skin than this moment in my life, and I want to own every piece of that.

I hope you will join me as I start this next year, and let me know when your life is getting crazy so I can pray for you, and tell me when times are great so I can join you in lifting up praises.

If you've made it this far, {thank you}, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Tell me, what was your favorite birthday present?