Ribbons, Bows, and Strings Attached

If you want to be an Angel: Please remember to grab a card off the Salvation Army Angel Tree this week. Gifts are due back by December 11th. Thank you.

Tree Lighting on the Park tonight at 6pm. All are Welcome. Carols and Refreshments.

John invites us to shed and let go.  To give up.  To renunciate.  He lives on poor food and course clothing.  He lives in the barren places, the desert and the wild places.  He asks of us to give up safety and comfort.  He asks us to empty ourselves of our selfishness and greed.  To be cleansed of our sins (missing the mark) and to do better.  To make room in our lives and our hearts for grace and hope.  Faith and Grace.  

Gift giving can be a lesson in letting go.  Shedding.  Cleansing and clearing.  When we give, truly give, we don’t have any expectations of, or in, return.  We let it go.  A gift is freely given. No strings attached.  We seek out presents, we do our best, we hope that the person the present is meant for will like it, but we don’t over-stress or over-worry or feel we’ve failed if our gift isn’t perfect.  We let go of the outcomes and trust…  

Or, that’s the idea of a gift anyway.  To give without expectations of return.  To give a gift and hope and have faith it will be received with grace…hopefully even loved and treasured.  

If we’re not careful, we can get so attached to getting the “perfect gift”.  It’s almost become a competition.  PAUSE.  We stress about getting the perfect gift for the people we love.  Like their love hinges on that gift.  Or we we gift to people we don’t like, or who we think don’t like us, hoping they’ll like us.  Sometimes, more than we might admit, the perfect gift isn’t about the other person and giving.  It’s about us.  Our desires and attachments.  To being the perfect gift giver.  To compete.  To win over.  To be liked.  

If we’re not careful, we can get so attached to our gifts we’re supposed to be giving freely away that we get upset when we learn that someone doesn’t like what we gave to them.  That it wasn’t the “right thing” or “good enough”.  Of course, part of it is that we are disappointed that they are disappointed and that makes us sad.  But how much of it is about us being overly attached to the perfect outcomes of our gift giving? Or that we wasted our time? How much of it is that we are disappointed in ourselves over the imperfect gift…which if we’re overly attached translates to feeling that it’s a personal imperfectness.  We are disappointing.  We are not “good enough”.    

Instead of knowing that a gift is a gift, separate from who we are.  We did our best, it wasn’t perfect (or sometimes it was even downright not so good at all), but we let it go.  The love is still there between us.  The gift…was a gift.  No strings attached.  There was enough love between you to give a gift or send a card.  Isn’t that enough?  Why do we cling to the desired outcome of a gift given, which means…subtle strings attached.  We have expectations.  

Although, usually, there’s a middle ground.  We don’t want to cling to personal desires or beat ourselves up over the inevitable imperfections of gift giving.  Maybe that’s part of gift giving…the risk. We certainly don’t want to value who we are based on gifts and stuff.  But we do have a hopeful outcome when we share and give of ourselves.  Maybe that’s Love.

I got a card this week and I thought: how did I make this person’s card list???  Their list must be a mile long for me to make the list.  I felt bad for them for the work they must put into card giving.  The busyness they must be adding to their lives. How overwhelmed they must be?  

Then, I smiled to have made the list.  I thought about this person I hadn’t thought of in a while.  I felt attached to them.  Like a string.  Or a thread.  Remember a while back, we talked about the birds at our feeder and what happens when we get a return visiter?  We get to know them.  We name the species and learn about them.  We maybe even give them a special name.  The thread that connects us thickens so when this bird doesn’t come at her usual time one day, we worry…and we’re grateful when she returns.  

It was like that.  A thread of connection.  A memory.  Thoughtfulness.  

Then I was looking for a gift for my Angel Tree Girl.  Talk about no strings attached.  It’s a guessing game of gift giving where you kind of have to let go of the outcomes.  There’s no way to ever know whether I found the “perfect gift” or even a gift that was liked.  

Yet, I felt a thread of connection to this stranger.  One word and we had a connection: Barbie.  I got to shop for the Barbie I know I would have wanted as a child!  I felt the thread thicken between me and a little girl I’ve never met and won’t meet.  I felt a connection to the little girl I was.  I remembered my Christmas Barbies.  My Mom was a crazy gift wrapper (similar to identifying as the perfect gift giver) and would disguise packages.  I’d be so sad thinking there’s no way any of those packages contain the Barbie I’d asked for. But they usually did.  

Memories and threads.  Remembered and thickened.  Connection to something bigger.  Mystery.   

Maybe ‘non attachment to outcomes’ can be a little too much.  Maybe being attached and overwhelming ourselves to be “perfect” and over-identify with the gifts is a little too much.  Maybe it’s something in the middle with a little honesty and a little more self honesty.  

Are we the “perfect gift giver (wrapper, baker, crafter, etc.)” because of our love of it or our attachment to how it identifies us?  Is the gift giving about giving or about trying to prove something or be perfect/good/liked?  Do we feel stuck in it?  Have we lost our joy in it? Or do we love it? 

Maybe this is why we have a season of waiting before the time of giving.  To tune in and self reflect as to what a gift means, why we are giving, who we are giving to.  Sometimes, I feel like we’re too busy to notice any of the reasons.  To really clear the way and understand the connections, not the strings attached.  

Is our card list a mile long because it’s supposed to be or because we love it?  Is our gift giving creating and strengthening those threads of love and connection or is it to have a longer list, to be liked, to get something in return, or be the best?  

Perhaps it’s not about the strings, but what kind of strings.  Are we attaching strings with expectations of return or, worse, being tugged by tangled knots of guilt and not good enough?  Maybe those are the strings to break and untie and snip.

Are are we creating beautiful webs.  Giant networks of giving and receiving.  Webs of threads of connection that unite us, to one another, and even to the mysterious connections to strangers and lost ones.  The web that brings us deeper and closer.  Deeper in Love and closer to Grace.  Those are the strings to be nurtured and tightened and held close.

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