Days after Christmas, and their wishlists still hang on the refrigerator, curling slightly at the corners where our nearness, our brushing past, has gently reshaped the paper. And of course, the lists have been moved a few times–carefully detached to travel with me to the store, lifted once or twice for closer reading, softly touched with an attentive hand. A faint crease marks the center of one, the light reminder that I have carried these lists close and have kept them tucked safe, that I have held them in my hands more than a few times. Even though my children haven’t seen me touch the paper a single time, they are certain that I have not only read the lists but have considered them, if not simply for knowing that I would but because their Christmas gifts have served as evidence. What they maybe don’t know is that even now—after all the glittery wrapping paper has been torn asunder and the gifts sit warm in their laps—I still save their wishes carefully, that I will keep this history of hope in every shade–small, great, serious, silly, usual, and deliciously and particularly unique—for savoring, for remembering the tiny things about who they are right now. And what they maybe cannot truly know, at least not until they have loved their own children, is how precious a gift it is to me be the one with whom they entrust their wishes.
In the morning as the coffee brews, I collect their handwritten requests in my hands, holding the words—Riley’s neat, precise and thorough rows; Zoe’s quick, sometimes misspelled jots (“but I know you’ll know what I mean, Mom”); Adam’s efficient telegrams (blue presents; music)—close. The best part of Christmas for me is surprising them not only with things they have asked to receive but also with things it didn’t even occur to them to want—things I know they’ll love or need or enjoy because I know them, because we share space and life and breath and love. Finally in the quiet anticipation of a new day, a new year, I have time for tasting my memories, time for recollecting, for treasuring up.
I smile, remembering: my special effort to find the right blue wrapping paper for Adam’s gifts, because this detail was one of the few he noted; the sound of Zoe’s voice as she opened an annual favorite–her snowglobe (“oh, I recognize this box”), an item so traditional she never even lists it. This year, the familiar box held an unexpected surprise–a specific gift Zoe believed to be lost to her. In a random after-school confession sometime around Thanksgiving, she had mentioned a globe she hoped for last year but for some reason didn’t request (so we had picked a different one, one–she hastened to say–she also liked very much), and I had been thrilled to discover the creamy, shimmery mother tiger and her gemstone dotted cub—one of the last available–on one of my shopping expeditions. I can still see the globe in her hands on Christmas morning, the paper drifting in a pile at her feet, the curl of ribbon dangling from her knee. She held that gift like a precious jewel, lifting it to the light, setting it in the window to take pictures. And then, of course, I have a video of Riley when she unwrapped her new cell phone, though I wouldn’t need it to recall the way she leaned back against the sofa to laugh–the astonished and thoroughly delighted way she said, “it’s a new phone, you got me a phone,” even though that one item had been on her list alone for at least two months before she added anything else to the paper. Even before she wrote it down, we had talked about how it might be time for that gift, and still she felt no sense of entitlement, no significant expectation that her wish constituted a guarantee. When Riley entrusts a wish, she entrusts it completely, relinquishing even the expectation of fulfillment to her trust in the faithfulness of our love and care for her. Had we not given her the phone for Christmas, she would only have continued to hope for it, rewriting the wish on a new list for her birthday. As it was, her profound, overwhelmed, giddy joy over that gift moved her from exclamation to laughter to thanksgiving enough to last the entire morning and came with such surprise that I knew that had we postponed the gift for another time, it would not have occurred to her to feel disappointed or to complain. That made the giving itself an even greater joy for us.
I reach for a mug, laughing out loud in the quiet kitchen as new morning light sneaks through the cracks in our curtains. The memory melts sweet as I count the gifts, and I smile at the careful shape of the letters still marking time at the top of Riley’s wishlist, the happy request God gave us the grace to be able to fill. And deep in my soul, I feel an ache for parents everywhere who painfully tuck similar wishes away, forced to set aside requests for more resourceful times or to trade the frivilous for the much more crucial. It has to be that God aches too when in His sovereignty He knows not yet or not now or not at all will have to be His answer, because I know that He delights in our wishes; in our spoken, listed hopes of every shade; in the carefully surrendered things we ask of Him. It isn’t that by some limited knowledge of us He would fail to bless us well apart from our prayers, but instead that He longs to be the one with whom I carefully entrust my vulnerable longings.
This truth wraps warm about my shoulders as I cradle the coffee mug in my hands and the steam curls and I wander right into God’s arms—right into those hands that shape everything new, that make every new thing. My fingers graze my children’s wishlists, stacked lightly in a pile beside me for safekeeping, and the truth fits like a puzzle piece or a thread in a beautiful tapestry, like another phrase in a conversation we started months ago when He whispered my one word for 2016:
And I smile because He teaches me in waves, in echoes that build. He roots me with seeds I never knew He planted, never realized He’d considered, until later. I never see Him take up my prayers in His hands, nor ever watch Him touch the air where they drift like perfume, and yet I know He hears, if not because I know He would, because His gifts to me evidence that grace. So Christmas brings me a small stack of powerful books on prayer, that tiny but mighty word guarded in my heart, and this joy, still, tasted and held in the quiet of a new day—that if I know how to give good gifts to my children, if I treasure and keep their wishes close even now, how much more will my Father in heaven give good gifts to me, if I ask.