Gifts come to us in different ways, -sometimes grand, sometimes simple, sometimes expected, sometimes unexpected. The thing is, we don't always truly recognize them when they come, nor do we necessarily give them when they are needed most. The author of one of my favorite books, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, says it this way...
"You have got to figure out a way to stay fully awake. Time is blurring by and everyone is slipping past. How do we wake to the moments?"
One of those "blurring moments" occurred today.
Today, on Mother's Day.
I could have totally missed it, too, if not for the Holy Spirit prompting me to hear Ann's words, to heed Ann's words. Thankfully, I chose to stay fully awake, and I dare say that that choice resulted in one of my life's most precious moments, a gift I will take with me into always.
We had attended Sunday church service as a family, and were making our way home. Brandon, my 7 year old,...my baby,...told his dad he wanted to get me a gift with his own money for Mother's Day. We stopped at a local thrift shop so he could make his selection. I was not allowed to see, of course, but it turns out he chose a glass bunny figurine with flowers around it.
He was so proud.
"Momma, can I wrap it for you when we get home? I hope you like it. I picked it out myself."
He loves bunnies, that one, -still sleeps with an over-sized stuffed bunny most nights.
But being 7 years old, he is also squirmy and wiggly and on the move, and as such, was carrying his bagged bunny just a bit haphazardly.
More specifically, he was swinging the bag back and forth, again and again. His dad requested to hold the bag until we left the store, which Brandon reluctantly agreed to. When we finally went to pay for a few other items, his dad returned his special bag to him, again reminding him to hold it carefully "so you don't drop it."
A minute later, we heard the dreaded crash. My son stood there, partially in disbelief, mostly in agony, his chin quivering, tears filling his eyes.
Now, I'd like to say I'm a "perfect" mother and therefore handled it in the most tender of ways. The truth is, I was not certain as to what exactly we should do. Brandon had not heeded his father's instruction. In spite of the caution to hold his glass bunny carefully, he had not. And now...
It was gone.
And so was his little heart.
And so was mine, for him.
What to do? What to do?
I began, sympathetic and careful...
"I know, honey, it broke. I can't fix it,..." (because he was looking at me with pleading eyes, as if expecting that, somehow, I could do just that).
He looked inside his little bag, trying not to show how upset he was, and sadly asked, "What should I do with it?"
My word, it's hard to be a parent, -to know when to be firm and when to soften; when to let natural consequences teach, and when to search for the deeper lessons.
Had I not searched deeper, today, I would have missed the greater gift.
But the Holy Spirit prompted my heart and, thankfully, I did search deeper.
"What to do? What to do?"
I took my son, my immature, "still-learning-about-cause-and-effect" 7 year old son, by the chin and looked directly into his eyes. I gently said, "I know you wanted to do something so special for me today, and that you're disappointed that it's broken. I wish I could fix it, but I can't."
I hugged him tightly, kissed his tearful cheek and continued, "But the greater gift came from your heart, honey. You thought of me. You wanted to buy me a gift with your own money on Mother's Day, and I love you for that."
I had also told his father in the check-out line, before I walked away from him, that at 7 years old, our son was too young and immature to "learn" that swinging the bag around, in spite of being asked not to, had resulted in a broken gift and a broken heart. "He'll only remember us saying, 'I told you so' if we handle this any other way but with grace."
As I was hugging my son, his father walked up and handed me the car keys.
"Take the kids and wait for us in the car."
Then, to Brandon, he simply said, "Come with me."
Off they went, back into the store, where his dad simply reminded him that he must listen when we're guiding him. Then, "Let's see if we can find another gift for mom."
I am delighted to say I received another, equally precious bunny figurine from my son, who has a current love for all things bunny. Indeed, time is blurring past, but today, we "figured out how to stay fully awake", as Ann so fervently reminds us.
And in staying awake, my gift was a little bunny.
My gift was a tenderhearted little boy, who stills waves to his mom from the Little League ball field without shame, who covets my presence at every game and every practice.
My gift was his precious thoughtfulness.
My gift was the voice of the Holy Spirit, guiding me where I often struggle.
My gift was in discovering that I could, in return, be the giver of gifts.
I gave my husband the message of grace, which he so lovingly applied to a tender and fragile moment.
And we gave our son grace itself, -the room to grow and make mistakes, and the opportunity to be redeemed.
I have failed so many times as a parent, sometimes blindly, sometimes sinfully. But at the end of all my shortcomings, Jesus still redeems me.
He always does.
My ultimate gift, this Mother's Day, was to gain a much deeper understanding of the grace and mercy of a Savior who loves me unconditionally, even when I am immature and impulsive, and perhaps especially when my attention is captured and I am broken.
Parents, may you receive grace, that you might pass it forward, and may you be fully awake (lest you miss your many gifts received) when you do.
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.