How I found gratitude at Target: Advent Devotional Day 26

How I found gratitude at Target: Advent Devotional Day 26
photo credit: jayneandd Present via photopin (license)

My guest blogger Rachel (who blogs at Teacher Reader Mom) and I having been writing a devotional-ish-kind-of-thingie every day during Advent, the 28 days before Christmas. And we are at Day 26 of this blogging binge where every day we've looked at the suggested texts from the Revised Common Lectionary and tried to make sense of it in the context of our lives and our world. Here is Rachel's reflection for today.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”
-Mary, from Luke 1:46

I didn’t leave Target until 11 pm Tuesday night. In the frenzy that has been my Christmas season, and the shipping deadlines that have mostly passed, there I was running up and down aisles, trying to convince my three year old son that we would “GET TO THE TOYS IN A MINUTE” and “ISN’T THIS BOTTLE OF SHAVING CREAM COOL, TOO?”

Because it was so late, once we finally made it down to the toy aisle, I let my son pick out one toy. One small toy. And I clarified that this toy would be wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree until Christmas. My son picked out a toy with a dog from his favorite show and then proceeded to inform me that the dog told him that he didn’t want to be wrapped and put under the Christmas tree. He wanted to be open.

Obviously.

He’s good at that, my son. Negotiating for the instant gratification. Lured by the shiny new plastic crap that so perfectly markets itself in his TV shows and movies.

I’m good at that, too. Grabbing the mail each day, excited by the glossy pages of the Ulta catalog, thinking, “Well… would it be so bad if I just stopped in? There’s a free BATHROBE!”

It’s not that I don’t know that Christmas isn’t about commercialism. It’s not that I had to go to Target until the middle of the night, dragging my son along with me, in a desperate attempt to get a small item for each one of my coworkers. A gesture which, by the way, was very well received yesterday.

It’s just that this week, it feels a lot easier to just buy the chocolate than to explain to my coworkers that I didn’t get them anything because I don’t think gifts are necessary around the holidays, it’s not really why I celebrate the holidays.

It’s also why I can’t seem to stop eating the cookies and chocolates all around me. Because it tastes so good. And it’s hard to keep turning it down, and it hurts people’s feelings when their attempts to feed you are rejected and, and, and…

photo credit: Patrick Hoesly Infinite Target Registers via photopin (license)

photo credit: Patrick Hoesly Infinite Target Registers via photopin (license)

And you end up at Target at 11 pm at night, buying your son cheap plastic crap that will end up sitting in one of hundreds of toy baskets filled with equally cheap and equally plastic crap.

I was standing there in the middle of one of the aisles, my son lying on the floor, having just broken an ornament, and I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this?”

Deep breath. Deep breath. One more deep breath. (Son loudly announcing to store that HE HAS BROKEN THE ORNAMENT! THE ORNAMENT BROKE WHEN IT DROPPED ON THE FLOOR!)

And the answer sort of lapped at me, like a wave.

Because I have friends. I do this because I have friends. I was there late because I had spent the evening with one group of friends, had stopped in on another group of friends, and stayed to chat in both places, longer than I’d meant to.

I do this because I have a store that carries every single item I could possibly imagine, and is open all hours of the night. I do this because I know that my friends are going to bring similar gifts to me. Gifts like the large present that took both hands to carry into the house last night. I do this because I want my son to have a magical Christmas and because I have the means to make that happen.

I do this because I can.

In the midst of all the horrific things that are happening in our world, it seems a little ridiculous to be telling a story about Target. To be sharing my aha moments from the aisle of a big box store. So ridiculous, in fact, that I responded to these realizations in the moment with, “Really? The answer is going to be gratitude? Again?

I mean, I hesitate to even say the word gratitude. It seems cliche. Especially right now. Right now is a time for outrage. Right now is a time for weeping and mourning for all that is not set right. For all that is broken and hurting. Right now we’re in the longest nights of the year. Literally. Metaphorically.

And how obnoxious is it to be the person on the sinking Titanic, talking about “Well, at least…” or “Gratitude turns what we have into enough…” (And how much even more obnoxious to be saying that if you’re one of the ones who managed to get a seat on the lifeboat.)

And yet.

And yet gratitude is still the answer that came in with the wave. Breaking into the middle of what could become my own cycle of despair and irritation and numbness and busy by saying, “Guess what? You have an amazing life. You have incredible friends. You have everything you need.”

Deep breath. Deep breath. Deep breath.

But maybe it also takes that moment of gratitude, of realizing that I have enough (there, I said it), to actually notice everyone else around me. To be grateful enough to not ignore the pain in the world, but to be attuned to it.

photo credit: psd THANK YOU via photopin (license)

photo credit: psd THANK YOU via photopin (license)

Because without gratitude, I know what I do. I come to the conversations, the friendships, the offering plate, and I hold back. Because I’m afraid. Because I don’t want to lay too much on the line. Because I don’t want to give and not have it come back to me. Because I don’t want to love and not have the love returned. Because buying cheap plastic crap is just easier.

The verse today is from Mary, the mother of Jesus. It’s what she said when she told her cousin, Elizabeth, about the baby in her womb. Mary had so many reasons to be afraid. To be scared of what it meant to be pregnant without being married. To be the mother to a child who would never be fully her own. But her first words are, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Gratitude. She starts with gratitude.

I didn’t start or end my Target trip with gratitude. And I left with just as much cheap plastic crap as you might imagine. But there was one sacred moment in the middle where for a second I was very sure that I am the luckiest person alive. And I was grateful for it. And I am grateful for it.

We leave you today with a song based on that verse from Luke, written and performed by the band, The Many, co-written with Chicago Gospel Music legend, Elsa Harris. This song is part of their Advent & Christmas album, which is available for a free download on NoiseTrade, for a few more days.

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During Advent my friend Rachel and I decided to write a devotional-ish kind of thing every day. To learn more about that, read this.

When it's not Advent, I usually post about once a week. Feel free to check out the archives to see what I do on a regular basis. You can learn a bit more about me and why I started this blog, here.

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