I love presents!
My family knows this and have made a real effort through the years to overcome some of their ‘bah humbug’ feelings about gifts. I also love surprises, but that’s a much more difficult thing to achieve. I read them better than books and can usually sniff out a surprise as it’s planned.
My 60th ‘surprise’ birthday being a prime example!
Bruce has never been much of a present guy. His growing up gifts were centered around a Sears catalog, with a spending limit that his mom strove to make completely equal, even if it meant buying a package of gum at the final tally. Everything he circled in the catalog was waiting for him on Christmas Eve…
No surprises and no guessing
My growing up was lavish in comparison. My mother, the Queen of Gifts, was always looking for the perfect present. She lived for the Wow factor. Her goal was to be the hero of the holiday.
You can imagine my expectations, based on our different childhoods, have had some tweaks!
This year it’s me who is wrestling with gifts. I’ve bumped into a health issue, have been living in mental transition, and am losing patience with life in general. No worries, I will survive…
But it’s definitely affected my holiday spirit
Which is sort of a crime since this will likely be our last Christmas in Chicago, and it’s a fabulous city at Christmas! Downtown decor, events, Zoolights, Kriskindle Markets, White Christmas at The Music Box Theater, complete with ugly sweaters and any kind of jingle bell you can bring.
Sooo, in order to dispel a bit of my holiday blues, I decided to list the gifts that Chicago has given me since our move here almost 7 years ago. It’s a really broad list…
Here we go!
Numero uno on my list has to be our church. God has used our almost 9 years here as a boot camp for inner city ministry. We’ve learned sooo much about diverse communities and big cities. The people we’ve encountered have experienced God in transformative ways. Their personal stories have become testimonies and tools for encouraging others on their journeys. They also keep a check on our perspective. We serve an amazing God and our church is rich with the stories of people who’ve encountered his love, mercy, kindness and faithfulness. We will never be the same after serving at this place.
Another gift he gave us was our apartment and the #bestlandlordsever! We never would have met these women any other way, it’s a total God thing. He used them to park us exactly where he wanted us. As we encounter others who have had to deal with indifferent and ineffective landlords, we are reminded of the miracle of this move. We love to shock the locals by telling them this was the only apartment we looked at!
Unheard of in Chicago (maybe everywhere?)
Gift number 3 is our mechanic. I needed a battery jump one morning, so I walked over to the guy at the end of the block. He sent someone to the house to jump my car – no charge. He’s taken care of our cars all these years and considers them ‘his’. A mechanic is one of those things everyone needs but it can take several tries to find a good one. Not Joe! We’ve sent numerous people to him – I bake for his crew at Christmas.
And he’s even a believer…
No list would be complete without my gym. I joined it within a month of moving here, its a mile from my house. I’ve always loved water classes and this was my best local option. Classes are largely composed of older women, several who are Jewish, one who had relatives dating back to the Holocaust. It’s been a joy to know these ladies. The mazel tov wishes rang out when Evan was born. My masks made the rounds when we came back after Covid. I gained an alteration friend, and my hot tub chats after class have been lovely. I will miss these ladies when we move! They are incredibly fun and make aging look enjoyable.
I have to, MUST laud the praises of shopping here (aside from the traffic and parking). I’m not talking about the pricey, tony, kind of shopping that tourists see. I’m talking about the abundance of grocery stores, fabric stores, TJ Maxx es, Homegoods, and Targets. I have multiple Aldi’s or Targets (spoiled!). When it comes to fabrics Vogue has a store, and there’s a city block size warehouse store about 50 minutes from me that’s worth a trip from time to time. And I have at least 2 Joann’s I can depend on. The ethnic grocery stores are amazing. My daughter picked up saffron one day for under $6, when we shared it with one of our suburban foodies they almost made us take them there. Cost differences are minimal, often less expensive. And usually stores are within a 1-7 mile radius (city miles).
It makes up for gas prices…
One of my favorite gifts has been my hairstylist. I intentionally looked for a salon in a neighborhood where the CTA was easy to take. I wanted to feel comfortable getting around the city in all it’s methods. Enter, Molly…I’ve been with her for 6+ years. I consider her a friend and confident. She’s a doll. I followed her when she left the salon that I carefully chose for it’s CTA access, and learned instead to drive in a more congested part of the city (right past Wrigley Field). Recently we worked out a trade…I made her an adult scrap coat for hair services! I will miss her so much when we leave.
Lastly, I’ve had the joy to be Miss Cinda to a host of kids in our church. I’ve taught several of them to sew. I’ve cuddled and loved on others, cooked for most of them. I’ve been treated to a day at the mall for fun. And in general been made to feel like royalty. It’s revived a creative part of my person. Costumes, sewing classes, private lessons, long talks while cutting fabric, masks and now the scrap sewing that I’m exploring. It’s an amazingly rich gift for me. I love the next generations and look forward to watching them develop and grow into humans that are full of the grace and kindness of God.
Doesn’t the world need God’s grace and kindness?
That’s my gift list for 2022! I hope yours is long, worthy of praise and keeping your spirits bright and happy. I don’t know what 2023 will bring, but I’m anticipating more of this…
I pray your holiday season is filled with the goodness of all God’s amazing riches.