December 5, 2008

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

This Christmas, find yourself wanting what you’ve got

Patti LambThis week, I received three thick, glossy catalogs in the mail. Page after page featured colorful “picture perfect” holidays.

The front of one catalog showed mom and dad sitting in their coordinating pajamas near the tree with son and daughter in the foreground cooperatively building an impressive gingerbread house.

Despite the fact that their gingerbread cottage was complete with gumdrops, sprinkles and flawlessly piped icing, not a crumb was visible on the table.

The next catalog featured incredible electronics. On the inside front cover, a family was all smiles as they gathered around the wide-screen TV, enjoying a larger-than-life game in high definition.

The third catalog showcased the most gorgeous cashmere sweater I think I have ever seen. Retail price: unmentionable.

Maybe it was especially flattering because there was no baby spit-up or grape jelly on it. That and the fact that the model wearing it was gazing up at the glistening, lightly falling snow as she gathered firewood in a neatly manicured forest. Her flawless skin glowed.

This is the season when we are flooded with catalogs and commercials about how to address everyone on our Christmas lists.

On the way out to do some shopping of my own, I flipped on the radio and came upon an upbeat song I hadn’t heard in a while. I remembered why I liked that song. There is a particular line in it that’s always stood out to me. The lyrics: “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.”

When I dropped my son off at preschool this morning, it was below freezing. I was grateful to have my fleece jacket, scarf and hat, none of which matched. I didn’t look like the woman in the catalog donning that high-end sweater. But I was wearing warm clothing, and I was comfortable.

And when my family gathers around the Christmas tree, we don’t wear coordinating apparel and look like we stepped out of a magazine.

My daughter’s hair is usually covering her eyes like “Cousin Itt” from “The Addams Family.” My son inevitably has food on his face, and it is highly likely that we are already missing a piece from any given new toy.

But we are together. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. No one can top daddy’s pancakes shaped like mittens. And my son’s rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Jesus after breakfast warms my heart.

Please don’t misunderstand me. A wide screen TV is a generous gift, and provides much enjoyment. But the real gift is the friends and family who gather around it, not the plasma screen.

It is not things that ultimately make us happy, but God’s love, which is manifested in many ways.

He blesses us abundantly in ways no catalog can display: the unconditional love of family, true and lasting friendships, laughter, faith, good health, a safe place to call home, and a daily bounty of food, not to mention eternal salvation. These and countless others are genuine gifts—the kind you can’t put a price on.

Sometimes those catalog pictures make me greedy. I need to realize how blessed I am instead of wanting more. It is a wonderful life. Right now, without more. If we think about it, we really have quite a lot.

So as the holidays approach, I hope you can embrace those song lyrics.

This Christmas, may you find yourself wanting what you’ve got.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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