Meet Gnomesworth the Seagnome.* This little garden gnome is easily the coolest gift I have ever kept in a white elephant gift exchange.
Why does that matter? Well, it represents a sea-change in my perspective on Christmas. (See what I did there?) This holiday is supposed to be filled with happiness and cheer. After all "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Yet not everyone feels those feels. For many, Christmas ranges from mundane routine to stress-filled present shopping to painful memories to obnoxious family members and conflict. I don't fall into any of those categories, yet Christmas has never been my favorite holiday.
It was never a day of magic for me. I was not one of those kids who woke up to presents overflowing from under the tree. When everyone returned to school after winter break, I rarely joined the other kids bragging about the cool gifts they received. Instead of expensive crap, I got parents who loved and encouraged me. In hindsight, these experiences helped me remove the materialism from my Christmas traditions. I'm probably a better person for this. However, as a kid, such values are harder to understand.
Getting older made Christmas even more complicated. My first holiday season after leaving my parents' house and moving out of state was lonely. My roommates both flew home to celebrate with their families but I stayed behind. I worked retail both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. That was when I discovered the day after Christmas in Old Navy was worse than the day after Thanksgiving. I don't remember what I had for Christmas dinner that year, probably nachos. I don't remember what my parents and grandparents sent me, but I know I opened it when the mailman delivered the boxes instead of waiting until December 25th.
You might think having kids would inject a little jubilation into my holiday season, but you would be wrong. Instead of creating magical moments, I found it more stressful. I am a horrible Santa Claus. The harder I tried to be the coolest dad ever, the more difficult it was to hold up the charade. These last few years have been challenging as I figure out how to Christmas as a single dad.
Despite the new complications, last year was the best Christmas ever. Even with balling on a budget, I was filled with hope. My brother and his wife gave me the best gift imaginable: they stocked my pantry, fridge, and freezer. Another friend wanted to make sure my kids were taken care of and she played the dual roles of miracle worker and Santa's elf. My favorite present she sent was a framed picture of my three muchkins; it is now sitting on my desk at work. Perhaps the greatest treasure of all was the realization that I was not alone.
This year is already shaping up to outshine last Christmas. I have been twice surprised as my worship pastor and a group of strangers have blessed me with their kindness and grace. It's not about money. It's not about material things. It is a matter of perspective. Mine has been radically shifting.
Gnomesworth now sits on top of my home office desk. Every time I look at the gnome, decked out in Seahawks swag, I smile. I have always assumed everything would be OK, but now I am thinking differently. Now I know things will be more than OK. It will be awesome. When I look at that goofy little garden gnome, I am reminded of that fact. I can imagine him saying in a deep craggy voice "Have a very epic Christmas."
* My kids named the gnome, I dig it.