I had the privilege of speaking to a group of moms the other day.  I always feel as if I should take off my shoes when I enter into a room full of young moms because I know I am standing on holy ground.  Though often mundane, tedious and exhausting, mothering children is truly entering in and co-laboring with God.  (There is a similar post here.)

I spoke on being Simply Present – connecting with God and our children in the moment at hand.  (Something I will confess that I am always practicing – never perfecting or becoming an expert.)

So as we are in the midst of a culture who is so frenzied about finding and purchasing  just the right gift for a certain date, it got me thinking as to what is that “perfect gift”.  True, it is different for each person, but for kids I think it is the gift of our presence.  After all I do believe that every kid’s favorite toy is Mom or Dad!

So I am challenged as the current outside my door rushes to the malls, to hang lights, to concerts, to parties, to purchase, to mail and to mmet all the deadlines – how do I live differently?  As a mom I want to choose to give gifts that my children “will love rather than ones that meet deadlines” (thanks to Maggi Dawn for these words).  And the gifts they love???  To be together, to play a game, to read together, to snuggle as they are going to sleep, to help them make their sandwich for their lunchbox, and to have a place to talk about their day.  I did a photo shoot yesterday for a family that was in the middle of the decorating frenzy and trying to get the perfect Christmas card picture.  Half way through the session, we were down on their beach and dad started a bonfire.  We warmed ourselves around the flames,  the family toasted marshmallows and the boys were just loving the very presence of their parents.  I photographed these moments and afterward mom said to me “I get so caught up in schedules and timing that I forget to live in the moment and have a fire on the beach and eat marshmallows at 10 in the morning.”  Those are the gifts that don’t come on the “right date”, but rather in the right moments.

My dad gave me a wonderful gift 13 years ago although I don’t know if he knows it and I didn’t know it until weeks after he “gave” it to me.   I was six months pregnant with my daughter when my dad, who had bravely fought cancer for three years, died.  After our daughter was born I remember nursing her one exhausting night almost at the end of my rope, wanting that certain date when she would sleep through the night, when I realized the gift my dad had left me.

In his death, he taught me that I am not guaranteed another day with my children – there are no “certain dates” that I am promised.  But what I am given is the moment at hand.  And that is all I am given – the moment before me to be fully present in.  To play, to sing, to talk, to correct, to cook, to connect, to whatever…but not to let a certain future date on the calendar overshadow the NOW.

Lord, as I am preparing and looking forward to the celebration of Christmas, may You help me to live in the waiting and expectation of Advent.  Help me to be simply and fully present – each given moment – to You, my family and to those You put before me.  Help me to be like You – giving good gifts in the right moment and not on a certain deadline!