Freely You Have Received

Freely give. With the high feast of Christmas just around the corner, I thought I would write a little “heads up” to all of us women who are working so hard to make it a glorious celebration. We have shopped for the gifts. We’ve wrapped them all (or we will soon). We’ve put time, effort, thought, money, and energy into this thing called Christmas, and we are starting to get tired now, and we haven’t even started making the pies. And, let me tell you, if you are tired, you become an easy target for stumbling. So here are my tips for staying cheerful and joyful in the midst of many duties and much serving at Christmas.

Get your rest! You mothers of young ones especially. Put your feet up and count your blessings. Catch a few z’s when you can. That last push can really be exhausting as well as exhilarating, so watch yourself. If you get too worn out or too excited, you may come crashing down with a thud. So keep your eye on the ball. Decide which things are really important and stick to that. Listen to your husband and don’t brush him off when he suggests you not try to finish sewing the last three nightgowns by pulling an all-nighter. He knows you. Sometimes these projects are more about our own pride than about those who will receive them.

I know this may sound silly, but stay hydrated. Don’t be rushing around so much that you are living on coffee and fudge for the last few days before Christmas. Eat right. You will feel better if you do. And save the fudge for an after-dinner treat. You’ll enjoy it much more and you’ll feel lots better. Remember you are just flesh and blood, not superhuman. Pay attention to how you’re doing physically.

Take heed to your soul. If we set a glorious table with glistening china and all the trimmings, but have not love, and snap at the kids, we might as well serve up tater-tot casserole on paper plates. Remember our good friend Martha who was distracted with much serving, and don’t be annoyed with the Marys who are not helping in the kitchen the way you think they ought to be. Keep your own soul in order. Consider that you are inviting the Lord Jesus to sit down with your family and friends at your table. Prepare for Him. Keep your soul fastened on His faithfulness and commit all you do to Him. Then keep it there.

After putting so much of ourselves into the planning and preparation, it is easy to feel a prideful ownership of it all. If you do, you are set up for trouble. If your family or guests don’t appreciate your work the way you think they should, you may feel annoyed, unappreciated, or frustrated. Keep all your plans surrendered to the Lord, so if it doesn’t go “your way,” you will know it went His way and you can be content.

Freely you have received, freely give (Mt. 10:8). We don’t fully appreciate all the blessings that God pours out on our heads every day. So we ought not get too fussy about how appreciative everyone is of us for the little things we have done for them. If your daughter tosses aside the gift you spent so much time on, don’t be offended. If someone forgets to thank you for a gift, let it go. If your husband gives you a chainsaw instead of the pearls you were hoping for, keep your sense of humor. This is an opportunity to spread a thick layer of love over everything and everyone.

Be content. Sometimes discontentment can creep into the festivities. You feel mad at yourself for eating too much (instead of thanking God for the feast); you’re not sure so-in-so really liked their gift; you worry that you spent too much money; you are sick of being away from home and want your own bed; you miss your family or friends; and there’s the chainsaw to deal with. Whatever the provocation, discontent robs us of the joy we should have in what God has ordained for us. If you are paying attention, you will notice this temptation and it won’t overtake you. Gratitude is the best countermeasure. So sing some more carols, thank God for allowing His people to celebrate the Advent of Christ. And realize we all have a long way to go in learning how to enjoy the festival like good children.

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20 thoughts on “Freely You Have Received

  1. Very practical and helpful. I especially liked the reminder to rest and put our feet up. Read a book to the kids. Cuddle with our sweetie. Take a bath. I needed that little reminder.

  2. “If your husband gives you a chainsaw instead of the pearls you were hoping for, do not use it on him!”

    Somewhere there’s a hilarious photo of my mom, circa 1978, having received an electric knife for Christmas or a birthday. I’m sure she didn’t mean to look that way, but the lighting and the angle, the say-cheese smile and the fact that she’s holding the knife as if ready for action make her appear rather demonic. So keep in mind, as you’re opening your chainsaw, that someone might choose that moment to snap your picture. If you’re predisposed to be genuinely pleased with whatever you get, the image might not turn out to be the stuff of legend at which your children are still laughing 30 years hence. Of course if you’ve got bad photographers in your family like we did, you might be doomed anyway!

  3. Actually, this illustration is based on a true story. A friend of mine received a chain saw from her husband for Christmas one year. So, the following year, she gave him a lovely string of pearls.

  4. Speaking as a gal who has much sewing left to do (not 3 nightgowns, but a nightgown and 2 robes) and who incidentally, has eaten little else but fudge and coffee today, may I say that this post was timely indeed? Quite a few “coincidences” doncha think?

    Since I am a single mama I don’t have a hubby to be my voice of reason… but I am thinking the Lord is using your words to tell me to relax, “step away from the sewing machine, please” and remember the *why* of all this festivity…

    Thanks for being willing to be used of Him…:-)

  5. ” . . . you are living on coffee and fudge . . .”


    Beautiful and timely, as I just sat down with a glass of water for a few minutes of rest. What a lovely read.

    (Had to chuckle about the chainsaw. I received drip pans for my stove one year.)

    Merry Christmas!

  6. My husband and I received a chainsaw from my mom one year! I thought the gift was more for my husband, until I realized how much work he would have to do with it… and saw how much more yard we got when he removed several scrub trees! Then, I realized the chainsaw was really a lovely gift for my children! This year, she’s giving us a compound miter saw! Oh, the work David will have to do! Oh, the fun things he will build for us all! 🙂 Though I’ll probably use it on only very rare occasions, I think this miter saw is really for me!!! 🙂

  7. I loved this article. I have received the strange gifts from my husband(weedeater,socket sets,fishing tackle). I sew for a living and I am the one sewing the all nighter for others. I don’t even sew for my children. Thank you for the reminder to rest and remember who we truly serve for Christmas.

  8. The chainsaw thing made me laugh – my dad was famous for giving my mom a fishing rod, a shotgun, etc. for Christmas. But you know some of my best childhood memories are of how she laughed at it, and then we all went out and had a great time fishing or learning to shoot together!

  9. A good word indeed! Those three words you mentioned sum up my need when feeling bad because I didn’t meet my standard – “Let it go.” I’ve had to embrace these words about some of the things on my list that just didn’t get “checked off.” And I well recall, Nancy, your admonishment not to get wrapped up doing the “morbid introspection” thing. After all, it is Christmas! Shame on us for allowing discontent and anxiety to steel away the focus of the greatest gift of all – Jesus, our blessed Savior! Merry Christmas to you all!

  10. When I read the bit about coffee and fudge, I thought perhaps you were hiding somewhere in my house. My entire family has been blessed by this message, thank you for that.
    I have a funny rendition on the “chainsaw” theme. 25 years ago my father gave my mom an extension ladder for Christmas. About the moment it dawned on him that it wasn’t just what she might have wished for, she hopped out of her chair and said, “Let’s take it outside and see if it reaches the high window in the front. I’ll climb if you boys will hold it steady.” It was a great moment, and I have always been warmed by how well she saved face for him.

  11. Wonderful post! I agree about the coffee and fudge, apparently this is a rather common occurrence.
    My father-in-law filled my stocking with tools. I hope I didn’t offend him because I cannot stop laughing at them. I know they are very handy, and will be useful, and it just cracks me up.

  12. How did you know I had sewn three nightgowns? Okay, they were for American Girl dolls, but still….spooky. I didn’t stay up all night, though. Women who are just finally out of their first trimester (on Christmas Day! Merry Christmas to me!) aren’t allowed to be nearly as crazy as they otherwise might be. teehee. But, I think the fact of being pregnant made my brand of craziness a little bit crazier. I’m afraid that I’m proud of that.

  13. Haha, me, too – nightgowns! For me it was lots of eye pillows, heat therapy packs, and crayon rollups for the kids…. too bad that I just now read this post; I know it would have encouraged me tremendously! That’s okay, I can smile now and appreciate the words of wisdom so much. It was so hard for the last several weeks with 3 kids under four and 9 weeks sick and pregnant with baby #4, but God sustained me, and all of your advice is so good. I will have to tuck this away and read it again next November! 🙂

  14. “Keep all your plans surrendered to the Lord, so if it doesn’t go “your way,” you will know it went His way and you can be content.”

    The above comment made me think of every day of my life and every situation I get discontent about. It is always going His way and I need to be content with that. Thanks for this thought.

  15. Oh, wow, how I wish I had read this during the holiday season. Starting the week of Thanksgiving we took 6 weeks off from homeschooling, thinking that this would afford me the time to relax and enjoy the festivities. Actually, I had only the week after Epiphany to enjoy anything at all. The rest of the time I was in a whirlwind of manic exhaustion. Needless to say, when I faced school again on Monday I crashed and burned. Now my poor family has been forced to pick up the pieces.

    One thing I am overwhelmingly thankful to the Lord for, and very humbled by, is that my oldest daughters — ages 6 and 4 — have encouraged and ministered to me during the crash. Both have reminded me over and over that “a cheerful heart is good medicine,” and since I was having so much trouble getting my own heart to be cheerful they decided they would give me some of their own medicine — cheerful obedience, peaceful play, frequent hugs and kisses, forebearance with unreasonable requests, and lots of “have we helped you feel better yet, Mommy?” Indeed, a cheerful heart is good medicine, because today I finally feel capable of throwing out the rotting leftovers of nagging, unprofitable criticisms and moving on with joy and strength in the Lord! I am amazed by how beautiful His mercies are.

    And I am very thanful He has brought this sin to the surface so we can skim it off and enjoy the soup. My husband and I have had several discussions about Christmas next year, and we are vowing to change things drastically. I will keep these admonitions as a reminder of what to look out for when those bigger-than-my-britches visions begin to dance in my head!

    Thank you so, so much, Nancy.

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