Our first Christmas catalog arrived in the mail a couple weeks ago. In September, for crying out loud—before the leaves turned colors or candy corn showed up on the end caps at Target. I thought maybe it was a fluke, but two days later another catalog landed in our mailbox—from another educational toy store I’d never heard of—followed by three others within that same week.
So far we’ve collected about a dozen retail magazines, all vying for a slice of our Christmas budget. And I still haven’t decided how much to spend on Halloween costumes.
In general, I don’t mind the catalogs; they help me pinpoint some special gifts for my girls each year without having to traipse through fifteen stores on foot. The problem, though, is that their glossy photos trick my kids into thinking they MUST HAVE this toy or that craft, those games and these dolls, cars, horses, dinosaurs, you name it—they want it.
Or so they think.
“Mom, look at this!” My five-year-old shouted from the kitchen table where she sat holding a blue marker, circling every other item across the two-page spread. “I definitely want this for Christmas!”
I peeked over her shoulder at a picture of some electric light-up jump rope—whatever happened to the nylon kind?—and nodded. “Very fun. I don’t think you need that, though.”
“And Mom, look at this! I reaaaally want this!”
A family of stuffed animal pandas.
“And this, Mom! This is awesome!”
100 scented markers in a carrying case.
“Oo! Oo! Mom!! Look at this! This is soooo cool. I have to have this for Christmas!”
Deluxe castle with miniature knights, princesses, dragons, chariots and—get this—a working drawbridge. Over a moat of real water! Of course she wants that. What kid wouldn’t?
My children beg to sit on my lap and show me their endless wish lists. They imagine each gift will bring them a new rush of joy, and they know I have the power to grant it.
We grown-ups are no different.
Many of us treat God the same way.
If life were a catalog, wouldn’t you circle every tantalizing blessing that caught your eye? I sure would. Then I’d post them to my wish list and beg my heavenly Santa Claus for the goods.
See, God? I want this one, this one, this one, and this one!
Healthy children. I want that!
A happy marriage. I need that!
A bigger house.
A higher income.
I really want all of those things, God, I really do! They would make me so happy and content! Can I have them? Can I?
It’s all very sweet and endearing when my five-year-old rattles off her wants and wishes. Yet of course she knows Mom and Dad have no intention of getting her everything she asks for. Come Christmas morning she’ll receive two or three items from her wish list and be thrilled. She will shriek and smile and spend all day playing with her long-awaited gifts—never once moaning about the other 200 items she circled over the past three months and did not find under the tree.
And that is where our similarities end.
Because my two or three special gifts? I appreciate them—but not enough to resist focusing on the ones I don’t have.
I’m grateful for healthy kids. But all I can think about some days is how their bickering is driving me nuts.
I know by the world’s standards we are rich, but I sure wish I had new carpet and a walk-in pantry.
I love my husband. But if he would just compliment me more often, or notice when I need help around the house without my asking—or once and for all stop leaving his socks on the bedroom floor already—then I would be happy. Then I would be content.
Let’s take a lesson from my daughter. Yes, she wants more and more and more. But ultimately she is content with what I give her—because her attention zooms in on whatever is directly in front of her.
Can we do that? Rather than ordering up more blessings—as if our prayers could be bought and sold—let’s count the ones we already own. Then any new gifts God chooses to deliver, well, we ought to relish them. Because just like we parents pick and choose the best gifts for our kids, God grants us exactly what’s best for us, too.
He loves to give good gifts to his children.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
So about those catalogs. I’m stashing them away until Black Friday. For now I’m counting candy corn and leaf piles among my present blessings. And waiting for the deluxe castle to go on sale.