Our First Christmas

christmas-gift-to-boyfriend

Several weeks before Christmas, Seth asked me what kind of gifts my family gives for the holidays. Was our gift-giving practical? Sentimental? Minimalistic? Extravagant? “You’re such a generous person, I’m worried that you’re going to out-Christmas me,” he admitted.

First Christmases together are tough. You don’t want to do too little for the other person, but you don’t want to overwhelm them, either. It’s hard to find a balance and make sure your gifts to one another are somewhat equivalent. So I told Seth that I had already planned on three gifts for him – one store bought and two homemade. He gave a sigh of relief (three must have seemed reasonable), and I fully expected to receive about three gifts myself.

But I got fifteen.

FIFTEEN Christmas presents (!) from my boyfriend of eight months. Fortunately, they were spread out over November and December and even January, so I only actually received about half of them on Christmas, but I was still blown away by Seth’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

  1. Vacuum 

On Thanksgiving, Seth asked me if I ever participate in Black Friday. I never have, and hopefully I never will. But Seth loves a good deal, so he planned to venture out to Home Depot or Lowe’s on Black Friday, and he asked me if there was anything I wanted. I laughed, “I doubt there’s anything I want from Home Depot on Black Friday. But thanks for asking. The only thing I can imagine I’d try to get a deal on for Black Friday would maybe be a vacuum – I really need a new one – but I don’t think they sell those at Home Depot.”

The next morning, Seth showed up at my apartment with a $400 vacuum that he got half off at Target. And he wouldn’t let me pay him back. “Merry Christmas early,” he told me with a kiss on my cheek.

Some women might be offended if their boyfriend bought them a vacuum. But as a very practical almost-30-something, I thought his gift was one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve gotten in years.

2 – 4. Apron, Laundry hamper, Chocolate

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Seth and I went shopping together at Marshall’s to pick up some cute (and discounted) gifts for family. While we were walking around the store, I saw an upscale laundry hamper for a great price and mentioned offhand that I should probably get a new one since the one I have now is from high school and has a hole in the bottom.

Seth loves when I wear an apron when I cook, so when we spotted a rack of high-quality aprons, I tried on a few and modeled them for Seth, twirling around playfully in the aisle. My favorite was white and mustard yellow with delicate ruffles along the bottom. And at the check-out line, I saw some gourmet chocolate-covered Oreos that looked delicious, but I exercised self-control and left them on the shelf.

Two days before Christmas, Seth showed up at my door with the unwrapped laundry hamper and a box containing both the apron and the gourmet Oreos. I felt so loved and cherished that he heard my comments and remembered them.

5 – 6. Two Necklaces

The morning of Christmas Eve, Seth and I did our first round of formal gift exchanges, and one of my favorite gifts was a sterling silver arrowhead necklace that he bought from a wonderful craftsman jewelry shop. It’s a reminder of one of the first times I visited his family’s ranch and found an arrowhead in the creek bed. It’s still one of the best arrowheads that’s ever been found at the ranch.

Seth bought me another necklace as well, but evidently it’s still in Turkey waiting to be shipped. He knows I love the Star of Bethlehem and all the science behind it, so he bought me a gorgeous Star of Bethlehem necklace that I can wear year round to remember how awesome our God is and how He has written a love story of poignant beauty in the stars.

7 – 9. Candle, Lotion, Shirt

Similar to the three gifts from Marshall’s, Seth demonstrated his active listening skills when he presented me with a Pomegranate Spruce candle I smelled and liked at a Cracker Barrel while waiting to be seated; some floral hand lotion we both liked at Bath & Body Works; and a really soft graphic tee we both loved at a small boutique near the family ranch.

10 – 12. Mirror, Theology Book, Carving Set

Seth had a full-length mirror he was planning to get rid of, but I didn’t have one in my bedroom, so he offered to drop it off at my place and mount it in my room for me. It has a white frame that goes well with my bedroom decor.

Seth also gave me an 800 page book on Systematic Theology, partially because he knows I love to geek out over that stuff, and partially because he wants us to read through it together and develop a joint faith statement. That may sound awful to some people, but it sounds pretty fun (and romantic!) to me.

Seth spends a lot of time in his woodworking shop, and I’d mentioned wanting to sit in there by him and whittle on some blocks, so Seth bought me a nice wood carving set. We’re talking about starting a joint project together.

13 – 14. Handmade Scrolled Centerpiece Bowl & Mounted Antlers 

In all of that time in his woodworking shop, Seth evidently had been spending a lot of hours working on Christmas gifts for me because, on Christmas Day, Seth presented me with a gorgeous wooden bowl that he carved himself with detailed scroll work. I was stunned. I figured he was talented, but I didn’t know he was this talented!

Seth is also still working on mounting the antlers from the buck I shot over Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas to me!

15. Handwritten Love Letter

And lastly – maybe my favorite gift of all – was a three-paged love letter in which Seth recounted some of our best memories and explained some of his favorite things about me. How I managed not to try at the initial reading is beyond me, because I have read it multiple times since Christmas and teared up at his sweet words.

Seth and I had a great Christmas together. He outdid himself, and I was stunned at his thoughtfulness. Some gifts were practical; others were romantic and sentimental. Overall, I spent my Christmas feeling very loved and cherished. Life is good.

Authentically Aurora

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Vulnerable Girls

India

On Wednesday after work, I went to the headquarters of a nonprofit orphan care ministry that rescues, empowers and protects vulnerable girls in India. A few of my friends are on staff with the organization, and they needed help writing Christmas cards by hand for all of their volunteers and donors.

We bought pizza and Mint Oreos to snack on while we worked, and we put on “White Christmas” in the background, occasionally singing along to the movie as we wrote out our cards. It was actually a really fun and peaceful evening, surrounded by kind-hearted men and women who chose to use their weeknight to serve an organization that is making a beautiful difference in the lives of some sweet young girls halfway around the world.

We laughed a lot, too – more so when some of the men left and we got to start in on “girl talk” (which may have ultimately resulted in us addressing a few rogue cards to the likes of Tim Tebow and J.J. Watt, asking them to partner with the organization).

As the evening began to wind down and I gathered my coat and purse to head home, I paused, looked around the room at the four compassionate women still seated around the table, and suddenly asked, “Hey, would you guys mind praying over me?”

All their heads popped up, and immediately there were arms and hands everywhere, gesturing for me to sit down, rubbing my back, pulling chairs over so that they could all gather around me. “I’ve been struggling a lot lately with rejection. I have a revolving door of men, and I want to stop finding my identity in what men think of me.”

As most of my readers know, this is an ongoing battle for me, and sometimes I feel silly asking for prayer about the same thing over and over again, but it’s my struggle. And prayer helps. Being vulnerable and transparent and confessing our sins to one another helps.

I felt absolutely safe and loved as Katie, a strong, godly, single woman in her thirties who I respect very much began praying over me. A couple of the other girls chimed in, and these were my key takeaways as I prayed their words along with them:

  • Thank you for her boldness to be vulnerable. May that authenticity and transparency continue.
  • We pray for healing of her heart and her mind. Heal her way of thinking, that if there is any lie from the Enemy, You would speak Truth over that lie. Tell her what her true identity is; the identity You speak over her. Heal her heart. Sing over her in her sleep. Remind her who she is in You.
  • Put up a guard around her, such that any men she has been in past relationships with would stay in the past and not come back. Guard her such that any man who is not in Your will for her would not approach her. Block his way before he comes.
  • Give her a clarity of mind. Sometimes thoughts can get muddled, but we pray for clear thinking. May it be easy for her to say no when she needs to say no. And may it be easy for her to say yes when Your answer is yes.

Katie ended the prayer “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and then looked up, paused, studied one of the other girl’s faces, and said, “Was there something else anyone else wanted to say? Does anyone else have a Word from the Lord?”

The girl Katie had been studying nodded, and we all bowed our heads again. This is what she prayed for:

  • If there was any part of her heart that died from her broken engagement or other hurts, we pray for restoration of that part of her heart that she has shut off. If there is a broken, shut off, deadened part of her heart, heal it, God. Turn it back on. Bring it back to life. Heal and restore her whole heart.

I wasn’t sure at first what this was referring to. I clearly still am capable of loving people deeply (just read about Cory if you haven’t), and I am not afraid of loving again. I desire connection more than just about anything. But as I drove home and mulled it over, asking God which part of my heart had died, I believe He showed me that, while it is true that I haven’t shut myself off from love, I have changed the way that I love.

He showed me that, although it was easy for me to be vulnerable with that room full of women, I don’t ever want to be vulnerable in a romantic relationship. I don’t want the other person to know how deeply I love or how invested I am because, inevitably, I love deeper and more intensely than the other person in a relationship. So to protect myself, I have become… not brash exactly, but bolder. Confident. I put on airs of being strong. I try to make dates feel casual and grand gestures seem like no big deal. I minimize in order to protect myself.

As a result – or, perhaps, in order to achieve this result – I have shut off the part of my heart that used to flutter with excitement. The innocent, giddy eagerness and anticipation of falling in love is something I have not allowed myself to experience anymore. Because it hurts too much when that kind of love comes to an end. When I am able to convince myself that my interactions with dates are not as meaningful as I actually, deep down, feel them to be, I can kid myself into thinking I’m not going to get as hurt as I would if I let the butterflies in.

So. Here’s to wistfulness and innocence; hope and anticipation; eagerness and excitement. Pray with me that this part of my heart comes back to life, with the right person and in God’s perfect timing. ❤

Authentically Aurora