Twirling in her white dress as the sun caught every highlight of blonde hair, my oldest daughter looked radiant. Her dress mirrored that of a young bride’s, and the joy emanating from her deep dimpled cheeks, exuberant. Today, her birthday, was about her, so we catered to her as if she were a bride, too. Surrounded by plenty of friends and family, she would celebrate in style. She had the dress, the party, and the gifts to enjoy. What more could a five-year-old want?
Well, my daughter has a flare for the extravagant. Not so much from a financial aspect, (at least not yet), but just big, bold, and over the top thinking, which also pretty much describes her personality. Not too long ago, she watched my wedding video and fell in love with all things wedding related. So later, I wasn’t shocked when she asked if she could have a wedding themed birthday party when she turned five.
Being the party planning mother that I am, I replied, “ Sure. Why not? That seems perfectly doable.”
Fast forward. . . After the party, my husband and I felt pretty pleased with ourselves as we walked into our den, arms overflowing with her birthday presents.
Then little Miss M came in and surveyed the room. She turned on her heels and glared at us. With hands on hips, she practically demanded to know, “Where is my present from YOU all?”
Thankfully, my hands were full of presents so they were not able to ring her oh-so-pretty neck at that moment. Was she serious?! I spent hours planning the perfect party for her. Friends watched her younger sisters while my husband and I indulged her wedding fantasy in grandioso style. It took a good deal of time, effort and money.
So, how could this same little girl, the one who looked so sweet and innocent just hours before, turn into this ungrateful, entitled BRIDEZILLA?
Needless to say, her lack of appreciation frustrated me to no end. No, annoyed is more accurate. Lying in bed later, I fumed about M’s attitude. I just couldn’t believe she was so ungrateful. Despite everything we and many others did to make her birthday party extra special, she focused on the fact that she had yet to receive a gift from her momma and daddy. (Let me add here that we were saving our gifts for her actual birthday, four days later.)
My husband put down his book and cut his eyes over at me. “Well, honey, she is only five. Remember that Christmas when you were twenty-five and responded about the same way?” he asked. Ouch. Unfortunately, the memory of my own display of dissatisfaction with a gift that did not meet my expectations was still fresh in my mind. Yep, I acted like a real, spoiled brat. Not my finest hour.
Hmm. . . I began wrestling with my thoughts about all of this because if honest, I still think to myself, “This is nice, but where is the REAL gift.” True, I have matured enough to refrain from uttering these thoughts aloud and have even learned to mask disappointment from my family.
But God knows how I really feel, what I truly am. He has given me much, yet I expect more.
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16
We hear over and over that those who have less tend to be happiest. Headlines are filled with suicides of people who seem to have it all. If we know that materialism does not provide lasting contentment, why do we continue to fill our lives with more and more?
Why must the parties be bigger and better than the year before?
Why must we have the latest cell phone?
Why must we buy a new wardrobe each season?
It is like the proverbial devil and angel really sit on my shoulders constantly sparing against each other. Last year I rummaged through toys, clothes and household items, pitching stuff we did not need. I deleted e-mails from companies so I would not be tempted to purchase items on sale because, “You never know.” My husband and I slashed birthday and Christmas budgets in order to give more to others in need. (So, my “angel” does win from time to time:)
I tell you this, not to brag, but to share. Nonetheless, I still feel conflicted. What if my girls think we don’t love them because we do not buy them as much at Christmas and birthdays as parents of their friends do? What if people make fun of me because I wear outdated “mom jeans”? Okay, maybe “mom jeans” do warrant a snicker.
The Enemy is ready to pounce and derail us from living an eternity minded life. He whispers convincingly that we deserve to overspend, overindulge, and overcommit. He delights in our ungratefulness and rejoices over our insecurities. While looking for the next big thing to captivate and fulfill us, we dismiss God, failing to look to Him to fill the void in our lives.
Solomon understood the plight of the human condition all too well. He was a man who truly had it all. His quest for earthly fulfillment through money, power, and sexual pleasures left him feeling empty and meaningless.
“I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:13-14
For some readers of Ecclesiastes, feelings of doom and gloom enter their soul. But look at Solomon’s words not as the depressing rant of a frustrated man. Instead, allow them to ignite your desire to know “God’s own heart.” Enjoy time with your family, eat good food, embrace the ordinary moments.
A friend recently shared this powerful story with me about a woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died within six months. She had been in the process of renovating her house and ordering new furniture for the remodel before she became so sick. The day after she passed away, the new furniture was delivered to her home.
We know that we cannot take anything with us, yet until something catastrophic disrupts our lives, we act the complete opposite. Buying new stuff, anticipating tomorrow’s events are not bad things in themselves, but we must examine our hearts and our motives for their purpose.
A few days later, on my daughter’s actual birthday, she sprinted downstairs to find the gifts from her father and me. She thanked us and told us that we were “the best parents ever.” Ha, that sentiment was short lived, lasting until we told her to clean her room and stop hitting her sister.
Many reading this article will never truly understand what it means to be “without.” I surely do not. I continually ask God to lead me to those truly in need and help me to share my abundance generously and graciously, but this is hard because basically, I am a control freak who craves comfort and wants people to view me as normal. However, I confess that the more possessions I share or give away and the fewer possessions I buy and bring into our home, the fuller my heart brims with joy and my mind with peace.
Children are not unique in their ability to quickly forget their blessings, always desiring more, feeling that they never have enough. Until our thinking shifts from ourselves to others and from things on earth that fade away to things in heaven that last forever, we will always be dissatisfied. This mentality affects all mankind; it is our sinful,human nature, a product of the Fall. We parents must be diligent about fostering gratitude in our children, as well as in our own hearts. In ALL circumstances.“
…. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48