Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved surprises.
Not the scary kind but rather the Christmas kind.
I never tried to find the presents that my parents hid.
I never asked them twenty questions to try and guess.
I never carefully removed the scotch tape to discover what was inside each box and then carefully wrap each present back up before anyone noticed. (My cousin told me how she did this every Christmas eve. Doesn’t that take the fun out of it?)
If you surprised me with something good that meant I was thought of, cared about, loved.
Effort. It’s how I feel loved. (Can you guess my #1 love language is acts of service?)
This is still true of me today.
Presents I receive in the mail from friends…I never touch them until the big day is here.
And when I am in love…well, surprise me and I will love you more.
Now, don’t get me wrong… I have a list.
And when I was 13 years old, the list was looooooong.
Every single day for weeks, I would scour the JC Penney’s catalog from front to back and then back to front to make sure I didn’t miss a thing.
I would carefully write down the item’s name, item number and the page it was on so you could easily find it in the catalog.
Then I would double check, and triple check it over and over again.
“Is this what I really want? I mean REALLY?” I would ask myself.
We weren’t rich and barely, middle class. After my father left, money was tight so I had to be absolutely proof positive that I asked for what I REALLY wanted. I couldn’t waste a wish.
Creating the perfect Christmas list took me WEEKS.
But after it was done, I would hand it over to my mother with hope in my heart and love in my eyes (more like begging really) and pray that I would get – at minimum – the one item that I had starred at the top.
Wait, you knew my list was arranged from MOST WANTED to least wanted, right?
And this year the #1 present I wanted was different than anything I’d ever asked for.
I’d been trolling the creeks near my house and had become fascinated with watching the water swirl and then stagnant and then swirl again. The thought of turning dirty water into drinking water became an obsession. I wanted to know every way I could do it.
Yes, I’d read the encyclopedia and asked my science teacher how to clean dirty water but I wanted to know more. (News alert: There was no internet back then.)
In order to do that, I needed to experiment.
I needed a chemistry set!
It was at the very tippy top of my list.
Christmas morning I woke up extra early. I couldn’t wait to get to the creek…
Santa was definitely going to fulfill my wish.
I had been good all year. Kept my straight A’s. Went to church. Been nice to my little sister.
I hurriedly unwrapped my first present. Not it. I kept unwrapping. Present after present I kept waiting for my chemistry set to show up. I was on my last present…this had to be it.
As I slowly unwrapped it, my heart sank.
It wasn’t a chemistry set. It was a typewriter. Baby blue to boot!
I looked at my mom in shock.
Where was my chemistry set? I hadn’t asked for a typewriter. It wasn’t even on my list.
The words that popped out of her mouth next just broke me…
She said, with a slight apology in her voice, “Chemistry sets are for boys, Rhonda. You’re a girl. You need to learn how to type.”
I didn’t know what to say.
Never in my short life had my mother pulled the gender card or implied in anyway I couldn’t do everything boys could do.
I felt betrayed. By my own mother.
Logically, we both know she was only doing what she thought was best for me.
But what was driving her decision? Fear or freedom? What message was she sending?
Is it fear to want your daughter to be able to find a job after high school? Is it fear to want your daughter to have a skill that will last forever?
Of course not.
But is it fear to decide what that job will be or what skills she needs or if she can make it in a male dominated career?
How much do you want to bet her decision was driven by fear?
Fear that I would suffer more disappointment with my chemistry set in the long run than the temporary disappointment I would experience on Christmas morning.
She just wanted me to prepare for a ‘reasonable’ career.
But how did I feel about myself that day?
I felt that she didn’t believe in me. That she didn’t think I could overcome the odds. That I should give up on any big dreams because girls don’t do crazy things like cure the ills of water.
That was what hurt most of all.
If my mother didn’t believe in me than who would?
The next year she was dead.
The irony, of course, is that I became a writer. But that’s not the point. Some people have even said she must have been psychic. But that’s not the point…
The point is what she handed me that day was a mindset. A mindset that contributed to my lack of faith in myself for years.
A mindset that one should be reasonable and safe and do what’s expected and already done and yes, even easy…
The very same things fear wants me to do too.
What are you handing down to your children this holiday season?
What message are you sending to your loved ones?
What beliefs are you carrying around about yourself?
This holiday season what good tidings do you want to carry with you?
You have the power to decide what good tidings you bring to you and yours.
Decide to bring the good tidings of faith, and love, and belief.
Because the one gift I always wanted (and I bet you do too)…
I wanted my mother to believe in me more than her fears.
Don’t you want that too?
Someone to believe in you more than their own need to keep you locked up in fear because they are locked up inside?
I get that it might feel very hard to do if you aren’t practicing fearless living. Maybe even feels impossible. It’s why I practice fearless living every single day. I want to be prepared for risk and adventure…
So please take this with all the seriousness in my heart…
We all need someone to believe in us.
I am grateful that you believe in me.
And hear me…I believe in you.
You can have the chemistry set of your dreams. You just have to ask. The world is waiting with open ears and open hearts…
No matter what your past has been.
No matter how many times you’ve been hurt before.
No matter how many disappointments you’ve had.
No matter what….
You get to decide what beliefs, what mindset, you want to call your own.
You have so much more power than you think you do…
Receive the good tidings that are here for you.
Receive the good message that is whispering in your ear.
Receive the good you are and know, more than anything else, that it is real.
I believe in you.
Accept this gift…
Just hold out your hand…it’s yours…take it!
Give yourself the gift called YOU!
I send you love and a ton of fearlessness!
I love you!
And yes, I believe…
p.s. If I can get out of hell, you can get out of whatever’s bothering you too. We can do ANYTHING together…
p.s.s. If you believe you could ‘be’ or ‘have’ or ‘do’ anything, what would it be? Go on…believe. HARD! It’s on it’s way….Promise! 🙂
p.s.s.s. Tomorrow I’m gonna send you something to put a smile on your face for your Christmas Day treat! 🙂
Thank you Rosana for asking me to share this Christmas Story. I am grateful for your request…