I always get a little nostalgic when my family gets together for Christmas. When we were visiting them in December, I thought back on all the gifts they have given me. I found the hula-hoop I got for Daughters’ Day (a holiday I invented for our family of three girls) in 1987. At bed time, my six year old picked from the collection of Berenstain Bear books I started when I was in first grade. My boys slept in the bed room with the white wicker headboard I got for Christmas in 1992.
I’ve received more gifts than I can remember in my almost 33 years of Christmases and birthdays. But the greatest gift they gave me came my second semester of college when I called home and said, “I want to change my major to English.” They said, “If that’s what you want, that sounds great.” The second greatest gift came in 2002 when I called and said, “I want to go to seminary.” Again, they said, “If that’s what you want, that sounds great.”
My parents gave me the gift of freedom to follow my dreams, to study in the fields I was passionate about. Their approval and confidence gave me the foundation I needed.
I’ve been reading 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. He writes, “…as we grow, there is a subtle yet significant transition from ‘what do I want to be?’ to ‘what do I want to do?'” That is true for so many people. They are told they will never make money as an artist. Or that dancing isn’t a career. Or, “Even though you were great in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, New York is full of scary people and Los Angeles is full of weird people, so you would do better to just stay home.” Miller goes on to write, “When we are not true to ourselves, to our unique God-given characteristics, we lose the power of authenticity, creativity, imagination, and innovation. Our life becomes performance-based, setting the stage for compromise in all other areas of our lives.”
Thanks to my parents’ understanding when I was ten and they caught me hiding under the sheet with a flashlight trying to finish my book, thanks to their praise when I wrote papers in high school and got A’s, and thanks to their “sounds great” replies when I chose my major and then grad school, I am who I always wanted to be—a reader, writer, and editor. I am thankful for the best gifts my parents gave me, and pray I will give the same gifts of freedom and acceptance to my children.