Stop Buying Me Stuff: Lessons from my Mother

I’ve run out of things to buy her. It happened about five or six years ago when I bought her a designer bag, and then three months later she brought it back to me, citing the fact that she had no use for it and could not let it ‘go to waste’.

“I don’t need anything,” she says.

Her eyes don’t sparkle at the sight of new jewellery. Her smile doesn’t broaden for fancy clothes. She has no wish list, no fantasy, nothing. Whatever I buy, any amount that I spend, it’s all fairly useless.

“Stop buying me stuff,” she says.

This used to bother me. I wanted to see her laugh and swoon at my ‘perfect’ gift that was ‘just what she always wanted’. Perhaps it was for my own ego, for my own pleasure, but it was also so that I could know that I pleased her, and she was happy with me.

After the bag incident, I essentially gave up. She hasn’t really gotten a ‘gift’ since. I accepted it, but I didn’t really understand it. Was she just getting old or what? Don’t old people need handbags too?

This year, however, I’ll be turning forty, and I’ll tell you something about turning forty…you begin to realize that you have far too many handbags, and shoes, and more than enough jewellery. What you usually don’t have enough of is joy, peace, and gratitude.

So instead of trying to put the twinkle in my mama’s eye, I’ve tried to recognize the source of the twinkle that’s already there. I’ve seen it when she takes my three boys to lunch, when she observes my husband interacting with me, when she and I have deep discussions about scripture and spirituality, when she insists (much to my chagrin) on dropping by and casually mopping the floor, or washing our dirty dishes, and when she visits her sister or other family and friends.

I especially see it when I and my husband and these three little boys, say: “Thank you mum. Rest a while mum. Don’t worry yourself mum. We love you mum. You are the absolute best mum!”

The late monk, poet and theologian, Thomas Merton wrote, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

Gratitude is what causes the twinkle in her eye. I get it now. She looks at my life, at her own life, and she sees God in everything. God in me. God in the grandchildren. God in the trials, and God in the victories.

“Stop buying me stuff.” He has given her everything.

As I near 40 and my mum nears 67, I am coming around to her point of view. I look at my own three sons as they scramble around to ‘secretly’ bake me a cake, write me poetry, and orchestrate an elaborate breakfast, and I realize that there is still nothing I want more than to be the one loving on them. It is my act of gratitude and worship. It is not the things they do, because let’s face it, there are days when our children break our hearts.

My mother’s reaction to my expensive efforts to impress her has taught me to keep my gaze on the Father, to humble myself before Him and delight myself in serving Him through serving my family and others. This is joy. This is peace. This is gratitude. This is the goodness of God, who has already given me everything.

 

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