The Christmas Blanket

 It was red.

He giggled about something.

“What?” I asked.

He pulled a corner of it up to reveal Christmas greenery and golden bells on the other side.

“It was the only blanket I could find” he explained and shrugged.

I smiled and took my spot across from him.

High school girls playing on the swing set a few yards away had watched us come in. They had seen the blanket and the basket and the stereo, and they had leaned in to whisper to each other, smiling, giggling, talking about how dreamy it all was. And it was. It was perfect. He was perfect. We were happy.

We had gotten in the car for a date that night. He was notorious for never telling me what the plan was. This time, he at least told me that we were going to dinner. As we drove, I had been shouting out random places every time we took a new turn. I finally shouted, “Canyons! You’re taking me to Canyons!” and he rolled his eyes. “Yes, Jenna. I’m taking you to Canyons.”

And then we pulled into a park. And he pulled out the Christmas blanket. With the basket. And the stereo. And we walked over to a spot of grass off to the side of the rest of the park. Once we were settled on the blanket, he pulled out five different kinds of sandwiches and handed me a PB&J (my favorite), plus, he had brought a BLT because I had never tried one before, and he loved to make them. All of my favorite things were scattered across the Christmas blanket: pineapple, Wavy lays, country music was playing. I remember him saying, “Deer Park is your favorite water, isn’t it?” Sure enough, there was the Deer Park water bottles sitting in the basket.

So we sat on the Christmas blanket and enjoyed all of my favorite things. At some point in the evening, he leaned back while I curled up next to him. I asked him what he thought of my outfit: lime green shorts and a white floral tank top, hair curled into massive blonde ringlets, and trendy sandals (above picture). Entirely out of the ordinary for me.

“You look fantastic,” he said, and smiled. But he was hesitant.

“Thanks, I was going for cute and preppy,” I told him, curling up closer to him on the blanket.

He sat up. “Jenna, this isn’t what you want. I wish you would’ve worn something more like what you usually wear. You look so beautiful, but I want you. And this isn’t you.”

I blinked at him. “But this is the way all your friends and your sisters dress. I thought you’d like it.”

“No. What I love about you is that you aren’t like the rest of the girls in my world. You’re a breath of fresh air,” he told me.

I laughed at him. I think it made him mad, but I did– I laughed.

“Oh, I’m nothing like the girl I would pick out for you,” I told him.

He had a smug look on his face that made me want to melt into a puddle right in front of him– that look he gave me every time I thought that I was onto something and yet was entirely wrong. “Is that so? What kind of girl would you pick out for me then?” He layed back down onto the blanket.

“She’d be blonde, definitely,” I said. “And she’d have to be brilliantly smart. Not as smart as you, obviously, but she’d probably go to school with you and be into something that had to do with science or medicine. She’d also be sarcastic and witty; not as quick as you, but quick enough to give you back your sass. She wouldn’t have tattoos, and she wouldn’t dress like me either— she’d have more of a style like the girls who work in the boutiques in Downtown Woodstock. And she’d be an athlete, most likely a swimmer, but no doubt some sort of athlete. She’d be kind, though. The kind of kind that would make her popular. Because you are so kind, and she’d be kind enough to treat your heart well.”

Then he reminded me that he’d been in love with me since the fifth grade.

I had it all figured out for him; I’d created my own version of what I thought he deserved, what I thought would be most fitting for him, what would make him the happiest. From the way she looked to the way she treated people and the things she loved, I could see her perfectly in my head.

It wasn’t until he ended up with the girl I had imagined, and I was stuck sitting in a coffee shop complaining about it across from Hannah that I realized–
I had never created my own list of the things want, the things that will make me happy.

“Well, have you ever done it?”

She blinked back it me. “No, I guess I haven’t!”

We stared at each other for a moment.

“Let’s do it right now!” she said.

In a coffee shop in Woodstock, we pulled out our notebooks and pens and made a list of all the things our hearts hoped for, all of the things we had learned to want for ourselves after hits and misses over the years.

None of it seemed natural at first. It took me a solid ten minutes before I could write at least one thing down.

The truth is, up until that point, I had never really thought about the things my heart wants, what it needs. It had all been a go-with-the-flow-and-if-you-feel-things-for-someone-he’s-it sort of quick motion. Never stopping to figure out the way my heart works, never slowing down to take note of the things I was drawn to; too busy making a list of reasons why I wasn’t enough and never taking the time to make a list of what thought was enough.

I eventually finished that list in that coffee shop. It’s a small list, and it’s changed about four times as I’ve learned and lost and navigated through my feelings to get down to the wiring behind my desires.

Lists are good, but that’s not what I learned. I learned a lot about me, and not just the things I’m looking for– I learned a lot about how I view God. 

Me and Him? We talk when I’m driving down the road, when I can’t sleep at night, when the sun is out, when I’m at the airport people watching; I thank Him periodically for different things, the small kind and the big kind, and I go to the foot of His throne when storm clouds roll in.

But up until that day in that coffee shop, I thought there was a thick red line I wasn’t allowed to cross– I wasn’t allowed to ask God for things.

That’s selfish.

I made God impersonal, even though I felt Him there every time I reached out (and even in the moments when I didn’t). 

We call Him the Rock, our Safe Place, our Shield, our Protection, our Provider– but we also call Him our Father. Yes He is a God on a throne in heaven surrounded by beings we couldn’t even imagine, but He is also a whisper, and He was human.

He swept low. 

He craves our dependency, but not just when we are grateful or desperate. 

We are allowed to ask God for good things. 

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