We had been dating for less than a month when Jaron and I first exchanged Christmas gifts.  I was head over heels and very excited for what I expected to be a Hallmark moment.  But, it was not to be.  Several small gifts, some nerdy books, and a tool set later, we realized that maybe we weren’t done getting to know each other yet.  🙂

We all have memories of receiving a crappy gift.  Maybe it was thoughtless.  Like lotion.  Maybe it proved how little that person knows you.  Like a grandmother who gives you expensive perfume to which you are very much allergic.  Maybe it was even an insult, or a passive attempt to change you.  Like the Mom who gives her Goth daughter a pink blouse.  Or maybe you watched your siblings open their toys and then as you unwrapped your electric toothbrush, you realized once and for all that you were not the favorite.

Never wanting to be the perpetrator of such events, I’ve given some pretty sweet gifts in my day.  Jewelry, a remote control airplane, musical instruments, a trip to Ireland.  I enjoy putting thought into gifts, making sure that person knows that I appreciate them and want to encourage who they are, or even who they want to be.  I’m very motivated by the opportunity to affirm the people I love; it’s my favorite part of gift-giving.  I think.  I don’t think I’m motivated by imagining the perfect gift reception scenario, where it becomes clear to that person that this is a truly fantastic gift and I must be one of the most important people in their life.  It’s not that I just want to be liked.  It’s not.

Okay, it is.  If I’m honest, I have two hearts.  One is full of love and one full of lust.  One is wrapped up in the edification of others and one in owning that person’s affection.

When I put more thought into the gift-receiver’s amorous reaction than I put into how this gift will actually effect their life.  When I spend more than I should to make sure that my gift stands out.  When I subconsciously attach strings to my gift, expectations for its use or how prominent it will be among that person’s belongings, I start to reflect that other motivation.  Pretty soon, just like I’ve sometimes done with facebook (and my blog), I’ve used gift-giving as an attempt to paint the most flattering picture of myself to present to the world, or at least to one person.  One that they will admire.  One that they will (dare I name it?) “worship”.  A far cry from the gospel and a great irony for a season of celebration of the humble birth of our Savior.

Selfish giving has been on my mind a lot this week.  The obvious reason is Christmas, of course.  Which is part of it.  But last year, largely through the help of Crown and Advent Conspiracy, I managed to limit my gift-giving and even stay in budget (almost).  Jaron and I gave each other time and unhindered presence (no screens in our house were turned on that day).  We enjoyed our very favorite holiday celebration to date.  This Christmas will be even more simple, strictly within budget, and I’m even staying within the gift wish-lists I received.  No above-and-beyonds this year.

What really has giving on my mind is the pre-order and immediate download release of our album last week.  We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, preparing for it directly for almost a year and indirectly for many years.  We’ve made sacrifices and taken risks for it, and mostly felt good about those risks because we were “serving the work“.  It wasn’t about us; it was about these songs that we believed should be recorded, and recorded well.

Now, after cutting the ribbon and watching the trickle of response, I find myself face to face with doubt.  With the loneliness of having finished a work and realized that I cannot control what will happen with it now.  And with that I find that I was not entirely serving the work – I was in fact serving myself, too. My desire for acceptance as a musician, to solidify our involvement with the musical works we so admire.  So, in this advent season, in this uncommonly cold and snowy weekend in Nashville, I find myself looking out the window as the stark beauty of the snow reflects the lack of beauty within me.  It reflects, actually, the reason for His coming and with it the blessing of being a person not just in need of redemption, but who has had their need fulfilled.  The same light both shows my blemishes and warms my face.

As I’ve learned over the years about other submissions, like forgiveness and loyalty, serving the work is not a one-time decision.  I will be asked time and time again whether my work is for myself or for the glory of bringing order from chaos.  Of shaping scrap into beauty on whatever level I can achieve.  Freedom to do the work comes from submitting myself to the outcome.  Even, it seems, after the work is complete.

So from Jaron, Banjo, and myself, I wish you a warm and reflective Advent season, a time for wonder and gratitude.  And I invite you to check out our work at our new website, kaminmusic.com.

Merry Christmas from the Kamins!