What Can I Give Him – Poor as I Am?

Lord, take my energies, fears and delights
Swaddled as gifts for this holiest night
Find in me merit to offer as well
May all my actions of You always tell

by Paula Zwenger


Infant of Bethlehem, born as a King,
hear my Hosanna, so lowly to bring.
Naught finds me worthy of gifts you acclaim,
cradled in manger of Bethlehem’s fame.

Wise men on bended knee knew of Your worth,
hidden in essence of lowliest birth.
Keep from my simple heart lure beyond love.
Shield me from lies, under wings of the dove.

Spirit my rescue, as advocate now.
Many, unknowing, continue to plow
furrows so worldly of death and decay,
burying freedoms You’ve planted this day.


Child, He says lovingly, all that you need
find there inside you as grace given seed.
Here, your compassion – for mercy to start;
here I’ve placed talents to serve broken hearts.

Here your humility, born of the Son,
showing how meekly the battle is won.
No need for distance to seek for a star.
Offer Me everything, right where you are.

Hold nothing back as if measuring worth;
I am Redeemer who called you at birth.
Lo, in your forming, no love has been spared;
trust in My power and never be scared.


Lord, take my energies, fears and delights,
swaddled as gifts for this holiest night.
Find in me merit to offer as well;
may all my actions of You always tell –

here is an offering of my next breath,
whether spent joyful or feeling bereft.
Here is my poverty, here is my pain,
here every gift You have poured in Your reign.

Yes Lord, I understand, all is from You,
bounty for offering, mercies so true.
All from my poverty; riches to place
here at Your manger, proclaiming Your grace.


Years from this instant, salvation spread far,
still we’ll be guided by Christ-naming star.
Bright for posterity, wonder-marked sign –
lighted for healing of your heart and mine.



Paula Zwenger
is a wife, mother, and grandmother who, upon finding herself an empty nester, tried on the hat of rhyme loving writer. It fit very well. Her joy manifests completely while taking the ups and downs of life and wrangling them into poetry. She also has a passion for creating rhymed treasure hunts with a Catholic flare to celebrate the faith and learn a thing or two along the way. You can find her musings at RhymeLovingWriter.com.

The Case of the Missing Elf on the Shelf

So who’s idea was it to create a new tradition for NOW – this crazy season of great expectations –  when we are expected to accomplish a regular day’s work and then deck the halls, dodge the traffic, bake up a storm and – OH! I almost forgot – actually help our families prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ! 

I have a confession to make. Please don’t judge me. And please don’t tell my kids.

Here goes.

I sent our elf dumpster diving 800px-Elf_on_the_Shelf_poses_01last Christmas.

I know. That’s a terrible thing for a mother to do.

But don’t worry – he never suspected a thing. I assure you, the little guy was all game, smiling with those joyful but mischievous little eyes  – all ready to play along in the spirit of his Christmas mission. Without asking any questions, he dove right in with scraps of ribbons and wrappings as I disposed of all evidence of material overreach. No doubt he was expecting a great search party and a celebration some time soon – only they never came.

Like I said – don’t judge.

In my defense, that little red intruder was seriously infringing on our Advent season. I’m sure he meant no harm. But day after day, year after year, he just seemed to suck the air out of Advent and the Christ out of Christmas.

I know I’ll have tons of haters out there. But do you REALLY enjoy your Christmas being absconded by a tiny little elf that requires so much time and energy?! From the moment the kids were introduced to that cheeky little stalker a few years ago  – a well-intentioned and fun-spirited albeit “needy” gift from my mother – I have felt my resentment growing.

Say what you want about Santa. He may have been commercialized, but he does have his roots in sainthood. At least we could – and do – talk with our children about how St. Nicholas was given a special mission by God to spread Christ’s message of love and giving. About how in a special way he helps us to celebrate Christ’s birth.  But the elf? Maybe I just don’t “get” him. But for me he was like an everyday reminder of secularism – IN OUR HOME. I just couldn’t seem to escape him. Call me impulsive and underhanded. But I like to think of it more along the lines of self-preservation.

In addition to having nothing to do with Christ, and in no way enhancing our celebration of Advent or preparing our hearts for Christmas, our elf was pretty darned uncreative with his hiding places. If I were Santa, I would have fired him a long time ago. He often went for days at a time hanging out on a shelf in the middle of the living room like he’d completely forgotten his purpose. He was pretty lazy, all things considered.

And yes, I’ll admit it. My disdain was personal. Rather than spread the joy, our little elf served as a constant reminder of my lack of hospitality. I would pretty much characterize him as nothing more than a noose around my neck for the entire month of December.

Truth be told, I’ve actually been known to completely log out of Pinterest and FB over the holidays just to avoid being reminded of what a dud we welcomed into our home. In other people’s homes little elves were throwing parties, bathing in marshmallows or hosting potato sack races. In our home, we were hosting a couch potato.

I totally get that in order for the Elf on the Shelf to make himself at home, wandering around and getting into all sorts of mischief or just hanging out like one of the guys, there must be some modicum of hospitality from ME. But therein lies the entire problem. Every year at this time it’s like our home gets invaded by an unwelcome guest who is all smiles and modest, and all, “No, really I’m fine, just let me hang out here on the mantle and fulfill my mission” but who, honestly, puts me out on a daily (OK, nightly) basis, IF I remember him at all. And to make matters worse – almost EVERY morning – I’m all, “Darn! I forgot all about that little stinker again last night.” And then the kids spend most of December being disappointed, because they hear about everyone else’s elf adventures while their elf smiles dumbly from the same perch for most of the season. We can’t seem to escape being one-upped. Our next door neighbors are so hospitable they host two of the little buggers!

So that’s my story. Despite that little part about my letting the kids think their elf just ran away, things have been pretty peaceful around here this year. And truth be told, I really didn’t see another way out.

If cornered, I would plead NOT GUILTY. Frankly, I did not ask for this house guest, And there is no way my mother could have imagined that she was setting me up for absolute failure. But seriously? Throwing this little beast of burden on unsuspecting parents during the busiest time of year?

If you haven’t done it, please don’t.

I mean, eleven months out of the year, it’s all we parents can do to get our kids to bed, do some laundry, clean the kitchen, finish a little work, balance the checkbook, plan our meals and get everything ready for all the activities on the coming day’s calendar. Meet any parent on the street, and you will see a sleep-deprived individual. So who’s idea was it to create a new tradition for NOW – this crazy season of great expectations –  when we are expected to accomplish a regular day’s work and then deck the halls, dodge the traffic, bake up a storm and – OH! I almost forgot – actually help our families prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ! 

Call my methods extreme and underhanded. Yes, I’ll admit it. My conscience isn’t quite where I’d like it to be. I did spend a few days quietly watching the kids frantically search through all the Christmas boxes for our elf and listening to their pitiful confessions that perhaps their elf disappeared because they touched him last year and he lost his “magic.”

But after all the initial excitement, I am very pleased to say that out-of-sight-out-of-mind has been rather effective and we have actually enjoyed a very peaceful Advent season with no elf on our shelf.

We’ve been lighting the Advent candles and pulling out our Jesse tree ornaments. We are reading Christmas stories. And to top it off, there is no discussion about where the elf is or why he hasn’t moved or whether Santa doesn’t like our family because our elf doesn’t play like all the other elves. Even better, there is no guilt-ridden Mommy every single morning. I’d even venture to say it’s been fairly joyful here.

Except for the little part about my actually being a malicious source of sadness for my kids. In that regard, I’ve been doing a little thinking. Is it possible that I can have my cake and eat it too? In the interest of “honesty”, I think I’ve come up with a solution to clear my conscience and bring resolution for the little ones. I read an article the other day about a mother who also must have had enough (You are not alone!). Only SHE had the foresight to ask Santa to write a letter to her children, rather than throwing her elf out on the street, or allowing  him to disappear without a trace. Perhaps Santa will find our elf for me and allow him to be a Christmas toy instead of a spy. We’ll see…maybe with Santa’s help, we can all win and there will be happy closure for my kids in the Case of the Missing Elf on the Shelf.



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