The holiday gift giving season is well upon us. Newspapers are plump with advertisements. Email inboxes are getting deeper daily. Aisles of stores are filled with blockades with brightly colored package displays. All tempting us to purchase more, more, more.
Is anyone else feeling the stress of all of this? The pressure of finding that perfect gift, within a budget that narrows with every name put on the list. While the calendar is shedding days until Christmas like leaves off a tree on a blustery fall day, my blood pressure is rising as I ponder who we are forgetting to buy for.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about giving and giving generously. Every year at this time I wish I had at least $100,000 to spend on those I love and care about and for people I don’t even know. I love giving, particularly when I feel a real prompting on my heart at random. To me that is sweeter than a delectable dessert at a five star restaurant. The creme de la creme.
Christmas gift giving can feel so forced and so limiting all at the same time. I wish I had more to give with. It only takes two steps into any retail establishment for doubt to creep in and to wonder if the gifts I have already wrapped and placed under the tree will measure up.
Today I have been pondering the gifts that I so greatly cherish. The ones I love. The gifts that make me smile just to look at them. The ones that I treasure in my heart. It turns out they are the simplest of gifts.
Simple Gifts, Timeless Treasures
These are the things that are simple in material form, but that hold extravagant value in my heart. These are the things that stop the hustle and bustle of my day, and uplift me with sweet moments of joy.
In the here and now I hold to these material items. Like viewing great works of art on the wall of a museum, I allow myself time regularly to meander through them. I thank God, now for what they meant to me on the day I received them, but also for what they still mean to me. I hope that when I get to heaven I can see these gifts in all their splendor with unimpaired vision; the fullness of the heart of the givers and the depth of the reach these gifts had on my life & the lives of others.
This is my goal for the heart of my giving this year to give of my time, talents and treasures. I sat down and came up with a list of simple gifts that I know I am capable of giving.
Cards: Writing cards of encouragement and love is something I have great practice at. I do my personal best to keep Dayspring, Hallmark and the United States Postal Service in business. A box of cards will go a long way. Who can I write an individually personalized card to this Holiday Season?
Calls: Isn’t it nice to chat with someone who you have not talked with in a while? Memories revisited, laughs shared, just catching up about what captures the attention of our lives. Who can I give the gift of my voice to this holiday season?
Time: Who is craving the gift of my time the most? Who has commented that we have not had a chance to spend time together. Even if I can not fit this in over the Christmas holiday, who can I schedule time with on Calendar so we don’t miss it. Coffees, dinners, lunch dates, visits to art displays, kids basketball games. Creativity is a plus.
To Do List Treats: What can I do to remove or assist with a burden or a need that regularly occurs for someone? I like to call these to do list treats. I like to help with these all through the year, but I think it is time to make them a Christmas gift as well. Is the recipient the family member responsible for making dinner? I could bring them a meal. Does the friend have filing that is overwhelming them at the office. Volunteer to file for an hour.
Maybe it is an item that regularly occurs on the person’s shopping list. For instance, is that teacher you know always buying pencils or markers or glue sticks for their classroom – go buy them some. Or the administrative assistant who likes extra sticky post-it notes, buy them some in a fun color. These can be the silliest little items. For me it’s soap. I live on a farm on a gravel road and if there is one thing the four of us in the house get into, it’s dirt. I am giddy when I get soap from people. I love things that smell pretty and make one clean.
Sweet Little Splurges: What are those items that a person loves to use, but will rarely buy for themselves? A cup of fancy coffee, chocolate pearls for cake decorating, some rich buttered toffee, fun colored binder clips with flags? It could pretty much be anything. For my birthday my brother, Mike, bought me a three pack of Pilot G-2 07 pens with purple ink in them. They are wonderful! I love the rhythm and the flow as I write with them. But, at nearly $5.00 for a package of three pens, I’m not quick to buy them for myself. Silly, I know, but it is a luxurious little gift for me that makes me feel like a million dollars. I think most people have something like that.
Pour into their Passions: What is it that the recipient is passionate about? What do they love to do? What are they called to do? What organizations are they involved in? Pouring into something someone cares deeply may be the way to go.
Permission: For some of us this is an incredible gift. A good friend of mine once gave me a delightful little container of bubble bath, along with a note that read “I give you permission to take a break from everything and soak in a bubble bath.” I know it sounds silly, as an adult in my own home, I don’t need permission to take a bubble bath.
But, this was more than permission to soak in the tub; it was the freedom to let go of everything for a short while to give myself a break. For some reason it becomes a more reasonable option for time use when a friend tells me I should do it, than when I tell myself in my own head.
Hugs: Who just needs to have you show up in person and throw your arms around them?
All of these things are fairly simple and relatively inexpensive to give. But, I think they have the potential to pack a big punch for the recipient, or perhaps leave an indelible mark upon their hearts.
Now, I can take these ideas and bring it up against the people I have on my giving list. It’s my hope that this way the giving becomes more personal and less stressful.
In a season where big, bigger, biggest is the name of the game, I am holding a note card with this verse on it:
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward." Matthew 10:42 (NIV)
Simple Gifts, Timeless Treasures.
How You must shake Your head at me, as I overwhelm myself with delusions of grandeur for what I think needs to happen this holiday season or what I feel that I am expected to give. Lord, please humble my perspective. Help me to give what I can give and have peace about it.
Please bless all of us with creativity and insight in our giving. May our gifts, as simple as they may first appear, may they become timeless treasures. May they share joy and uplift both the giver and the receiver. May we remember to give of our time and our talents as generously as we give of our dollars.
Lord, please bless my readers. Uplift them. Give them good news of great joy. May this be a season of miracles in their lives that brings glory to Your name. May we not be afraid, but instead delight in the unwavering hope that Your Christmas story brings. May this season turn our hearts to You in tender and loving ways.
In the timeless name of Jesus, amen.