Friday, November 13, 2009

Thinking "Right" about giving gifts this Christmas

I'm finding it hard to believe that Thanksgiving is right upon us already and with that being the case, Christmas is just around the corner! As I have struggled over the years with spending, the Christmas season always stresses me out! It has always been like being pulled in two different directions.

The worldly side of me wants to buy my children everything they want and make my house look like those fabulously decorated houses I see in magazines. The perfect Christmas in my "worldly" mind is one where I give all the "right" gifts, have all the "right" foods, all the "right" decorations and spent time with all the "right" people. This type of Christmas means lots of stress for sure, but if I pull it off well, I can be sure to impress all the people around me.

The more spiritual side of me longs for a Christmas with LESS stress and more time to spend doing the things that REALLY make Christmas special; baking cookies with my children, doing "Christmasy" things with the family like going on tacky light tours or seeing a Christmas production and buying gifts for families who can't afford them. Most importantly, the spiritual side of me wants to focus my mind on the true reason for the season-Jesus!

The balance has varied from year to year. 20-80, 40-60, 50-50...

However, I still find myself yearning to get over the halfway mark and plunge into a more spiritual Christmas season. Every year about this time, I try to get intentional about how to bring this about. Being intentional gets me closer to the goal. It all begins for me, by examining my thoughts---being brutally honest with myself---and seeing if those thoughts line up with God's.

In my prayer time today I was addressing this and God reminded me of when my children were little and they would make me a Christmas gift at school. The most special ones were the gifts that were like "little pieces of them." You know the ones I mean; the plaques with the handprint on them, the silhouettes of their little faces with the hair sticking up just the way it always did! The gift didn't have value because it had cost a lot of money. The gift had value because we loved the giver and we understood the heart that went into giving the gift. Our little ones had used the resources they had; their two little hands, some art supplies, the ingenuity of a teacher perhaps, to make something uniquely from them. The gift wasn't the perfectly wrapped one under the tree by any means! But, it was always fun to open it up and see what was inside. Mostly, it was fun to see their eyes light up in anticipation as you opened the gift and how they beamed all over when you told them how much you liked it. The gift was given with love and we received it with love.

It wasn't just about the gift in itself It was about the giver and their heart.

Compare that with a lot of the gifts that are given today. We buy things for people out of reciprocation, perhaps obligation. We go into debt buying things we can't afford so that people will think more highly of us. We order gifts online, have them sent and sometimes never even put our own hands on them at all. Often we don't even see the person when our gift is presented!

When we do this, obviously it is because we think it is all about the GIFT.

Think about it. If it was about the giver, we wouldn't really look so good compared to our little darlings described earlier, would we? There is nothing personal involved. When we give in such a way, do we give with the same heart as our little child? Do we give a little piece of ourself? Are we more excited about actually giving the gift, or crossing it off our "to-do" list?

God surely shows us what it is to give GOOD GIFTS. He certainly gave from His heart. He gave us the most valuable thing HE had-His son-a saviour to reconcile us to Him and allow us a way to be with Him forever. God's gift came with a great deal of thought. He prophesied about it to us for hundreds of years before He sent it! It came at great sacrifice. He gave us Himself!

It's not about the gift or what it looks like. Jesus didn't come to us in "impressive package." He was born in a manger. Sometimes the value of the gift has as much to do with how we receive, as how we give. That's why God tells us to "Prepare our hearts." This requires that we take the time to look beyond the obvious. That we look beyond the material.

This Christmas I'm going to try to focus less on the gifts I give and more about the heart I give them in. I will give from my heart so that I can experience the joy that true giving brings. It's all about relationship. How many times have I knocked myself out running around for the "perfect gifts" and then was totally grouchy by the time I actually gave them? I had made it about the gift.

The world says it's all about how much you give and what the gift looks like. God says it's all about the heart. If you don't give with a loving, joyous heart, your gift has no eternal value. Let's try to care more about what God thinks about our giving this season!

Let's try to give more of ourselves.


Stacy


10 comments:

Sharon@JoyInTheTruth said...

Love your thoughts here, Stacy! Great first post!

You are right...it is all about the heart indeed!

Just this week, we did our annual "Operation Christmas Child" through Samaritan's Purse and filled up a few shoe boxes. Our cherubs LOVE doing this every year. And it really reminds them about giving...to the least of these. We pray their little hearts are filled with His love for others.

Stacy, we are looking forward to learning from you! You are a treasure! May He bless and encourage you today so richly!

Sharon

Sonya Lee Thompson said...

Stacy,

What a powerful first post! I want it to be more about the giver (me) than the gift this year, too. Certainly powerful words to think about.

Sonya Lee

Warren Baldwin said...

Great thoughts, Stacy! I really like this statement: "The more spiritual side of me longs for a Christmas with LESS stress and more time to spend doing the things that REALLY make Christmas special." Amen.

Sisterlisa said...

I agree. I thought that having a few nights of open house with food for fellowship would be better than gifts. I even stopped buying Christmas cards and send them ecards instead. The culture of Christmas is out of control and seems to have lost it's focus.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

Stace - love this post. Looking forward to more of your great stuff!

Edie said...

Last year was one of the most stress-free Christmases I have had. I didn't worry as much about the "perfect gift", I can never find or afford it anyway, and put all my focus on Christ.

Great first post Stacy!

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago, our family decided that, instead of gifts, we would write each other a letter. Grandparents were included in this. And you know what? No one even missed the gifts! Not even the younger ones.
We still had 'stocking stuffers' on Christmas morning, but eliminated the mass productions under the tree. It was the most meaningful Christmas we had ever had.

So last year, we changed it to a scripture. It took alot of thought to come up with a scripture for each person along with an explanation of why we chose that one for them. My dad passed away that summer, so it was an especially emotional time and I think it really brought out alot of deeper thoughts and scriptures. I will cherish those times and my husband and I are planning what to do this Christmas!

~ Dawn ~ said...

I love this post! This year we are focusing on Family. We told the kids we are going to help out by giving gifts to other families who are in need this holiday season and that we are going to focus on the real reason for Christmas....Jesus. My son said "Mom, we are poor too because you don't have a job anymore", I told him yes, we have to cut back on things and are changing the way we live but we need to help others out who are less fortunate than us. We have our health, food, family and house, some people lost all of that.

Thank you for a great post! God Bless!

Greg C said...

You just gave me an idea for a free gift for my family. I have been trying to get out of that stress zone for years and get back to the days of popsicle stick presents and popcorn balls at Christmas. I really don't want anything for Christmas but my children want to give me something so I may tell them it has to be something that they made.

Kelly Combs said...

Stacy - just wanted to tell you what a great job you did on your first post! You are so right, giving from the heart means so much more than empty "things."

Thanks for sharing.