Gift Giving 101~ No pressure, No tricks.

I’m reposting from last year’s series on Redeeming Christmas. You can catch all my posts here.  I’m attempting to pull some of my favourite ideas and posts and bring them to a new audience for this year.

 

Gifts. I’m not really sure where to start with this. I used to love shopping. I actually still do~for other people. I like finding that one thing; the one that will make people cry and tug on their heartstrings. I love those kinds of gifts.

What I don’t love is shopping malls.  I. HATE. MALLS.   They are money pits that serve one purpose: indulgence.  Bigger malls are being built with fancier stores than I ever recall being built in my entire 40+ years on this planet.  Shoe stores, women’s stores, men’s stores, jewelry stores, toy stores, hat stores. Too many stores. And WAY too many people in malls on any given day.

 

I people watch and what I see in malls is a lot of people buying a lot of stuff that they don’t need and in 6 weeks won’t care about or want anymore. A lot of time and money is wasted in malls every year. And the other thing I see is stress. Stress on the faces of all those people. Frustrated, hurried, concerned and not at all cheerful.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

If we are to be cheerful givers, not under compulsion to give, not reluctant givers then why do we make the lists  that lead us into a guilt-laden journey?

Can I tell you a secret? You don’t have to give anyone a gift for Christmas.  You don’t! Really, I’m not even kidding. You DO.NOT. HAVE. TO.

Buying gifts to me should be intentional, for the purpose of building up, blessing and out of the generosity of our hearts.  If we feel guilted into it then we have missed the point. If we don’t even like the gifts we’re buying, we’ve really missed the point.  And if we are TOLD what to give and who to give to , then we are actually disobeying the Word of God. 

Here’s my experience:

1. I don’t give to the same people every year. Some are the same but most are not. Of course I give to my kids; I want to . I enjoy it. But I don’t HAVE to.  And they don’t HAVE to give to me either.   I rely on circumstance and opportunity to dictate who gets gifts from me.

2. My parents and inlaws often do not receive gifts from us.  I may really be stepping on toes with this one but I want you all to think about this. Our parents have lived longer than we have. They have every token, trinket, picture frame, sweater, appliance that money can buy.  They are fairly self-sufficient and they also have quite a few kids and grandkids.  Our parents like giving their grandkids gifts(if money permits) but don’t usually expect much in return. And I know what you’re thinking: ” All parents say ‘don’t get us anything’ , but they don’t really mean it; they’re just being polite.”‘  I disagree.  Sure they probably love the thought of the gift but if you were to really have a conversation with them, they don’t want any more stuff. They don’t need it. They are trying to downsize and simplify along with the rest of us but they have 20-30 years on us! Now, my mom lives alone and I like to make sure she gets something from us , even if it is small. I will talk about *Christmas in a Box* in a later post.  But unless we’re spending Christmas with one set of parents, we don’t generally send anything to them.

3. My husband and I go regularly without exchanging Christmas gifts.  Gifts cost money. And when money is tight you trim the budget and the list. We don’t need anything else. If we want something and can afford it, we buy it. We don’t need a calendar to tell us when. Besides, we have a lot more fun buying for our kids and friends.Very often we will give a card that expresses in words how we continue to give our hearts and our lives to each other. I love those cards. They are priceless and they’re one of a kind.

4.If giving isn’t fun, I don’t do it. Ever.  Remember that part about a cheerful giver? Ya, that one.  I take that very seriously. The FUN of giving is well, fun!  When I get something that someone is going to love or that I am going to love giving(because it’s silly, ridiculous or just plain awesome), I cannot tell you how great I feel. It is a rush. It is more fun than getting a gift any day, hands down. So if you’re one of those list people that beats the pavement to find the very thing your kid wants and you hate every minute of it, stop it.  Just stop. Cheerfully.  Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself this question: ” What am I teaching my children , my friends and the poor clerks in the stores about my faith?”  Ouch. Painful, isn’t it?  You should never ever put a retail clerk on minimum wage through the ordeal of dealing with your crabby moods because you can’t find the exact colour or size of what Missy said she HAS to have. EVER.

5. Giving gifts should never put you into debt. Cash people. Use cash.  If you don’t have it, you don’t buy it. Don’t justify under any circumstance the use of credit to buy someone a gift. It’s not worth it. On Boxing Day people wake up to their stupidity(overspending and needless debt) and also to the pouty same faces they saw two days before Christmas. Things don’t make people happy. Things don’t make kids more behaved.  Things don’t satisfy.  So, no debt. Say it with me : ” I will not go into debt this Christmas”.

6.I never expect a gift from anyone. Growing up poor has a lot of benefits. If you see your single mother struggle to put food on the table you darn well know not to expect a gift under the tree. And then when you get something, you appreciate it so much more.  Don’t give your parents, your husband , your friends or anyone a list of what you’d like. Don’t Pin a Christmas Wish List board for all to see.  Don’t cut magazine pictures and put them on your husband’s side of the bathroom mirror.  Don’t send e-mail hints or set up gift registries.  Don’t. Can I tell you a sad story? I know of someone who is middle aged. He has kids. A couple of years ago he went to his mother’s house for Christmas dinner.  When gift opening time came around, his elderly mother had a gift for him and one for each of his kids. When he didn’t get more than one(as he had come to expect for his 40+ years of existence) he picked up his kids, stormed out of his mother’s house in disgust and made it clear to all in attendance how disgusted he was that all he got was “one measly gift”.   You can’t make this stuff up. Pathetic. Ungrateful. Unkind.  My shock and outrage…well, I’ve had to let it go because it doesn’t affect me. But what an awful thing for his mother to endure.

7. If a gift doesn’t make me think of Jesus, I’m not buying it. This might sound silly. But remember, we’re redeeming Christmas from commercialism and the *way we’ve always done it*.  When we see people with the Father’s eyes and we love them the way the Father loves: lavishly, uninhibited and generously, then we will give accordingly.  If you go to the dollar store just to fill up space in a stocking or give to a kid in the family who you don’t really know but feel obligated to give to, then that’s not really seeing them from a Jesus perspective.  When you buy a gift you should see it as a reflection of your love for the person and the love Christ has for them(because obviously, we give to some people we don’t love very much…or love very well).  If we spend too much on something that isn’t really that great, or if we buy because we’re in a rush or pressured or obligated, we won’t give the way Jesus would give. Consider the gifts that Jesus received as an infant: gold, frankincense and myrrh…special, selective, rare, expensive. We can’t maybe afford the expensive but we can afford to be selective, take some time and make it special. This is why handmade or rare gifts say so much. The sacrifice of our time and effort can speak to the recipient of a gift.

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This topic of giving gifts is deep and wide. If you have some other thoughts or advice, please share. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is the most important, central theme of their Christmas experience.  In fact, there are many who believe that without the giving and getting of gifts there would be no Christmas. We need to cautiously examine the message that sends to our children and our larger communities. Redeeming Christmas~the renovation of what  we’ve  always done ~is not an easy, painless process. It will require a huge shift on our parts to become cheerful givers who are not bound by the same routine of obligatory gifts to the same people year after year. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

 

 

 

Spreading Christmas Cheer~ A Giveaway!

I used to watch Oprah’s favorite things shows. I got all excited and teary when people would win stuff they weren’t expecting. Just watching their expressions was enough to make me want to run out and buy some goodies for my friends and family.

Now Ellen has carried on the tradition with her 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways.  Listen people, I don’t have unlimited resources or wealth to draw from.  I don’t have diamond bracelets or iPads.  I can’t even muster an iPod to give away.

However, I am feeling particularly generous this year and I wanted to share it with you, my readers.  But, there’s a catch(don’t you just hate that?)

Here it is:  I want you to go to my Facebook page and  “Like”  it.  Well, don’t just LIKE it….can you actually press the little “Like”  button? I want to set a tone for the new year with new posts, new ideas, new conversations and it all kind of happens there.  I just want everyone to be a part of it.  So, here’s the deal:Go to the link for THIS post on my FB page,share it on your page and then come back to my page and comment “shared” in the comments section.  For everyone who “shares” my link , you will get your name into a draw for something homemade by me!!  Just in time for Christmas gift-giving.  (sorry, this will only be available to those in North America).

And then ….here’s the good part: if you’re on Pinterest, follow me and I’ll follow you back.  Send me the link to your Pinterest page in the comment sections as well. This second comment will also get your name in the draw!  So there you go: 2 chances to win!

For all of my new followers wondering what this is all about~it’s just me, a little prairie girl, sharing thoughts on home, faith and family. If you’re wondering where to start…..a timely, good place would be my series on Redeeming Christmas. Lots of good ideas for simplifying and taking back Christmas from the chaos that it has become. There’s 31 posts in this series so no shortage of thoughts and ponderings.  Check it out here.

A bunting, a wreath and 12 fabric ornaments. Split it up and give as gifts or adorn your own little world with vintage loveliness. Perfect for that shabby vintage look, a girl's room, a nursery or kitchen. Possibilities are endless!

A bunting, a wreath and 12 fabric ornaments. Split it up and give as gifts or adorn your own little world with vintage loveliness. Perfect for that shabby vintage look, a girl’s room, a nursery or kitchen. Possibilities are endless!

Oh and one more thing….there’s a time limit here. Only comments posted by 11 pm(central time) Friday evening will count. That gives you 36 hours! Like,share, comment! Off you go! I can’t wait to see whose name will be drawn! I wish everyone could win~but, well, it wouldn’t be a contest then. 😉

 

 

The Secret Giver~Adopt a Family {Day 29}

Matthew 6:

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

This is one of my favourite passages. I love everything about it. I love that it is Jesus’ words and I love that it comes just before He teaches us how to pray(the Lord’s prayer).   What I love most is the concept that giving, especially to the needy, is to be done in such a way that we draw absolutely zero attention to ourselves. NONE. It is a secret.  It is THE best secret.  When you give to those in need , you do so to bring glory to God, not glory to yourselves. 

About 12 years ago we had made plans to go home to our parents’ for Christmas.  We had 4 little kids and my husband worked very hard to provide but that was a year of particular financial hardship for us. Our 4th baby had come and life was chaotic, hectic and expensive with 2 in diapers.   Our van’s transmission completely died about 3 weeks before Christmas.  The cost to fix it was going to be around $1400 and a few extras on top of that. We were shell-shocked. We only lived pay-cheque to pay-cheque and there really wasn’t extra money for any surprises. The money we were going to use to drive to Saskatchewan was immediately put into the repair of our only vehicle. Obviously, there would be no trip.  And even beyond that there would be no money for gifts or turkey dinner. All of our bill payments had to be held off until the 2nd pay cheque in the month meaning that we were behind and the only way to get caught up was to pay them all at once leaving nothing for extras.

I cried.

Not because our kids weren’t going to have gifts but because our plans, hopes and dreams of being with family was gone in an instant. I cried because the burden of not having enough was unbearably heavy that year. I cried because I felt alone.

And then came the secret givers.

First there was one family who asked if they could provide some gifts for our kids. It was so sweet how their kids wrapped items for our kids.  And then someone else helped with some groceries and food.

And then came Christmas Eve. We had long come to recognize our church’s generosity, especially at Christmas to families in need. We knew that on Christmas Eve there would be sacks of toys and hampers of food for the neediest in the community.  What we didn’t know was that at then end of the night, when all the other sacks were taken away….there were two large ones left. For us. Shocked, humbled, a crying blubbering mess I was. I felt guilty. Surely there were others that had more need than we did. But the Lord spoke into my life and gently reminded me that this is how He shows His love. He sees our needs and He fills them. He sees our desires and He longs to give them to us.

We went home and the kids were so excited. Some of the nicest toys and books were wrapped for each of them. Beautiful toys and even some treats: a gingerbread cake/cookie pan, mix, decorations, turkey and the fixings…so many things…it was like an over abundance…MORE THAN WE WOULD HAVE EVER, EVER BOUGHT FOR OURSELVES.

It was one of the nicest Christmases ever. Just knowing that people cared. Feeling like someone took the time to think of us and consider our kids’ ages and likes~ it was really special.

We don’t know who the givers were(the church let people adopt a family as opposed to the church paying for the items).  We had a couple of ideas but we never found out. No one seemed to know…or at least they weren’t saying.  And you know, I just love that.  I love not knowing because all I do know is that Jesus loves us.  All I know is that someone took up being the hands and feet of Jesus. I couldn’t say thank you to a person, I had to thank Jesus.  I couldn’t put a face to the gifts…only Jesus.

You see, that is the beauty of the secret gift.  That is the  challenge before us at Christmas~ we like or dislike things based on who gave them to us. It is natural to judge: “oh, clearly they don’t know us very well”  or  feeling guilt or an obligation to repay to whomever it was.

This is why I love adopting a family every Christmas.  I love to buy special things, wrap them and bless them in Jesus’ name.  I love to take the meager list that the agency gives (usually very small and modest) and double , triple or quadruple ….every little item that a family could use at Christmas: At least one large and one small gift for each member, stockings filled with personal items, Festive napkins, decorations, treats, chocolates, Christmasy towels, games, puzzles, coffee, tea and more…..

I never know who receives it or how it is received. It doesn’t matter.  I just love going all out and not hearing a peep about it afterwards.  Because that’s the Jesus way of giving.

I challenge everyone to adopt a family this Christmas. If you do nothing else, this will be the single most important, significant thing you do.

 Contact your local agencies for more information;

Salvation Army

MCC

Local Child and Family Services

Gifts for Tweens and Teens{Day 9 of the Redeeming Christmas Series}

Have you forgotten what the word *REDEEMED* means? Sometimes I do and I need a reminder.  From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

  • Do something that compensates for poor past performance or behavior
  • Compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something)
  •  Atone or make amends for (error or evil)

Are you willing to have a heart to heart with your teen?  Are you willing to admit that perhaps you’ve made  a mistake(or many) in the past when it comes to giving gifts and teaching them about Christmas ?  I’m willing to bet a whole cheesecake that your kids would rather have an honest conversation and a modest gift from you than the best_______ money can buy.

I’m also fairly confident that what our tweens and teens want more than anything is to spend quality time with us, their parents, and to have us be interested in what they are doing.  Quality time vs. quantity stuff.

So, with that in mind, here’s my ideas for how to give to teens and what to remember in the process:

1. If you are engaged in your kids’ lives you will know what kinds of things they are interested in. There is nothing that speaks to a teenager like a gift that they didn’t ask for but is exactly what they want.

2.I rarely think gift cards are okay for Christmas gifts….except when it comes to teenagers.  I don’t know what it is , but their need to spend someone else’s money on something they really want is like giving candy to a baby.  My son adores Best Buy gift cards like they’re rare jewels. He will save up as many as he can get until he has enough to buy whatever techy item is on his mind but too pricey to get.  This is a great option for aunts, uncles and grandparents.  Likewise, my daughters love gift cards to their favorite clothing stores. They giggle with delight like 4 year olds with a new baby doll.

3. What I love about teenagers is their willingness to negotiate for something better or different. They are  the best age group for forfeiting a gift under the tree in order to get something else.  For example, if your daughter has been begging for a room re-do/up-do/renovation but you haven’t been able to *find the time* or afford her dreams, consider swapping out the money you would have spent on Christmas gifts for her and surprise her with a new room. You can tell her some or all of your plan , or be like me and not say a peep…have her go to a friend’s house for a couple nights and days and then commit to getting it done: paint , curtains, bedding, decorations.  Do the reveal just like Extreme Home Makeover with her friends. Try to do it as close to Christmas as you can. Trust me, this sort of thing works great.  Another idea: rent a roller rink, skating rink or laser tag and give your kid the gift of a night out with all their friends including food(of course).

4. I like to give the gift of an experience or an event as opposed to a tangible gift. This promotes togetherness and memories and eliminates clutter and stuff! Concert tickets, a weekend away for skiing, a family vacation, lessons(riding, skating, piano,voice….)

5. Don’t spend more just because you don’t know what else to do. Ask your kids’ friends, look at their FB /Twitter/Pinterest for ideas. Teens these days have grown up in the social media spotlight. They rarely withhold information and for once, this is going to come in handy! You can find out a lot about your kids by what they read, listen to, wear and look at. Don’t  buy something just to give something. It really is the thought that counts and this is a HUGE deal to teens~that you hear them and that you get them.

You were looking for an itemized list of what to get your kids, weren’t you? Admit it.  It’s sometimes easier to have someone tell you what to buy than to have to come up with the idea on your own, right? But here’s the thing, your kids are YOUR kids.  They need you to think more about them than the game score or the bottom line.  If you are really serious about redeeming Christmas, it starts now. You have to lay the groundwork NOW to be able to give the right gift in 11 weeks.  Yes, it’s only 11 weeks till Christmas.

Giving the right gift and redeeming yourself and your kids from all the lame, last minute, indulged, excessive gifts from the past is going to take some homework and legwork on your part. Sacrificing your time is going to speak to your kids more than anything you give them.

Tomorrow we talk about THOUGHTFUL gifts.  You won’t want to miss it because it will help you with every gift you give.

Gifts for the Little Ones {Day 8 of Redeeming Christmas Series}

We’ve already established that giving is a good thing. A fun thing. And in no way am I saying that gifts shouldn’t be exchanged at Christmas time. However, I think it’s our attitudes in the giving that need the adjusting.

My kids are growing up and giving gifts has definitely changed. It used to be very easy to buy the latest, greatest , trendiest toys and know that they’d giggle with glee and delight. It was also very easy to go overboard.

We had a couple of Christmases where I threw my *3 gift rule* out the window. (One they want, one they need and one thing I want to give them).  We lavished  the Lego, My Little Pony, Barbie, Princess, Bionicle, movies, games and more all over our dear little ones. There was laughter and joy….for an hour.  There was giggling….and whining. And fatigue and failure. There were broken bits and missing bits before we could even get the horse out of the Fisher Price Barn.  *sigh*  Good intentions. But bad parenting. Less is more. Less is more. I know this and yet we didn’t listen to  our own good common sense or intuition.

And then there were the lean Christmases.  The one when my son turned 2 and we got him the Fisher Price cassette player with the microphone.  That was all. The $30 it cost me to buy that was all the money in the world we had. My husband and I didn’t exchange gifts that year and our 1 year old, she didn’t get anything.  She was too young to know and we couldn’t afford anything since her birthday had been 5 days before Christmas. Her birthday gift? An $8 blow up fire engine that she bounced and laughed on until it popped a month later.

But that cassette player for my son that Christmas was THE BEST gift ever.  Our boy carried that everywhere. He sang every Veggie Tales and Kids Worship song at least 100 times over. He got so good at rewinding and changing cassettes, we knew he’d be a genius(he now runs sound,plays electric guitar in a worship band and knows ALL things technology).  One gift.  ONE.  He was two.

I think perspective is good here.

Our babies don’t need every gift money can buy. They won’t know and they won’t remember. They also don’t need our $200 spent on them when there are so many more worthy causes where that money could go. Our 3 year olds don’t need iPods or Nintendo DSi’s.  Our 5 year olds don’t need ponies in the backyard or every age-appropriate toy.

Here’s a few guidelines for giving to kids under 12(and these go for grandparents, aunties and uncles too).

  • 1. Mom and Dad know their kids best~even better than the kids.  So choose what you know in your heart will speak most to your child’s gifts, desires, hopes and dreams.
  • 2. Don’t try to balance out the price you spend on each child. This is foolishness in my opinion.  A 10 year old boy may relish the chance to get a $150 train set but his 8 year old sister may be the happiest girl in the world with a $40 doll stroller.
  • 3. Be up front with your kids. If times are tough and you don’t have a lot, then tell them the gifts will be lean. They can take it. They understand. 
  • 4. Grandparents, if you are giving to ALL of your grandkids, then give to them ALL. Trust me, they will find out if one grandchild got something and they did not. And please, for the love of your children and the sanity of all, don’t buy toys from dollar stores, EVER.
  • 5.Aunties(you are the worst) and Uncles, please ask your brothers/sisters before spending a whole bunch on your nieces and nephews. It can make for hard and uncomfortable feelings if your gifts trump mom and dad’s gifts. Be conservative. It REALLY IS the thought that counts in times like these. Christmas Day is not the day to show off how much money you have.
  • 6.Parents, refrain from giving your child more gifts for their age. A baby doesn’t need 12 gifts to open. And neither does a 2 year old or any child for that matter. Use the rule: 1 they love, 1 they need, 1 they wear and 1 they read.  Books, PJs, a toy and a treasure. 
  • 7. When you buy a toy or a treasured doll/stuffed animal. Don’t buy on impulse. Think about it. Research it. Ask your friends what their kids love and play with.  If I could go back and count up the money I spent on things that looked cute or fun in the toy store but ended up being the biggest waste of money, I would be rich. People who buy on impulse are what’s driving the rampant consumption we see around us. DO NOT SHOP WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY TO BURN AND NO SENSE OF FOCUS.
  • 8.Remember your kids are fickle. They will love something Christmas Day and forget about it by June. If you do end up with a lot of toy gifts, especially with little kids under 6, put some of them away immediately. Do not pull them out until February, March or later.  When you do pull them out, it will be like Christmas all over again. And then put the played-with toys away for a few months. THIS WORKS WONDERS.
  • 9.I will be doing an entire post on consumable gifts. They don’t always apply to small kids but it’s worth mentioning that if you have a baby on your list this year, think diapers, wipes, formula, baby food and toiletries. These items are extremely costly for new parents and a baby doesn’t know and doesn’t care what you’re giving to him/her.  
  • 10. Above all else, remember that children don’t have the capacity to understand the economy, finances and affordability  Therefore, do not teach them about excess and having it all at an early age or they will come to expect you to out-do yourself year after year after year.  Start out slow, be conservative and TEACH them with your giving about being thankful for the small things and for ONE thing. 

 

Tomorrow’s post will be some gift ideas for Tweens and Teens.  Right where I’m at….I have homework to do!

Here’s the link for the rest of this series on Redeeming Christmas.

Day 3~Climbing off the Gift-Giving Bandwagon{31 Days to Redeeming Christmas}

Whose idea was this again? It’s getting hot over here. I’m feeling some uncomfortable shifts in the way I have been *doing* Christmas.

I’m sure there must be time to change my 31 days topic~right?

*Ahem* Moving right along…….

Gifts. I’m not really sure where to start with this. I used to love shopping. I actually still do~for other people. I like finding that one thing; the one that will make people cry and tug on their heartstrings. I love those kinds of gifts.

What I don’t love is shopping malls.  I. HATE. MALLS.   They are money pits that serve one purpose: indulgence.  Bigger malls are being built with fancier stores than I ever recall being built in my entire 40+ years on this planet.  Shoe stores, women’s stores, men’s stores, jewelry stores, toy stores, hat stores. Too many stores. And WAY too many people in malls on any given day.

Little diversion here: You know what I LOVE?  The Target Lady.  LOVE. HER.  Makes me laugh. Makes me not want to set foot in any Target or other department store during November or December.  But boy oh boy, I love her. Best commercials ever.

I people watch and what I see in malls is a lot of people buying a lot of stuff that they don’t need and in 6 weeks won’t care about or want anymore. A lot of time and money is wasted in malls every year. And the other thing I see is stress. Stress on the faces of all those people. Frustrated, hurried, concerned and not at all cheerful.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

If we are to be cheerful givers, not under compulsion to give, not reluctant givers then why do we make the lists  that lead us into a guilt-laden journey?

Can I tell you a secret? You don’t have to give anyone a gift for Christmas.  You don’t! Really, I’m not even kidding. You DO.NOT. HAVE. TO.

Buying gifts to me should be intentional, for the purpose of building up, blessing and out of the generosity of our hearts.  If we feel guilted into it then we have missed the point. If we don’t even like the gifts we’re buying, we’ve really missed the point.  And if we are TOLD what to give and who to give to , then we are actually disobeying the Word of God. 

Here’s my experience:

1. I don’t give to the same people every year. Some are the same but most are not. Of course I give to my kids; I want to . I enjoy it. But I don’t HAVE to.  And they don’t HAVE to give to me either.   I rely on circumstance and opportunity to dictate who gets gifts from me.

2. My parents and inlaws often do not receive gifts from us.  I may really be stepping on toes with this one but I want you all to think about this. Our parents have lived longer than we have. They have every token, trinket, picture frame, sweater, appliance that money can buy.  They are fairly self-sufficient and they also have quite a few kids and grandkids.  Our parents like giving their grandkids gifts(if money permits) but don’t usually expect much in return. And I know what you’re thinking: ” All parents say ‘don’t get us anything’ , but they don’t really mean it; they’re just being polite.”‘  I disagree.  Sure they probably love the thought of the gift but if you were to really have a conversation with them, they don’t want any more stuff. They don’t need it. They are trying to downsize and simplify along with the rest of us but they have 20-30 years on us! Now, my mom lives alone and I like to make sure she gets something from us , even if it is small. I will talk about *Christmas in a Box* in a later post.  But unless we’re spending Christmas with one set of parents, we don’t generally send anything to them.

3. My husband and I go regularly without exchanging Christmas gifts.  Gifts cost money. And when money is tight you trim the budget and the list. We don’t need anything else. If we want something and can afford it, we buy it. We don’t need a calendar to tell us when. Besides, we have a lot more fun buying for our kids and friends.Very often we will give a card that expresses in words how we continue to give our hearts and our lives to each other. I love those cards. They are priceless and they’re one of a kind.

4.If giving isn’t fun, I don’t do it. Ever.  Remember that part about a cheerful giver? Ya, that one.  I take that very seriously. The FUN of giving is well, fun!  When I get something that someone is going to love or that I am going to love giving(because it’s silly, ridiculous or just plain awesome), I cannot tell you how great I feel. It is a rush. It is more fun than getting a gift any day, hands down. So if you’re one of those list people that beats the pavement to find the very thing your kid wants and you hate every minute of it, stop it.  Just stop. Cheerfully.  Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself this question: ” What am I teaching my children , my friends and the poor clerks in the stores about my faith?”  Ouch. Painful, isn’t it?  You should never ever put a retail clerk on minimum wage through the ordeal of dealing with your crabby moods because you can’t find the exact colour or size of what Missy said she HAS to have. EVER.

5. Giving gifts should never put you into debt. Cash people. Use cash.  If you don’t have it, you don’t buy it. Don’t justify under any circumstance the use of credit to buy someone a gift. It’s not worth it. On Boxing Day people wake up to their stupidity(overspending and needless debt) and also to the pouty same faces they saw two days before Christmas. Things don’t make people happy. Things don’t make kids more behaved.  Things don’t satisfy.  So, no debt. Say it with me : ” I will not go into debt this Christmas”.

6.I never expect a gift from anyone. Growing up poor has a lot of benefits. If you see your single mother struggle to put food on the table you darn well know not to expect a gift under the tree. And then when you get something, you appreciate it so much more.  Don’t give your parents, your husband , your friends or anyone a list of what you’d like. Don’t Pin a Christmas Wish List board for all to see.  Don’t cut magazine pictures and put them on your husband’s side of the bathroom mirror.  Don’t send e-mail hints or set up gift registries.  Don’t. Can I tell you a sad story? I know of someone who is middle aged. He has kids. A couple of years ago he went to his mother’s house for Christmas dinner.  When gift opening time came around, his elderly mother had a gift for him and one for each of his kids. When he didn’t get more than one(as he had come to expect for his 40+ years of existence) he picked up his kids, stormed out of his mother’s house in disgust and made it clear to all in attendance how disgusted he was that all he got was “one measly gift”.   You can’t make this stuff up. Pathetic. Ungrateful. Unkind.  My shock and outrage…well, I’ve had to let it go because it doesn’t affect me. But what an awful thing for his mother to endure.

7. If a gift doesn’t make me think of Jesus, I’m not buying it. This might sound silly. But remember, we’re redeeming Christmas from commercialism and the *way we’ve always done it*.  When we see people with the Father’s eyes and we love them the way the Father loves: lavishly, uninhibited and generously, then we will give accordingly.  If you go to the dollar store just to fill up space in a stocking or give to a kid in the family who you don’t really know but feel obligated to give to, then that’s not really seeing them from a Jesus perspective.  When you buy a gift you should see it as a reflection of your love for the person and the love Christ has for them(because obviously, we give to some people we don’t love very much…or love very well).  If we spend too much on something that isn’t really that great, or if we buy because we’re in a rush or pressured or obligated, we won’t give the way Jesus would give. Consider the gifts that Jesus received as an infant: gold, frankincense and myrrh…special, selective, rare, expensive. We can’t maybe afford the expensive but we can afford to be selective, take some time and make it special. This is why handmade or rare gifts say so much. The sacrifice of our time and effort can speak to the recipient of a gift.

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This topic of giving gifts is deep and wide. If you have some other thoughts or advice, please share. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is the most important, central theme of their Christmas experience.  In fact, there are many who believe that without the giving and getting of gifts there would be no Christmas. We need to cautiously examine the message that sends to our children and our larger communities. Redeeming Christmas~the renovation of what we’ve always done ~is not an easy, painless process. It will require a huge shift on our parts to become cheerful givers who are not bound by the same routine of obligatory gifts to the same people year after year. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Oh and one more Target Lady commercial? Please? By far my favourite. 🙂

A Thoughtful Gift

Before I had ever heard about K-Mart, Walmart, Target or any other “big box” store, we had stores like Woolworths and Kresge Co.   When I was little we would travel 50 miles to town to the Woolworths for our department store shopping. It was a corner store with one door in and one door out. At Christmas the windows were full of cheery, festive displays. The wrapping paper was stocked higher than the heads of every adult and the ornaments were crammed into one tiny area at the front of the store.  Similarly, Kresge was an even smaller store in downtown Regina.  We would sometimes go there on our Christmas shopping excursions to find a deal or two. They had the most fabulous window displays with old time carolers, snowy scenes and always classic Christmas music playing.  When I hear “Silver Bells” it always reminds me of shopping in these two stores.  

We were poor when I was young.  We didn’t buy a lot for ornaments for our tree and they were lovingly packed away each Christmas to be used again and again.  I will never forget the shiny ball ornaments we had~ a couple of boxes only with varying shades of pink or silver, some with glitter designs and some without. What a sad day the day a cat climbed the tree, knocked it over and the ornaments came crashing down.  It wasn’t a surprise~ we would lose an ornament or two each year until finally there were none.   Try to find something like that nowadays? Good luck.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I was looking at photos of a business I follow on Facebook. This business is something I am interested in pursuing myself but for now I just look and get ideas.  The owner, Selena posted photos of her Christmas decor~ simple, elegant and vintage. OH, I was struck with this awesome wave of nostalgia to which I responded:

I certainly didn’t expect to get response!

Maybe it was the whisper of God in her ear that day, maybe it’s just that she’s a nice person~ I have no idea.  I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me but today  I received a package in the mail from her.  Contained within that brown box was THE MOST THOUGHTFUL gift I have ever received.  You might think it’s weird.  But it is more likely that it takes a lover of all things vintage to know when someone truly appreciates the simplistic beauty of these treasures from a generation ago.

It may not seem like much and maybe it isn’t to most, but when you get something that you didn’t even know you wanted and it speaks to your soul, that is a good gift.  Lesson learned: it doesn’t have to be expensive, big or flashy to make someone smile from a gift you’ve given, it just has to be intentionally thoughtful.

I have put them in my coke crate for now~you never know, that may change. But they're safe and cozy!

Head on over to Hazlitt Vintage Rental and check out her wonderful blog and inventory. And if you’re in Southern Ontario~ maybe you should consider her for your next wedding, party or event! Thanks again Selena for making my day!