Christmas is now under seven weeks away!! Hopefully I did not cause your stress hormones to overreact causing you to breathe funny or your blood pressure to elevate. But for some, this time of year causes many to act in an unnatural way that affects their daily lives as well as others, until the actual holiday arrives.
I find it sad at how a joyous celebration has turned into a holiday of torture in finding the right gift, spending more than what one can afford, trying to appease to the family and social expectations.
In all transparency, I will admit, I am a gift giver. Always have been and always will be. When the resources are are available, I tend to pick little things up throughout the year with someone in mind to share with at Christmas. Many times these items might fill a Christmas stocking, and sometimes it is that one special gift for a loved one I thought of during the year.
In reality, I am not even sure where this heart for giving came from, as I did not grow up where gifts were lavished upon us. Yet, if I dig back far enough, I believe the symbol of love in giving was displayed by my Granny and Grandad from Missouri. We did not see them often, but they prayed and thought of us daily. One gift that meant the world to me, was the year in which my Granny spent an entire year making me the most beautiful wardrobe for my Barbie collection. Another year, my granddad crafted me a gorgeous nightstand that I treasured.
My Granny loved the craft of knitting, a craft I have yet to get a handle on myself. She bought quality materials to work with in order for them items to be special and last many years. I do have to thank her for the lesson in why quality matters and the love when giving to others. It was as if the gift was not only a gift of love for the recipient but also a gift of love to God.
When I sew, I tend to be a perfectionist as I pray and work for the person for whom it is being made for with quality results, as well as pleasing to God. My Granny taught me, without her ever knowing, that to give a gift, it should always be given as if it was something you would enjoy receiving yourself. It was something that has been passed on to our daughters.
My husbands parents were/are no different. If his mom crafted a quilt, you could see, feel and sense the love that was put into each square. If his dad made something with leather, you could sense his hands working the leather to create pictures and designs into something you would treasure for years. I still have the purses and wallet he made me along with a few quilts made for us from his mom.
This does not mean that over the years we only crafted gifts for each other, as we also knew that there were items of interest that needed to be purchased. Yet as I taught our daughters, it is best not to give if you have no time or resources to give something of quality and from the heart. Sometimes that meant having to take extreme measures to figure out what someone would enjoy or only give of ones time (maybe helping extra in the kitchen on the busy holiday celebration, shoveling, or bringing in the fire wood).
It is never about the gift as much as it is about the heart of the giver. And when times are tough, and there is no money to acquire gifts or the resources to make something, there is always ways in which you can share your love with others. When the heart gives without reservation, the recipient receives the most treasured gift of all. That in turn fills your own heart with the true meaning of Christmas. Such is the same as when God blessed us with the gift of His son.
We have been blessed with a family of crafters, those who could put their heart and soul into their craft. We have a few who can draw beautiful art, a rock painter who can make stone come alive, Sculpy clay master creating images to treasure. A leather crafter, a few woodworkers, a seamstress and more. We all know how to bake and make delicious treasures to share. But what we have of most value is genuine caring love, that is always transparent. It is priceless!!
What I am getting at is that Christmas is about giving from the heart and not the purse. Maybe I see things differently in this world, or take too much time in observing what others needs or interests are. I am not saying that a gift cannot be purchased with much thought and without much love put into the purchase, nor does it mean it must be handcrafted. It is about the heartfelt love that wraps a gift most beautifully.
If you want to get a child a Barbie doll, look for a quality one that will not fall apart on Christmas morning. If you want to get your wife a new diamond necklace, dream with her as she browses the jewelry counters and catalogs throughout the year to know what it is that she really wants. If you are a crafter and a loved one has hinted at soft fabrics for a quilted blanket, don’t give a denim quilted blanket, but rather be sure that the soft cozy fabrics she loves is used.
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to give an unsuspecting friend, acquaintance or stranger a gift from you heart? I am not talking about the tree angel gifts where you are given a list of wants and needs. I’m talking about giving to someone unsuspecting. It is truly the most amazing gift you can give. Every year, despite what our resources might be, I always try to find at least one person with whom I can share the gift of Christmas with. And if things are tight, I might make some homemade favorite sweets, add some tea, cocoa, etc., and wrap it up in either a gift box or basket.
For many years we have given to someone outside our immediate family and circle of friends with the selection a result of our hearts being tugged. It is not who has the least, but rather who has touched our hearts the most. It could be the poor family down the street that we brought boxes of fresh fruit, veggies and baked goods to. It could be to an individual who was genuinely kind. It could be someone who might be better off than us but still did something that caught a part of our hearts. There is no rationalization as to our choice other than the tug of our heart that says “give”.
So as I sit back and listen, read and hear of those who complain that they are broke, all upset they will not be able to enjoy Christmas this year, whether from a lost job, major medical expenses, college costs, etc., I just want to say: “It’s not about the gifts that money can buy, but rather the memories and generosity of your heart that you share.”
So, you have no money, then make memories: Bake with your child (or grandchild), make some ornaments together, spend time watching borrowed Christmas movies from the Library while stringing popcorn and cranberries to put outside for the birds, etc. If you take a moment to think of what you could do, the options are limitless.
For those who might think that I do not “understand” their circumstances, you are mistaken. I love the years I have much to give, but I also love the lean years as well. This is one of those years where things are lean, with no cash to spend on anything other than keeping our bills current. Yet, this past week, someone extended some kindness without knowing, that will be treated to the love of Christmas from our family.
My family will not go without, as I have already started crafting from materials that I already had on hand, as well as started shopping at the local library book sales for almost new books for $1 or less (our family are huge book readers). In addition, I have the request from my oldest that she wants jars of my homemade applesauce and our second daughter who has asked that I alter some clothing that she purchased in the past, but hasn’t had a chance to alter herself. I cannot express the joy that welled up within me when my daughters asked for these things. The applesauce is something of her childhood memories, and the alterations is a request in asking for something that my daughter knows that I will put much love and professional skills into making sure her garments fit her the way she would like.
Although I am a gift giver to a fault at times, I do feel the most valuable gift at Christmas is time spent with those I love. Photographs put into albums, making packages of sweets together to share with family and friends, watching Christmas movies and decorating the Christmas tree while chatting away the hours of memories of our past.
Is that not what Christmas is about? Giving from within, giving all from what we have, and valuing our time with one another. And for me, the most precious of all gifts, is celebrating the birth of Christ that was given to us on that first Christmas morning.
No matter what one’s belief is, may you share the spirit of Christmas with thoughtfulness, kindness, compassion, love and a humble heart.
Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading, Editing, Freelance contributor