Friday, February 04, 2011


I've been thinking about gifts.  Giving and receiving gifts. 

What kind of gifts do you like to give?  Do you like to give gifts that someone wants or needs or do you prefer to give gifts that remind them of you?

One of the first years after Dad got remarried, we discovered that our stepmother had decided to go shopping for herself with our money.  Now, while I'm great with getting Christmas lists so that we don't provide the worst gift on the planet for people, we didn't receive a list from her with ideas, we received an item that we should purchase. 

Carol and I cut that off right from the get-go, but my brother didn't get on the bandwagon soon enough and called to tell us that not only had they received an exact idea for what she wanted, but she had gone so far as to cut out the ad for the item, circle it and circled the price.  They were expected to purchase that exact toaster for her for Christmas.  Not wanting to create waves and agreeing that if that was the item she wanted to receive, they purchased it and we proceeded with Christmas.

We also discovered that she had done the same with Dad.  For a man who had NEVER purchased clothing items in his life, she gathered catalogs, dog-eared the pages, circled the items (along with the cost) and presented that to him as what he would purchase for Christmas for her.

There was no spontaneity, no surprise and a whole lot of laughter.

We came from a family where Christmas was a delight.  There was never much money, but for months before Christmas and especially the weeks prior, Mom turned into a Christmas elf.  There were secrets and locked doors, sewing machines whirling, more locked doors.  I specifically remember the three of us as little kids sitting in the doorsill of the locked door to Mom's craft room.  I really wish there had been a picture of that.

She would wrap the gifts and place them under the tree.  We would pick them up and do whatever we could to try to identify them and there was even one or two of us (never me) that unwrapped and rewrapped gifts.  But, even when that happened, she managed to surprise the heck out of us with gloriously created presents.  Nothing we expected, but always what we wanted.

My husband has a terrible time trying to surprise me for Christmas.  I've gotten practical in my old age and don't see a good reason to spend frivolous money - especially when I'm trying to cut back on the stuff in my life.  Purchasing gifts for me is incredibly frustrating for him.  I try to give hints to Carol so that he has a little bit of help, but I know that he hates not being able to surprise me.  This last year, he managed to do so with some great, fun toys and I think that gave him no small amount of pleasure.

Mom's last Christmas with us was awful for her.  She was in the hospital for a long time before Christmas and didn't have a chance to do any shopping.  Christmas eve was the day she discovered the cancer had spread into her bones and her time with us was limited.  Her strength was giving out and we knew it wasn't going to be a fun holiday.  As we got ready to go to Christmas Eve services, she pulled out a couple of wrapped gifts.  She had gone down to the hospital gift shop and picked up simple, frosted nativity scenes for us.  They weren't anything spectacular, but she had to make sure her last Christmas gifts to us were meaningful. 

What kind of gifts do you like to receive?  Do you want to receive gifts that surprise and delight you, that bring memories or those that you choose?

You know, when I think about the gift that Jesus gave me on the cross, I don't know that I would have chosen that.  I wouldn't ask for someone to give His life for me so that I could live.  But, in the power of that gift, I find that I am surprised and delighted every day with the life it has opened up for me.

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