Tis the Season for gift planning and gift giving.
There's some kind of special that comes with a tin full of homemade goodness and packages with bows and shiny paper.
It makes you feel loved and thought of.
I for one, LOVE to see my name on a package, a card, on anything.
Growing up with a name that had a unique spelling for my generation, my name wasn't topping the charts for shoe-strings, key chains or necklaces, so Christmas time was always a special time to see my name on gift after gift.
Giving things makes my heart lighter, my smile wider, and my day filled with blessing.
Our neighbor came for a drop-in visit and it made my heart sing to wrap-up a piece of homemade apple pie and hand it to him.
It also made me think that "Better Homes and Gardens" was going to momentarily pop out of the walls and want to write a story about me.
Isn't gift-giving grand?
If you're like me, you have lists on the fridge and night stands loaded with ideas to bless those who bless you so much the year round.
One statement that has baffled me in year's past is this: "Be the Gift."
Not, "Enjoy the gift," or "Give a gift," but BE the gift.
Have you heard this before?
And perhaps it is just me thinking that someone close to me would much rather some "Bath and Body Works" lotion than a huge heap of "me" for Christmas?
In the past few months I have been made acutely aware of dear ones who have lost a wife, a husband and even a sweet infant son.
It shakes you up and gets your physical eyes off of the material and reminds you that we are all here on borrowed time.
It's like this-
Think back to a time when you had the flu, a bad cold, or any other physical struggle that laid you low for days at a time. If you're like me, you spend this "down" time begging for hot tea and tissues and not even wanting to imagine what the kitchen looks like or what your children are feeding each other.
You wear a path out from your bed to the bathroom and once in a while peer downstairs through smudged glasses half wondering if anyone knows you are still alive.
Your husband pats your head mid-nap and mumbles something about visits and the car needing an oil change and you just nod and mouth "S-O-U-P...."
And then someone slides you a bowl of orange jello and your eyes are enlightened like Jonathan's in I Samuel, when he used his half-starved fingers to dip his rod in honey. Life seems worth living again.
You've had the same pajamas on for way too long and then like Jonah coming out of the whale's belly, you find the energy to take a shower and find a second lease on life.
You return to the land of the living and venture downstairs with renewed zeal for a scented candle and drop biscuits and stew.
Your dear husband comes home looking like an extra from "The Grapes of Wrath," and your children clap with glee as the stew wafts towards their runny noses.
A proverbial sigh is heard round the world. Mom is back and in her place.
And something fabulous happens. Grime and mess seem like bits of nothing because you are just thankful to have the strength to clean again. Noses are wiped and little ones are encouraged to chew with their mouths closed with patience akin to Mary Poppins. You are just thankful to be Mom-ing again.
These feelings never last long enough.
Soon enough shoes with mud will boil our blood, crumbs will stick to our socks and you will wish for the dinner fairy to magically show her presence and make something out of 2 pounds of beef roast.
That warm-fuzzy, heart-warming feeling that comes over you is gift-giving gratitude.
While making drop biscuits and wiping noses you were inevitably being the "Gift," to those around you.
The gratitude you had for even the smallest enjoyment of life led you to bless those around you.
And seeing dear folks walk through loss- hearing their stories, has given me a renewed purpose in gift-giving.
My children will remember fun Christmas treasures, sure, but they will remember everyday kindnesses more.
My husband will remember the new shirt and tie I found him at such a bargain, but he will treasure me for my freely offered forgiveness and for enjoying just being beside him.
Our nursing home has a precious Croatian woman who thinks I am the bees knees.
I'm not really sure how this happened, except that I allow her to "talk" to me for as long as I am able to stay with her, and I nod and rub her hand in between hugs and cheek kisses.
Now, if you know me, this does not seem odd in the very least. I have been known to hug just about anyone including bell-ringing Santas.
This sweet friend of mine and I cannot truly communicate in a way that many would deem profitable, but we share such love over a foreign divide that makes my children and husband smile.
Every time I see her I ask her if I can take her home with me and she smiles and kisses my hand.
I usually think that's a sure yes, but my husband disagrees.
She has never asked a thing of me, demanded my time or given me the slightest disapproval.
She is just thankful that I am there.
She sees me and she loves me.
I try my very best to understand my adults, my almost adults, my teens and my middles, and sometimes it is as if we are speaking different languages.
It is then that I need to pat their hand, smile, remind them that they are seen, and love them without reserve.
Sometimes I feel that my husband doesn't see my hard work at home and takes me for granted.
It is then that I need to kiss his cheek and thank him for simply being there and walking this life beside me.
It's not cliche to say that life is a gift.
James 1:17 reminds us, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Today I am healthy and free, I have six healthy children and a faithful husband.
This is just a small sampling of the gifts that a merciful Father has given an undeserving recipient.
There's not a breath or a heartbeat that I deserve.
Yet, our black Friday hearts so quickly turn to look for another gift.
I Corinthians 4:7 opens our eyes to what is true, "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"
Jesus reminds us that He became the gift so that we can be gift givers.
And not only is he the only gift we could ever desire, He loves us enough to give us continual good and perfect gifts to enjoy.
And we have this small space of time to keep on giving the gifts he gives us without reserve.