Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 gifts of Christmas

I say the best gifts aren't what's wrapped under the Christmas tree but instead who's gathered around it.  However presents are a big part of the season and there's many aspects of gift giving I enjoy.  For me, the old saying, "it's better to give than receive" holds true.  I love the anxious excitment of children on Christmas morning...the expression of a gift that touches someone's heart...the thrill when they've been surprised with something they've always wanted.  And on the opposite, there's nothing quite like receving a treasured gift.  Each time you see or use it, you are reminded of the person who gave it to you, of their love, or the way it made you feel.

As such, I thought it fitting to post half of gifts I've received and the other of ones I've given....

"Accepting another person's gift is allowing them to express their feelings for you."

Tiny Finger, Tiny Keys
I don't remember receiving this gift but I know the story.
It was one of my first holidays and my parents had waited until Christmas Eve to get my gift, probably more out of necessity than procrastintion.  They found themselves in a snow storm and unable to get a ride to the store.  Though I wouldn't have realized it at that age, they were determined to give me a special surprise Christmas morning.  With no other choice, they trodded out in the snow, walking several miles through the snow and carried back a tiny wooden piano.  Thirty some odd years later, I still have it, even sharing it with my sisters and my boys when they were little.

Scavenger Hunt
Following the love of music all through my life, it was natural for me to join the band beginning at 7th grade.  My instrument of choice was the clarinet.  Instead of a traditional wrapped present, one Christmas at Grandma's, I found a poem.  Three or four lines left a clue of the next location and the hunt was on.  Upstairs, downstairs, to the back of the house and out on the porch, finally ending up back under the tree where three prints were found, artwork of music sheets and a clarinet, from my Aunt Becky.

Sentimental Stones
Tim and I typically don't buy for each other at Christmas, as we'd rather spend that money on someone else.  Some years we have purchased items for the house or other necessities.  One year, he surprised me with one of my most treasured gifts ever.  A ring with colorful settings, each stone representing a member of our family.  The meaning alone is I why love it but knowing that he had to plan ahead and place the order weeks in advance was touching as well.

Timeless Treasure
One of the selling points when moving into our home was the fireplace.  Having my first mantle, I commented for many years about wanting a clock to place there.  I was torn because I'd also wanted a grandfather clock, much like the one my Grandma still has today.  The boys surprised me one Christmas with a "grandaughter clock" - a mini version of the one I knew and loved, complete with the familiar chiming tones.  I'm reminded of their sweet faces with each hour's melody as they watched me open it all those years ago.

Christmas China
I use my wedding china only a couple times a year, but without fail, I always bring them out for our Christmas Eve dinner.  Gingerly taking down the delicate setting, piece by piece, and washing them by hand, I think fondly of my Grandma.  She began collecting this set before I was born, in anticipation of her first grandchild.  Though it was my wedding gift from her, Christmastime is when I'm reminded of them most. 

"You always get back much more than you give."

Snapshots in Time
Mom started a photo album when I was born for me.  I continued the tradition for my boys, in addition to scrapbooks for many years, with the plans of passing them on once grown.  A few years ago, I learned that Mom had very few photos of her childhood.  This set me on a mission to create a childhood scrapbook for her, calling family and making copies of their prints.  Her expression upon unwrapping and opening the book spoke a thousand words.
Big Gift for a Little
When Noah was three or four, he asked Santa repeatedly for one gift - a car of his own that he could drive.  Remembering how much fun Austin had with his, we found a jeep that seemed sturdy enough for Noah's tomboy tendencies.  It was so large, it seemed to take up half the space by the tree, spilling over into our doorway.  I don't know how Noah missed it, even though still sleepy eyed from the early hour.  His tiny hands went straight for the stockings, squealing in excitement.  After a point, the jeep caught his eye and he nearly fell over in delight.  Jumping up and down and shouting, "He did it!  Santa did it!" before hopping into in.  Nothing else under the tree got much of his attention once in the driver's seat!
Cart before the Horse
Austin always shared my love for music and the desire to play an instrument.  While in grade school, he began taking lessons after school for the guitar and soon after expressed wanting one of his own.  Though he was learning acoustic, we found an electric guitar we knew he'd love, along with a DVD lesson kit and music book.  I wrapped them separately, forgetting about the DVDs.  Christmas Eve, our annual tradition of opening one gift, led him to selecting that very package.  To my horror, he looked puzzled at the half opened gift, followed by the excitement in realizing what it meant.  "I'm getting a guitar!?" he shouted.  To which I quickly (and badly) stretched the truth, explaining that we thought the dvds could help him practice at home until we were able to buy one.  ...Good thing I only had to continue the lie a few hours! 
He was tickled beyond words when he opened the prized present Christmas morning. 
Treasured Collections
It was a given that Tim would begin to collect firetrucks and other firefighter items, even if he'd not planned to.  More than once a year, he'll get a fire trinket from someone.  Because of this, I rarely got him anything fire related.  A few Christmases ago though, I planned for a special painting to be done.  Though many of us in the family have artistic talent, one in particular did special paintings on saw blades.  Sending a picture of his station, I asked for a recreation.  Tim's not an openly emotional guy but I could tell he was touched by the trace of tears in his eyes when he unwrapped the gift. 

Tea Time
One winter, Grandma and I began drinking hot tea.  She had been given a sample case for Christmas and called me a few times a week to come share a cup with her.  Sipping selections from across the seas, we'd share stories and laughter, making precious memories.  I found a print containing a poem about our tea time and gave it to her one Christmas.  To my surprise, she "redecorated" moving artwork above her table that had hung for decades, replacing it with the new piece.  It told me she enjoyed our time together as much as I
did and I hope she's reminded of it each time sits at her table.

There are two gifts though you can't wrap or find on any shelf.  Both had to be included in my Top 12....

Gift of Time
Quality time with those you love are among the best gifts you can give - and my favorite to recieve.  A few years ago, I began to give "experiences" instead of a present.  Each varies based on the person and what would speak the most to them.  While you may spend money on the activity, giving your time costs nothing but is worth everything.

God's Gift
The ultimate present cannot not found in any store,
and the precious gift of Jesus is what Christmas is all about. 
Christmas celebrates the arrival of this gift but it's always available  - every day of the year. 
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16

This is the gift I wish for each of you, this Christmas!


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