Priceless Gifts Don’t Have to Be Expensive

Not long ago I was standing with my mother-in-law in her dining room looking inside a curio cabinet at a collection of some of her favorite treasures. There next to a 3X5 framed picture of Steve and me was a little basket

filled with a floral arrangement that I had made for her. The flowers were formed from a combination of flour, salt and water then shaped to look like roses. Time had faded the pink in the roses but the memory of when and why I made them was still fresh.

 

    The first year Steve and I were married we had virtually no money.  I recall our total income for the year was $3,000 gross.  That is gross, isn’t it?

When Christmas time came around it was assumed that we would participate in the traditional gift exchange.  However, our financial situation did not allow for any additional spending outside our regular budget.  We were left in an uncomfortable predicament.  After much thought, we made the only choice that made sense, and cents, to us.  Resisting the pressure (that we put on our selves) and the expectation we perceived others had, we did what we were able to do.

One particular friend of mine was very “crafty.”  I decided to put her talents to good use. Under her tutelage, I made several little baskets of miniature roses.  Among the dough flora I filled in the surrounding spaces with delicate Babies Breath flowers.  Now, I had something for everyone.

 

When the family gathered to exchange gifts I was worried, and also a bit embarrassed.  Would our gifts be perceived as pitiful and “not enough?”  Mostly I worried about what my mother-in-law would think.  Would she assume that I didn’t care enough to shop for something nicer?  Would she think that her son had failed as a provider because we had so little?

 

Now, these four decades later, I was standing with my mother-in-law, looking at the small basket of flowers.  I said to Lillian, “I see you still have the little roses I made for you our first Christmas?”

“Yes, I do.” She said, “I have always loved them.”

I told her how much it meant to me that she valued my simple gift and that she still considers it worthy of a spot in her cabinet of treasures.  She just looked at the flowers and smiled.

Consider the irony of this story.  If Steve and I had gone into debt and bought my mother-in-law a one of a kind, designer sweater, or if we had  purchased a bottle of expensive French perfume that Christmas, those gifts would have long ago been cast aside or used up.  But the little roses remain a reminder of a simpler time and a sincere love.

 

Some of you may have experienced a financial downturn these past few years.  Maybe you are facing retirement and wondering if the money you have carefully saved is going to be devalued and leave you with much less financial security than you planned. Or maybe you are just tired of the material glut that has become part of the Christmas celebration.  If that is the case, I would like to challenge you to look at your gift giving differently this year.

 

I have already told my grandgirls that they will be receiving one gift from Papa and DeDe this Christmas.  And I mean it!!  The older I get the more the peer pressure to over-spend and out-give leaves me determined to do it a different way.  If we can’t have a wonderful Christmas by being together, sharing a meal and celebrating the birth of our Savior, there’s something really wrong with our family.

 

Here are some gift giving guidelines we have implemented that helps us keep Christ in Christmas.

  • Shop with cash…or debit card.  No credit cards…no debt…no dread of January.
  • To lessen the burden of gift buying, draw names with family and friends.
  • Make the decision to buy only for the little ones and let the adults enjoy watching the gift opening.
  • Explain to whom you have exchanged gifts in the past that you would like to do something different.  For example:  Donate to a worthy cause in their name (such as their favorite mission organization…see the link for “Mission Aviation Fellowship/MAF” on our homepage) or give to a family that needs help with paying their bills.
  • Use the money to buy gas to go and see your family.  Or use the holiday funds to cook a Christmas meal for their visit.
  • Let your gift be something you make…baked goods, a meal to someone who can’t get out…cookies or pies for your neighbors…or even some little dough roses.

 

Do you have any suggestions on how to keep gift giving a part and not the center of your Christmas celebration?  Feel free to leave your comments and ideas.  May you enjoy a peace-filled and Christ-center Advent Season.

 

And when you’re in the store buying your gifts, wish those around you MERRY CHRISTMAS, not happy holidays.  Let’s do all we can to keep Christ in Christmas!

 

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