The best birthday present I ever got was last year. My ♥awesomely♥wonderful♥husband♥ organized a surprise benefit concert for me, featuring Heath Aldridge and The Reliques. The money raised went to one of my very favorite charities, Voice of the Martyrs. I was so surprised and so delighted that I cried! I had never, ever had such an awesome birthday. I was SO happy to NOT receive presents, and to instead know that something truly useful and meaningful was being done with my friends’ and family members’ money. It was the best celebration ever.
(Side note: If you ever want to give me a present for my birthday or Christmas, you can never, ever go wrong by donating to VOM or to Take Root. In my name or not, I don’t care. I will be more excited about a gift like this than about really any other present you can think of — really!)
I struggle with holidays for many reasons, but gift-giving is one of the biggest. While I do want to celebrate and to see the people I love smiling and happy, I feel unsettled by trying to accomplish this with stuff. The whole ordeal — especially at Christmas — is just becoming increasingly contrary to my interest in shedding some of the earthly treasures I’ve stored up for myself:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-21
How does it then make sense to suspend that belief during holidays? Giving more stuff to people who (like me) already have so much stuff that there are boxes of stuff in their attics and in closets and maybe even in storage facilities… are these treasures in heaven? Where are our hearts? We have SO MUCH STUFF. We don’t need more stuff.
So is the answer to stop giving gifts? I doubt it. Gift-giving is Biblical. The wise men brought gifts to young King Jesus. God gives us gifts. Christians are called to give generously to God, to each other, and to the needy. My issue is not gift-giving in itself, but that American gift-giving is a little bit out of hand. And so, I’ve been really thinking about it. For years. While I typically still default to something material and not necessarily needed, because that’s what I know and because I often run out of time, I’ve been trying to slowly change.
For Mother’s Day, I made face, foot, and body scrubs. It took a little time and a couple of errands to get the supplies and ingredients, but I had fun with this project! It was fairly inexpensive to do, but more meaningful (I think) than many other gifts I could have simply bought.
For Father’s Day for my husband, I took him — just us! — on a canoe trip. I gave an experience, a memory, a great date doing something active and outdoors. I know my husband loves that kind of thing, and I know we don’t do enough of it, especially since the baby came. So I surprised him. He loved it! It was so much better than a tie.
For my son’s upcoming birthdays, (yes, plural on purpose!), I’m working on a perpetual gift. I have a scrapbook in which I will, every year, add a personal birthday letter from me. I’ll also include on the page some pictures from the year. He’ll have that to look forward to every birthday — even though I know that for several of them later on, he will act like he’s too cool to care! It will be such a great keepsake in years to come, and he will have a tangible expression of my love even after I am gone.
For Christmas, oh man. I don’t know yet. Any ideas? 😉
While embracing the spirit of giving, I want to also learn how to give meaningful gifts. I’m working on it, and I’m open to suggestions!