Gratitude Day 168 – Unwrapping Christmas

Sat., Dec. 1, 2018

Matthew 2:11 – The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

As you read the following quote, please note the year it was written:

“Twenty-five years ago, Christmas was not the burden that it is now. There was less haggling and weighing, less quid pro quo, less fatigue of body, less wearing of soul; and most of all, there was less loading up with trash.”

–  Meredith Deland in Harper’s Bazaar, 1904

Can you imagine what Meredith Deland might say today if she observed some of our Christmas traditions? Might she be even more appalled?

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In the last years, I have tried to unwrap Christmas and refocus on the true meaning of what I feel Christmas is: the birth of a baby that became the Savior of the world. Yes, it’s hard to give up those traditions which we have embodied for years. (True confession: I ordered Christmas cards again this year. A lot of them, even though I keep thinking I’m going to edit this whole deal. So, I send them out again because LOVE hearing from people that I often do not see.) I will bake our favorite cookies. But there are areas where I try to pull back the glitzy wrapping paper and get to the true heart of Christmas.

One way I do this is how I approach gift-giving. I’m not trying to convince anyone to stop giving gifts to people they love. I encourage us to be more thoughtful in how we go about gift-giving.

To help spur us into why reconsidering gift-giving, look at these statistics:

53.1% of people report receiving unwanted gifts during Christmas. This amounts to $16 billion of unwanted gifts every year. (What COULD be done with this money?!) Reports indicate 18% of gifts are never used and 4% of gifts are immediately thrown into the trash.

This speaks nothing of overspent Christmas budgets. Or how one-quarter of Americans are still paying off last year’s gifts.

What are we to do? How can we reframe Christmas gift-giving into something more meaningful? Can we stop buying for those who really don’t need or want a gift? Can find joy in other ways?

Here are a few suggestions to help us unwrap Christmas:

  • Stop purchasing gifts for those who don’t need or want a gift. Choose alternative ways to celebrate. For many of us, if we “need” something, we find a way to get it. “Waiting” until Christmas for a special gift happens less often. From the beginning of our marriage, Hubby Rick and I agreed NOT to purchase each other Christmas gifts. Rather, we make contributions towards families who have a need. Last week, Rick announced that he had completed his Christmas shopping. A young driver that Rick works with will soon begin his second round of cancer treatment. The co-drivers collected money and gave it to him at Thanksgiving. I’m confident my “Christmas” present is important to this family that has young children. Each year, Rick and I pick families and given them a little extra cash at the holidays. The cards and letters back from these families have made us cry. In subsequent years, often these same families have paid forward our gift to another family in need. Rick and I love giving these gifts as our presents.

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  • Wrap up special and funny family items and turn it into a gift exchange. This is my FAVORITE way we have unwrapped Christmas. My nieces and nephews would agree. For the last several years, I have put together the Deaton family gift exchange. I wrap up items from our family. Some are special and meaningful, i.e. – my Dad’s dog tags. Others are quite silly – the 4-H songbook when my siblings and I used to go Christmas caroling to shut-ins. I include little stories with the items. At our Deaton Christmas, we open these gifts in an orchestrated way. The process has become so special I’ve had to create “rules.” To learn more about how we do this, read my post about the Winnebago camper, the highly coveted gift in last year’s exchange. Family members repeated tell me: DON’T STOP doing the Deaton family gift exchange. This event special because it has also become a way we pass family history and stories from generation to generation.
  • Make a gift. Last year, I made a crayon wall hanging for our granddaughter, Ellie. After she opened it, I realized her brothers felt disappointed they didn’t receive something like this. This year, I am making presents for our three youngest grandkids. Being crafty is not a requirement. I still have the shelf my Dad made for each of his kids one Christmas. My sister-in-law Linda gives us canned goods from her garden each year.
  • Make a donation to charity. While Charitable Tuesday is past, I am confident charities will still accept donations. It can be a monetary gift or an in-kind gift. Take your children or grandchildren shopping and let them pick out items to donate. Our local food pantry is encouraging people to donate toiletries this Advent. Blankets, pj’s, coats (new or gently used) – there’s always a need.

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  • Make a birthday box for Jesus. I will share this calendar during kid’s time at church on Sunday and encourage their families to make a birthday box for Jesus. They can give the box to a family in need or bring it to Christmas Eve worship, where it can be donated to the local food pantry.
  • Memorable “silly” presents. We do this with our grandkids and Rick’s kids. I wrap items from the Dollar Store or other silly items in little gifts bags. We take turns opening these bags and seeing what silly thing is inside. There is always exchanging after we’re done, because who wants pink bifocals other than Grandpa? The kids talk about the oranges, apples, flarp, and goofy mustaches they got at our Christmas celebrations.
  • Plan a special outing. Pick something you can do together: sledding or ice skating, a movie, bake cookies and deliver to neighbors or something else that you come up with. We’ve stayed overnight at a hotel with a waterpark with our grandkids and nephews in lieu of more presents. Create a tradition which focuses on something other giving gifts and expresses how special our loved ones are.

Yes, I am buying a few Christmas presents. It’s hard to completely get away from this, especially when kids or grandkids are involved. I’ve watched our grandkids count how many packages each received and compared with each other. When this happens, this as an opportunity to unwrap why we give gifts at Christmas.

The wise men didn’t show up empty-handed at the stable. While their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh seemed unpractical for a baby, their symbolism was powerful; then and now. Giving gifts can be very powerful and positive. Maybe we just need to unwrap how and why we give them this Christmas season.

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For the chance to unwrap Christmas and focus on heart-felt gift giving, I am grateful.

Holy God – unfortunately, we’ve taken the concept of giving gifts, represented by the wise men, and often turned it into something driven by consumerism and unrealistic expectations. May we be inspired to unwrap Christmas in a new way this year. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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Gratitude Day 158 – Target Treasures

Mon., Nov. 19, 2018

Proverbs 24:4 – let good sense fill the rooms with priceless treasures.

I succumbed to buy Christmas items before Thanksgiving.

I know. Sigh. It’s true.

I am one of those people who really tries not to rush the season. I tend to wait and enjoy the Christmas season after Thanksgiving. (Except last year when the tress went up before Thanksgiving because we hosted a holiday open house the Sunday after Thanksgiving.) So, I usually don’t shop, wrap, bake or do much of anything Christmas until the end of November.

But last week, I couldn’t help myself. It happened while in Louisville, KY for the sheep show. My sister Debbie and I found a Target very close to the hotel. And we were sucked into the bargain bin area, right when you walk into the store.

You know the area? Where they have items that are very seasonal and usually $5 or less. Of course, this area was all Christmas the night we walked into the store. We barely had a cart and sure enough, we were filling it with fun and inexpensive Christmas items. We both walked away with several cool things that were not terribly expensive. Items we might use to decorate our houses or items we can use for gifts. All very reasonable. When we checked out, neither had spent much money and yet we felt like we had some super cool items. Let me share with you a few of the favorite treasures we found.

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Material Buckets – My sister Debbie owns a flower shop. She also sells giftware. These quickly caught her eye. She talked about putting together buckets of fun treasures that some one could stop in at the shop, pick up and have a ready made present. They are decent sized, about 12” wide and deep. So, there is room to fill. And they come in super cute fabrics. I love the grey, but the plaids are lovely as well.

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Metal Buckets – if you prefer something non-material, these metal buckets might work. Debbie talked about putting small Christmas trees inside of them. They could be a real miniature tree or artificial.

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Artificial Tree – These little trees are so cute! My favorite part? The wooden square holder they stand in with galvanized sides. Trees are about 12-14 inches tall. There are different styles of trees, including some flocked. (You could put in the metal bucket, but then the cute holder would be covered up.)

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Bottle Brush Trees – So, these are ALL. THE. RAGE. They are everywhere. I had not bought one and didn’t plan on it. Until I saw these at Target. They had three different sizes and lots of different colors. Debbie bought every silver one they had for a business client she decorates for. Yes, I bought a few as well.

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Ladies socks – They come in this cute little gift box with three pairs inside. A great little hostess gift.

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Snowflake ornaments – For $1/each, how could I not pick up a couple?

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Packages of snowflake ornaments – actually, Debbie found these in the Christmas area. Three ornaments for $3. She was looking for something new for her tree. I believe she found it.

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Bath salts – I am a complete bath gal. In the winter, I love to warm up by taking a bath before I go to bed. And I’m convinced it helps me sleep better. For $1/per star filled with bath salts, aren’t they fun gifts to give to the bath gal in your life?

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Thank you notes – Fun little notes that have just enough of a holiday flare.

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Christmas pencils – 10 pencils for $1. I picked up enough packages that we will put in our Blessings food bags for the school kids before Christmas.

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Metal Houses – I thought these were super cute. Different sizes and shapes. Wouldn’t they look cute with a little candle on the inside?

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Wooden snowflake and yarn star ornaments – Each year, I give our grandkids an ornament. I’ll pick something from this staff for them this year. Each of these ornaments was $1. I love the star ones in particular.

It would have been so easy to go nuts and fill a cart. Debbie and I both refrained and picked out just a few of our favorites. We both have lots of Christmas decorations, which I really want to sort through again this year. (Hubby Rick reminds me constantly that if I bring something new into the house, something must exit.)

I’m celebrating adding just a couple small, fun and inexpensive new things to the mix. My theory? Find a couple special treasures that aren’t expensive and display them well. Make them priceless treasures; things you will love to have for years to come. Just a couple items that feel extra-special because they were carefully chosen. Or a couple fun items you can share with someone who is important in your life.

It can be SO EASY to go overboard in the next few weeks. I’m trying to follow my own advice and pick out special treasures: in gift-giving, baking, decorating and everything else Christmas this year. The real treasure is the birth of a Savior. I pray what I do in the next few weeks will always help me remember this treasure in my life.

For simple treasures in life, I am grateful.

Lord God – it’s not yet Thanksgiving, and we can easily become preoccupied with all the Christmas preparations. We can easily become overwhelmed. I pray we find a few simple, yet meaningful, treasures by which we focus our holiday preparations. And continually remember the real treasure is the birth of the Christ-child. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

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