The Art of Gift Giving

Have you ever received a perfect gift?  One that was uniquely thought of for just you?  That made you feel like you were known?  Seen?  That someone took the time to think about you?

It has nothing to do with money.  It has everything to do with the thought and consideration that went into the gift.

I recently received a gift like that.  The person put a lot of planning and thought into the gift and how the gift was delivered.  She made a “book” with the cover of one of my favourite authors, to house the gift that incorporated reading and dance.  I loved it.   I appreciated her thoughtfulness.  I felt seen and known.  It was a priceless gift at a turbulent time.

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I love gifts.  In church speak, it’s one of my love languages.  A long time ago, I  worked in a high end pewter gift store in Ottawa and Toronto.  We had a gifts for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and graduations.  I learned a lot about gift giving and gift givers.  

In today’s fast paced world, the art of gift giving is becoming extinct.  We don’t have time to slow down and stop and think about gifts anymore.  For some of us, gift giving is not something we are especially good at.  Things can be complicated.  I get that.  But even if we are more of a gift card person or money person, we can still make the time to buy a gift card from a store the person likes or to buy things they love.  We can take the time to get or make a nice card, add some candy or chocolate to adorn it if that’s what the person likes.  Gift giving is about the other person not us.  The art of gift giving makes the person receiving the gift feel special.  

The bonus?  The gift giver gets the pleasure of seeing the gift enjoyed, which is a special experience all on it’s own.

The art of gift giving mirrors the one who gives us good gifts.  

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.  Matt 7:11 NLT

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.  James 1:17

The ultimate Gift Giver gives us good gifts because He is good and as James says, He never changes.  His goodness remains.  Even in the hard times.  I saw that first hand recently.  In difficult circumstances, God laid out some good gifts to help us through.  Gifts that were uniquely garnered to me (and my family).  He didn’t change the circumstances but He did let me know He saw me, He knows me, and He loves me.  He did it through those gifts.  Even though I doubted Him.  Even though I was mad at Him.  But He is good and He never changes.  Our doubts, our anger, our questions do not affect His character.  Or His love for us.  He offers us grace upon grace. 

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.    John 1:16 NLT

As the Ultimate Gift Giver, God gave us the most perfect gift of all that none of us deserved.  His Son.  Jesus was the ultimate gift to a world that rejected him and still does. But He was given for all of us.  Freely.  Graciously and with deep love.  He is the perfect gift.  All we have to do is receive Him and then enjoy Him as we get to know Him.

As an added note, I realize that sometimes we give good gifts that are not well received for whatever reason.  God certainly understands that.  I want to remind you that the onus of that lies with the person receiving the gift.  As the gift giver, you’ve done all you can.  But don’t let that stop you from continuing to give good gifts to others.  You may never know the blessings that come from them in this lifetime but God does.  And one day you will too.  Keep giving good gifts.

From Ruins to Peace

You know the feeling.  That sinking feeling that comes when something is not where it’s supposed to be.

While writing my book Whole, I lost a completed chapter.  It disappeared into cyber space, never to be seen again.  It was my chapter on Esther, and I must admit I was pretty pleased with it.  It also represented hours of work.  And it was gone.  

At that point I wanted to quit.  I felt defeated.  But my friend and my husband cheered me on and so I got back up and started again.  In the end, it was a better chapter than the one it replaced.  

I tell you this because quite often we get to the point where we are enjoying smooth sailing in our lives and then the unthinkable happens. That sinking feeling rises up from deep within us. Disaster strikes, sickness sets in or the downward spiral just gets out of control.  Whatever it is, instead of enjoying the fruits of our labours, we are looking at ruins.  Instead of a forward momentum, we feel like we are moving backwards.    

I’ve been reading the book of Haggai in the Old Testament and it’s got a good word for those of us who feel like this today.  Who are looking at rebuilding and quite frankly feel like quitting more than anything.

In the book of Haggai, chapter two, God’s temple has been destroyed and has sat in ruins.  His people have been running about making sure their own needs and lives are running smoothly while God’s house sits in disarray.  The dust blowing through the abandoned site.  He wasn’t happy with his people and He tells them to get to work and rebuild.   

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He exhorts them to not be timid or hold back because He is with them.  “I’m living and breathing among you right now.  Don’t be timid.  Don’t hold back.”  (vs.5 Message)  

He tells them he’ll supply everything they need because “I own the silver, I own the gold.” (v. 8 Message)  

When we are staring at the ruins of what used to be glory, we can tend to forget about God. Maybe that’s the reason we are staring at a pile of rubble.  We’ve removed God from His rightful place and glory.  But He is God and He wants His rightful place in the centre of our lives.  He wants us to remember Him and put Him first.  Why?   Because he is living and breathing amongst us.  We may feel defeated and dead but the God of Angel Armies, as he is identified in this passage, is alive, ready to fight for us.  We need to put down our idols and see Him.   

Not only is He with us but He owns everything so we don’t need to be timid or afraid about getting back up, following wherever he is leading.  Our circumstances may not change, but we can expect great things of our God.  We can expect His glory.  We can count on His faithfulness to see us through whatever ruins we need to navigate, rebuild.

But that’s not all He says to those unruly people of His!  God then promises the Israelites, in verse 9;  ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”  Haggai 2:9 NIV

When we come to the place where all we see is ruins in our lives and we need to rebuild, we can remember He is with us.  He will supply what we need because he owns it all.  And he will take those ruins and make it even better than before.  And in that place of rebuilt ruins, He will bring peace.

Getting Rid of the Cluttered Mind

Has this ever happened to you?

I was out with a friend the other night and as we got up from our table at the coffee shop, I frantically was feeling my pockets for my keys.  I couldn’t find them and I said, “Where are my keys?!!!”  

My friend just looked at me.  Then she smiled.  “I drove you.”

I just stared at her, as my panic faded.  Oh yeah. How did I forget that?   

My friend told me what I already knew.  There’s so much going on and my mind can only deal with so much.  It’s cluttered.  You’ve been there, right?  I’m not the only one.

The TO DO, TO GO and WHAT HAPPENS NEXT lists are endless and our finite minds can only juggle so much.  So on the brink of summer vacation, I’m ready for things to slow down.  I mentioned rest in my last post as part of change that is happening in our family at the moment.  We are at a crossroads but with the gift of a rest as we wait on the Lord.  

So although I will be working for the summer, the rest of the household are not.  I’ve been thinking about how to rest so that we come out of this time refreshed and renewed.  On the path to health. 

I’ve come up with a few ideas.  These may be of help to you as you think about your vacation time this summer.  Or hopefully they will prompt you to come up with your own ideas of what kind of rest works for you.  These are mine:

  1. Perspective.  Although I’ll be working part-time throughout the summer, my job is pretty low key which I love.  I work in a place I love with books and get paid to do it.  Can it get much better?  For me, that’s a resounding no.  So I’m going to remind myself of that, every day I go to work when the rest of them are sleeping in or hanging out at home.  I am also going to remind myself that in a way, my job is a rest from the work of being a stay-at-home mom for the last number of years.  It’s so nice to let my husband take care of all the requests, chores and dinner prep, a few days a week.  He is more than happy to do so.  In fact, if I’d ever gotten a real job when the boys were young, he would have been the stay-at-home parent and been quite happy doing it.  Now he gets a chance to do it as he rests at home, out of the work place.  
  2. Say yes.  I’m going to say yes more than no.  When it’s appropriate and within my realm of doing so.  For many years now, I’ve said no more than yes.  Mostly to myself.  It’s been a mode of self-preservation and protection.  It means I don’t have to deal.  It lets me hide.  But I miss out on a lot.  Does it mean I’m going to go crazy and say yes to everything?  No.  But it might mean I go out with my family more instead of letting just the boys go.  It might mean I buy that London Fog once in a while.  It might mean leaving the comfy couch and my book for something else.  Or on the flip side, I give myself permission to stay there on said comfy couch some days because I’m tired.  Without the guilt.
  3. “Live in the moment.”  My husband and I have been talking about this lately.  He brought it up one day after a chat with his coach.  I thought it was baloney until he actually practiced it with real results.  It got me thinking.  I realized how much I live in my head.  I think about what has to get done next and where I have to be.  I daydream what I’d love to be doing instead of where I am at the present moment.   I’m hoping living in the present will help me say yes more.  I”m wondering if it will  make me more in tune to God’s voice.  Instead of worrying about the past or future, I’ll be focused on the here and now, open to a nudge or a quiet whisper.  I haven’t been in that spot for too long.
  4. Rest. Read. Rite.  Okay so it should be write but I couldn’t resist.  The three R’s for me this summer are these.  These things bring me life.  They make me excited.  So I will continue to do them but perhaps in more healthy ways.

Resting can be more than sleeping or lounging in a chair.  For some of us, rest embodies some ZZZ’s and a cozy place to sit.  A blanket.  For others, rest comes in different forms.  Rest is anything that brings your soul to life.  That makes it sing.  That restores your body and mind.  Doing the things we love can bring peace which is essential to rest.  It is an inside out rejuvenation of our mind and bodies.  For me, if I can find even a portion of what I’ve listed during this period of rest, then I’m heading in the right direction towards restoration.  

And remembering that my friend drove me to the  coffee shop.  

What about you?  What brings you rest?