The True Spirit of Christmas Gifts

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Kids are not immune to the ongoing Christmas shopping frenzy. Like adults, they’re inundated with ads and solicitations to get that special something for that special someone. And, if they have any money, they may well be counting their pennies toward a specific item. This is an opportune time to teach them about managing their resources.

My parents used a simple method to teach this concept. Any allowance, birthday bucks, or earnings I received were divided equally into two piles: one to save, and one to spend. Ten percent of the spend pile was my church offering. The remainder was mine to use as I wished. It was a good system that taught me to give back a portion of what I had received, to prepare for long-term goals, and to intentionally steward my resources. 

At times when finances were tight, I made gifts for people. Simple handmade ornaments or home baked cookies always seemed to get warm responses. As an adult, I have come to understand what counts most in a gift is that it shows personal knowledge of the recipient and a desire to fulfill a need or desire. My gifts differ from person to person. But the gift that God offers is universal.

In the true Spirit of Christmas, we recognize that our Father in Heaven sent Jesus to earth in human form where He died and arose from the grave. Christ gave up everything so anyone who puts their faith in Him has the right to be called children of God. All we need to do is accept His ultimate gift. If you have never asked Jesus into your heart, follow this link to The 4 Spiritual Laws, by Bill Bright.

May the children in your life see the joy this simple truth brings to your life. Happy gifting, and Merry Christmas! 

Blessings to you from barbhowe.org.

The Season is Upon Us

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Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash

It seems to be starting earlier this year. Christmas decorations showed up in stores weeks ago, and now everyone I talk to is decorating their homes with trees, garlands, and all kinds of evergreen somethings. And here I am, still planning a Thanksgiving menu. I love the fun of it as much as anyone does, but only as long as the original reason we celebrate does not get lost in the excitement. 

Allow me to interject a chiche’ here. “It isn’t Christmas without Christ.” The gift of eternal salvation surpasses any trinket, electronic, wearable, or consumable you can find in a brick and mortar or cyber store. Amen to that! The question then centers on how to keep Christ at the center of the season.  

I made a list of the people on my gift list and slipped it into my purse. Along with reminding me to shop for them, it is a ready reminder to pray for them. Seeing their names prompts visual images of each person and usually conjures up a fond memory. (Imagine some lady walking around a shopping mall laughing to herself.)

 If you’re like me, grandchildren hit the top of the list. What is the best thing you can give them? Hint: it has nothing to do with running up a huge credit card debt, but it has the power to last an eternity. It is the message of faith in Christ as our Savior. The fun part is that putting this wonderful gift into an alluring package is really quite simple.

Advent calendars, the kind that mark the 24 days leading up to Christmas with daily doses of Bible verses and chocolate, are a big hit at my house. During last year’s Christmas celebrations, my grandson decided to read  each of the Advent calendar messages aloud to our family. It planted Jesus right into the middle of our gifts, where He belongs. Truly, His is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Let’s all get into the true spirit of Christmas. Let me know what you’re doing at barbhowe.org.

Make a Note!

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Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

recent occasion of closet cleaning reminded me how much value written words hold for us. Inside a long-forgotten box on a top shelf in the closet I found a stack of letters written to me by my mother, who passed away nearly 40 years ago. I began reading.

Most of the letters contained family news. Near the middle of the stack, I found a little card with a personal message in my mother’s handwriting, expressing her love for me. What a treasure!

She did not use a lot of words, but the ones she did use touched my heart – again. I won’t repeat them here; they’re private. What I will share is encouragement and a little guidance for you to put your words of love on paper for a special someone.

Read below, and insert (selected words or phrases) from the lists that express your thoughts and feelings. Feel free to combine thoughts or insert your own words in place of the ones listed.

Dear (Name),

On the day
(you were born),
(your adoption was finalized),
(I became your stepparent),
(you became my grandchild),
(I became your grandparent),
my life changed forever.

I felt
(overwhelmed),
(more emotions than I could count),
(a loss of words),
(blessed beyond measure),
(tears of joy running down my cheeks).

The first time
(I held you in my arms),
(you looked into my eyes),
(our hands touched),
I knew
(you were a blessing from God),
(I would always love you).

I hope you will always remember
(you are one of a kind), 
(you are wonderfully made), 
(I will always love you).

Love,

(Your Name)

Here’s an example of how your message might look when you write it out:

Dear Emma,

On the day I became your grandparent, my life changed forever. I felt blessed beyond measure. The first time I held you in my arms I knew you were a blessing from God. I hope you will always remember you are wonderfully made. I will always love you.

Love,

(Your Name)

These few sentences are short enough to fit into a greeting card or one one sheet of writing paper. Yet the message they carry is enough to fill a book. And it only takes a little time to leave a big impact in someone’s day, even 40 years later. Try it!

Send your thoughts to barbhowe.org.

A Gift That Can Only Come From You

rawpixel-191157-unsplashThe closer it gets to Christmas, the more I see FedEx trucks racing through my neighborhood. It almost makes me laugh to think how Santa’s annual run has been affected by the dawn of online shopping. Admittedly, I contributed a small measure to the congestion. Like my neighbors, I want to give gifts that family members want most, especially the children. But what do they really want?

I am blessed to spend time with my grandson. (Hint: technology makes this possible for grandparents who do not live near their grandchildren.) I’ve noticed something interesting that happens when our conversations are about him: he stops whatever he is doing and quiets down to listen intently. 

I believe children “need” to know they are loved by their grandparents. Some of the greatest gifts we can offer are words of encouragement and words of faith to guide them in life. Why not write a thoughtful note or letter as a permanent reminder of your love? 

Try this out. Choose a Bible verse that speaks of family generations. For example:  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3)

When you read this passage, what thoughts come to mind about your grandchild? Do you think about anticipating his/her birth? Are you reminded of the first time you saw this grandchild? What images come to mind about this child’s unique qualities? Your words have the power to give your grandchild encouragement and a never-ending reminder of your love.

Now, write a brief note or letter beginning with the following sentence:

I know God blessed me when you were born because…”

How will you package your gift? Here are some ideas. Write your message on a beautiful piece of stationery and put it in a frame. Wrap your special gift in a box and present it to your grandchild personally. Or, record a video of yourself reading the message and send it to your grandchild. Sharing your godly love for a grandchild is one gift that can only come from you.

Share your thoughts at barbhowe.org.