Being (a) Present

For many years my Husband and I would pack up our snacks, our stuff, our presents, our kids and load our mini van up to the brim for the trip home at Christmas. It was hectic, tiring and stressful at times. I remember once when we were stuck in a blizzard driving across the country. We were stuck for two days outside Buffalo, New York until the roads were cleared and reopened. Another time we couldn’t find any room at the inn, and were forced to drive some 20 plus hours straight through instead of stopping for the night. Despite all of this we tried to make it home for Christmas to visit mine and my Husband’s parents and grandparents. Looking back now, I am thankful and grateful for those crazy times- all of it- including the car sick kids, multiple bathroom stops,  numerous diaper changes accomplished on the seats of our minivan and even all the spilled fast food drinks, fries, chips and ripped up paper pieces that our daughter liked to decorate the van with.

The best thing with all of these trips is that we were together and we could visit our parents for Christmas. Sadly, as the years have passed, we’ve lost some of our loved ones and we can no longer visit them at Christmas. So, as I reflect back, I am thankful for the struggle and stress of the past, driving so often to visit family. When young families are in the thick of raising kids, its hard to see a time past that, but it arrives and soon we find ourselves without our loved ones to visit and our kids all grown up. Life is never static, it is a constant change and we have to learn how to move through the changes. It isn’t easy, and to do it well we need God’s help.

Maybe you’re dreading visiting families. with all the traveling by air or car and needed a reminder from me that its worth the struggle. Or, maybe you’ve been too busy to think about Christmas. So, let me talk to you too. See, you can be with others this Christmas, but not present. You might not have to drive far to be with your family and friends this Christmas, but you’re not really enjoying being with them and spending time with them. We all try to buy the right gifts to give. Some can afford big extravagant gifts, while others cannot. Some might spend hours hand making gifts. Others might spend hours shopping and choosing the perfect gift, and standing in long lines at the store. But let me tell you the secret of it all. People would rather spend time with you than have a present you stressed over.

The best gift you can give is yourself. The fully present self. The put- down- the- cell- phone -and -talk- with others self. I think it’s easier to give presents than give ourselves, but giving ourselves is the best gift. Need an example? Well, its Christmas, and what is Christmas about? Answer: Jesus. “For God so love the world that He GAVE His one and only SON that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16, NIV) God gave us his son; a person. This is the WHY we celebrate Christmas and give gifts in the first place, because of the gift given to us. So why not take His lead by giving yourself this Christmas to others. Spend time with those you love; talk with them; play with them, put down the cell phones and close the laptops, turn off the Tv’s. And BE PRESENT. God Bless- Nancy

Giving Good Gifts

So, how’s that Christmas shopping going? How many times have you heard that question this year? It seems like it is a common question this time of year as we approach Christmas, a time to celebrate Christ’s birth by exchanging gifts with our families and friends. But maybe the real question should be; how are you at picking out gifts? I find that the people who procrastinate at their Christmas shopping are the same ones who struggle to figure out what a good gift might be. They fear giving the wrong gift, so they put off their shopping.

Thankfully, God knows how to give the best gifts. of course the first and best is His Son Jesus, but also there’s the spiritual gifts that He gives to believers. There are many self tests out there to help you discover your spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12 gives a good list of these gifts as does Ephesians 4. These good gifts are for the benefit of the church, to grow it and build it up. But, there are other gifts that God gives. Our natural abilities and talents that helps us to do our vocations and hobbies.

Recently I was reading an article that suggested parents should not recognize or celebrate their children’s natural gifts and talents. Instead it was suggested that parents should encourage their children to work hard and excel at everything. All it takes is a little self determination and everything is possible. Well, I  believe that God creates each person individually, I mean look at your fingerprint- there isn’t another one like it. Our natural talents are meant for us and is a part of who God made us to be and should be celebrated. We as human beings are unique and specially created by God. We are not cookie cutter.

Sometimes, I think we can forget this. We try to be or do something we are not. We are trying to use a gift that doesn’t fit, because, well, we don’t have that gift. It is a fake it till you make it philosophy, but it’s not long and we can become frustrated trying to do something we were never meant to do in the first place. We should always operate in what we have been gifted in. It is the right gift. The right fit. The good gift from the ultimate gift giver.

I was reminded of this today. I am responsible to use the gifts I have been given, not try to use someone else’s gift. It is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t fit and it’s a struggle to figure out how to make it fit. In the end, it’s a choice to select to do what I am gifted to do and not try to do everything.God Bless -Nancy