Thursday, December 29, 2011

Joy #3: gift giving

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Col 3:1

This past month I have been reading that verse almost every day.  It doesn't matter what I had planned to read in the Word that morning, I seem to always end up there.

In a way, that verse and its surrounding friends has been what has prompted all of this talk about joy.  There's so much that I want to do in this life!  But it all has such a hollow effect when it's not fueled with joy.  And there are good things, very good things that can benefit others that we can do.. but we are totally missing the point when we are running on obligation and not on joy.

I know.. because I've had plenty of experience of obligatory stuff.  Why do you think I'm so good at drawing these contrasts?  I'm an expert in the antithesis.  And so are you.  We all are.  It's called the flesh.

So, I wanted to talk about gift giving.  Perhaps, you've already given all of your gifts for the season.   But this may be a good time for evaluative reflection.

When it comes to giving gifts, what comes to mind?  Something expensive? something homemade? a gift card? what?  I am not going to tell you that somehow homemade gifts are more spiritual than expensive gifts or anything like that.  What you give for a gift is up to you.  If you have more time and talent than money, homemade gifts are a great option.  If you happen to have money and no time, then a store bought gift may be just the thing for you. I believe we have freedom in these areas.

Because I am at a non-cluttery stage of life, I prefer to get (and give) something that can be: eaten, consumed, burned down, wilt or die eventually, or folded up digitally.  But that's just me.

But if your gift recipients are young and need things, feel free to give them real things like toasters and all that.  So that leads me into the series of questions that I like to ask.  If need definitions of terms, click here.
The self-aware person asks these questions about gift giving

1. What does the person need?
If the person has no known needs,
2. What does the person prefer? or want?
3. Am I the one who is going to meet that need? or want?
4. How can I honor this person by giving this gift to them?
5. What message is this gift sending to this person? (How will they receive it?)
6. What is my budget on gift giving? Is this too extravagant? Is this too cheap?
7. Would it be a kindness not to give this person a gift at all?

The self-focused person asks these questions/ thinks these thoughts about gift giving

1. They never like anything I get them.
2. They better like this because I spent a lot of money on this.
3. I hope my gift to them is better than what they got me.
4. They are too.. cheap, extravagant, too....  (you fill it in)
5. I can't believe I have to do this..
6. They had better send a thank you card..
7. It's all about me..

I realize that gift giving is one of those quandaries that is not easily solved, and it varies from person to person.  I believe that it is God who gives us help in knowing how to do this.  I personally find it difficult to do this well.  In fact, I feel the least qualified to be writing this, but if you are like me, perhaps, knowing the questions to ask will help you through this.

Because I have becoming increasingly more and more practical as I have grown up, I find it hard to imagine that others aren't at the same stage of life as me.  I know many women who say "kitchen items do not make for good gifts.. etc." because they are for the home.  As far as I am concerned, a good spatula (or anything that I will use) is better than something that just collects dust.   I remember one Valentine's Day when my Dad bought my mother a nice warm pair of Sorrells for the winter weather of the U.P.  Romantic?  probably not.  But she still has them, and that is a good thing in my book.

Will and I have ceased giving each other gifts for the holidays.  As far as I can tell, neither of us feels slighted.  I guess it is something you grow into as a couple because we always used to give each other gifts.  But I wouldn't recommend trying this out on your spouse unless you know for sure they won't feel unloved.  "Gift giving" is one of the love languages and you don't want to communicate a lack of love to your spouse by just going cold turkey on this issue.  Incidentally, both Will and I score lowest in gift giving when you take those tests about love languages.

Scoring low is precisely why I struggle with this, and it has been a temptation to give up on the whole issue, but God has given me a certain degree of help in this area, and I am constantly learning...

For those of you who struggle with this issue the way I do, I am always finding ways to make this easier, not more complicated.  And this year (with three jobs) I found the FTD florist to be my friend, rather than my normal homemade gifts.  And I was so thankful when my husband said, "That worked out well.  Let's do that again.." So, it's our 20th Christmas as a married couple, and I think we've finally got the formula that works for our family...


Herding Grasshoppers said...

It's a good time to be thinking about this, while it's all still fresh in our minds. Once again, LOVE your reflective questions!

I'm with you on being practical. (Two favorite gifts this year? A pair of shoes I asked of my husband, and a bread machine from my folks!) And giving/getting things that can be used and/or used up - consumables, in the broader sense of the word.

Here's an issue that keeps coming up (with my in-laws) - tying gifts to obligations. UGH!

When you give a gift, you GIVE it. You RELEASE it. And if you can't give it without putting conditions on it, then you should just keep it yourself.

Give or don't give. But if you give, large or small, give freely.

Getting off soap-box now.

Happy New Year!

Or maybe I should say, Have a JOYFUL new year!


Mrs. Parunak said...

More great thoughts. I LOVED your list of "good" questions to ask yourself about gift giving. I am big into gift giving as one of my love languages, and it's amazing how excited I get at the opportunity to give someone a gift. I get all melty about shower invitations because usually people really NEED things then, and it's so much fun to try to bless them.

The dB family said...

I LOVE giving and getting practical gifts. We did mostly things from the thrift stores this year and it was a LOT of fun. The kids were happy with their "new" items and it was fun to shop for for both my mom and I.

I'm going to have to recopy your lists from these posts into my notebook. It'll give me perspective when I'm struggling.