Unwrapping Presence: An Unconventional Guide to Holiday Giving

Black Friday has passed, Cyber Monday is nearing its end.  Thankfully there hasn’t been too much drama happening in stores.  Maybe you feel like I do, sometimes our society shows its worst side in preparation for a season of giving.  Along with the surge of commercialism and sales frenzies, a new trend has started.  One that is well rooted, but sometimes feels a bit condemning.  Memes float around with reminders “Remember the Reason for the Season.”  “Your presence matters more than your presents.”  I could not agree more with these thoughts.  Unfortunately, some of the comments associated with these messages make me feel intense guilt for being a gift giver. Somewhere in between lies our balance, our happy medium.

Years ago, I read a book called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  In so many ways it has really shaped my perception and understanding of myself and others.  I have read this book and taken countless tests to determine “my” love language.  When I first heard of the five: physical touch, words, acts of service, quality time, gift giving…(Gift Givers!  Please do not stop reading!  I apologize for my youth and ignorance) I thought that gift giving was absurd.  How in the world could gifts line up with something as valuable as a hug or an hour of undivided attention with a loved one?  Quite honestly, I found the whole concept to be materialistic and shallow.  What I have since come to understand is that one of the most predominate ways I show love is through giving gifts.  When a gift does not seem considerate or thought out, it hurts me as well.  So, we’ll start off by saying that one of my strongest love languages was one that I judged most harshly because it seemed so superficial.  I’ve since learned that I was off base in my thinking.

There are so many layers to the motivations different people have for giving gifts.  Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way about the significance of gifts and what they can communicate.

Photo Credit: Laura Gorman

Handmade is Heartmade

Many times, throughout the past ten years or so, I’ve been blessed to receive handmade gifts.  Almost inevitably, it is matched with an apology or an apologetic (yet hopeful) look.  There always seems to be a “I hope you don’t mind…”, “I hope you really do like this…”  “I’m sorry I’m not in a position to give more right now…”  I do not have the words to describe how valuable these gifts are and how I feel an overwhelming urge in the moment to apologize for not taking the time or consideration to have made something from the heart.

Recently, a friend and I have started making prayer cloths, as we are able.  The concept is that as you crochet or knit, you pray for the person who will receive it and their circumstance whether you know who it’s destined for or not.  It is such a blessing to hand one to someone and explain that they were thought of and prayed for with every stitch.  That’s what I consider all handmade gifts to be.  Someone was thinking of bringing you joy, in every little piece and process that led to the creation.  Time is an asset for everyone, and this person loves you enough to dedicate their talent, time, and energy to show you that you matter.

Our annual holiday craft day always helps us know one another better.

Know and Be Known

My preacher shared a few weeks ago about a unique gift her husband had given her and the significance of it was that through his gift he communicated that she was known.  He gave her something unique to her interests and her personality beyond the object itself.  That statement rocked me.  I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to identify that in my own experience so eloquently.  When I’m thinking of the utmost perfect gift, I can give to bring a smile to someone’s face, or comfort to their heart, the message is, “I see you. I see you for who you are, what you like and dislike, you are known, and you are worthy.”

Photo Credit: Laura Gorman

Memories in the Making

I’ve come to appreciate that all love languages work together in some capacity or another.  Some of my favorite memories with my daughters were when were creating crafts and gifts.  Sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for others.  The time spent together with the television off, learning what makes one another giggle, what talents each of us do and don’t have, working together to make the perfect creation…those moments are forever.

Serving in the community together was something the girls and I loved to do when they were young.  It was the gift of our time, but it made a lasting impact on who we are as a family and as individuals.

Bargain Hunters Do Care

A while ago I had a family member who would buy excessive amounts of gifts because they found a good deal.  That seemed so impersonal to me, honestly, it hurt a little.  I really would have rather just spend time together than receive a bunch of items that really had nothing to do with my interests because they were found at a cheap price.  What I didn’t see is that the time is that the excessive purchases was their way of sharing something they loved doing with you in mind.  It may not have been items that I thought were personal, but in their mind, they were trying to find a way to contribute and give abundantly.  Only to say, “hey, I love you.”

What I understand from all of this is that your presence, your awareness of the person you’re gifting to or receiving from, is the true reward.  I cannot tell you all the objects I’ve received, but I can tell you the gifts that touched my heart because they sang of loving and generous spirits.

This holiday season, I would challenge you to pause and consider what message you are sending with the gifts you are giving.  I promise you, more than anything, your loved ones want more of you.  More of your heart, more connection.  That value truly does far exceed any material item.   I also challenge you to listen for what the gifts you receive are telling you about the giver.  My hope is that in doing so, your holidays will be far more fulfilling.

8 thoughts on “Unwrapping Presence: An Unconventional Guide to Holiday Giving”

  1. You’re right; gift giving can be a tricky thing, but in the end, the fact that someone thought to get you ANYTHING is what makes it more special than anything. Also, quality time spent together eventually will leave more value than any material thing could. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you! I definitely agree that the quality time is what can never be replaced and truly speaks the value you have to another person. <3

  2. What a lovely, lovely thought-provoking post. 🙂 xx So lovely to have a gift for any number of reasons – but one that truly does have affect is knowing it was especially made and prayed over. Even a person who may not know this – I believe – would have a capacity to be moved.
    Wonderful – Thank You!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Deborah! I’m probably a hopeless romantic, but I feel something created with thoughtfulness and love reflects those emotions. I couldn’t agree with you more 🙂

  3. Love this! I am a gifter. I love spending time finding the perfect gift for a person and put a lot of thought into each gift, but it also has to be balanced with presence as well.

  4. I really love the idea of handmade, heartfelt gifts. Our daughter is one year and 9 months and we made a decision as a family to not spoil her with gifts, rather with out attention and making happy memories. I feel this will help her grow into a more compassionate, less materialistic adult. I took the Language of Love test and found I respond to Acts of Kindness, or Servitude, I forget what it’s called now, were I appreciate help around the house. My husband likes physical touch. Neither of us need gifts so why go getting into debt just to follow the commercial trend. Such great post and a lot to think about

    1. Thanks for commenting Suzy. It sounds like you’re instilling some very positive traditions for your daughter. I’ve been reading a lot recently on living a debt free lifestyle, it sounds like you and your husband have such a good grasp on that thought process! Thank you for the kind words. 🙂

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