The Best Gifts

The best gifts we receive are often the ones that we are least expecting.  In fact, I would contend that some of the joy of getting gifts is diminished when we know what the gift is in advance.  I must confess at this point that this has made Christmas a very difficult time for me ever since I was a child.  I hate surprises and am really bad about actually expecting to get the gifts that I asked for. Somehow, even with that huge character flaw, my family has found ways to still surprise and delight me over the years.  This year, I think that God is in on the act.  I had been expecting to see great sales in our stores this past Saturday and he sent the snow storm of the decade instead.  For a while this weekend, I was beginning to think that I might actually get a lump of coal in my stocking as well.  Then I had the chance to watch my boys outside and realized that not everyone sees things exactly the same way.  The magic and wonder of a snow storm to a child is a true joy to watch and a gift in itself.  If only I could learn to trust the goodness of my heavenly Father the way that my boys revel in his provision of the perfect sledding conditions.  This got me thinking about gifts that I really treasure and how often they are not monetary in nature.  So here are a few memories and suggestions of my favorite kind of gifts.

1.  The gift of conversation – I am an extrovert by nature and therefore am energized by the company of other people.  Somehow, I still find it difficult to make time for significant and deep conversations with even those that are closest to me because I am so busy.  Therefore, God often breaks into my schedule providing me opportunities to learn to be a better listener and to truly enjoy getting to know people in a deeper way.  I seem to get stuck in traffic, delayed in airports and generally out of my routine or schedule at just the time that God wants me to experience this gift one more time.  Over the years I have learned that these moments can be so refreshing and joy producing that once in a while now I actually seek them out.  Taking time to do lunch with someone or to simply have coffee (I even drink coffee now) can be a great way to get to know someone better and discover the lost art of real conversation.  I think I will put my wife on the list for one of these intentional events where we can have some meaningful, non work related chat time this Christmas.

2.  The gift of a real letter – let me start this suggestion by saying that I am not really good at this, but have been the recipient of some great hand written letters over the years.  It is such a lost concept today to actually write a letter that only 3% of all mail processed by the US Postal service is hand written.  My guess is that it might even be a smaller number if they are counting typed letters that are hand addressed.  I have made it a practice to hand write a birthday card for all my CLC USA team members each year and really enjoy the thinking that this requires to make each one personal.  Occasionally, I will send a hand written thank you note to a friend or colleague.  I must confess, however, that some of my greatest treasures are letters that others have taken the time to send me.  I can still remember the joy of having my mom read us a letter from my grandmother (no one else in the family could read it anyway because the hand writing was indecipherable)  and the joy my mom experienced in writing back.  This year, I think I will take some time to actually write notes in some Christmas cards rather than simply signing them.  I hope others will enjoy what I have written as much as I will enjoy writing it.

3.  The gift of playing a game – a board game that is:  Playing board games is often the highlight of our family get togethers.  I have the privilege of being one of four children in my birth family and all of us are now married.  For a number of years, we spent a week at the beach together each summer and normally played board games every night.  Recently we spent time with my wife’s sister and her family and played games with them both nights that we were there.  The great thing about board games is that you can be nostalgic and play ones that you have loved over the years or learn new ones that stretch your imagination.  My favorite games are the ones that are easy enough for most members of the family to play regardless of age.  Some of my fondest memories as a child were becoming big enough to understand how to play certain games like Monopoly or Risk.  Today our family loves playing Settlers of Catan and Balderdash.  I hope that I never become to old to enjoy playing these types of games.

I could keep it going, but I thought it might be fun for my blog readers to add their own ideas and memories, so please consider leaving a comment when you have finished reading this post.

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