It’s December, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping. I think I’m worrying about this upcoming Christmas season. I love Christmas and all the reasons I celebrate. But last night, a 7 pm caffeinated cappuccino kept me awake and I started watching the Hallmark Christmas channel. True story: I watched 3 Hallmark Christmas movies in a row – which are really the same movie with different actors in different locations.  But they’re all about hope and wonder. So I wondered if I could ever be like the perfect movie character giving the perfect gifts for the merriest of Christmases. A light went off in my head – like a big Rudolph the red nosed reindeer light, shining so bright, on my worries. And I knew at 2 am, that I would never – could never – meet all my crazy holiday expectations. Especially when it comes to giving the perfect holiday gifts. I started to rewind and reflect on my favorite holiday movies and became determined to crack the code to giving great gifts. This is what I learned from Rudolph and George Bailey, and Charlie Brown: Stop focusing on the gift. First, focus on the act of giving. And second, I need to understand who I am as a giver. When I do, giving is better (and everyone gets more of what they want!)

I imagine God saying, “Chris, I’ve made you with kindness, goodness, and love. When are you going to use these for the purpose I’ve intended? I’ve created you to be a giver.”

We are designed to give to others not from a position of power, or out of obligation, or because we think we are better than others, but because we have so much to give. Sometimes, we feel empty in our inner most space where we hold our self-worth. And we’re tempted to give to get something in return, or to feel better about ourselves. But we are not empty. We’ve got more than enough to give to each other and the world around us.

There are 4 things I typically associate with gifts. This year, I am going to think about them differently. Maybe you can try this with me. Think about:

  1. Gift-Wrap:     What are you trying to wrap up with your gift? Insecurities? Frustrations? Resentments? Childhood disappointments? Do you wonder, Will they finally forgive, like or love me? Unpack your outgrown gift expectations and beliefs. Gifts can’t always make up for the past. Make them about today. Be present with your presents.
  2. Gift Cards:     The purpose of today’s gift card is to make it easy for people to get what they want. Try thinking of any gift you choose as a kind of a gift card by asking, is this something they want? The word “gift” means, “that which is given.” That seems so obvious. Unfortunately some gifts seem to take something away, making us feel worse about our self, misunderstood, or like we don’t matter. Make sure your gift is like a gift card that says, “Here, I want you to have what you want, not just what I want you to have!”
  3. Gift Exchange:     Gifts are a communication device, speaking for us when words can’t. The better we are at understanding our feelings the better we will be at finding a gift to express them. People who avoid their feelings avoid giving gifts.  (And they’re usually not very good at it!) So how do we express our feelings with a gift? Like feelings, gifts come in many forms: Some come in boxes; others in the form of encouraging words or acts of kindness. When I give a gift to my friends, it should take the form that they prefer – not the form I like! As my husband has learned these past 30 years, I like gifts that come in a box, even a Cracker Jack box. Likewise I’ve learned to give him presents using his gift language. He doesn’t want a sweater! He wants the gift of time spent together, like watching old movies together. The point is, if you want your gift to matter, learn to give in the manner that speaks the right language. Don’t let your love get lost in translation.
  4. Re- Gift:     Re-gifting is definitely a good thing. I think all my gifts are “re-gifts” from God, who first gave me love. So if you re-gift – come on you know you do – make sure it is thoughtful, and wrapped with God’s love, comfort and joy.

Giving is about more than the gift. This year, I’m going to remember, and believe ,that it’s a state of mind, heart, and soul!