Significant Gifts are Transactions of the Heart

Every year my husband and I set a budget for spending on Christmas gifts and we try to stick to it. Throughout the year we’re thinking about what we can give each other and our family members that is both thoughtful and budget friendly. We keep notes on our phones and wish lists on Amazon for inspiration.

We have one child. He’s on the spoiled side, but he is loved, if anything. Our discussions about budgets and gifts sound like this:

“Let’s not overdo it this year with the kid gifts, ok? He has so much stuff already.”

“Yeah, last year was overboard. We need to focus more on the time with family, visit your grandma, go see my Pawpaw… not go crazy with Christmas gifts. You know, you don’t have to get me anything for Christmas.”

“I know, and stop saying that. I’m going to give you something for Christmas.”

“Seriously, you don’t have to, whatever you were going to spend on a gift to me, save it and spend it on our son.”

“Didn’t we just start this conversation about how we weren’t going to overdo it with the kid?”

Then somehow every year it looks like Toys R Us threw up in our living room. Everything is a piled-up mess with wrapping paper remnants, shredded bows and packaging shrapnel that could double as a prison shank.

I yearn for a less commercialized holiday, when the frenzy of Christmas decorating didn’t start before Halloween. Maybe it’s wistful to think that a genuine gift is a smoked ham from the fatted hog or a special bottle of wine that everyone gets to taste.

The art to truly giving a significant gift is not about how much it cost, but how well it captures the essence of the recipient. Sometimes this requires a lot of thought or not much at all. Some people in your life are hard to fin

d gifts for no matter the amount of meditation or money.

It’s about giving gifts with the most meaning, not the most expensive.

My young son is a better gift giver than I am and that’s embarrassing on Christmas morning. But he provid

es an example of what great gift giving is.

I am an avid gardener and plan continuously for each growing season.

My birthday is in February and on the cusp of spring planting. This year my son knew exactly what he wanted to give me and stated it clearly to his daddy that he wanted to give me “magic beans.”

At first my husband didn’t understand, thinking it was an absurd idea inspired from a Jack and the Beanstalk movie. But our son persisted, telling him it was easy to find at Walmart. So off they went … and there they were on the seed rack, a package of “magic beans” in an envelope containing 14 grams of hybrid green beans.

The perfect gift cost $1.28. When my son gave me the “magic beans” my soul smiled with the deepest appreciation because his gift was full of meaning.

His honest gift is one of my most treasured because it was a transaction of the heart, not the bank account.

Cooking with Kids: Apple Love Pie & Garlic Toast

When I was a girl I wanted an Easy Bake Oven so badly. My mother just said, “here, you can cook with a real oven.” And then she helped me make cookies. That began my love of baking and it lit my sweet tooth on fire. So when my son wanted an Easy Bake Oven, I guided him to cook for real.

We cook a lot in our household. And it’s natural that our son wants to cook too. I’ve always included him when he was interested, letting him peel carrots, helping him make “stew,” and just letting him create “concoctions” with our amply stocked spice cabinet. I’ve even used a box cake (dare I say it out loud) so that he can say he did it all by himself.

Today he really wanted to cook and create. He announced his after school snack should be garlic toast. So we made garlic toast.

 

He wanted to cook more, and I had several apples that needed to be used. He wanted to make a pie, but halfway through, he said he wanted to make cut-out cookies.

We came up with the best of both worlds by making a pastry top with cut-out heart shapes. We called it our Apple Love Pie. (Complete with the pie bird.)

Apple Love Pie

 

One Day at a Time Another Month Flies by

I’ve been on my blogging odyssey for almost three months now. I started blogging every day on November 1, 2011. Today is January 18, 2012. That is 79 posts including tonight’s entry.

It has been an remarkable 79 days. Tonight I’m looking back over the last few weeks to do a “round-up” of favorite blog posts.

One month ago I posted about Jdub’s favorite tune: The Spanish Song That night seems so long ago, but it was just a month. Goes to show how time can stand still or fly depending on where your perspective is.

Thanksgiving and Christmas happened. And the wonderful Christmas Eve program at our church” Light of the World

My pets always provide good fodder for writing: If the Dog/Cat Could Sass

And there were several photo blog posts that were just a result of being in the moment with a camera (or iPhone) handy:

Winter Sunset Beauty

Beautiful Sky = Pretty Pictures

Stock Tank on a Still Day (My Favorite of the photo posts)

And the coolest, random photo that captured an optical illusion:

Do You See What I See? (It was a little more than a month ago)

Much has changed in my life in 79 days.

  • I’m about to make a major job transition.
  • I’m getting close to losing the 10 lbs I promised myself to lose by my next birthday (not so much because I’m eating better but more because I don’t have time to eat).
  • I’m about to conclude the last event I hope to ever do in a professional capacity.
  • I’ve been “ordained” at my church.
  • I read three 500-page books of fiction; six books of nonfiction.
  • I still have a library book out that is past due.
  • I’ve worn my pretty boots a lot.
  • I repainted/redecorated my home office.
  • I rearranged Jdub’s room to make it more spacious for him to play.
  • I almost had a panic attack in Ikea because it’s so overwhelming to me, (not really, but it did become time to “just go.”)
  • I got a fever blister (from stress, that’s what my body does).
  • And my little kid was sick for 5 days straight.

With a blog a day, I’m amazed at how much life actually happens in a relatively short span of time. It also shows that whatever you do, you have to do it a little at a time. When you pause to look back, the chronicle provides the proof that you’ve gone very far, just one day at a time.

Ten Christmas Afterthoughts

Just a few Christmas afterthoughts before the evening comes to a close …

  1. Sopranos is one of the greatest TV series ever created

  2. Cats and dogs can live in the same house peacefully

  3. The Nintendo Wii wasn’t such a bad gift idea after all
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [who played with fire] and [who kicked the hornet’s nest] is trilogy of fiction awesomeness
  5. I love my Corral boots

  6. A sweet clementine is citrus greatness [and awesomeness]
  7. My dog loves me [and is now known as an “obnoxious shepherd” thanks to Jdubs … obnoxious and Australian Shepard came out as obnoxious shepherd]
  8.  I’m glad the Christmas decorations are put away for another year [I really hate decorating for Christmas]
  9. Oatmeal is always a good way to start the day
  10. Sometimes you just need a good hamburger

Light of the World

First Presbyterian Church Christmas Eve worship service.

Our new family Christmas Eve tradition is going to our church’s candlelight worship service. This tradition is only a few years old for us but it has legs for many years to come. It’s one of my most favorite things to do.

I was always a Campbellite, but I haven’t always been a Presbyterian. This new tradition is helping me feel more like a Presbyterian in general and not just a member of a Presbyterian church. Two things during our worship service make it so very special. One is the music from Jeff, Honi and Ladd. These three people have truly been blessed with the gift of music. They are bluegrass musicians, have beautiful voices and can play any instrument with strings. Tonight Jeff played the mandolin, Ladd played the guitar and Honi played the piano and stand-up bass. The music brought tears to my eyes.

The second thing that makes our worship service so special is the candlelight part of the service. The lights in the sanctuary are turned off, then a flame is passed from person to person until everyone in the audience has a lit candle, which represents Jesus as the light of the world.

It’s a new tradition that I am embracing and truly enjoying and looking forward to many more candlelit Christmas Eves.

Jdubs with his candle.

Over the River and Through the Woods…

…to Grandma’s house we go

One of our family traditions is literally that song. Every year we head “down to the river” for our family Christmas gathering with my mother’s people. I live in rural Texas, and this is an hour out into the bush from where I live. It’s remote, really remote. Your cell phone won’t work and you had better have plenty of gas in your car in case you get caught down there when the river rises during a storm because you will have to take “the back way” out, which adds an extra hour to the trip.

“The River” is in Shackelford** County on the Brazos River. We drive until the pavement ends, then keep driving and driving and driving. This area is very much a part of the Frontier History of Texas. Some of the land was once a Comanche Indian reservation. It also had a civil war era medical station on it. We’ve seen all manner of skittish wildlife like mountain lions and bald eagles.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that most of Texas and the western U.S. were like this. You really are in the middle of nowhere.

We actually go through the woods before we cross the river.
Over the river ... This is Daws Crossing on the Brazos.
Comanche Indian Reserve.
This is Grandma's house.
No rare beasts today, just cattle and deer.
Beautiful sunset. Thank you handy iPhone camera.