Posted by: Sally | May 14, 2008

Give the gift of giving gifts!

This is what I found in our living room when I awakened on Sunday morning and walked down our stairs. Fresh coffee, candle-light, blueberry smoothies with whip cream, fresh blackberry almond muffins with jam and clotted cream, flowers, a pot of roses and cards.

What a blessing it is to be at a place in life where my children are so able to create beauty and memories and blessings for me. I have gone to such trouble for so many years to bake and decorate and make favorite meals with beautiful music and provide ambiance, that it is second nature to my children as well. (Though it requires just as much work and fore-thought for them as it did for me!) It is indeed a blessing to me as we have almost no active family or relatives in our lives and so our children, as young adults, have filled in some of those cracks for Clay and me as they have moved from children to adult companions.

One mother’s day, many years ago, when I was living overseas, my sweet mom sent me a letter. I had sent her some Austrian chocolate and she cherished that. However, she was pouring out her heart about something that was difficult for her. It had to do with mother’s day.

Though my father was a man of character and generous in many ways, as a depression child, he had always been frugal and the phrase we remember from birthdays and Father’s Day growing up was, “I don’t want you kids to spend money on me for presents. All I need is your love and respect!” So, consequently, we often gave cards and phone calls for the Mother’s Day and Father’s day celebration, but not elaborate gifts. My mother was writing to tell me how much she regretted it.

“I spent all of those years serving you kids and trying to make everything a memory. I shopped, cooked, bought you clothes and toys and stuck with you all through the years, served you as generously and faithfully as I knew how. There is a longing in my heart to know that what I did to give my life to you made a difference. I love and cherish your cards and gifts, but I wish I had known to train the boys to become more thoughtful. I think I would have made them more thoughtful husbands and fathers. I wish I could help them know that expense is not the definition of a gift–and that utilitarianism doesn’t minister to a person who is due love and respect. Flowers for me to look at all week brings me joy. Chocolates and pictures thoughtfully wrapped by a little child is not frivilous to me–it is what gives me joy.”

“Now, on Mother’s day, she wrote, I get a couple of cards, but all of my relatives and friends go out to lunch with their children, get elaborate gifts and are honored in ways that make them feel cherished. I know you all cherish me, but on this day, I feel lonely and invisible. (we have all lived out of state our whole adult lives.) I want you to remember to always train your children to give gifts and to show love in a tangible way, because it is a way of giving honor and thanks and appreciation to someone worthy in your life. But it requires training! Whatever you practice in these small ways now, will determine the way your children will treat you in the future.”

As I have thought about it over the years, I have seen that it is Biblical to give gifts– and to be generous! But the way I train my children to do so, is not just by doing it for them, (as my mom did–she was very life-giving and incredible at hospitality), but by practicing it with them. Giving is the very nature of God. He gave Adam and Eve and incredible gift of a gorgeous, magnificent world. He gave protection, provision and blessing to the Israelites–land with milk and honey, manna and quail along the way; Jesus ultimately gave His life. He is preparing us a wonderful place in heaven. Even at the birth of his son, the Holy Spirit brought a host of angels to sing gloriously and wealthy learned men to bring valuable gifts. Throughout scripture, Jesus says, blessed is he who gives generously, the widow, the good Samaritan, those who give cold water, the woman who washed his feet with her tears and broke a vile of expensive perfume on his feet to honor him. We are commanded in the old testament to give a tithe.

Giving is the very nature of our God. He gives us incomparable sunrises in the morning, twinkling stars at night, varieties of food, loving children–he gives and gives and gives. But, he tells us the thanking Him is the right response–the pearl merchant sold all that he had to buy the pearl of great price–Jesus. He honors David for his praise and dancing before God. He wins battles for the Israelites as they stand before Him praising Him. He commends the blind man for thanking him when all the others fell away.

When we dote on our children to be sure all of their needs are met and to see that they don’t miss out on any opportunity, we can be in danger of making them self-centered and self-absorbed. Giving our children opportunities to serve and give (at church in the toddler’s classes, baking cookies or bread for neighbors, visiting the local Home for the elderly (we used to give a once a month birthday party for all the elderly people in a home near us with a friend and her children–her idea–we made cards, a cake and created a party for all of them to attend.) Hosting teas in our home, collecting clothes and toys for families who are needy and then spending time as friends with them, serving at conferences, (our children started out very young giving chocolates to the moms who came to register at the conferences–our boys carried luggage.) Taking meals to a new family on the block. Visiting in the hospital and bringing flowers–all help our children learn to be thoughtful and to perceive themselves as givers. When we include them in the work, and let them have ideas, and bless them afterward, they gain a self-image of themselves as a person who has something to give–and whose giving makes a difference in the lives of others. Learning to serve and give is one of the most important character practices we can give to our children in a narcisstic culture which promotes selfishness of every kind.

This month, a friend and I were teaching a leadership class to our junior high aged kids. We required each of the kids to form teams and to choose a group to help and a way to help them. In the end, orphanages in Africa were given to, families close to home received gift cards and clothes and books, an abused child ministry received funding, a homeless shelter received almost a van load of clothing, a family received funds to apply to surgery, and a single mom’s clinic received baby clothes, diapers and books. All of this happened because a group of teens planned and executed the stewardship of giving of themselves as they learned about servant leadership. It required the selling of baked goods, silent auctions for service (ironing, babysitting, raking leaves, picking weeds, detailing cars, doing a craft fair and movie night for children, etc.)

Now, each of those who participated have a memory that out of their hard work and giving, many, many people were blessed. If it becomes a habit to be thoughtful and giving gifts of love and beauty, our children will become adults who give.

I now prepare the kids each year before my birthday and mother’s day by saying, “I can’t wait till Sunday–you kids always make me feel so special! You are so great at providing me with memories! You are such a blessing! Such great cooks! Your thoughtfulness always gives me a reason to keep giving.”

Having had many lonely holidays and birthdays without the support of family, has helped Clay and me to see even more how important it is to my children to be especially thoughtful. So, I make great effort to write cards, bless them for all of their wonderful attributes by telling them and giving some delightful gifts to say to them personally, “You are special!” When you give them the gift of giving to others they will bless people the rest of their lives and never lack friends! It is also a future investment in our own lives!

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Responses

  1. How very true! My husband’s dad didn’t even take his mother to dinner on Mother’s Day or make it special. It took many years for him to understand that it was special to me.

    Stephanie is giving me her gift next week. Christopher bought me the sweetest little Vera Bradley bag which was on sale at the bookstore. Just knowing each thought of me was so special as both live such busy lives.

    As usual, such wisdom you are giving out. There is a reason I like you. 🙂

  2. thank you for the wisdom! i think many mothers would be afraid to encourage their children to give them gifts, thinking the gift should be thought of and motivated by the giver alone. however, just as a child must first be trained to say “thank you” and in time says it in true gratitude, so it is with gifts- either of special things, or time, or money, i suppose. i had never thought of this quite this way before-

    thank you!

    Megan

  3. Thanks for sharing… It’s such a beautiful goal to have children that are thoughtful; always thinking of others and how they can serve them. It goes against almost everything in our american culture, doesn’t it?!

    I loved seeing what you did with the jr. high aged group – what a wonderful thing!!

    Blessings! Carrie

  4. Excellent post. That is so true! We do have to teach our kids to be thoughtful and generous and considerate.

    I really appreciate you sharing this!!

  5. What great ideas Sally for helping children to be generous!
    I love what you did with the Jr high kids, but some of the other ideas sound great even for really little ones to be involved with.

    We recently packed up some clothing and a few toys for an orphanage in Romania and had our 2 yr old help to choose things of hers to give. We also have a rule that most of her stuffed animals have to fit in one basket and when it begins to overflow she picks some to give away to other boys and girls who don’t have any. But I’ve been at a loss as to what else we could do. This post was full of practical ideas. Thank you!

  6. By the way, the table looks gorgeous! 🙂 What a lovely gift!

  7. This post is so sweet!, Sally.

    I love the pictures! I love it when our family blesses each other, when we learn to truly have fellowship together. I realize, it starts when we build relationships with them while they are young.

    God Bless your family,,
    Carrie.

  8. So very true, Sally. Thank you for this inspiring post.
    ~ Beth

  9. What a beautiful table, Sally! What a blessing it is when our children do sweet, considerate things for us. 🙂

  10. Sally, I’ve been away from reading these last several weeks as we’ve been in the middle of moving (and were without a home at all for a few weeks!), so this morning I stole some coffee and cinnamon bread to the only fully-unpacked room, to come read your words. What a live-giver you are! It’s so easy to just “make it” each day, especially with little children, and I needed to remember today that we can live purposefully with our children, teaching them things more important than just “to behave!” Thank you for continuing this wonderful blog. I hope your day is blessed and special, and that the harvest you have so carefully sown with your children continues to reap great rewards!!

  11. I’m reading this two years later, but it still touches my heart. Thanks for always giving such uplifting perspectives to our lives. Please give your dear mother a hug for me. What a precious lady. I pray that she will not be lonely or feel invisible.


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