Gift [gift] noun
1. Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
2. Something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned.
This season brought something out in me that I didn’t like. I’ve wrestled with it and cried and complained and whined and wrestled some more, and then of course thought why don’t I write about it so the whole world can have a window into my very pathetic-ness… Because I know I can’t be alone in this.
Gift giving, and gift receiving, somewhere along the line, was hijacked from what was once intended to be a beautiful thing; a way of showing love and affection and appreciation, voluntarily without payment in return…
It has turned into a joy-stealing competition and an open door for self loathing, pointing out my failures and inadequacies.
Wow, seems a lot harsher when I put it in black and white, but I can’t soften it… Because it was so true in me this year… And I don’t want it to be true any longer.
There are some amazing people out there with incredibly giving hearts who have no ulterior motive in gift giving except to bless and love on the recipient. And that is so beautiful and a lovely reflection of the heart of God, who gave and continues to give freely with no strings attached.
Gift giving is one of the five love languages, a fabulous book if you haven’t read it… And I will let you in on a little secret – its not mine.
I’m not a natural gift giver. And while I try to receive them well, this year I found it especially hard, as all I could think was oh no, I didn’t get her anything! Which quickly morphed in to I’m a terrible friend.
It looks different everywhere… Back in my previous life it looked like that deep need to one-up last year’s gift. It might look like the need to be the one who spends the most, or the one with the handmade pinterest paper and perfectly tied ribbons; the parents who are frantically searching for that one thing that their child must have this christmas; or carefully comparing each receipt, making sure the same amount is spent on each child or family member, or making sure everyone has at least a few big gifts, so one doesn’t feel left out or less loved because of the size of the pile of presents.
Christmas and the heart behind the exchanging of gifts was long ago hijacked by marketing schemes and toy makers; it’s a good business model and I don’t fault them for that, having worked retail much of my younger days I know how important it is, this isn’t a soapbox against marketing or presents or santa or any such thing.
It’s a soapbox I’m standing on to ask, why? What is our motive?
One would think it would be different on the ship, and it is to some extent. We don’t have a huge amount of stuff, the ability to get it or the space to put it. But the same question remains.
I know there were crewmembers who were frantically writing out more christmas cards at ten thirty on Christmas eve, because they saw they had received gifts or cards from someone and hadn’t given them anything. There were comments in the hallways about the huge piles in front of some peoples’ doors, other comments like what if they have a small pile? They might feel bad! So lets go dig around under the bed to find something to give away to someone they barely knew just to make sure no one felt bad.
To which I ask… When did our self worth become tied to the size of our Christmas gift pile?
I see the same thing happening concerning birthdays on the ship, I feel like somehow its become fact that the value of a crewmember directly coincides with the extravagance of hallway decorations that greet them that morning. Over the two and a half years I have been here, I have seen door decorations get bigger and bigger and spread into hallways and offices and entire sections of the ship. And really, let me reiterate, I have no problem with this at all! If you want to decorate for a friend, by all means, go for it.
But I just want to ask as i often do, what is the motive?
When I saw someone just a few weeks ago frantically getting some friends gathered to throw together some paper and glitter and balloons to get on someones door because… Heaven forbid… Its her birthday tomorrow and we didn’t know!!! The despair in her eyes and the panic in her voice seemed exceptional for the circumstances, as if somehow by not knowing when someones birthday is we admit that we are a failure as a human.
I’m not really a terrible gift-giver, its just that I don’t want to be dictated to by marketers or Hallmark that I need to love and appreciate my friends and family on one particular day over all others. I’ve written before how I feel about Valentines Day, how I don’t ever want to be with someone who feels the need to give me flowers or candy on that particular day. I don’t want my friends to feel loved and appreciated on Christmas, I want them to feel loved and appreciated every single day.
I want to give them a birthday card on a random day in the middle of the year, because I want to celebrate the fact that they were born, not just on one day but on any day.
I want to give a gift to a friend because I know they love it and because I love them, not just because the calendar says its December 25th and that is what I am supposed to do.
I want to pick up special things for special people when I think fondly of them, when I see something special that I know they will love, and give it to them when we can enjoy the gift together. Not buy gift cards online and send them in the mail because I life a couple thousand miles away. That just feels heartless.
The best gift?
It's different for different people. But for me, the best gifts I have ever received and treasure more than any other are words.
Words that are written out of love, treasured and holy. I can’t remember the number of people who gave me peanut butter m&ms or various other sweets last year for christmas, but I absolutely do remember the special cards, because I still read them. Put a sticky note or a scratch piece of paper on my door with sweet words and I guarantee I will save them. There is no better response to feeling bad about your state of affairs than to say it is written… I am loved.
Sometimes I feel bad just offering words. Like, sorry I can't be cool enough or rich enough or clever enough to give you a real gift, but all I have to offer is my heart… Er, my words. But just today someone told me how much they have treasured something I wrote for them, and I am reminded how life giving words are. When I was away from the ship for several weeks with advance, a dear heart friend asked what I would like for her to send me. Could you just send me some words, please? Honestly, I love getting care packages in the mail, but what really really warms my heart and encourages me in this marathon called life? Words.
My birthday is coming up… and I want to give every single person reading this permission to give me nothing. My worth is not tied to my gift pile or the number of people at a party or the amount of decorations on my door. I don’t need any of that. (Especially not balloons. I don’t like balloons.) But the flip side is, if you do want to give me something, I will try really hard not to be the grinch I was at Christmas, unable to receive anything well. (Sorry friends.)
But this post was not intended to be about my birthday. This post was written to give you, and me, permission to live and breathe and give, free of fear.
Generosity is a beautiful thing. It is a reflection of the heart of God. Goodness knows I live on the generosity of others, its my very existence. Gifts are a beautiful thing, with the right heart and motives. And my attitude and motives this season were not good. So, here is my proposal to you, my friends…
I won’t give gifts out of fear of being a bad friend or daughter or human.
I wont give gifts because someone sometime in history decided I should on one particular day.
I will celebrate and love my friends and family the best way I can, not just one day of the year but every day.
I will receive gifts with love and appreciation for those that are giving, and I will not feel like a failure as a friend or human for not giving something in return.
May you know the beauty and love of our generous Father this final stretch of 2014. Xxk