Naturally, that idea wasn’t popular and eventually they’d come up with a gift they hoped he’d like better than peace and quiet. (We still laugh about this because if you know my husband there's no gift to top peace and quiet for a man who works in a loud, chatty and busy occupation!)
One December it occurred to me that my own answer to the same question was almost always, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.” And yet, at non-celebratory times throughout the year, I would see or think of, many wonderful gifts I’d like to receive – they just never coincided with Christmas, Mother’s Day or my birthday, so by the time those occasions come around I would have completely forgotten what my gift ideas were.
One Christmas, a couple of years before Blossom became a mummy, she and I were having coffee by the beach with one of her friends. The topic of the friend’s family Christmas arrangements came up and she shared that her ‘non-crafty’ family had decided this year the theme would be “handmade”. Explaining that she was hopeless at crafty things, but desiring to participate in the handmade Christmas exchange, she asked if we had any simple ideas she could try, but as she'd be flying across the country to their Christmas gathering the gifts must be small and easy to pack.
We had such fun bouncing ideas back and forth over a few cappuccinos that afternoon, with the bonus that it made Blossom and I think outside the box. Small, simple ideas for non-crafty people, right. An hour later it was decided that the following week we three would get together for a day of jam making; potting it in cute little jars. Our friend could learn the art of jam making, print personalised labels, and add fabric tops over the lids and tie with ribbons. She was rather excited about this, and suggested that the following year we might teach her some basic sewing when she had more time.
Having a heart to give is such a precious thing. Seeing this young woman’s enthusiasm for having a go at something outside her comfort zone reminded me that there have probably been more than a few missed opportunities in my life to teach others how to ‘gift’.
Teaching something of what you know, to benefit another – especially when they have hinted at, or clearly suggested, that you teach them – is a tremendous gift to the person asking, but also to you as the giver. Passing along a skill and seeing it used in another’s life is gifting generations to come because after all, if we do not teach them, how will they know?
In compiling your list of gifts for others this year, consider the gifts within you – a day spent teaching someone to sew, cook, plant, crochet, can, bake bread, knit, paint…? That is a gift that keeps on giving. For boys and young men, is there a skill your husband, father, son or brother can teach? Some basic woodwork, car maintenance, fishing, whip cracking – all those manly arts – there must be many man-things a young fellow would benefit from learning!
I still remember when my great old aunt Clarrie, in her nineties, sat me down on her front porch and taught me how to crochet a chain stitch and a treble stitch. When I had proven myself adept, she gave me knitting needles and taught me simple garter and purl, as well as how to read a knitting pattern. I was just seven at the time, and yet ten years later as a married and pregnant 17-year-old I remembered those lessons and knitted two beautiful cardigans for my soon to arrive son. Over the years I have knitted for all my babies and grandbabies, and with every first stitch cast on I thought back to a cloudy autumn afternoon sitting in wicker chairs on an old front porch, and the gentle old lady speaking patiently to the little girl who spoke so fast. I remembered my great aunt Clarrie and how in her twilight years she took time to teach me what she knew; the gift that kept on giving.
And really, giving is the very essence of Christmas.
It’s called Christmas for a very good reason. “Christ – mass” means a celebration of the birth of Jesus, because He was the gift, the perfect gift, given to all mankind by God. And what I learn from that is the gift cost God. Not in money for a gift bought hurriedly at the last minute to appease a relative or friend. But in knowing how much it would mean to us, the recipients. He gave of Himself from love alone.
I understand that Christmas for some is not the festive account given in movies and lovely books, but a day of loneliness and disappointment; a day when you are counting down the hours until it has passed. I have had those Christmases too, but thinking back over those special days when nothing turned out the way I’d hoped, and loneliness and disappointment cut deep within my soul, I chose to take my eyes off myself and look instead to Mary.
The first Christmas; heavy with child, an uncomfortable 110 kilometre (70 mile) rocky ride atop a donkey, Mary would have felt the first tightening of her womb, perhaps causing her to almost lose balance as the donkey swayed slowly back and forth on that steep gravelly road up the mountain to Bethlehem.
Is this where she imagined herself to be as her baby’s birth approached? Shouldn’t this have happened at home, surrounded by the women of her family who could encourage and support her and teach her the ways of first motherhood? The donkey ambled on, and pain rose over her.
Finally, as the sun began to dip in the sky, Bethlehem came into sight. Joseph carefully leads the donkey through the streets, dodging the many Jews also arriving in the little town to register for the Census. It took him a bit longer than other Jewish travellers to reach Bethlehem as Mary’s pregnancy was approaching its completion and he had led the donkey at a slow and steady amble to keep her as comfortable as possible.
Now she was obviously close to her time, and he needed a room quickly.
Knock, knock. None.
Knock, knock. None.
A stable. Only a stable. Hands lifted…then a stable we shall take.
Night closes in; stars appear; a weary woman bears down. The cry of LIFE is heard. Life giving.
Jesus, Yeshua, the Christ in Christ-mass, has come into the world!
Even if your Christmas isn’t going to be what you’d hoped, especially given the separations and restrictions of these past two years, let your heart be one that gives, and find joy in the giving. You just may be God’s instrument to change the life of another.
My friend, know that I am praying for you as this Christmas draws near, for our long journey of waiting always concludes with the greatest JOY of all.
FREE Christmas Mini Quilt pattern...
Today I have one of my favourite Christmas designs to share with you, "Glory to God".
It stitches up quickly and the words within are a cry of praise we can all declare - not just at Christmas, but every day, for I do not think of Christ-mass as a one day remembrance (Jesus was not born on December 25th) but as an every day remembrance, an every day reason to give thanks, an everyday reminder of what God did for me - and for you.
Use the link below to download the free pattern.
Completing the DAYS OF THE WEEK Tea Towel series...
If you’ve been stitching the Days of the Week tea towel designs this year, today I have the final in this seven-part series, “Sunday”.
Use the link below to download the free pattern.
DOWNLOAD the “Sunday” pattern.
If you missed any of the other tea towel stitcheries in this series, you will find the first five days of the week in the five issues of The Homemakers Heart magazine shared this year (free download) HERE.
To download the “Saturday” pattern go HERE
Bless you all so very much, and I hope to write again towards the end of the week. Our precious Charlie David will have his 1st birthday on December 9th so I hope to have photos to share as well.
Christmas is a very precious time but can be very fraught with decisions about presents, especially as some people are hard to choose things for. Each year I try to find ways to simplify Christmas, this year has meant removing some people from our present list, a list which seems to have become very long over the years. There’s very few outside of the immediate family who will receive presents and for them it will be homemade food. It will be lemon curd, jam, and granola all made to look pretty with fabric covers on the lids. I set aside a couple of afternoons to get it all done. The presents are thoughtful, easy to make, and will get used up so not a gift of more clutter! One year I taught my then teenage daughter to make zipped purses, like makeup bags and she dived into my fabric stash and had a production line going on the dining room table one day to make them for all her friends. I love homemade presents and try to make things most years. Hope that your Christmas plans are coming along too. X
It is so sad how much marketing, commercialism and pressure is put on people to have the " perfect" Christmas instead of celebrating the reason for the season.
Jennifer, you write so beautifully. A beautiful start to a Monday morning :)
Lemon curd sounds great Kay ! That is quite the challenging product to make at home ! They should love it !
Beautifully written, dearest Jennifer!
I remember having craft days for all the kids we knew before Christmas - oh we had so much fun, all the little ones busy creating, my house would be turned upside down but it was worth it. I can't even remember what all we made, but I do remember how fun it was. I don't have enough energy for that anymore, lol - and we only buy one gift, all of us, we exchange names. This year it's "treats", with a $20 limit. Maybe when grandkids come along that will change again (of course it will) but I think we're done buying for adults.
My mom and aunt still get gifts for my cousins, but this year we've created a cookbook of Christmas cookies that my grandma used to back. That's their gift, along with cookies that we'll be baking this Saturday. I just find it so difficult to look forward to Christmas - because of all the hoopla - I need to focus more on Christ, but it's difficult when the whole world is caught up in Santa.
Christmas has become very commercialized over the years. I feel like many people today have no idea what Christmas is supposed to mean. Each year we have to cut back more and more on our giving to others as my medical bills soar. We will have family over on Christmas day and exchange homemade gifts . Their will be bought gifts for the children. I hope you have a wonderful week Dear Jennifer and thank you for the beautiful embroidery patterns. I have never had lemon curd Kay . I live in the USA but it sounds divine as I love lemon anything...and lime anything....
I guess this bible passage touched both of us to be made into an embroidery. The Christmas story is so beautiful. I just put mine in my etsy store today. I love your story about teaching others and giving handmade gifts. My DH and I started many years ago when the local steel mills started closing and he lost his job. We scoured woods for grapevines to turn into wreaths, I made ornaments to decorate them with, he turned scraps of wood into bird feeders, and we gave cookies and jars of elderberry jelly we made. We decided early on that getting something someone made for you was a true gift of love. Thank you so much for sharing your love and talent.
This year will be an odd year for us as we will have none of our children with us and probably not see them until after the new year. Remembering God's gift to us is something we can share with others.
Your post today was a special gift to all of us. Thank you. And thank you for the towel and mini quilt pattern.
I love how you posted that picture from the movie The Nativity. It's my favorite of all time - we always watch this Christmas Eve.
Thank you Jenny. I find Christmas rather stressful and always look forward to it being over. I know it shouldn't be that way but it is. As my girls' have embraced their catholic education we have begun to embrace the true meaning of Christmas more. We are Christian and my children were surprised when I mentioned last week I used to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I've participated in the same Christmas Eve tradition for my entire 47 years on this earth - attending my Aunt's house (then midnight mass as a late teen and early adult) and this will be the first year we will not be doing so (she is well still at 86 but will be traveling) so perhaps it is time to create a new family tradition.
Hi Jennifer, A Merry Christmas to you, and to your family. I enjoyed your Christmas story. Often I have thought of Mary. Can you imagine the discomfort in labor riding and riding on that animal? When I think of my own times in labor, it is an amazing time in Mary's life, the Mother of God the Son. A quiet thoughfulness comes over me at remembering Jesus in that setting of time. And about God watching over His plan being lived out. Breathtaking story of love in so many ways with much awe.
Be well, Jennifer.
Thank you for writing. Your words bring comfort, smiles, peace, joy .
Jennifer, I hope you and yours have a blessed Christmas and the God's rich blessings flow to you in the new year.
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