In my first book, Planting the Seed of Hope (2006) I wrote a “Gift Series”, and now here’s an updated version of some of those thoughts. I hope you have a chance to savour the joy of celebration with family. I hope you appreciate the many gifts you can share that cost time and intention, not money.
1) The Gift of Encouragement,
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Words of affirmation are my love language. I leap for joy when a handwritten card arrives in my mailbox, or a thoughtful reader sends me an email describing how my encouragement has made life on their farm better. If you’re not a “card person”, texting with photos of your story may be workable for you. Mark Twain once said, “A man can live for two months on one good compliment.” Use the tools around you to encourage your parents, your children, and your spouse on the farm as 2021 draws to a close. You have no idea what a boost that will give to those around you.
2) The Gift of Contentment
“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NIV. The number of Canadians using food banks is increasing. Think about supporting your local food bank and Christmas Cheer folks or your church ministry to help the poor. I’m content to have holes in my running shoes until they get too far gone, and I don’t need new decorations. Many farm families have had a tough year. Reach out. Circumstances may be critical, but I believe God is still in control. “We can be content because God will never leave us no matter how tough the situation is.” Hebrews 13:5-6 (Msg)
3) The Gift of a Visit
In December 1996 it was easy to write about visiting, in 2021 we have a different story. Social distancing throughout the Great Pause and respect for health directives have separated folks into two distinct groups. If richness in a relationship is a high value for you as it is for me, you’re going to have to get creative to stay connected to family and friends. My go-to option since March of 2020 has been using my smartphone as a phone. Ha! You say. Yes. Some millennials only text and they don’t answer their phones. Whatever strategy you find, FaceTime, Zoom reunions, do it. Don’t expect the person you cherish is going to be around this time next year. If the Great Pause has any poignant lessons, one is that we cannot anticipate how awful it feels to be isolated or disconnected until we all have experienced it. Last December we organized a zoom reunion of cousins who had not seen each other for over 8 years. It was delightful. Write a list of people you want to bless with the sound of your voice. Pick up the phone. Organize the zoom video gathering.
4) The Gift of Laughter
“Love makes the world go round, but laughter keeps you from getting dizzy.” Victor Borge.
We were surprised to get our first Christmas Card in late November, but inside it was tucked 2 pages of cartoons, including a “Covid tree “wrapped in toilet paper streamers with disinfectant under the tree with a mask. A verse from Proverbs says that a “merry heart makes good medicine.” Laughter is the shock absorber that absorbs the blows of life. Do you have favourite jokes to share or a funny family memory that brings folks to tears? Log in a journal the funny things your grandkids say. Do little things to be playful like dancing in the kitchen with your spouse. Go tobogganing and have a winter picnic together. Pick names of family members to secretly shower with random acts of kindness. Buy plastic Grouch Marx glasses and wear them over your mask! I used to have a pair that made traveling really fun! Having fun is a cheap, legal, and happy way to live longer.
5) The Gift of Simplicity
One of the great joys for me in the past year has been getting my brother back in my life. He has returned to our home province, to Winnipeg, so I now see him more often. His approach to decorating is extremely simple. It’s a very large poinsettia from Costco which he handed to me and said, “There, your Christmas decorating is done, (for $20 !). I don’t like it when people ask “Are you ready for Christmas?” My take is that the celebration of the birth of Jesus is not about sending out cards, wrapping expensive gifts, or baking heaps of cookies. As you journey into the season of celebration ask yourself “Am I over-working and under-relating? “ Search the pondering of your heart this year, consider this question “Am I too busy achieving, collecting stuff, and not realizing that life is not about things?” Perhaps simplicity this season is compassion towards yourself, saying “no” to set boundaries on your time and clarify expectations. I value spiritual things over material things. Where is your real treasure? I intend to feed my soul with silence and also listen to great music. Embrace “less is more”.
6) The Gift of Presence
Many farm families who have connected to me this year are not looking forward to reminders their families are fragmented. One of the best gifts you can gift to strengthen harmony this season is to listen, really listen to what others are saying or not saying in their conversations. The Mental Health First Aid course has taught me that we need to approach people with empathy, not sympathy. It’s the ability to sit at the moment, listen, and be curious about what the other person is thinking, feeling, needing, and wanting. Recently as a young farm woman re-connected after a 5-year absence, and she thanked me for validating her feelings 5 years ago. “Elaine the best gift you gave me, was that you truly listened to me. “ None of us are perfect people. Perhaps the perfect gift you can give this season is your eye contact, a cup of tea, and a very focused listening ear.
If you‘d like to see more, order a copy of Planting the Seed of Hope. It is out of print unless you find it in a thrift store, as I did in the MCC store in Brandon Manitoba!
Did you enjoy Gifts for this season that don’t cost money, just the currency of time? You might want to check these articles out too: