Thursday, December 18, 2008

On giving and receiving with thanks

After a recent post on giving, I want to clarify a few things, and expound upon a few more. In the midst, I'll answer a few questions...they're not in the comments, don't feel like you have to go look.

First, on Christmas gifts-- I'm SO not opposed to gifting in general! I love to buy gifts for people. I love to buy stuff for people all year round, just whenever I see something that someone might like or has mentioned. I love to go all out on birthdays and anniversaries for M. And up until a couple years ago, I was also all about buying Christmas gifts. It's not that I am NOT into it now, it's just that we have found that we cannot afford to do as we previously could. (That whole gave-up-half-our-income-thing.) Some of it is the actual number and math, and some is just priorities. And we also found that many of our gifts, though appreciated, were not needed and in some cases were in the way or more hassles than helps. Our family had a big yard sale this fall, and more than once during that day, different people mentioned how this or that item was a gift from someone. Some of them were Christmas last year from within the family! It wasn't that we didn't like them or were ungrateful, it simply became a matter of space and clutter issues in most cases. That struck me though... why do we sometimes hunt and search and go into debt for gifts that aren't really needed at all?

It's fun to give. It's fun to watch someone get excited about something you chose for them or that you knew they really hoped for. I'm not saying we should all give that up for good. I'm just thinking it's time to be more prudent with gifts. Often, we would end up with a whole pile of gifts to open on Christmas. Many would be great, some were ok, some were not at all what we wanted or needed, but there they were. I'd much prefer one or two gifts that I really wanted or needed. For kids, it's so fun to load up on all kinds of things, but I want my girls to be appreciative of even one or two fun things for Christmas instead of feeling disappointed if there are only a few things. And really...what was Braska's favorite part of her birthday gifts and party?? The balloons that were bought for maybe one dollar, blown up, and the people sitting and just playing with them with her. She still plays with them every day. She bypasses all her neat electronic toys and gadgets and goes for the balloons. And give her an empty box?!? She's all about it. It won't always be that way, but I want to move gradually up, not by leaps and bounds each year.

So I'm not anti-gift giving, don't think it at all. I just want to be reasonable about it, and if someone else needs something more, I want to be able to readily give up my gifts for them. That's what I want my girls to grow up learning.

Reece's Rainbow-- I like this organization for many reasons. I'd love everyone I know to give to them, sure. But are you a bad person if you don't give to RR? No, of course not. I'm simply trying to make the point that it's popular to talk about the "less fortunate" and it's easy to put a buck in here or there to a can at the checkout or the Salvation Army kettles (which are also a good thing). YET very few people actually give a portion of their intake that causes any feeling or adjustment. Many politicians who are all about programs and government help give less than 1% of their income to charities of any kind. That's ridiculous, to me. Government is never going to be the difference-maker for this stuff. It's going to be you and me choosing to give to those in need, and doing it in a real way, not a token way.

Receiving--We have been blessed by MANY people in our lives, but especially in the last two years. When Braska was born and her heart diagnosis got around, it was truly overwhelming to see the support we received. Her medical benefit fund was set up and still exists today. People who didn't know us at all gave money. The majority of people donating were from M's work. It was a fairly large employer in town, and the nature of his job meant everyone there knew who he was, even if they didn't know him personally. They gave in a truly amazing way.

We also had many meals given to us, household chores done, and lots of gifts of useful items that we needed with all the back and forth to the NICU and such. Many churches contributed from all over the country, as we are blessed to have contacts and friends in most every state. It was really humbling and so encouraging to be given so much when we were too tired, shocked, and just preoccupied to properly thank everyone. In the last couple years, our families have helped us in many ways, from financial, to lending helping hands, to providing housing when we needed it, to just helping us function through busy times. We've received substantial gifts to Braska's fund even in the last year from family and friends. Every time, it has been at JUST the right time to meet a need we had with Braska.

We are so very blessed. I do not take it lightly. I take time every single day to thank God for what we have, specifically and by name...from our home to our cars to our families to His providence and direction. I view it as a responsibility to "pay it forward" and be sure to give help in whatever way is needed whenever we can. We cannot meet every need. But we can try to be a good example of making giving to others in need a priority, not an afterthought.

"Going without"-- I mentioned in the recent post that we have not had to go without and that I didn't think we would. That does NOT mean that we have not or will not have to do without things we would like to have in order to keep up with our commitments to giving. I do not believe in a system of giving that always returns financial or material dividends. Some people are generous and give sacrificially and it hurts, in a way. But I know those people do not feel shorted or wish they didn't share with others. Blessings can come in a million ways, and sometimes the greatest ones come hidden amongst hard lessons and difficult times. I don't want to ever make it sound like if we do some magic right thing, all will be well and we'll not ever have bad days. That's not how this life works. But we know that everything we "invest" in others will have a great return in some way, even if we do not see it.

It's often hard to watch those in my life who can give and choose not to. It's no fun to see money spent on frivilous things with no benefit when it could make ALL the difference in another life. I suppose it's always hard to feel strongly about something and see those who you think are like-minded opt to do things differently, especially when it affects the good of other people. But that is again how life goes. We cannot request people share with others. We can only share a need and pray they see the benefit. It's an issue I still struggle with often, reminding me how much I still have to learn. My job is not to convince, my job is simply to inform. The responsibility is then in the hands of the hearer.

The great news is that many people want to share with others. Many people truly enjoy helping others. That is what we lean on, knowing that when given the opportunity, most choose to share, be it their time, money, knowledge, or love. And that's what will make our world better all year and as we move into our future. It's not just about Christmas... it's about a way to live.


  1. we have many similar thoughts...I often am humbled by what I have and wonder how I can do more...then I wonder where and who and when. its really a daily struggle to find where the balance is between securing the future, providing for the needs of today and blessing those around us. good post, you've got me thinking again!

  2. Thanks for the wonderful insights you place on your blog, it really gets me thinking what can I do. Also Thank you for the mention of the cutestblogontheblock.. I found a background that is TOTALLY Evan... Hope you and Braska keep on the feeling better side of things and M stays away from it all together..

  3. You've done it again. What a wonderful encouragement you are. We are blessed to have such giving children who follow in their father's (and THE Father's) steps.

  4. very good post...and i didn't pick up anything negative from your previous post ;) i completely agree with you

  5. Very eloquently and insightfully said. Our family took your suggestion for Reece's Rainbow and each one of my 5 kiddos took their allowance and the money from our "change jar" to make a donation in honor of their teachers, principals, aides, therapists and bus drivers. Each one of my children chose a specific child to donate to and then made a "Christmas Letter" to their teachers (etc) with a picture of that child. It was wonderful to see them excited about helping others ... and no coffee mugs to litter the teacher's lounge! I can't afford to adopt internationally, but I feel like by helping another family do that to bring their child home is a nice way to give. God Bless you and your family this Christmas! From SLCH "Alyssa", her mommy and brothers and sister.


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