I love giving gifts. I get so excited to search for something special for someone, and then watch them open it. I have not always been GOOD at giving gifts though. I had a condition called “I want to give people what I want them to have, not what they want to receive”, and my friends, brother, parents, and many others can tell you many stories about times they received something from me that they not only didn’t need, but that they didn’t even want! I have learned over the years to listen and pay attention to what people want, not what I want them to have.
Receiving gifts is more difficult for me. Since I was a child, I have felt that if someone gave me something, that would mean I owed them something. Now, I do realize that this mentality directly contradicts the very definition of the word “gift”, but it is a pattern I am still learning to undo and replace with healthier thinking.
In this season of being engaged, I get the feeling that I will need to learn how to receive graciously and gratefully. I am constantly reminding myself that if someone offers a gift of time, talents, materials, or resources that they are doing so because they WANT to give, not because they are expecting something of me.
This Christmas, I received many gifts that are now very special to me. There are four in particular that have not only opened the door for me to be a more gracious recipient, but have also made me want to continue giving to others as well.
My Engagement Ring
Tim proposed the Saturday before Christmas, and it was a COMPLETE surprise to me. He has worked very hard over the last several months to keep this ring and his proposal plans a surprise to me. (I am still a little shocked at how good of a deceiver he can be…I plan to address that in Marriage Prep class.) Tim originally wanted to give me a family heirloom ring, but when he went to retrieve it, it was beyond repair. So he had one made to resemble this antique ring, and I love it. When he finally told me how everything had happened over the last four months, I couldn’t believe it. He had prayed and planned and prepared so meticulously in order to give me the ring, and the promise, that he thought I deserved. And while the ring is beautiful, (I can’t stop staring at it) it is so much more than a piece of jewelry to me. Knowing my story and my old wounds, Tim has followed through on every plan and promise he has made with me since we started dating. His yes’s are yes’s and his no’s are no’s, and he is truly a man of honesty and integrity. His commitment to truth and vulnerability is just one of the things that makes me fall more in love with him each and every day. When he proposed, and had to confess to me that he had been lying in order to keep this special secret, he was crying and could barely choke the words out. I saw how much weight he had been carrying just to hide something from me. I felt so loved, yet so convicted at the same time. I have spent my life “spinning” the truth in order to save face and get my own way. Only in the last five years have I been held truly accountable by close friends and family who love me enough to call me out on my deception. I get to marry a man who is physically pained by lying to me, and this calls me to want to be a better woman. I want to give others the truth, no matter how messy it looks or sounds. Yes, this ring is a beautiful reminder of Tim’s love for me, but it is also a challenge to me to give others what he continues to give me every day. And for that, I am grateful.
Antique Tea Pot
I love tea. It is warm, comforting, inviting, and can be social by nature. I love drinking tea while reading a book, and I love drinking tea while sitting in a tea shop (Shout out to Infusion Tea in College Park, Orlando!) with friends. For the past several Christmases, my Aunt Beth and cousins, Brook and Christopher, have given me some delicious tea varieties in beautiful packaging, but this year there was something else in the bag. I fell in love with this tea pot as soon as I held it, but then my Aunt told me that she had found it in an obscure antique shop years ago and she has been holding on to it to give it to me at just the right time. She chose my first Christmas engaged to Tim to give me this gift. My Aunt is always very intentional in her gift giving. She knows me – she has never left my side since I was born! – and she knows what I love and what I need, just when I need it. My Aunt has taught me so many things in life – how to love Jesus, how to bake, how to be patient with ignorant people, how to stand up for myself, how to appreciate art, how to love people who are difficult to love, how to mix Frangelico liqueur with pink lemonade – but mostly, she has taught me how to give of myself to others in a way that matters. I can’t wait to serve others with this gift for many years to come.
My First Wedding Magazine
My mom still gives us stockings, and I love it. I have the same stocking that I had as a child, and growing up stockings were for more practical gifts – toothpaste, toothbrushes, Target gift cards, a magazine, etc. I wasn’t sure what to expect this year, but I was delighted when I reached into my stocking and found The Knot wedding planning magazine. The magazine in and of itself isn’t that great (the first 55 pages are advertisements!), but there are some helpful tips and inspirations in there. What I love most is that my mom is so committed to being in this with Tim and I. She has been on board since the moment I told her I wanted to marry this man. She has asked the right “mom” questions along the way, for sure, but she has been my biggest cheerleader through this entire relationship. She has already offered so much wisdom and encouragement in the planning process, and continues to keep me sane. As we continue to navigate the wedding planning process, I look forward to spending hours on the phone with my mom. She only has one daughter, after all, and maybe one day I will get to be that kind of mom to my own children as well!
A Madeline Treasury
I have a lifelong relationship with a spunky little French girl named Madeline. 75 years ago, an Austrian writer named Ludwig Bemelmans created one of literature’s most iconic heroines. In an old house in Paris covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. The smallest one was Madeline. My PawPaw introduced me to Madeline when I was a little girl. He used to read me the stories from the paperback books – three of which I still have. A few year ago, I started reading Madeline again because I needed to remember the little girl who had no fear but loved her friends dearly. This Christmas, my grandmother gave me a beautiful hardback collection of all of Madeline’s adventures in a volume titled A Madeline Treasury, and the title could not be more perfect. I have treasured Madeline and the memories of her with my grandfather for over 30 years, and I plan to share them with my children and grandchildren one day. I have already pulled this book out twice since Christmas to read through it, and I am sure it will start to show some wear in no time at all. It means even more since my grandmother, who turns 85 tomorrow, inscribed it with some very loving words. My hope is that this treasury continues to give and give and give for many years to come.