Tis the Season to make jolly! And to give. I love Christmas. For this special holiday I shop all year round anticipating the desires and wishes of my family and friends........and there are many. I love to give. It comes very easily and naturally for me. But every year around this time I am made painfully aware of those who simply don't think to give...or have no desire...aren't in the mood.....or can't afford it. All of which I, personally, find pretty selfish and short sighted. I hear all kinds of excuses......."I'm not going to put that kind of stress on myself this year.", "I can't afford to buy any gifts. The economy has me too strapped.", "I'm not going to buy into the commercialism.", and on and on with what I call "Bah! Humbug! excuses".

God gave us the gift of his Child for Christmas. He gave us Hope, Encouragement, Love, Joy, and Promise. He gave us many reasons to celebrate. For me, Christmas is a celebration of the heart. And in that "heart-giving" both the giver and the receiver are blessed. And that is the biggest reason to give. Going outside yourself........beyond your circumstances.......... and making the effort to give something special to someone else. When I hear someone whining about the injustices, loneliness, and messed up relationships in their life, my first question for them is, “What are you doing to give back to others?” It is amazing how many excuses I hear about how that just isn’t possible. I am convinced that self-absorption is the #1 malady in America today.

Having no money is the lamest excuse of all. Some of the most amazing gifts we have ever received........and given......have been inexpensive home made gifts. Cookies, candles, bread, tea mix, hand made cards, a hand written note of appreciation, a framed picture. Even something from the Dollar store tells the recipient he or she is thought about in a special way. Probably half the gifts I give each year are gathered from garage sales, auctions or Goodwill stores. Those gifts are bought and given with just as much love and consideration as if I was purchasing from Macy’s. Don’t ever tell me you couldn’t afford to get any gifts for anyone for Christmas. That translates into, “I’m selfish and didn’t want to take the time to remember anyone in my life who meant anything to me this year.” Anyone can pick up a 50¢ card at the Dollar Tree and write a simple thank you note of appreciation and love. Or better yet, how about the sweet gift I came home to last night?

While Dan and I were in Ohio for the holiday and no one was at our house, daughter Ashley and her husband Nathan came in and totally cleaned out, added extra shelving and organized my kitchen pantry. They even cleaned out my ridiculously overflowing junk drawer (everyone has one!). I came home to a very pleasant surprise (and lots of love notes stuck everywhere) and all it cost them was their time and their loving hearts and a few dollars for some shelving supplies. This is a gift that will stick with me a long while. Knowing they took the time to plan this while we were gone and have it be a complete surprise said, “I LOVE YOU!” in capital letters! Just about everyone can give something of themselves as a gift. I have known some very poor people who have reached out to show their love and their gratitude to others during the holiday season and felt it was the highlight of their Christmas.

Yes, it takes time. It takes some planning and it sometimes takes a bit of coin. But giving is what Christmas is all about. It always has been. And giving always comes back to the giver in some special way. If you don’t believe it, try making this Christmas the “giving-est” holiday you have ever had. At the very least you will feel the satisfaction of having given back to those who have blessed you during the year. And you may find that God turns that giving into some very real and tangible experiences, relationships and events you never anticipated. And one thing I know for sure is that when you are giving to others, you have very little time (or desire) to wallow in your own self pity or self-absorption. This is a good lesson to remember all year long.

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Comment by Matthew Keeney Jr on December 7, 2009 at 11:39pm
Yeah, the name exchange kinda takes the fun out of Christmas!
Comment by Roy Simmons on December 2, 2009 at 9:07am
So True, One year a while ago we were very 'skint' at Christmas, so I bought some of those cheap small calenders that kids use to add to the bottom of a picture, then attach a simple ribbon loop to hang it. I painted watercolor landscapes as the pictures. They were well received. A good 2 years later, when visiting my brother in law, that old calender was still hanging in their kitchen!
Comment by Deby Dearman on December 2, 2009 at 8:49am
I love this! You just gave me the shot in the arm I needed to get busy and find those treasures that will bless my family.


Deby Dearman

Group Leader
Comment by Kent Julian on December 2, 2009 at 5:40am

I can't tell...are you passionate about gift-giving, Christmas, and showing appreciation? :-)

Love your heart and your passion. I'm blessed to know you and call you "mom."

Live It Forward,
Kent Julian
Comment by Rose Gauss on December 1, 2009 at 7:32am
I love this! Giving is exactly what God expects of us, after all we have been given so much.

Some of my most memorable gifts are the ones that weren't necessarily the most expensive but, were thought out (like what Ashely & Nathan did while you were gone)...they're fun for the giver and the receiver...we simply need each other.

Thanks for sharing, Joanne! You have become one of my favorite people in the whole world. I thank God for you and your wonderful family.
Be blessed!
Comment by Vickie Riley on December 1, 2009 at 6:51am
Joanne, you are one the most giving people I know and Ashley too. This world and right in our own community are so many areas to give back and sometimes it's just a ride to the doctors office or babysit for a new Mommy : ) call me sometime Ashley. My scripture that I "try" to live by is from Romans 12:1 (the Message) Take your everyday, ordinary life...and place it before God as an offering. Not our extraordinary life ... but our ordinary life. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas.
Comment by Chuck Bowen on November 30, 2009 at 10:29pm
Mostly, Joanne, I appreciate your gift to me of a sincere heart. We givers all give in our own special ways ... you are a Master at yours!

Thank you.

Group Leader
Comment by Alan Jackson on November 30, 2009 at 6:26pm
I am truly thankful for all the wonderful people you and Dan have introduced me to this year. The positive influence from your family, and my friends at both 48 Days and FAA have been a blessing. Oh, and while I'm at it. Let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas.
Comment by Justin Lukasavige on November 30, 2009 at 11:54am
I've experieneced this time and time again from you Joanne. Thank you for giving!
Comment by Leigh Travis-Funderburk on November 30, 2009 at 10:24am
Joanne, I loved your blog on giving. It is a theme we really believe in, all year long!

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