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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Emily turned 14! 
 I made sure she has a copy of the Oregon Driver Manual because in one short year, she will be able to get her permit!  

It has been an unusual bit of weather here.  Clear, cold, frosty and foggy.  These shots are of the crazy frost we have had...I know it looks like snow, but it was just the most magical layer of ice on everything.
First Sunrise of 2013
January 1, I got up before the sun, put on warm clothes and drove myself to the Jonsrud viewpoint and waited for the sun to rise.  I was well rewarded!  The sky had the perfect amount of clouds to make the most gorgeous color.  The valley was filled with little puffs of mist that took on the color of the sky and the river reflected it back up...what a way to start the New Year.

Giving gifts at Christmas is to symbolize God’s gift to us. Just as the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, we bring gifts to each other.
I have given a lot of thought to gifts this year. Our family has come to a new place in the giving part of Christmas. Gone are the days of finding the perfect gift for each person. Gone are the days that anybody in my family actually NEEDS something. Everyone is so fortunate to have been blessed with the financial means to buy the things they want when they want them. The wish that all parents have that their children have more than they had, struggle less, and find real contentment has come true. I know that true contentment does not come from ‘things’ or ‘money’ but having God in the center of your life, being content with what you have,so with that in place, not having to stress over money is the topping. It has been really hard to let go of the huge ‘ultimate’ gift to have under the tree. There is no such thing nowadays. It is still fun to have the little things under the tree for the grandkids, but even they have rooms full of toys that hardly get noticed. Their closets are full of clothes that will hardly be worn. I have reluctantly begun giving them a gift card as their main gift. Of course I can’t resist just a few things besides the card for them to open.

I really struggled with the whole gift card bit. But little by little, first to my kids and now  to the grandkids, I see it as the gift of the times. The best gift of the times is a gift of TIME. So, this year, I bought each of my kids a card to a restaurant and am hoping that we can go with each of them when they use it. The cards I bought the grandkids are for shopping or movies, etc that we can use together. I have had to let go of a bit of tradition, to convince myself that it is for ME that I want the gifts under the tree, that it is only me that cares when the unwrapping is done and over and they are sitting there with a giftcard in their pocket. They won’t be disappointed, they will love being able to use their card. I have to stop wanting for them that excitement that I had as a little kid, the same as I wanted for my own kids as each Christmas rolled around. Times have changed. I have to let it go. Gone is the excitement of what they are getting, the wonder, the waiting, the mystery…I guess I should really be more happy about that. It really is a GOOD thing that the focus is not fully on the getting. I need to stop and thank God for blessing us with abundance. 

I know that TIME is one of the things that we are short of these days. Giving a gift of your time is actually one of the best gifts I have discovered. A few years back, my sister, Cyndi came up with the idea of getting each other a gift card to a restaurant. We have tweaked it a bit and finally have it just right. Each of us buys each other a restaurant card, only $25 on each card (4 cards, one for each of my two sisters, one for my parents and also one for me). This way we all end up with 4 different cards. We try to keep it to a place we have not bought a card for before so we keep trying new places. It does not have to be a fancy place, just someplace we know we will have a good time together. Then the person who bought the card is responsible for deciding when we go and making the plans to make it happen sometime before the next Christmas. This guarantees us 4 times out with each other throughout the year, hopefully we all chose a different place so we are trying new places to eat. It is a perfect way to make sure we spend quality time together other than the holidays. When we get the bill, we all toss in our $25 cards and have the waiter divide the rest of the bill between us. Sometimes we have not needed much more than the $25 cards. We have had some really good meals and more than that have made some really great memories. The place I chose this year is the Cinetopia theater where you have dinner while you watch the movie. I hid the cards in the bottom of a bucket of popcorn for each of them

The gift of TIME, a true gift of ourselves to somebody else.

For most people it is easy to give a gift but hard to accept one. I have found that one of the best gifts I can give…is to receive what is being offered to me. I have learned  that when I give, I get more than I have given. So, by accepting what somebody else is offering, I give a gift back to them by my receiving of their gift. 
I have a friend whom I love to spend time with. I love to bake and take little goodies over to her and her husband. She never wants to take it, tells me it is too much, it is always a battle to let me leave it on the table when I leave. But every time, she ends up telling me later how much they enjoyed it, filling me full of praise for such a simple little thing. She ends up making me feel so happy that I took whatever it was over. Her praise is a gift in return. When we go out for tea, she always fights to pay the bill. This was really hard for me to accept. I didn’t want to have her think that I was asking her to tea just so she could pay the bill. But then I realized, my balking at her paying was no different than her balking at my little gifts of baked goods. I now am less reluctant to let her pay the bill, I receive her gift and let her bless me with what she wants to do for me. 

Likewise, it is really hard for me to accept a gift from my kids. I always tell them don’t get me anything. But I know that as hard as it is to take it, they also need to feel the pride in giving it, so I accept with gratitude what they have for me.  At Christmas time, we celebrate the gift from God of His Son, Jesus. Have you received His gift to you?