Gifts to the Future

This evening while wrapping the first gifts of the Christmas season, I once again caught myself thinking very un-Christmasy thoughts. During my first gift-wrapping session each year, with a feeling akin to superstition, I make sure to wrap at least one gift for each person in my family before I quit wrapping. Labelled, with a handwritten little ‘I love you’ message and placed under the tree.

Only when I have wrapped a gift for every single person can I quit, relieved. Now if (heaven forbid) something happened to me before Christmas came, each of my precious ones would have a Christmas gift from me.

This morbid little obsession began the year my husband’s grandmother died. She died in early December, and as we cleaned out her house after the funeral, we discovered sacks of wrapped Christmas gifts, all carefully labeled with family member’s names.

We brought home our gifts and put them under the tree. Over the days that followed, as we ate casseroles from kind friends and opened sympathy cards and watered the death-bouquet on our dining room table, we also stole looks at the mysterious gifts from her.

On Christmas Eve we opened them to discover hand made Christmas stockings for each of our 4 children, and a Christmas tree skirt for John and me. Those were some of the most precious gifts I’d ever gotten. Gifts made for us while she lived, and opened by us after she died.

Since then, wrapping Christmas gifts for my family makes me morbid. It reminds me of my frailty, and of my longing to leave of part of myself with my loved ones. Yes, Grandma was in her 70’s when she died, and I’m only 39. Lord-willing, I’ll run through reams more Christmas wrap before I make my way to Heaven. Heck, I have every intention of wrapping gifts for great-grandkids, just as John’s grandmother did. But you never know. And so I wrap quickly, and sit back in relief when everyone has a gift.

Thinking this evening I realized that the really important gifts from John’s grandmother were not wrapped in red Christmas paper. Her steady love. Her beautiful smile. Her open Bible next to her rocking chair. Her adoration of our children. The words she spoke so often: “You kiddies are doing so well! I’m so proud of you!” Those were her most precious gifts to us.

Those gifts from her make me think of the gifts I hope to pass on to my precious ones. Hope for the future. Warm-heartedness. A tendency to break into song as if life is some wacky musical. Faith in God above all else. I pray that no matter what happens, my children will know that legacy passed on by me.

As much as I am looking forward to Christmas when I can watch my children and my husband opening the gifts I wrapped in paper for them this evening, those gifts are as dust compared to the gifts I cannot wrap — the gifts I am doing my daily best to give my family, a song and a smile and a hug and a prayer at a time.

(Love Thursday)

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  1. Mary–

    What a lovely touching post.

    Have you been able to make homemade stockings for your 4 younger children also? I was adopted and am the only grandchild (of 6) that doesn’t have a homemade stocking hanging at grandma’s house (even my cousin born after I was adopted has one)–I can’t tell you how much it pains me to not have the same as the “non” adopted grandchildren—yet, I would never tell grandma because at the same time I just try to be so very appreciative of the fact that I have a family at all…

    Anywho, not a morbid thought or superstition on your part, just a mother knowing the best way to take care of her family…

  2. This is so lovely. We are about to have our first Christmas without my gandfather and I am finding that I am already getting a bit morbid, especially when I realized that all the best gifts (both physical and not) came from my grandfather. My grandmotther on the other hand is learning to stop thinking of herself and consider others. I keep praying that the Lord will give her joyful, unselfish heart and that we, her family will be able to show her how.

  3. Yes, Jennifer, I’ve made stockings for the 4 younger ones and for John and me that are similar to the big kids’– not exactly the same, but they look nice together on the railing. Guess I should have taken a picture of all of them!!

  4. What an emotional post- I’m all filled up reading this- and so thankful too- it is so easy to get spun up in the commercial side of the holiday and as always you bring me back to what is really important……thank you – always….thank you.

  5. Oh, this is just too sweet.

  6. Wow, Mary. That is absolutely beautiful. Those gifts I can’t wrap. I want to give those. You amaze me.

  7. watery eyes over here on the west coast…what a beautiful post. reminds me of a blanket my grandmother made for me that i recently had my parents send out to me. also of a stocking that a great aunt hand painted a “baby me “on when i was very little that i still use. somehow – around the holidays these tangible things are even that much more special to me. this post also makes me wish i could sew!

  8. Mary, you always touch my heart with your posts.
    This one is one of the loveliest.
    Thanks for sharing, dear…

  9. What a beautiful post. Just wonderful. I join the watery-eyed salute to you. Thank You for sharing the memory and Happy Love Thursday!

  10. what a sweet reminder…

  11. Thank-you so much for sharing this. What a sweet memory and isn’t it funny that you would think of her so often during gift-wrapping. It reminds me of Jesus saying the woman who’d been so kind to him, that she would be remembered-and we still talk about her today. Your grandmother left a lovely legacy.

  12. that is sweetness.

  13. Very nice. I love that tradition (or obsession, whatever you want to call it).

  14. What a beautiful post, Mary.

  15. So wonderful. Love this post.

  16. What a great post! I am very similar in my thinking.

  17. You’re right, Mary. It’s those intangible gifts that are the best ones. 🙂

  18. Woah, I just wrote and long post and then lost it……. so sorry if this is a double.

    I am not sure if it will post later or if this is a double. I wanted to wrap my Christmas books this year and open one every night like you do (we have a ton) but I also wanted to give some for 12 Days of Christmas gifts this year. Would you share with us your favorite books and ask your readers to do the same? You have so many readers and I am sure there are some hidden treasures out there…………

    Our favorite is The Last Straw by Frederick Thury….. Thanks!!

    P.S. I love that you have the grandma stockings. 🙂

  19. Thank you for such a beautiful post Mary. What lovely treasures from your grandmother – a reminder of her love every Christmas. I feel the same way when I unpack the tree ornaments that my mom gave me and the children over the years.

  20. Beautifully said. I believe you have expressed what most of us pray our legacy to our families will be. I sometimes look back with such regret, but then my children will say something that makes me see God’s hand of grace in their lives. He took what little I did right and made something very special indeed of it.

  21. thisi s a really n ice story, thanks for sharing and happy wrapping!

  22. Mary, this is a wonderful tribute! This post reminded of a similar occurance 9 years years ago when my Grandfather passed away in early November. A few weeks later we found boxes in his hall closet (unwrapped) and easily figured out what was for who.

    You put such wonderful words on feelings that for me are indescribable since in 9 years I haven’t thought of the gifts again but I think about the wonderful man he was all the time!

    He gave many of “the gifts that cannot be wrapped” and I can only hope to do the same!

  23. What a beautiful, beautiful post.

    Thank you.

  24. Mary, this post was stunning.

    Just stunning.

  25. Mary – I loved this post! I pray, with you, that my family will remember me for my gifts of love, thoughtfulness, kindheartedness, faith, generosity. I laughed about you breaking into song as if life is some wacky musical. Just today Joseph (age 2) kept asking me to make up songs for him – “Sing about monster trucks, Mama!” So I’d make up a silly song about monster trucks. Then it was “Sing about tractors, Mama!” So I made up a little ditty about tractors. And on and on through the list of all the things he loves best. My favorite part of that memory is how his eyes shone and how his eyes sparkled when he laughed at the silly songs. Thanks for reminding us what is important. You are truly an inspiration. [:-) sister Rachel

  26. Mary, speaking of gifts, this post was a gift to me. Thank you!


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