Last-Minute Gift Ideas

IMG_3379.JPGIf any of you are heading out to the local mall to face the crazed masses in this final week before Christmas, I thought I’d provide you with my wish list, just in case you still need to get me something. None of the things on my list will cost you a dime, so I’m counting on you coming through for me!

#1 – Make someone smile this week. Do whatever you have to do with the gifts you’ve been given. If you’ve got a wacky sense of humor, use it (getting a laugh will score you some extra points with me!). If you’re not the humorous type, then compliment someone. Tell them they have beautiful eyes, or you’ve never seen anyone look so cute in reindeer antlers or…whatever. You can do it, I know you can! I’ll also give you extra points for garnering a grin from a harried, department store cashier. “Tis the season to be jolly” (not crabby and stressed out!).


#2 – When you notice a driver who needs to get over into your lane, slow down and let them in, instead of employing that usual impulse of speeding up, and thinking, “You’re not cutting in front of me, buddy!” And I’m not accusing anyone, here – I’m just quoting my own mean-spirited thought bubble (that rears it’s ugly head way too often, I’m embarrassed to confess). Letting someone out who’s waiting to exit a parking lot is the cheaper version of this gift, but will be gladly accepted.


#3 – Donate something to facilitate a happier holiday for someone less fortunate than you. Dropping a couple of coins in a red kettle will not count for this one. Be generous – give until you have to give up something. Offer a cash contribution to a local church or social services agency, sign up to support a needy family for Christmas, or take advantage of the many locations accepting food and toy donations this time of year. You have so much…give up a little to give a little (which will be seen as a lot, by those on the receiving end!). IMG_3375.JPG

#4 – Visit a nursing home. Call some local retirement homes before heading out, to make sure that they are in need of this service, and then put your whole heart into it. Make cards or cookies, and take your children (or your dog) along. If you play the guitar, drag that with you, to sing songs for (and with) the residents. Visit those folks who are open to visitors (most retirement homes will have a list of which members of their community like to have visitors dropping by). Ask them about their family, their history, or some interesting story they have to share. You’ll be surprised to find yourself leaving there with so much more than you took in!


#5 – Adopt a pet from an animal shelter, where the really unwanted pets are dropped off. It could very well be a matter of life or death for a sweet, loyal, homeless animal, that just happens to be a bit old, or too much work for a busy someone, or any other myriad of reasons that pets get “surrendered” to a shelter. Need I say more?


Enough of my own wants. Let’s move on to what the rest of the world needs. These are not really things you can easily give, but you can pray, and encourage, and make little impacts here and there.


A sense of humor – Have you ever delivered a perfect one-liner, setting someone up for a hilarious comeback, and all you get is a blank stare, or a response indicating that your wittiness went flying way over their head? It happens to me a lot. I have a few regular comebacks to things that people say often, like, “Sorry about your wait.” I hear that all the time at restaurants, stores, etc. I always respond with this, “Oh, don’t feel bad…I’m quite happy with my weight.” Some people laugh and laugh, and some people look at me with one of those blank, speechless, “I have no idea what she’s talking about” stares, and I realize that my wittiness has gone soaring right over their somber little heads. Often, I make things up on the spur of the moment. At a local amusement park’s winter festival, I went up to a young man at a booth where large wreathes were being sold and I said, “I’m just wondering what you think….should I buy my wreathe before or after I ride the roller coaster?” Man, he coulda’ flew with that one. I’m talking budda-bing, budda boom. But no, he very seriously replies, “Oh, you can do it either way. I can hold it right here for you while you ride the new coaster.” Sigh……poor child! One of my goofier friends always had a response to that. She would actually say, “I know what I’m getting you for Christmas…a sense of humor!” I’m not really blaming people for not getting my humor. Not everyone is going to be a match for me in the wittiness arena. All I’m saying is, there are funny things all around us, and some people have forgotten how to laugh. Let’s pray for everyone to lighten up a little!!


Better vision – Not eye vision, but soul vision – I’m talking about the habit of being focused in, so much, on your own little world, that selfishness and anger and combativeness have taken over your means of interacting with others, whenever you don’t get every little thing that you like to think you are entitled to. Way too many people fall into this category.IMG_3376.JPG

Compassion – we’ve seen a lot of this displayed lately, in the midst of widespread devastation from natural disasters and displays of deadly violence, but, we see just as much of the other side of the coin – anger and blaming and mocking. God, please fill our hearts with compassion!!

I think I’ve given you plenty of suggestions to work with in the days ahead. Don’t worry if you don’t have this all wrapped up in time for Christmas day. 😉 This is something you can work on/pray for/plug away at every day throughout the Christmas season and into the coming year. And, if you do get a gift for me, from the list above, please leave a comment, and tell me about it. It will fill my heart with the joy of the season. And my wish for you is to experience that same joy! I wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas.


A Seasonal Song for You


This time of year, some of us are walking on eggshells, wondering if we are “allowed” to wish people a “Merry Christmas.” Is it more proper to say “Season’s Greetings,” or “Happy Holidays,” or perhaps, “Bah, humbug!”? I got news for ya’ folks. If it weren’t for Christmas, there would be no seasonal greetings needed, and also no holidays to be happy about. The “season” was built a long, long time ago, around Christmas! Yeah, there’s New Year’s Day, but…who cares about that?! This lowly holiday gets top billing only because it happens to come a week after Christmas, which is the holiday, and the reason for the “season!!” And folks have been using those different seasonal greetings for years, and they all refer mainly to Christmas, followed by that humble holiday who just happened to be lucky enough to tag along with the Star! (the Star……get it?!) When folks use those salutations of Season’s Greetings and/or Happy Holidays, they are, in fact, wishing you a Merry Christmas anyway…they just don’t realize it.

Here’s what it boils down to – you can offer to me whatever you like, by way of seasonal greeting, and I will sincerely thank you, and then wish you a Merry Christmas, BUT, I will only say that when Christmas is really here. Because here’s the next big surprise that will cause a wedgie in your “holiday” PJ’s…Christmas starts at midnight on Christmas Eve! It didn’t start shortly after Halloween, when the stores immediately clearanced the left-over Trick-or-Treat candy and set out the Christmas sweets, decorations, gift bags, Santa hats, Christmas socks, etc, etc. And, it didn’t start on Black Friday, when people got up hours before the sunrise and started the mad rush to buy gifts for everyone on their list. Nope! Christmas starts on the anniversary (or at least the date that has been traditionally celebrated, for nearly 2000 years, as the anniversary) of the birth of our Lord and Savior.


So, while you’re all biting your tongue wondering what greeting to offer, I ask you to consider this new approach. Greet people within the confines of the correct season. I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to be doing. When someone tosses any of the above mentioned good wishes my way (or offers a greeting for any other holiday of their choosing), I am going to respond with this gem, “And a blessed Advent to you!” I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but, this little idea finally found a way to get my attention, and I am groovin’ on this ingenious concept! I no longer have to worry about whether or not to say Merry Christmas, because…., IT’S ADVENT!!


I have spent the past few days standing in front of the mirror, practicing this response, and I think I have it down pat now. “A blessed Advent to you!” I even made up a little song, just for fun, and in the spirit of the season, I’m sharing it with you.


I Wish You a Blessed Advent

(sung to the tune of, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)


I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

I wish you a bless-ed Advent,

Cuz it’s not Christmas yet.


Slow down and take time

To truly employ,

The gift of a holy Advent

And the coming of Joy!

(repeat refrain)


That was my early Christmas gift to you and, yes, I am still allowed to say the word Christmas – I’m not being a tyrannical scrooge, here! If you go Christmas caroling, go ahead and sing the word Christmas at the top of your lungs, but just keep in mind, we’re still waiting for Christmas to arrive. Once it does, I’ll be wishing people a Merry Christmas for at least a couple of weeks, maybe even until Epiphany, and folks will look at me like I’ve lost my marbles, not even realizing that they are being liturgically incorrect by packing the Christmas albums away the day after Christmas! At any rate, right now, in December, we should all be preparing our hearts to genuinely rejoice and celebrate the birthday of Jesus at the proper time. And that, my friends, is what this season of Advent is all about – not shopping, not parties, not gift exchanges, not decking the halls….just waiting, and watching, in the still of the night, as though we were lowly shepherds in the field, always on the alert for the sound of angel voices. They always come when you least expect them, but only if you find a quiet place, and take the time to listen. So….embrace your own holy and blessed Advent, while there’s still time.