Our family participates in the [Advent Conspiracy]. The four tenants of [AC] are Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. For the past few years, we’ve been trying to find creative ways to give Christmas gifts that are gifts of presence, not just a present. In the days leading up to Christmas, I’ll be sharing some of these ideas with you.
When my nieces were visiting for Thanksgiving this year, we pulled out old photos and home movies to watch together. The girls (who are now 13 and almost 17) got a HUGE kick out of watching themselves when they were toddlers, and listening to the silly things they used to say. As I watched the girls watch themselves, I remembered a box of cassette tapes I have in the basement. Somewhere in that box is a recording of conversations I had with my oldest niece, Hannah, when she was about two years old. Also in that box is a recording of my mom (her grandmother), teaching her to recite the poem Twas the Night Before Christmas. I dug the box out, found the cassettes, and spent some time listening to them. The next time I was at Walmart, I did something I haven’t done in at least a decade: I bought a two-pack of cassettes! I transferred the recordings to a new tape, and I’m sending the cassette to my 17-year-old niece for Christmas. A recording of her talking with her deceased grandmother is a pretty priceless gift, and I hope she enjoys listening to it.
Want some other ideas on how to use your voice to give someone love? Here’s one: in the December 2011 issue of Real Simple magazine, there was a column asking readers the best gift they’ve ever given. One woman wrote this: “I recorded 30 of my favorite recipes onto an audio cassette so my mother, who suffered from macular degeneration, could try them. I included everything from chicken Marsala to cakes and cookies. She used it until her death, a decade later.” What a fantastic idea.
I’ve also used our cassette player to record messages to Dan from the kids. Periodically, we record some sort of silly song, personal interview, or greeting for Dan. We keep adding to this tape, so he has a record of their voices from very young to current times. Dan’s car still has a cassette player, and I leave the cassette on his dashboard sometimes before he leaves for work. He listens to the newest recording during his commute.
Oh, and while we’re talking cool ideas to do with recordings of your voice, how about leaving a voice mail for your loved one at work or on their cell phone? Call when you know they won’t answer, and leave a message about why you love them or what they mean to you. You could call on the day of an important meeting and record a prayer to encourage them. Or for a year-long Christmas gift, make a standing appointment on your calendar every Sunday night in the new year and leave a good morning message to greet your loved one first thing on Monday mornings.
Now back to my nieces and one of the other priceless gifts I’m sending them. They are at the age where they want cash or gift cards for Christmas. I’m sending them envelopes with some cash to satisfy their spending urges a little, but I’m not sending as much as I have in years past. I’m setting some aside so I can send the girls Living Water International gift cards.
These gifts are pretty cool, because the recipient gets to go online and choose how the money is spent. The back of the card says, “When you redeem this gift card, you get to choose what part of the world it changes. Celebrate Christmas the way God did. Redeem!”
And THAT is a pretty awesome way to celebrate Christmas.