Tonight, we celebrated our baby boy’s first birthday!  We had a special evening together as a family- I would say it was a “quiet” evening, as it was just the three of us, but anywhere Joey is, there are instruments, squeals, and lots of clapping…there is nothing quiet about this little boy!  Joey had his first cinnamon roll ever and loved it, of course (like father, like son!).  For his gift, we gave him a big, red bean bag chair, and he was absolutely ecstatic.  The excitement in his face and the wild giggles as he tried to climb up the plush bean bag was the most wonderful thing.  Watching the joy in his eyes and hearing him cheer with delight gave us so much joy and satisfaction as his parents.  We had no idea how much fun he would have with this bean bag chair!  It made me think of what Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:11:

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

Later on in the evening, we let Joey open the advent box for today, and the word was “Gift”.  How perfect a word on our little boy’s birthday.  Not only did he open his gifts tonight, but Jamie and I celebrated the incredible gift our little son is in our lives.  As Joey sat on my lap and held the paper with the world “gift” on it, I talked to him about what a gift he is to us…I also told him about gratitude, and how thankful he should be for his birthday gifts (I know, you’re thinking “He’s only one! And you’re trying to explain all this to him?!” But I believe it is important to speak truth to little ones, because before we know it, they aren’t little any more and it’s those moments along the way when we have opportunity to teach life’s lessons…we never know how much their little minds are soaking in.) I also told him about the greatest gift of all- Jesus.  And of course as Jamie and I prayed over him tonight, on his first birthday, we prayed for him to one day commit his life to Jesus and receive the free gift of salvation. That is our greatest desire and dream for Joey.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15)
…The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
(Romans 6:23)
There is no greater gift than eternal life in Christ!  The gifts we gift during this time of year are just small pictures and symbols of the indescribable gift we have from God- salvation through Jesus!

I love giving gifts.  I’m not always an extravagant gift giver, but I love taking time to really think about something special for someone.  I definitely have more fun shopping for others than for myself (and my husband can’t argue as much with that type of shopping, ha!) It truly is more of a joy and blessing to give than to receive.  Of course we all love receiving gifts, too.  It is such a beautiful thing to see the light in children’s faces as they open their Christmas gifts- one of my favorite parts of Christmas every year is to see the excitement on my nieces’ and nephews’ faces as they wait to open gifts under the tree.  Ministries like Operation Christmas Child and Angel Tree are wonderful opportunities during the holidays to make sure children who are less fortunate have the chance to open gifts and receive the love of Christ.  I want to share a special, providential moment that Jamie and I experienced this holiday season- an encounter I will never forget.

On November 15th, I wrote this on my instagram and facebook post:

Incredible moment tonight…one of those when you get chills and just marvel at God’s providence.  So our family took a trip to Target to fill a shoebox for a little girl somewhere in the world through Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse. We had fun finding hair ties, a hairbrush, stickers, lip balm, a stuffed animal, socks, gloves, tissues, toothbrushes and floss, a necklace, pencils, pens, crayons, paper, water color paints, a water bottle, and other mini toys…I couldn’t believe how we packed it all in! But the most amazing thing happened at the checkout line. A beautiful woman from India was working at the cash register and commented on all the little items for a girl. I told her we were filling a shoebox for Christmas for a child somewhere in the world. With big eyes and a huge smile she excitedly told us that she had worked for an NGO in New Delhi, India where many poor children were, and every Christmas they received those very same shoeboxes! She told us how the children would wait with anticipation and would be so thrilled to open their boxes and show each other what they got! She said just the other day she spoke with the teacher there and the children are getting excited again this year with Christmas around the corner, knowing they will receive their shoeboxes soon! Wow. It just made the whole experience so personal, so real for me. She couldn’t say enough about how much those shoeboxes mean for those children…and we were just so excited to hear about her experience and her story. Tonight I am praying for that little girl somewhere in the world who will receive our shoebox, that God blesses her this Christmas with great joy and love in her heart. 

The Lord gives us opportunities to give gifts…and sometimes in the giving of those gifts, we receive incredible blessings and joy beyond what we expected.  Meeting that woman from India blew my mind that night- it was amazing to hear about her experience from the other side of the world and how special those shoeboxes really are to the children.  I’ve traveled the world and I’ve seen children in poverty- Nepal, The Philippines, The Dominican Republic, Uganda…but the Lord knew I needed to meet this precious woman in Target to remind me of how important these children are and really show me again how vital gift-giving is.  It made me so much more excited about our shoebox and eager to continue this tradition as a family every year so Joey can experience choosing the toys and items for a shoebox each Christmas.

We love because Christ first loved us.  We give, because He gave His life for us.  We receive His indescribable gift of salvation, and with overflowing gratitude, we long to give to others as a reflection of the gift He has bestowed upon our lives.  That’s what Christmas gifts are all about.

Let’s give with generous, grateful hearts this season.  Let’s look for unique opportunities to give- let’s think outside the box and really bless those around us- family, friends, even strangers…