Presence over Presents

It’s the same struggle every single year. Come Christmas, I’m asking the same question. “What am I supposed to give?”

Somewhere, life forgot to give me a manual on gift-giving. A manual that would say the perfect gift for all the people on my list. In my college days, my friend and I Christmas shopped on Christmas Eve for my family. We had finished our shift at the restaurant where we worked, went to Walmart and did some good ole’ fashioned last-minute Christmas shopping.

It was late at night, and I still giggle when I think about the gifts I came home with for my family. A Christmas-themed M&M dispenser for my dad. (Does he love M&Ms? Not really. But it seemed liked a good idea at the time.) A bike chain for my teenage brother. Did he even ride his bike very much? Not really. But every boy should have a bike chain. Slippers for my mom who never wears slippers. But I figured that maybe if I bought her some, she would wear them. Wrong.

In their defense, my parents and siblings acted like they liked the gifts. They thanked me as I giggled and handed out gifts they never needed and would probably never use. Although, I must say…my dad hung on to that M&M dispenser for years. By the time I had children, it was still being brought out with their Christmas decor, with new M&Ms every year for my little ones to get treats at Mimi and Paw’s house. The thoughtless gift turned into a treasure over time.

It was a similar story last year. We have five children. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would start Christmas shopping in July for five children. Not me. It was two days before Christmas, and my husband asked over and over again what the gift-giving plan for the kids would be. I mostly ignored his questions until Christmas Eve came, and the questions about gifts for our kids were unavoidable. (Last-minute tickets to see “Les Miserables” at the Saenger was a WIN, by the way. They loved their night out in New Orleans at the theater and dinner. Thank you Saenger for that one.)

It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I really do.

It’s simply that I truly can’t ever figure out what the perfect gift would be. I think about the people I love, and my mind turns blank in the gift-giving department. It’s not just for Christmas; it’s birthdays, too. But Christmas involves all the people I love all at the same time, and it turns into one big overwhelming “what gift to give” session.

This year, I have vowed to change that. If you see me during this December month, ask me how it’s going. I did buy fuzzy slippers for my girls already. So that’s something. Right?

If I’m honest, I just want Christmas morning to be time together, laughter and a little break from the everyday. I want to read the greatest story of all time, remember the greatest gift ever given and remember a God who called us close.

How did the wise men decide what gift to bring to the newborn king? One gift for the greatest king of all time. What pressure that must have been, and how did they know? (Besides the obvious fact that they were wise men and had wisdom.)

But presence is better than presents.



Don’t buy me a thing if you’re not going to show up in my life. So we come to the king, giving ourselves, like he gave himself. He showed us how to give the greatest gift. This giving of ourselves is the greatest thing we could ever gift our loved ones. Being at their soccer games, watching their band perform, making it to their award ceremonies, playing cards at the house, sitting on the couch and reading together. We keep giving ourselves in a world saturated by too many things and not enough time.

I’ll still give some terrible gifts this Christmas. Of that, I’m pretty sure. But I’ll give good gifts all year long. I’ll say yes to kids who ask for one more game of spades. I’ll say yes to watching my girls perform their self-written living room plays. I’ll say yes to listening and leaning in when I want to ignore and clock out for the day. And maybe I’ll never have the perfect gifts for the ones I love. But if they know they’re loved, I’ll consider that the best gift I could give.