Meaning over “Must-haves” – a Holiday Gift Perspective

My sister-in-law gives great compliments, and the favorite of hers to me is that I have such meaningful decorations in my home. She has marveled at it more than once. So I thought, what a perfect time to share how and why I try to seek meaning over this season’s “must-have” gifts.

Custom Print from Garden Market Studio on Etsy

Now that Black Friday and the rush of the first shopping weekend of the season are over, you are probably like me… making a stock of what gifts you still need to get and trying to make a game plan.

I thought I could share a few thoughts on Instagram about how to find meaning in many places, but my list began to grow too big for a single post. So my hope today is to perhaps help someone find the perfect gift, big or small. Because even if those you love do not prefer the love language of gifts, there are still ways to love them the way they need. Here are a handful of thoughts I had on the matter.

What makes meaningful gifts so important for fostering love and friendship?

Meaningful Gifts show you are paying attention, (or that you are thinking ahead). When we make time to think about the perfect gift for someone, it really shows you are paying attention in their life. When we know enough to know what would be meaningful or personal, it shows love to the person and makes the gift more about them than about your ability to spend. For this reason, gifts can range in value. This is a way that a gift card can have meaning. It helps fill a need and it shows your attentiveness. Giving of your time or talents can be a great way to serve during the holidays. I recommend actually scheduling the help or other service, rather than to just offer. We have all given our parents “coupons” as kids, but actually following through shows you really mean it. If you want to give your mom friend an hour to herself while you watch her kids, don’ t just say you can do it anytime, ask when you can do it this week. Most of us wont ask. Be persistent 😉

Meaningful Gifts can be about finding the diamond in the rough. One of my favorite decorations in my kitchen is a frame of one of my favorite scriptures, Jacob 5:48-50, next to a plate with an olive tree on it. Jacob 5 is known as the the Allegory of the Olive Tree. That plate was part of a line that also included four other plates, each with a fig, an artichoke, olives, and an olive branch. The tree plate was the least popular. No one wanted it. But to me, it was the best. It reminded me of my favorite passage and serves as a great reminder on my kitchen wall both of the love of God and his desire to gather all his branches. And the endless metaphors that can be found in food and plants through out the scriptures. Just because it was a small, $9 plate, doesn’t mean it can’t still be of great impact. The clearance section has even been a great place I have found hidden gems.

Meaningful Gifts can still be simple. There are no shortage of deals for holiday scented soaps and lotions. And I have received more than one over my lifetime, especially as a teen. But these sorts of gifts can still be meaningful. If you do see a perfect “grab and go gift” like these, take a moment to contemplate the perfect scent. I suffer from very dry hands and receiving any sort of extra strength lotion turns what could have been an okay gift into a great one.

Meaningful Gifts can still be a “must-have” gift that everyone is raving about. The Christmas of 2017 was the first time the Instant Pot was available in retail stores. At the time I was working in retail and 6 months pregnant with twins. A few of my co-workers pitched in to buy me one for my birthday–but not because it was the newest gadget–but because it was something that could help make preparing meals for my family (that was about to double) much faster. They also know I love to cook and bake. Meaning isn’t about not being like everyone else, it is about why you pick a gift.

Me with my generous co-workers

Meaningful gifts can still be big (and/or expensive). My husband’s boss got married this past summer and we wanted to get something nice from his registry. But it can be hard to find meaning, especially if the registry has been picked over. So we settled on a large serving platter and a pair of tongs. We elevated the gift by providing a few of my favorite summer salads and homemade dressings they could prepare and serve in their dish. Not only was this gift more personal, it help create opportunities for memories and deepening their marriage, but also my husband’s friendship with his boss.

Meaningful gifts can be inexpensive, but don’t have to be homemade or cheap. One of my favorite things to gift someone is a meaningful quote or picture from a shop on Etsy. There are many shops and that can help you tailor a gift that is just right. I have found things from adorable children’s artwork, meaningful religious quotes, to classy Office quotes. Think about the person you care for and see the world of possibilities out there to bring a smile to their face. This can even work for anyone who finds themselves needing a last minute gift. Many shops offer a instant download. You can type a nice email to go along with it, and have a local family member print the letter and print for you. (And if you offer to pay to get it printed professionally, just be sure to follow through ;-))

Meaningful gifts don’t have to be an object. In a world of Marie Kondo, it can be daunting to want to buy loved ones things. Because what if your gift doesn’t spark joy?! One of my favorite gifts to receive and to give is a gift of time, service, or togetherness. They can help create more lasting memories than the latest gadget could. Consider gifting a weekend away to a weary mother. Consider gifting a couple a night on the town. Consider gifting your mother-in-law a fabulous massage. Consider choosing to find ways to serve together as a way to create memories. Sometimes time together and memories made can have far more meaning than a tangible gift.

Meaningful gifts can be the beginning of a tradition. When a baby was born or someone got married in my mom’s family, my grandmother would knit a Christmas stocking for them. Over the years the red’s didn’t always match, but what may have started as something small to mark the holiday, have become a crucial memory for all of family on my mom’s side. Similarly, my mom used to put a Christmas orange in ours. But when my husband and I were dating, we ate a lot of grapefruits. We have kept the spirit of my family tradition, but made it our own by now putting grapefruits in our stockings.

Meaningful gifts can elevate something you already own. Framing a favorite picture, showcasing a family heirloom, or arranging a photo wall can help make a house a home and showcase memories or items of family importance. I have my great grandmothers rolling pin on the wall, along with a letter of her telling me about it’s history. She gave it to me as a wedding present, but it wasn’t until I knew about it’s first owner and her life that I wanted to display it in my kitchen. It still brings meaning to my home, and reminds me of family.

Meaningful gifts can be meaningful for more than one person. Several years ago in Relief Society we did an activity where we modge podged Christmas paper onto a PEACE wood cut out for Christmas. I made each set different, but made one for each separate family in our extended family. I choose paper that I thought they would like and I included my testimony of Christ is in. The A was actually a manger and I talked about how Christ should be at the center of our holidays. Giving meaningful gifts doesn’t mean you have to get every one a different something special. Sometimes it becomes special because of the care and thought you put into it.

Meaningful gifts can be a way of encouraging those you love to reach for their dreams or for you to support their hobbies. A few years ago, I had this yearning to learn to play cello. My husband got me a rented cello for Christmas. I was ecstatic and touched at the same time. He had listend to a desire of mine and made special effort to help me follow through when I hadn’t had the courage. I played for three months and really enjoyed it, it just was the wrong time in my life to really dedicate the needed time to it, but the gift was such a boost to how my husband loved and supported me. Several years ago, my brother expressed interest in becoming a school teacher. So to encourage him in such a meaningful career path, (and how him I was paying attention) I sent him a few different DVD’s – all of my favorite teacher movies. It was my way of saying I knew he could make just a big of difference as those teachers.

Lastly, Meaningful gifts begin with the person, not with the object. This can make gift giving more time consuming or even more stressful, but ultimately more rewarding. And I am in no way trying to pressure you to find the perfect gift for everyone in your life. But just to start with the person. My mom loves popcorn, so when I saw a popcorn sampler, I knew it was perfect for her. I began searching for things she loves, that would fit her, rather than hoping she would like was on sale. And sometimes, even giving a gift at all can mean much to a new friend who may not have been expecting your gesture. And it assures her of your fondness towards her.

Rather than thinking about who you can give this great deal of a gift to, think about a person as you shop; what gift will make them smile and know you have been thinking of them? Choose meaning over this season’s “must-haves.”

One caution: Do not overthink it. I have talked myself into a complicated special gift, only to not have time to pull it off and then find myself falling short. Most of us don’t want or even need an extravagant gift. Most years, for me, I would rather have small gifts and a thoughtfully written letter. Meaningful doesn’t have to cause you stress. Just follow your feelings. And find a way to express them. Similarly, shopping can become routine and even rushed. Be sure to use meaning and love as your motivation, rather than obligation and pressure to spend.

Christmas is a time to show gratitude, love, and service. It is a time to build meaningful traditions and reflect on the things learned over the year. Year, after year, the most meaningful gifts for me have been the letter attached to the gift. One year my husband had all my friends write me letters and put it in a nice box for me. I still refer to it often. Meaningful words is part of my love language. And those around me know that. If you are feeling inadequate wanting to get a more personal gift, talk to your friend or family member. You can still create meaning even if you have to ask, Showing attentiveness to those you love could be just the jolt of love you need to enjoy the gift giving, rather than get caught in the consumerism of it all, thinking you have to have the next big thing. Because really, the biggest things we have are each other and our Savior Jesus Christ. I hope you can find meaning in big and small places with those you love. Merry Christmas!

I linked a few shops and small businesses above, and that can be one of my favorite parts of meaningful gifts–they often end up supporting small businesses. Here are a few of my favorite shops and gifts this season. Happy gifting!

Line upon Line has journaling editions of the New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants in a variety of colors. You can have a name custom embossed on the cover. Great as a family gift or for individuals going into the New Year as we study the Book of Mormon. They recently released the Primary edition of the Book of Mormon, just for kids, even with coloring sections! And even more recently they released sets of stickers!

Work + Wonder is the creator the very first General Conference workbook. Pre-orders don’t usually happen until a month or two before conference. But they will soon release pre-orders for their very first issue of the WrkWndr Collective Quarterly Magazine. And if you are looking for something a little smaller, they provide a free download of the latest General Conference talks. It even has wide margins for notes. You can have it print and bound for a great gift!

Milk and Honey Market I love this company so much. They provide great content on Instagram, but also create a space to help other mothers build their ministry at home. They recently released new products for the holidays. Some of my favorites are their prints, mugs, t-shirts and sweatshirts, and more recently cell phone cases. Their Church Bag tote bag is a must have! But what I have my eye on is their Homemaker’s Tool Belt Apron. A great thoughtful gift for any mother building the kingdom in their home.

The Small Seed is a non-denominational Christian company with incredible resources, both paid and free. They have tens of free downloads, and some paid. They recently released a Rooted in Christ Journal Pack, great for corralling and keeping your study focused. There is something for everyone here.

Multiply Goodness is a Christian company hoping to build connections across faith traditions. You can purchase their quarterly study guides and do them on your own, while following along with the daily devotionals on IGTV, or you can even start a local small group for discussion. They also do events for women of faith.

Loom Journals has created a revolutionary parent-child journal that can be a great way to connect with your child, and create a record of memories. They come in a variety of colors. Their recently released couple journal can help bring such connection in your marriage. I already ordered mine, and I cannot wait!

Ampelis Life brings together some of the minds behind these other companies and they have created a company to help women find meaning in their lives. They are hosting a retreat Jan 10 in Utah and have been talking about some of the great things they have yet to share, some of which include a planner and an app. They focus is to move away from to do lists and to find and make a life that has more meaning.

What a perfect last thought. A meaningful gift could be to help some one in your life find their way to a more meaningful life.

Merry Christmas. What companies can you not stop talking about? I want to hear!

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