Many parents spend a lot of money to shower their children with gifts. Much of the time, the children tear into one after another and rush to see what else awaits.
When I was a little girl, a family we know went "all out" to spend on their children at Christmas. Okay, I'll admit I was a bit jealous and thought life was unfair at times. My friend had two new dolls and at least a half-dozen other gifts! I got one or two things, at most.
A few weeks later it was obvious the gifts next door weren't treasured, perhaps because they were so abundant. They'd been flung or tossed into corners, some were already broken or dumped on the trash pile out back. I was in shock!
Looking back, I'm thankful my parents couldn't afford to give like that. Not getting everything I wanted or thought I needed was a valuable lesson in the reality of life. Gifts are nice, but they have a short-term impact. Parental love and training, have a long-term effect on the lives of little people.
So what are the very best gifts we can give our children?
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ~
Children need to know they are loved no matter how much they accomplish (or don't accomplish), how badly they mess up or how tired and cranky they are. It would be cruel to withhold our love based on their behavior.
The Heavenly Father gives us the perfect example of unconditional love. He loves us even when we fail, when we stumble and when we whine. His love isn't based on performance. It is based on our relationship to Him. He will always be our Father, and we will always be His children.
This doesn't mean He ignores our tantrums and our poor conduct. Not at all! To let us act up in such a way would mean He is uninvolved or unconcerned about our behavior. What a blessing to know He is firm enough to correct us and yet gentle enough to hug us close when we confess our sins. Fellowship restored is the goal.
FOCUSED ATTENTION ~
How do we respond when *our* children need attention? If we seldom make eye contact when they speak or rarely turn around to see what they want to show us ... what message are we sending them? I'm just too busy to listen right now, or, What you want isn't all that important! How sad that must make children feel. How insignificant!
Aren't you glad our concerns also concern the Lord? He cares and is always available when we approach Him or cry out from a distance. Our Father knows where we are at all times, and He watches over us in love. Another amazing thing ... He is approachable and gives His focused attention to each of His children.
GOOD GIFTS ~
What is a good gift? Often, it is something the recipient truly needs. Sometimes, it is just a special item that is desirabld. We love to delight our children with good gifts, and we would never give them something we knew to be destructive or harmful ... would we?
It pays to consider if something on a child's wish list is really good for them. Popular items hawked in sale papers make a lot of money for the seller, but at what cost to our children? What our children see and read and imitate really do have an impact on their lives.
Every good gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights ..."
The Lord never gives something that will tempt us to stray or sin. Sometimes what He gives us may not seem very exciting or desirable at the time, but we can be assured it is for our good in the long run. Other times, we rejoice when a long-held wish is fulfilled in His perfect time.
Take, for instance, the fact we just had our first white Christmas in 21 years! While that may not seem very important to some of you -- to us here in Alabama, it was truly a beautiful gift. One to be treasured and enjoyed, photographed and discussed! ;-)
Remember, the very best gifts we give our children aren't always wrapped. They aren't always tangible and may not seem to be desirable at the time (warm socks and clothing aren't high up on kids' lists)... but they are always given with the good of the recipient in mind. Other gifts are wrapped and adorned with ribbons and bows, and that's okay, too.
The gifts we give our children will always be appropriate if we imitate our Heavenly Father in giving. He always chooses gifts that are good, appropriate, for our benefit and often for our delight! He also gives from a heart of love. As parents, we should do the same.