The Art of Gift-Giving

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Image by Sparrow's Flight Photography; Words by Katie Kline

I would have never guessed that my secondary love language was receiving gifts as I hate surprises and often feel disappointed by the gifts I am given. Which probably has more to do with the fact that my primary love language is quality time than the actual gift itself. I have found that the best gifts come from those who reciprocate my need for quality time and use that to their gift-giving advantage. You probably know someone who's love language is receiving gifts and can help fill their love tank by finding a great gift to make them feel noticed. Some of you might be excellent gift-givers and really love the hunt for the perfect gift to give someone you love, but others might not know where to even begin. So here is a little direction from someone who's love language is receiving gifts on how to choose a gift that tells them how much you love them.

Listen for Clues
There is no better way to learn what kind of gift someone would like to receive than to spend time with them getting to know their likes and dislikes. Listen to what they talk about. Are they currently working on any goals or projects? Are they planning any trips or planning to attend any events? What is their favorite show, author, or band? If you listen closely you might be able to come up with some ideas of something they might like as a gift. This does not have to be so cut and dry, like oh, you like this show, so I will get you some kind of fan paraphernalia. But you can take that idea and look for something that hints at the show or is within the theme of the show or band. For example, my brother and sister-in-law who give me the best gifts recently gave me a planner from Joanna Gaine's Target collection. This gift is perfect because I love Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna, and I love writing down and organizing my thoughts. 

Pay Attention to Interest
Paying attention to what they like to do or what items they like to own is always a good place to start. The next time you visit them at home, make a mental list of some things that are around their home. What do they like to decorate with? What kind of toys are their kids playing with? What kind of books do they like to read? If you notice that their kids own wood toys, a plastic musical toy would not be an appropriate gift. If they only decorate with live plants and candles, then a decorative sign or ceramic figure might not be for them.

Ask for More Detail
If you have taken notice to their love of candles, it doesn't hurt to ask for more detail on the type of scents they like or what kind of wax they prefer. While they might enjoy burning candles, they might be sensitive to certain smells or waxes. Sweet food scents nauseate me while paraffin wax gives me a headache, so a sugar cookie Yankee candle would not make a good gift even though I like to burn candles, but a lavender candle made from beeswax would be a wonderful surprise. It never hurts to ask more detail to get the gift just right and give them something they will really be able to use. It could be as simple as learning what color they prefer or whether they like milk chocolate or dark chocolate.

Give Functional Wants with Positive Gain
When in doubt it is always best to live by this method of gift giving. Give an item that can be used by them for a positive gain. Whether that is a gift card to their favorite coffee shop and an offer to watch the kids so she can have an hour of quiet time or a bath bomb and bottle of wine for a relaxing soak in the tub. While decorative objects are nice, receiving a gift that has an opportunity for self-care is even better and the best kind of gifts to give to someone who's love language is receiving gifts. These types of gifts are also great for random acts of gift-giving that are not connected to a holiday or birthday. It could be something simple like picking up their favorite drink before visiting them or cooking them their favorite meal when you know they are going through a stressful time. Gifts should not be something that solves a problem. It goes without saying that someone who is conscious about their weight would not enjoy a weight loss supplement or a book on dieting as a gift.  Therefore, giving a gift that offers a solution to another problem does not make a great gift. If your spouse complains about a certain task around the house, getting a new appliance or tool is not a birthday present that will make them feel loved because it might relay the message that you don't want to listen to them complain, when really they need your sympathy and understanding and a gift that takes their mind off of the stress it brings them. 

Take Time to Consider Options
It's fun to grab a gift for someone when you see something that reminds you of them while you are shopping, but depending on when you are giving it to them and how much it costs, it might be better to skip it and take more time to consider your options. Birthday presents and holiday gifts deserve time and deep consideration. You know when that day is coming, so plan in advance to take time looking for the best gift rather than rushing to find a gift that will do. Make a list of gift ideas and explore your options for each. If you have something in mind or are trying to choose between your options, dig deeper and ask them for more details or listen for clues. The time spent finding the gift is almost as important as the gift itself because it tells the person that you really put thought into what would make them happy and that makes them feel loved. 

Make it Special
Sometimes the way a gift is wrapped or the way a gift is presented makes all the difference. Flowers are always better when they come with a thoughtful note. A gift does not have to be expensive if it is presented in a surprising way, like a new dress for an upcoming date night that is hung in the closet with a compliment attached like "You are beautiful. I can't wait for our date!" Maybe a gift card in a new book with a note of "Take the night off and enjoy your new book! I'll watch the kids tonight." Take time to wrap a Christmas present in festive gold wrapping and deck it out with ribbon. The time spent wrapping the gift is as important as the time spent choosing the gift. 

Understanding Miscarriage

Image by Sparrows Flight Photography  -  Interview by Katie Kline

Image by Sparrow's Flight Photography; Interview by Katie Kline

There is something about miscarriage that sends a ping of fear, sadness, and shame down a woman's spine. Whether they have walked through that journey or know someone who has, there is a lot that needs to be understood about miscarriage and where God is during that time.
I found myself not knowing what to say to someone who has experienced a miscarriage, because I myself have not had one. I have heard other people say certain things before in attempts to comfort someone, but I never knew whether they were truly the right things to say or if they were comforting at all. And I bet you know the things I'm talking about. "Well at least it happened early" or some recent statistic about how many pregnancies end in miscarriage or one that was my go to prior to learning more, "It will happen in God's timing." 
In an attempt to learn more about miscarriage and the feelings someone is struggling through in the process, I reached out to a friend and asked her to answer these questions when she was ready to do so. Because miscarriage is sensitive and I want to respect her privacy, I'm not going to name her.

 

Share with us the emotions you felt after finding out you were miscarrying.
Shocked. Though I knew early pregnancy loss was fairly common, especially for a first pregnancy, I had never once considered the possibility that it could happen to me. Betrayed. By my own body, and by the Giver of Life Himself...why plant a little soul in my womb only to carry it home just weeks later? Confused. Pregnancy loss, especially as early on as ours was, is such a complicated grief. We'd only known about our little one for a few short weeks, and no one had really gotten to "know" his or her little self. We'd never heard a heartbeat or felt movement or seen a little body on the ultrasound screen. It almost felt fake. I knew many of my friends didn't understand why I was so upset. At times I even felt guilty for grieving...and then I'd feel guilty for that.


Did you struggle to feel God's love during this time?
YES. I knew His love was real and I felt His grace sustaining me, but I found myself not WANTING to believe that there could be any love or any goodness in the wake of my baby's death.


Who did you seek support from and how did they comfort you?
I leaned heavily on my husband...since he was the only person in the world who "knew" our baby as well as I did. With no one else to reminisce with, like you do after the death of someone that family and friends got to meet in the flesh, the grief is extra lonely. In addition, I reached out to friends who I knew had experienced and truly mourned the loss of a child en utero, for empathy and camaraderie. I was introduced to the Lancaster Garden of Hope and its signature statue of Jesus cradling a tiny baby while holding the baby's mother hand brought me so much peace and joy in the midst of my sorrow. 


Was it hard to trust God's plan?
This wasn't as hard for me as feeling His love. I knew that He would bring beauty from it, like He had proven Himself to me in other dark valleys of my life, and that joy WOULD come in the morning. Imagining that my baby had opened his/her eyes for the first time to see Jesus and that he/she was being well cared for by those in Heaven who knew my husband and I brought me immeasurable comfort.


Share with us your journey to becoming pregnant again.
It was thirteen long months before the Lord opened my womb and allowed us to conceive again, and every negative pregnancy test during that time compounded my feeling of loss. What if that had been my only chance to carry a child? I also knew that finding out that I was pregnant again would be shadowed by worry and fear, and felt anguish at the loss of innocence and joy I had known the first time around but would never know again.


What would you share with someone who is currently experiencing the loss of a pregnancy?
I think it's impossible to know just the right thing to say, since it's something that affects different mothers in different ways. But what meant the most to me was when people acknowledged that my tiny raspberry baby was a human, our son or daughter, and that he or she had had life in my womb, been named and loved, and died, leaving us bereaved parents. Life does begin at conception. A baby is a member of the family immediately...not only at birth, not only at the so-called 12-week "safe mark."


How can we love on a family who is going through a miscarriage?
Treat the weeks following a miscarriage with the same respect as the postpartum period. Offer meals, and help with housework and errands, and time off from work and responsibilities and social obligations, so that both parents can heal and rest. Know that premature termination of pregnancy takes more of a toll on the body than most people acknowledge. 

Be sensitive to whether the family has a hard time seeing or being with others' children, especially young babies, and other pregnant women. Personally, celebrating with pregnant friends and holding others' babies was very comforting for me and distracting in the best possible way, but some women have a hard time with this as they are mourning what could have been.

Remember the baby's "due date" and acknowledge that the days and weeks surrounding it may contain another wave of grief for the parents as they think about the baby who should by now be in their arms. We had several dear, dear friends send flowers on what would have been my due date, and it was indescribably touching.

 

There should be no shame or embarrassment. A miscarriage is a loss of a life, and should be respected and treated the same as any other loss of life. Because I didn't know what was appropriate to say, I sometimes didn't say anything because I didn't want them to feel worse, but didn't know how to make them feel better. I learned after a few other friends shared about their miscarriages that sometimes the best thing to say is just "I'm sorry for your loss" and allow them to grieve. Bring flowers, offer a meal or a hug... just respect that they are grieving the loss of someone who was in their life, even for just a few weeks, but someone they had hopes and dreams for, someone who they already loved even though they have not technically met them yet. 

The 5 Love Languages of Our Children

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Words and Image by Jennifer Trovato

I remember coming across The 5 Love Languages and doing the little online test with my husband. We laughed at how totally different we are, but it helped us to be a little  more intentional about how we work on our relationship. Its so easy to go along and not really put time or effort into actually showing love to our spouse, but once you do, it changes the level of joy in your home. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "encourage one another and build each other up." Building into each other and investing time and energy into showing your love pleases the Lord. How much more so when we invest in understanding the ways the other significant people in our lives express and receive their love, namely, our children?

The 5 Love Languages (coined by Author Gary Chapman) are often referenced with couples or relationships as a way of identifying how you personally most express and receive love. The five languages include: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical
touch.  I had only ever really thought about them in the context of my husband or close friends but was recently encouraged to think about them in reference to my children. I’ve noticed that my oldest son is very different from my daughter and that they both have different relationships with me, but I hadn’t really put it in terms of how they receive or show their love. After looking at the love languages, I immediately see how my son thrives on receiving words of affirmation and seems to love doing acts of service. My daughter loves spending quality time. Knowing these little pieces of them helps me to know what to hone in on when I’m feeling a little off with
them and it also helps remind me of their love for me, especially on those days when I take everything they do a little too personally. While of course this isn’t all encapsulating of who they are or how they act, it is really helpful to notice and study these things in our kids so we can love
them better. With my son, I try to actively compliment or encourage him whenever I can, even in tiny little things. With my daughter, I make sure that time I spend playing with her is on the ground and in character! Putting that effort into showing them love specifically in the way they
seem to thrive reminds me of the always active and overwhelmingly powerful love of God in my own life.

Scripture calls us to study and continue to learn the word so that we may better know God. We study and pray and read and speak the word so that our relationship with God might become more rich and full and loving. God has given us children as a blessing “a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). These little people have been put in our charge to be guided and fed and loved on and disciplined and enjoyed. Believe it or not, they will one day be fully potty trained, car driving, working, family of their own adults! We have a big responsibility on our hands in raising them, but we also have an amazing opportunity to get
to know these amazing people in a way that really gets to their hearts. In the same way that we study and learn about God in order to love him better, we need to study and learn about our children in order to love and serve them in a way that loves and thanks the Lord as well.

Finding Time for Quality Time

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Words by Sara Homm; Image by Christi Stoner

I'm sure we all can agree that life with children is busy.  As a new mama to my second baby, I am currently struggling with finding the time to spend quality time with both my babies.  I find myself constantly trying to balance my time with God,  my 2 month old, my 2 year old, my husband, the housework, the farm work, oh...and did I mention take time for myself?  It is hard!  I am sure every mama can agree that we need more time in the day.

I asked myself while writing this article, how can I start spending more quality time with God and my children.  I know I am guilty of spending too much time on social media.  It causes my attention to be divided.  I know there are more important things to focus on, yet I get sucked into the never ending news feed.  I believe a huge part of spending quality time with our children is having an undivided attention and being involved with what they are doing.  Be intentional with your time.  I know as a mama we have so much to do during the day.  Maybe quality time means setting aside an hour during the day to specifically play and interact with our children. The tasks of the day seem never ending, and before you know it, a whole day of changing diapers, feeding children, and house chores has consumed our day.  Did we spend any quality time with our God or our children?

Just as we need to spend quality time with our children, God also desires us to spend quality time with Him during each day.  Undistracted, intentional, quality time.  In the Bible, Jesus made a point to spend undistracted time with God.  Mark 1:35 says that Jesus "rising very early
in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed."  Even though Jesus was very busy, he still made sure to spend time with God the Father.  We need to make it our priority to be spending quality time with God and our children.  I know we are all busy, but so was Jesus.  How do we expect to "bear fruit" if we are not spending quality time with God?  "Apart from (God) we can do nothing." (John 15: 4-5)

This topic has certainly been a challenge for me.  Lets work together to be more attentive to the Spirit and our children.  Set aside designated time to spend with God and intentional activities with your precious babies!  I know this wont be easy but our babies are only little for so long!  Let's make the most of the time we have for what's important!