Playing With The Boxes


I love when babies and toddlers get gifts, only to then resort quickly to playing with the paper and the boxes that they came in. It’s a great illustration of most kids (and adults) who expect gifts at Christmas to be the gift of all gifts, even by the one giving the gift…all the more to see the paper and boxes become more treasured and enjoyed than the gift itself. This inevitable distraction has always intrigued me; the objects of lesser value become the most valuable and entertaining, i.e., not the intended gift.

My kids (and sometimes myself and other adults) have the tendency to get stuck on the wrong things about the gifts, as promoted in our culture of “gimme, gimme, gimme more” – um, no thank you, Britney Spears. Now that our brood is 4-strong, I am convinced more than ever of our decision about gift-giving at Christmas was the right one for us. I have grown up with the knowledge that it is in the work of our hands that the quality and integrity of our heart and mind are put on display. What do my children see when they think of my hands?  How have my hands served, reached, comforted, encouraged, provided, and suffered? Did they see me “playing with the boxes” with the unintended happenings of day-to-day life?

As parents, we have to determine what decisions are necessary to implement our vision for our family, and then help each other move in that direction. Change is hard to accept sometimes, but understanding our children’s needs and their motivations can make it tolerable and less difficult. We know the ultimate sign of what we’re teaching our kids is what happens when we are not there.

Our vision is to grow generosity and contentment – in both our children and ourselves. We do our best to model these values and invest our time in the things that will leave a legacy when our influence as parents is less. This is how we reached the “just 1 gift” idea. Yep, our kids get 1 gift. That’s it. We decided that Christmas was truly about celebrating THE 1 gift that ever mattered…Jesus.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). Jesus is the ultimate gift, and is the one and only thing I wish for others to receive.

I am filled with joy knowing the vision of growing generosity toward others through giving of one’s heart, mind, and hands is being cultivated in our home. I asked Quentin to tell me something he has done this year that showed generosity and he aptly came up with several things his hands have done like giving food to several food drives, singing Christmas carols at The Daily Bread, doing a craft activity at The Arc of Central Virginia, donating clothes to house fire survivors, and raising $24 for a day of freedom for girls trapped in slavery in Thailand and “running for their lives.”  I think of these things as “playing with the boxes” in that the more meaningful things in life are able to grab our attention. In those moments, we see humanity for the beauty it is.

Contentment is a fickle thing and my prayer is to keep my eyes focused (Hebrews 12:2).  My hope for you and your family is that Christmas Day will be filled with wonderful, amazing new memories in which you truly enjoy the gift of each other! Share the love of Christ with each other and remember what’s most important – the intangible things that fill you with gratitude and contentment knowing that 1 gift is enough. And, if you have the opportunity, go ahead and play with the paper and boxes 🙂


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