We so love hearing from our friend Tana Carder. The sixth of sixteen children, thirteen of whom are adopted, Tana is very familiar with adoption, needless to say!
Many years ago, I gave my three or four year old nephew a multi-tool. It was not a real multi-tool, but a toy replica that cost me about two dollars at Big Lots. I was a financially poor (but rich in family) college student so it was what I could afford, but it was still a very small amount. I figured my gift would get lost or broken or tossed aside like many of the small toys of early childhood, and that was okay. It did get broken, but we fixed it. More than once. Because even though it was just a cheap toy, my nephew loved it. He carried it for years, fixing things, fighting off imaginary bad guys, or having it his pocket ‘just in case’ like men do. I think he may have eventually passed it on to a younger cousin. At any rate, that tiny gift that cost me very little lasted a lot longer than I expected it to.
I was thinking about that toy a few days ago because in December, I think a lot about gifts and giving. We give a lot of gifts to our children, as our Father gives to us. They’ll likely remember the big ones- loving parents, siblings, shelter, being introduced to Jesus as Savior. They may even remember some of the occasional gifts that really stood out- the dress your daughter really loved, the watch handed down from father to son for generations, etc. But what about the tiny gifts that cost you almost nothing? Five extra minutes to snuggle at bedtime. A cheerful greeting in the morning, even though you haven’t yet had any coffee. I know, sometimes these gifts can cost you a lot emotionally, a kind tone when you feel like giving a sharp response can be difficult. But most of the time they take very little effort or energy, and we parents don’t know the impact one of these little, honoring gifts is having.
I sometimes greet my children in the morning by saying, “Good morning! I’m happy to see you!” It sounds cheesy, especially since I am not a morning person, but I mean it. Maybe it doesn’t resonate with them at all, just like I expected that toy to have little lasting value. Or maybe it’s sitting quietly in their hearts, “I make Mama happy just by showing up in the morning,” and speaking into their spirits that they are worthwhile people. It’s possible that the occasional extra five minutes to snuggle or talk at bedtime is just my little boy procrastinating, and maybe he won’t remember that sometimes I stayed when we both knew I had other things to do. Or maybe he’ll do the same thing for my grandchildren one day, whispering into their hearts, “You are loved. You are worth my time. You are more important than the tasks waiting for me.” Maybe these things are tools to carry around ‘just in case’ this world manages sometime to make them feel worthless. I hope so.
My prayer for you, dear parents, is that this Christmas, as you’re focusing on the big gifts--Jesus’ birth, time with family, special traditions kept, and memories made--you are mindful of the little gifts, and the riches our generous heavenly Father can turn them into for our children.