6 gifts to give yourself this holiday season

Christmas in New Jersey and I have the grands all to myself for a few days while The Parents meet up with The Aunt & Uncle in a place that involves sunglasses, fun T-shirts and odd-looking ears (hint: Orlando).


Photo credit: Unsplash


Christmas gift-giving for the last couple years has been intentionally simple. Gifts for the grandchildren, and warm, fuzzy, soft knitted creations for the beautiful women in my life. Oh, and a very generous gift I gave to myself this year.

Actually, 6 very generous gifts — things we can all give to ourselves:

1. The gift of travel to where there are people who love us.

My goal, when possible, is to be with loved ones at times that are most important — holidays, weddings, births, graduations, MMA black belt tests. Being present and engaged isn’t just a gift we give to whoever we’re present and engaged with; it’s also a gift we give ourselves. As we work on the relationship-strengthening thing, it eventually comes back around.

2. The gift of being in service.

Confession: Part of the blame for The Parents being absent is mine. Daughter Summer and SIL Josh’s anniversary is mid-December, and I’m the one who shooed them away since they don’t get overnight-kid-breaks unless there’s a grandparent present. Here’s how being in service is a gift to us: By doing something in love for someone else, we give ourselves deep, overpowering, crazy joy.


Photo: Doug Oines


3. The gift of making memories.

The cool thing about memories is they can’t be taken from us. The photo above was taken by a family friend at his Pennsylvania home. After the photo session, he and his wife had pizza delivered for lunch. And then he pulled out his nyckelharpa and played a beautifully-rich melody. And he let The Littles—and some of the bigger people in the family—try their skills on this Swedish musical instrument that resembles a fiddle. Which means the photo above isn’t just a photo; it’s resonant with memory.

And then there was the evening trip to Barnes & Noble where The Littles’ classmates and teachers and principal were assembled for book-reading and a book scavenger hunt and peppermint-hot-chocolate-drinking. Who needs Disney World when there’s Barnes & Noble?



Photo credit: Marlys


Tip: Be sure to shoot too many photos so memories bubble back up to the surface later on.

4. The gift of creating adventure.

The Littles and I ventured out to see a live nativity scene one evening. Groups of 50 at a time were led to each of the eight stations. Sheep in a wooden-staked pen, shepherds huddled around a bonfire, angels on a hillside, the town of Bethlehem with its noisy street vendors and Roman soldiers on foot and horseback, an innkeeper turning away a young pregnant couple, a manger scene with barnyard animals, Herod’s court, three wise men leading a camel.



Photo credit: Marlys


I think the Christmas story has come more alive for The Littles who had so many questions about why those people were sitting around a bonfire, and where did the angels come from, and why was the king yelling, and could they pet the camel.

Had we stayed indoors out of the finger-numbing cold, we would have been more comfortable, considerably warmer, no standing around waiting for the next scene to unfold. And no memorable adventure.

5. The gift of self-talk.

Sometimes it’s easier to stay home because we have cancer and we’re on a special diet and it’s an imposition to the hostess. Or we’re widowed, single, older, slower and don’t want to be in the way.

And sometimes we can play the *It’s-their-turn-to-visit* game. When that happens, I think we should consider each situation. For example, I’ve traveled more frequently to Jersey than Jersey has come to me. But there are eight in the Jersey family. And it’s 2,396 miles for them to drive to me. Or 8 airplane tickets at a bazillion dollars total. And so I’m not counting who owes whom a visit.

Practice saying after me: “It’s their turn to come see me, but it’s easier for me to travel to them.” “These people want me here; I am not a fifth wheel.” “My doctor said I can travel, and my parents/ children/ siblings/ cousin/s friends really do want to see me.”

6. The gift of gratitude.

This season, even without Hubby, so much to be grateful for — the airline miles to book the flight to the land of kids and grands; every Bethlehem adventure, silly knock-knock joke and Uno card game with generationally-competitive grandchildren who show no mercy on their grandmother; every one-on-one conversation over vanilla steamers, chocolate steamers, ice cream cones; every bedtime story, cuddle, tickle, giggle, noisy kiss; even every eye-roll from The Teens as I fall naturally into their grandfather’s corny humor when I’m around them.

This from David Steindl-Rast:

The root of joy is gratefulness.

Already and enduringly, the 2016 season is a gift-laden, joy-filled time of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Go ahead, give something of value to yourself this holiday season.

Side note: This is not the first time The Parents have visited Disney World without their children. And probably not the last. (14-year-old Grandson Titus suggested I take him to a Seattle Seahawks game … and not invite his dad. I’ll see what I can do about that.)

P.S. If you found this post encouraging or hopeful, or you know someone who wishes they were at Disney in December, please share, tweet or pin!


Because I can


5 life observations on this Christmas Day


  1. Janie Bennett

    Good stuff, Marlys! Love your attitude & energy. Merry Christmas! Love & God bless, Janie Bennett

  2. Cheryl Edwards

    Thanks for sharing Marlys. I have been so ill this month and with so much still in limbo, cannot travel, but I know it would be best for me to go to be with family and next year I hope I am able to do that.

    • Yes, next year with family – good for you, Cheryl! So sorry to hear you’ve been ill during this holiday season. Wishing you wellness and Christmas blessings.

  3. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    Just a couple of gifts come to mind. We’re presently singing carol concerts and I go on my own to residential/care/nursing homes and ‘try to lighten their day with song and chat’. Several times in the past week or so I’ve been rewarded, I’ve received ‘that gift’ from smiles, happiness, tears and joy ‘in that place’, what more could one ask for, long may it be so. The other gift came about when I collected our great grand daughter Mollie – 6yrs from school. I asked about her nativity play and what part she was playing, she said, “I’m the important angel BUT I wanted to be Mary”. Thinking quickly, I suggested that the teachers thought that she was taking the right role because they thought she could do it, however she still insisted that she had wanted to be Mary. We arrived home, Mollie opened the advent calendar doors and on revealing each scripture reading she read each one and said, “That’s what I say to Mary, I tell her not to be afraid, but the words are not the same”. So, we asked her to tell us what her words were and she recited them perfectly and then went into a dance to finish off. We were well pleased but sad that we couldn’t see her in the nativity BUT we got a private showing and that brought so much joy to us. To finish, I do believe God is always there but do we hear, do we feel it, do we acknowlege his presence, it can be such a small thing but when the spirit moves, it is nice to know we felt its presence. Sorry for being long winded, I just wanted to share and sharing in service brings such untold rewards. Our love, God Bless, Barbara & Peter.

  4. Peter Howe B.E.M.

    It costs nothing to ‘Just do it’ and to witness the acceptance of ‘giving’ is to know that it is God at work in the service you/me/we are carrying out without trying to find a reason why, Amen to the 6 gifts of service given for us to share.
    I thank you for stirring the thoughts of all of us who wish to contribute to the benefit of those who engage in your blog, so inspiringly and meaningfully. God Bless you, B & P

  5. Nancy

    This made me smile.
    Thankful for your heart.
    Nancy Muni

  6. Fawn

    Wonderful article and special time with grandkids. Thank you! Blessings, Fawn

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