Do you have regular after Christmas activities? When I was growing up, we all knew what we would be doing the day after Christmas. We would be writing thank you notes. Not only was my mother very emphatic that we write them, she was also emphatic that we write them soon after we received the gifts.
And she put in another wrinkle. She said we should say how we planned to use it. Example: Thank you for the new mixing bowl. You know I love to cook and I plan to bake a chocolate cake this afternoon, using my new mixing bowl.
What if we thought of every gift God has given us and we said, “Thank You, God, for giving me _______. I look forward to using it in this way.” Think of it. “Thank You, God, for our house. I plan to use it in this way.” “Thank You, God, for my vision … my hearing … etc. I plan to use it in this way.”
Have you ever received a gift you did not want or thought you could not use? What could be the purpose in receiving a gift we can’t use?
Let’s take the example of a child receiving a shirt that is too big, but one that he can grow into and look forward to wearing next year. Sometimes God’s Gifts entice us to wait a little while to use them … to keep us reaching to the future.
What about the shirt that is too small? What could that teach us? Sometimes it is a gentle reminder that we need to change something about ourselves to fit into that nice gift. Sometimes it is a reminder that we have grown. Sometimes we start thinking that we are not growing spiritually, and then something comes along that shows us we have grown from where we were last year or even last month.
Sometimes we are given gifts to give to others. I have received some gifts that I never personally used, but I gave them as gifts to others, who really could use them. God had provided two gifts. One was the gift that went to the person who really needed it. The other was God’s Real Gift to me in getting the pleasure of being His delivery girl and sharing in the joy of giving.
When you get a gift you think you will never use, stop a minute and ask God, “Would You like me to deliver this to someone else?”
What about the gift we can’t even identify? Everyone in our family still smiles at the memory of gifts from a favorite relative, who never missed giving my parents a gift each Christmas. Only problem was that frequently the gifts were so unique that no one knew exactly what they were. A weird shaped paper weight or a brass apple corer or something none of us could ever identify.
Dutifully after Christmas, my mother would write the thank you letter. However, when you don’t know what you have received, it is hard to know how to say thank you! We laughed as we read her thank you notes, that sometimes sounded like this:
“Thank you for the interesting gift. You always put such thought into getting us the perfect gift. We certainly look forward to using it.” (And of course, the part that she did not write … was “when we figure out what it is.”)
Sometimes we detect that God has given us gifts, but they were not quite what we expected. However, they often turn out to be wonderful gifts beyond our wildest imagination (once we figure out what they are!). Accept those gifts with gratitude, thank the Lord for them and wait for their purpose to be revealed.
I invite you to try my mother’s principles of writing thank you notes. Think of the gifts God has given you. Thank Him right away. Identify each gift by name and tell Him how you plan to use it. And if it’s some of those gifts you can’t quite identify yet, thank God that He knows the Plans He has for you and they are good plans. Look forward to unwrapping those gifts a little bit at a time!
“For I know the Plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“Plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Every good and perfect Gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the Heavenly Lights,
Who does not change like shifting shadows.
Give thanks to the Lord,
for He is good;
His Love endures forever!
1st Chronicles 16:34