THE BEST KIND OF GIFT EXCHANGE

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This week I had the joy of celebrating Christmas with my Monday Night Bible Study community of amazing women.

We feasted on a potluck of culinary delights (I discovered truffle honey…and it is incredible!); shared reflections of what we have learned, overcame, and accomplished this last year; and exchanged gifts that represent us.

Each part of the evening displayed the unique beauty, talents, and experiences of each of these woman.

And it was lovely.

Food

Talking

Presents

When we give away any of these offerings as an authentic piece of ourselves in a community that is safe and trusted, something magical happens.

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Parties are an invaluable opportunity to nourish the relationships that are growing among our communities.  With intention they provide more than a time to experience joy.  They are a time to honor and celebrate each other.

When our celebrations include our beloved foods, authentic sharing, or personal gifts they become a shared experience of being known and valued.   Allowing our unique beauty, strength, and worth to be momentarily on display – while our imperfections, flaws, and short-comings temporarily fade to the background – can be tranformative.

We all need moments like that.

Celebratory experiences matter.

Our annual Christmas gift exchange really is one of my favorite events of the year.  Every lady who attends brings a wrapped gift that represents her.   The presents can be something handmade, or an item that is used and well-loved, or a favorite product that is purchased.  We arrange the gifts in a pile on the table, draw numbers, select and open one beautifully wrapped package at a time, and after each gift is opened the giver shares the gift’s meaning and/or why she loves it.

It is always a very sweet time of sharing heart and soul.

This year I was over-joyed to unwrap this:

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I LOVE IT!!  It was made by two woman who are a part of our community (one painted the water-color words, and the other added handwritten details with a marker.)

“Woman of Valor” has been a theme of our community group for years.  It is based on a discussion we had many book studies ago when we were reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans.

One chapter of this book explores the Proverbs 31 passage that is sometimes used incorrectly as a measuring stick for godly women to compare themselves to.  Evans profound point is that this sacred text was never intended to be a checklist to work towards our own righteousness.  But rather it is a poem that celebrates all women.  In Hebrew cultures, the men memorize this poem and recite it at intimate religious events to honor the females.

As individuals, none of us are called to the exact same path.  We are each gifted with different talents, passions, and skills to equip us for our unique callings and purpose.

In our community we refer to “Woman of Valor” often to highlight, celebrate, affirm, and honor our individual achievements, goals that are completed, and challenges that we overcome.

Through this kind of sharing and support we are also quipped to remind each other of our strengths, calling, and value in the seasons that inevitability get rough and uncertain and disappointing.

These community moments become anchors that hold us steady when life is turbulent.

Anchors are another symbol with great meaning for my Monday community.  We have discussed them numerous times in our weekly discussions.

Our anchors are the truths about our faith, our identity, our wiring, our work, our purpose, our value – that don’t change regardless of circumstances.

  • Anchors are the moments when we discover the hope, joy, peace, and love that is always made possible through our faith.
  • Anchors are the conversations when we realize that our worth in rooted in who we are, not what we do or don’t do.
  • Anchors are the moments when we find purpose and confidence of our unique design.
  • Anchors are the friendship, acceptance, and honor the we freely give to each other.

And so, this is my handmade gift that I shared with all the ladies who came:

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“Because we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19.

This has been my personal theme of the past year.   HOPE is the anchor that has kept me firm and secure during some turbulent times.

And it was a joy to acknowledge the ways this community of women has represented and carried the anchors of hope with me, and at times for me, during seasons that were difficult.

Food, sharing, and presents in a community that celebrate the authentic self, meaningful experiences, and our unique design.

The very best kind of gift exchange.

What gift have you given or received that best represents YOU or someone you love?

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