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Focus on the Gift, not Gifts

Giving and receiving gifts is a special part of Christmas, I love to watch my children's eyes light up when they open their presents--I have to admit, I like opening gifts myself. Nevertheless, gifts are only a small part of Christmas. The greatest gift of Christmas is family time.

Last year was the first Christmas we've spent with my parents in ten years. The whole family gathered at their home in Arkansas, including my little sister who was dying of lupus. Though it was less than a year ago, I cannot remember a single present I received, but I have Lori's smile permanently imprinted on my mind. We used a vase I gave her for Christmas to hold flowers beside her casket a few weeks later.

Spending time with Family--that is the real gift of Christmas. Don't just give your kids a ball; play catch with them. Don't just give your daughter a doll; play house with her. Don't miss the real Christmas gift because you are focusing on gifts. Make a point to emphasize people, not things this year.

Try to strike a balance this year between giving gifts and enjoying the gift. Keep these tips in mind as you shop.

* Never purchase a large ticket item the first day you see it. Sleep on it at least a night, give yourself time for the emotion to wear off and your logic to take hold.

* Never say "Charge it" unless you have a plan for repayment within the next month. The difficulty or repayment will soon replace the ease of charging a purchase. The terror of opening bills will surely follow the joy of opening gifts.

* Remember that the size of your purchase can never match the size of your love for those who will receive gifts from you. Avoid having spending competitions; a game nobody wins but the shopping malls and credit card companies.

* Remember whose birthday we are celebrating. Find a means to make Christ the center of your celebration. You might even consider giving a special gift in honor of His birthday to the Salvation army, a missionary organization or your church.

Christmas is a time full of emotions: love, joy, peace. I hope you enjoy the season. Enjoy it with your heart, enjoy your friends and family. But, use your head, too! Be conservative with your money and liberal with your time.

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