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Purposeful presents

Giving gifts that strengthen your family ties

Is your Christmas shopping done? Mine sure isn't, and the Christmas countdown calendar is warning me that I only have 25 days and 10 hours to go! Online shopping makes it easy to wait until the last minute--and I often do. But when husband Jack and I start early and choose gifts with intentionality, our adult children seem to appreciate our efforts much more. I think this is because giving gifts is less about getting new stuff and more about connecting with each other. So, while compiling my Christmas shopping list this year, I've been thinking about gifts that connect my kids to their own family story and encourage them to craft stories for their own families as well. Here are some of the ideas I've been considering:

Photo Books Over the last two years, I have digitally scanned and saved all the pages of the photo albums I have made since 1990. Last year, each of our kids received a curated album of photos from birth to about age 5. Four kids and four unique albums pieced together from the family albums that I have compiled over the last 30 years. The kids loved this gift! If you have digital photos or have access to a high quality scanner, you can create photo books online and have them printed and shipped directly to your kids. They will love the walk down memory lane. Bonus: If you were terrible at keeping baby books, like I was, this gift makes up for it! I created the kids' books on, but there are many photo album services to choose from.

Family Recipes Most of our kids have memories of favorite meals or treats that we made for them when they were kids. Why not compile those into a small book? You can add photos of the family, photos of the finished recipes, or notes about your memories of cooking or enjoying meals with the kids. You might want to package the finished product into a gift basket with cooking tools, "secret" or hard-to-find ingredients, and a gift card to a grocery store.

Don't forget to ask grandparents for input--they may have some special recipes from their childhood you could add to include them in the project. Shutterfly has a cookbook template to make designing your book easier, but you could also create a cookbook on your own computer, print it yourself, and put it in a sturdy binder for a more budget-friendly option.

Holiday Baking Most of my kids are too busy to make the Christmas cookies of their childhood, especially the recipes passed down from my great, great grandmother--those take extra time and special equipment. During the pandemic shutdown of 2021 when we couldn't be with our kids for Christmas (we were stationed in Germany at the time), I purchased a vacuum sealing system and made everyone's favorite traditional cookies. I sealed them up in small batches and sent them via Priority Mail (a 12-day journey from Europe), and the kids claimed they stayed fresh for over a month! I felt like I was part of their Christmas celebration even if we couldn't be with them, and they felt the warmth of a family tradition in a difficult situation. If you can't celebrate with your kids in person this year, the gift of baking can keep you all close.

Online Ancestry Services This is one my kids gifted to me! I am an adoptee and have almost no knowledge of my birth family, but the kids wanted to find out what my nationality was. So, one year, they bought me a membership and DNA test kit from We have enjoyed exploring some of the areas of the world where my ancestors apparently hailed from! This would be a great gift for an adult child who is interested in the family's heritage, or even for a grandparent who doesn't have much information on their own ancestors. The knowledge gained can be shared with everyone, leading to some very interesting conversations.

Christmas Ornaments Add an ornament to your kids' collections that represents an important moment in their lives from that year! Last December, I found the cutest stork and baby ornaments, and I bought two--one for each daughter-in-law--just in case . . . sure enough, we have two new grands this year and those ornaments will commemorate our two new blessings!

If you are artsy or craftsy, you can make them yourself. My daughter and I will be making some painted wood-slice ornaments to represent favorite books for next Christmas, an idea we found on Instagram. And overver Thanksgiving, my daughter led a family zoom class where we painted ornaments for this Christmas. Husband Jack wrote a note on the back of his ornament and gave it to our newest granddaughter. Simple, homemade, thoughtful ornaments are great reminders of our love for each other!

Family Movie Night Remember all the Christmas favorites your family watched together during the Christmas season when the kids were young? Recreate that for your kids with a streaming service gift card, a list of titles, and a care package full of movie treats they enjoyed as children. If you are tech-savvy enough, you could even host a watch party for some of the titles and enjoy the movies separately together!

God's Word The most important thing we can pass on to our children and grandchildren is the knowledge and love of God. Does your family have a theme Bible verse? Create or commission a work of art featuring that verse for each of your children. Or, pray and ask God to give you a verse for each child and make that into hangable art--Etsy has artisans who will customize word art for you if you don't think you are crafty enough.

I'm currently working on a project I call a "Mommentary," which will eventually be a gift for my daughter. I bought a journaling Bible and I'm reading through it and making notes just for her--explanations of difficult passages and encouragement for difficult passages of life. You could also have an old family Bible rebound and pass it on to one of your children. (My mom recently had my teenage Bible rebound for me by these incredible leatherworkers.). When we gift God's Word to our children, we are creating a legacy that lasts for eternity.

Making the list So, what's on your shopping list this Christmas? I'm making my list more meaningful than the latest gadget or must-have fashion. Let's gift legacy, faith, and family! And above all, let's follow the example of the greatest gift of all, Jesus. Like Him, we can give ourselves, wrapped in love, to our families this year.

If you need a little encouragement this week, click on the verse image above and download it to your phone. You can use it as wallpaper and be reminded of all the good gifts God has already blessed you with during this holiday season.

1 Comment

These gift ideas are so meaningful! My children are 10 & 14 and these ideas aren't too early to start. I love the picture album. My children love how my phone puts together little slideshows of pictures from when they were small. I know they would love a book, they can look at anytime, even more.

A tradition we love is letting the kids pick out their favorite ornament every year. However, we buy two of them. One goes on the tree now and one is put away for us. One day when they leave our house, to form their own family, they will have their ornaments and we will have the second set to continue to enjoy all of…

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