7 Reasons to Let Your Light Shine through Gifts from Your Heart

It’s the month when we celebrate Love. And I’m basking in the joy of two recent Love Trips:  a week in Mexico with my daughter Kacie, during which we finalized the design for a multi-generational wedding shawl; the other a visit to see my parents, during which my Mom and I started making that shawl. Not only is this bridal gift now in progress; I also learned a lot along the way. If you’ve been wracking your brain for a Valentine’s gift idea, you know the challenge of coming up with a gift that truly shows your feelings. Though it’s too late to undertake a big hands-on project for Valentine’s Day, it could be just the time to brainstorm unique ways to honor a loved one for an upcoming occasion, whether you express your creativity in tangible or intangible ways!

Mom & I on Day One of the Wedding Shawl project, practice piece on the left.

Sometimes it can feel impossible to give a meaningful gift to someone like my husband, who has everything he cares about and wants nothing material. And what can you give an older person who’s been giving away her belongings and isn’t as active as she used to be? We’ve all faced the gift challenge with someone! But let’s move our focus from the material world to the experiential and spiritual world and see what happens.

A blessing by John O’Donahue says:

“May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart; May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul; May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those … who see and receive your work; May your work never weary you; May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement; May you be present in what you do.”

I am feeling that soulful, beautiful, sacred, exciting blessing with this bridal shawl!

My mother taught me to sew from my toddlerhood! She was a sew-at-home seamstress, helping support the family by taking in dressmaking, drapery-making, and slipcover fabrication. She’d work hours a day with me standing on the back of her chair with my little hands on her shoulders watching her at the Singer. When I was a little older, she taught me hand sewing so I could make doll clothes, and then taught me to sew simple tops from patterns by 7. So it was like old times when we pulled out the white Swiss batiste, the bone-colored Radiance with cotton on the inside and silk on the outside, the silk bridal satin ribbon, and the white pearl cotton last week to measure, cut, and start sewing the shawl.

The wedding shawl was Kacie’s idea. She wants to wear something that the three other women in our immediate family put themselves into—her maternal grandmother, her mother, and her sister. It’s not decided whether she’ll wear it with her not-as-yet-selected wedding dress or will make it a part of her rehearsal dinner outfit. With bone and white, she has flexibility, and oversized shawls are her style. (This one will be 86” x 34.”) She’s a romantic artist with a love of textiles. Her fiancé Ted is sentimental and artistic, too (he’s finishing up a master’s in landscape architecture). And they’re getting married just weeks before my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary. So, coming up with creative ways to make their ceremony touching is a high priority, warming the hearts of multiple generations, reinforcing these . . .

7 reasons to let your light shine by giving creative gifts from the heart.

1. Some of our best gifts are only released when we slow down! 

My mom played golf until she turned 90 and still plays bridge, does Bible study, enjoys an active social life, and entertains often. Thank God she’s in good health except that severe scoliosis has diminished her balance. This slowed her down after some falls produced fractures that forced her to sit more. Now when I visit, I too slow down. I need and benefit from it! My best gifts flow from my morning quiet time with the Lord. My priorities for the day are set during that time, and the Holy Spirit often guides my writing, prepares me for my speaking or teaching events, and inspires me in my quilting, decorating, or other creative undertakings. During my time with my parents—and my sister who lives near them—slowing down allowed for some deep conversations and shared intercessory prayer, as well as discussions about how to make the shawl. My mom voiced her concern that her hand sewing would not be as steady and her stitches not as small and perfect as they once were.

2. Gifts from the heart will likely be received with heart, so process and message outshine perfectionism and product focus.

Kacie’s sister Brenna had wisely passed on to me a conversation she’d had with Kacie about the shawl. Accordingly, I was able to reassure my mother and myself that Kacie didn’t care about the perfection of our stitches! Once we got that cleared up and cut the shawl body and borders out, I decided to use some of the leftover fabrics for a smaller practice piece. Having a chance to practice was reassuring. Kacie had asked to have us fill the borders with sashiko-style stitches to mimic waves, a motif chosen because of our family’s coastal living. My mom’s wavy lines and mine were quite different, but once we pressed the border, we saw the lovely effect and felt free to stitch our imperfect wavy lines onto the real border! Being freed of perfectionism encouraged us to focus on the WHY and the LOVE and the HEIRLOOM nature of what we’re making, to relax and enjoy the process.

3. Collaboration allows us to connect where our kindred spirits align, which is an affirmation, a blessing, and a joy.       

As mentioned above, my mom and I have a shared our love of creative handwork, and so do Kacie and Brenna. I felt true joy while sitting on a loveseat in the warmth of my parents’ Florida lanai, with Mom stitching on the border of one end of the shawl and me stitching on the other! I was thrilled that we were doing something so meaningful together, something that unites us! I felt gratitude on so many levels: for my mother’s life, health, and happy marriage, for the sewing talent she’s shared with me, and for the understanding of how much this gift means to Kacie.

4. Infusing a gift with prayer makes it truly from the heart and soul.

My mother and I spontaneously began to pray together out loud for Kacie and Ted and their marriage as we sewed. We prayed for their wedding planning to go smoothly, for the joy of it and for the stress of that task to be dissipated, especially as the couple is currently in their final thesis semester of 3-year grad school programs. We prayed for their careers and good jobs. We prayed for their relationship and a long, happy marriage, and for them to be blessed with healthy children. And on and on. All these prayers are now stitched into that shawl, and Kacie will be wrapped in them when she wears it!

5. Flexibility in the process, especially when coordinating with multiple generations or skill levels and diverse locations, enhances a creative and cooperative approach.

I was only in Florida 4 full days this trip, so we got a great start but there’s lots more to do on this shawl. Working on it together was far better than trying to mail the shawl cross-country with instructions about what to do! But flexibility is a must. What aspects of the project Brenna will do, what Mom did, and what I will do has changed and is not yet fully known. When I get together with Brenna to work on it, we’ll see what parts she’s most drawn to. Coordinating among family members who live in three locations demands flexibility, adding creativity and cooperation to the means of accomplishing the goal.

6. The heirloom nature of what’s being created is empowering and enlivening. 

Working on her granddaughter's wedding shawlThe impact of this gift will reverberate—now in the making, this fall in the use of the shawl during wedding festivities, and likely on to at least one future generation. I have a baby blanket that was used when my father was an infant, a flower girl dress I wore at age 2 or 3, made by my mom. As much as I like a decluttered home, those textile heirlooms and this shawl are likely to keep sparking joy and not be decluttered soon! With that expectation, the handwork enlivens us and feels like a privilege. Imagine coming generations getting to see this photo of their great- or great-great-grandmother stitching this heirloom.

Not only this shawl will leave a legacy. My father’s 40+ year career was in magazine publishing. He is a great writer and public speaker, an awesome lector proclaiming the Word at his church. He and my mom will talk about what to include in the talk he’s been requested to give at the wedding, and he will draft it, polish it, and deliver it with heart (and maybe even a tear or two)! His creativity is being honored, as well as the legacy of Kacie’s grandparents’ long and happy marriage, since their 70th anniversary is just weeks after her wedding!

7. Your best gifts, the ones that are most uniquely YOU, proceed from your gifts, talents, and life experiences. 

All our contributions were requested based on who we are and the special gifts God bestowed on each of us, and that is very empowering! If you’re looking to create a heart-touching gift with impact, start brainstorming with a look at your own giftedness, what makes your heart sing, your own sacred calling.

Gifts that draw on your creativity entail giving of yourself, from your heart, intended and likely to touch the recipient’s heart. This doesn’t mean every gift you give needs to be a months’ long masterpiece, like some quilts are. Maybe you love to cook and can prepare a special meal or give someone your special granola. Maybe you like to forage and can pick, dry, tuck in some recipes, and wrap up some dried porcini. Maybe you compose or sing and could record some of your music for loved ones to enjoy. (Each of our daughters has given us a CD of herself singing and I love listening to these time after time—a gift that surely keeps on giving!) A video of yourself dancing? Poetry? Ceramics? Painting?

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If you don’t yet know why you’re here and where your creative genius lies, you’re not alone! The good news is that when people figure out what God intended and equipped them to do, it brings new meaning to their lives and helps them make good decisions about how they spend their time, talent, and energy, and what they have to share. If this sounds intriguing, I suggest you listen to my 20-minute recording, Discover Your Sacred Calling. If you’d like outside assistance, consider Spiritual Direction that could include ARTbundance™ or Creativity Coaching. Then use what you discover or know about your gifts and talents and let your light shine through them to bless and delight those you love! I know you can do this!

Question: What creative gift are you making or giving to someone special? You can leave a comment below.

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