One Small Change: Giving Away Holidays

Kim Van Brunt is one of my favorite people ever and proof that online friends are for real. She was the first person to ever link to one of my posts in one of those weekly best-of-the-internet linkups, and I vowed to love her forever after that. I just didn’t know it would be so EASY.

Kim is a fellow Minnesotan, and every couple of months, we meet at the unfortunate halfway point between our houses — the Mall of America — for wine and dinner and deep, soul-level conversation. Her blog is beautiful and honest and insightful, and if you’ve been on the adoption journey or are thinking about it, you should head over there immediately and read everything she’s ever written. After you read this great post, of course…


I wake up on my birthday and I can feel the weight already.

Laying there for just a minute, I try to sort out the fight in my head. It’s not a big deal. But it IS the one day out of the year to celebrate ME. I shouldn’t expect anyone to go out of their way. But it would be really nice if someone made it a special day for me…

The rest of the day, I walk around with a foggy weight, a vague discontent that I can’t seem to shake off.

I get the same feeling on Mother’s Day. A bit of the same on Christmas.

It’s embarrassing, really, the selfishness it exposes. The insecurity.

Somehow, I want these singular magical days in the entire long year to make me feel like all the others have been worth something. That the work I’ve put in is valuable. That I might be worth something to the people I love, to those I serve, that somehow everything unseen will be called to mind and everyone will stop to recognize my sacrifice, my place, my contribution.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be queen for a day. To be taken care of. To take the day off. That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about being so myopic that I miss the point entirely.

* * *

Several years ago, a friend of mine sent me a sheep.

Specifically, it was her Christmas gift to me: A share of sheep from Heifer International.

It’s a simple idea: You’re donating to a worthy cause in honor of someone you love, but instead of just giving money, you’re helping to buy life-giving livestock, milk — a sustainable living, hope for money for education, a livelihood — to an individual or a family you will never meet.

Our family now has a new Christmas tradition: Every year, we choose a gift for another family out of the Heifer International, World Vision or Food for the Hungry catalogs. One year, we bought a goat and two chickens. This year, I’m looking at a llama.

For a family gift exchange a couple years ago, my brothers and I agreed to purchase for each other only “gifts that give back,” from organizations like Noonday, FashionABLE, Open Arms, Sseko and others.

On Mother’s Day, I buy jewelry or other artisan gifts for the mothers in my life to benefit Mercy for Mamas,  an organization near to my heart (and my children’s). It works to save the lives of mamas during and after childbirth in Uganda, one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the world.

give up holiday quote

I’m not saying you can’t put an iPad or those Frye boots on your Christmas list. I really don’t want to get pious or self-righteous or (God forbid) legalistic about doing good on special days.

I’m just saying: If at the end of every birthday or holiday you feel a little empty and don’t know why, try giving when you’re supposed to get — and then tell me if the cloud doesn’t dissipate a little.

For me, it’s about feeling the connection I was created for, about God asking me to care for his creation and his children. It’s about seeing beyond myself and looking for beauty in ashes. It’s about redemption, life, hope, love, love, love.

Instead of feeding my insecurity, looking for ways to give moves me closer to my true identity: daughter of the King, partner in the work to make His kingdom come.

So on Thanksgiving, maybe invite someone for dinner: a neighbor or friend or the guy you know who’s piecing his life back together after tough times.

At Christmas, buy fair-trade gifts or find creative ways to give as a family.

On Mother’s Day, help another mama survive to mother her child; on Father’s Day give to an organization that helps support a big brother or mentor organization.

On your birthday, think about how you could bless just one other person as you celebrate another year on this beautiful, messy globe.

* * *

If I can let go of what I think I need to get out of holidays and instead look for what I can give, who I can love, how I can help, I can get blissfully out of my head.

And for a moment, I think I can feel it: If I get very quiet, I can feel the very heartbeat of God.


kim van bruntKim Van Brunt is an adoptive mama and writer, holding up her broken pieces to the Light where everything is beautiful. She’s just home from a second adoption from Uganda and is almost done writing her first book.

For more, follow her blog at, on Facebook, and on Twitter @kimvanbrunt.


11 thoughts on “One Small Change: Giving Away Holidays

  1. Oh, Kim! I love this. So good seeing you over here. One of these days, you, me, and Addie need to hang out all at the same time. I have a dream.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. As we slip into yet another Christmas season, focused so intently on the almighty consumer, you have provided some legitimate alternatives that we should all consider. Your description of the empty feeling that settles into your bones once the final gift is unwrapped is spot on. I hate that feeling! I will share this post with my family to begin our own tradition this year. thanks

    1. Thanks JB! It’s so freeing to add something that focuses somewhere else other than ourselves. Now my challenge is to be sure it’s not just something we tack on to the normal celebration, but make generosity and expanding our worldview integral to the season.

  3. Oh Addie and Kim! What a wonderful post! I love Heifer International and each year for Christmas that is what my in-laws and husband do for me as gifts! it’s the greatest gift ever! My life is so full and we have so much more than we could ever really want! Plus I grew up on a farm, so giving the gift of animals and knowing they will continue on so gives me the greatest joy! Thank you Kim for sharing so many other opportunities to give back!

    1. What a great perspective growing up on a farm, SallyKay. I’ve seen cows and goats in the context of Ugandan family, and I’ve read and heard what they mean, but I’m sure I can’t fully understand. Great connection to both your heritage and your values.

  4. Microloans are also a good idea (through World Vision or Kiva). A few seasons ago I set up accounts for my daughters who then may choose which person (or group) to loan to. It’s a way to make a difference AND connect closely with the cause and the people who are trying to make it happen. As the loan is paid back, you get to “give” all over again.

    Chipping in to buy a camel through World Vision was fun, too! Do I remember what gift cards I received last year? Not a chance! But I do remember the goat.

    1. Yes, great thought Jim! That’s something I’ve always been interested in but never done. Do you microloan through Kiva? Maybe we’ll look into that next year! It would be so much fun to see those funds come back, knowing the business is up and running.

      1. We have been using Kiva. But we also take a peek at World Vision’s offerings each year. In both cases, you can narrow your search by the type of recipient and project you are interested in. Wandering around through your short list and allowing the pictures and descriptions to connect directly to your heart while holding your gift as loosely as you can … ya that. Awesome prayer time.

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