Thank God for the Gift of Experiences

winter jam qualls girls

Kalkidan turned 13 last October. This was a much anticipated birthday, so much so that she began talking about the day she turned twelve. She couldn’t wait to be a teenager and loved to remind me that it wouldn’t be long before she could take driver’s ed.

In recent years we’ve encouraged our kids to ask for experiences rather than “things” for gifts. As we talked about what she wanted for her birthday, Kalkidan realized there really wasn’t much she needed to own. Keeping her room organized and somewhat tidy was a challenge, and adding more “stuff” wasn’t going to make it any easier.

She decided what she most wanted was to go to the Winter Jam concert in Spokane. I was speaking at a retreat that weekend, so I asked Mimi to take the girls. It was a night they will never forget – including the fact that I didn’t realize you had to pay with cash, and only sent them with my credit card, which necessitated Mimi making a panicked run to an ATM while the girls waited in line.

The concert closed with “Oceans” sung by Hillsong United; two months later we sang it at Kalkidan’s memorial service. Lord have mercy – just typing those words…

The girls made sweet memories and we have this precious picture to remember that night. When I saw it today, my heart squeezed in my chest. I’m sure that’s not anatomically what happened, but I’m telling you, that is just what it feels like when a wave of sadness rolls over me.

I cannot express how thankful I am that Kalkidan chose an experience with her sisters over one more thing to own. While I am sorely tempted to regret that I was not with them, I’m trying hard not to do that to myself. There is really nothing at all to be gained.

Seven weeks, friends. It’s been seven weeks and I’m glad that God is loving and patient because, to be perfectly honest, my heart has not caught up with the truth of what I believe. So I just keep reminding myself of the truth of scripture and my decades of walking with Jesus. Over and over I’ve seen that God’s plans are better than mine and he is loving and good to us.

Thank you for the Bible verses you are sending my way – keep them coming. Every verse will go in my journal and be a comfort to me in the coming days and months.

Well, friends, it’s Monday. Hannah is making cinnamon rolls with help from the boys. Friends are coming to visit and bringing their sweet little guy. Russ is at physical therapy – I’ll go in a few hours. The day is rolling along.

I would love to hear if you have given experiences for gifts, or what you might like to give in the future.

Have a great Presidents Day, friends.

Lisa

 

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

26 Comments

  1. Julie Blair Pitts
    February 16, 2015

    Lisa. .. We try to do birthday experiences as well. Two years ago, We included Benjamin's bio sister two years ago because their birthdays are within a week of being a year apart. We met them in Chicago fit birthdays, and with give kids between the two families, going to Chicago in January can me very inexpensive. We have fOund it to be the best present. Time with His bio sister and her family….

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      That is wonderful, Julie. I love that you celebrated that way!

      Reply
  2. Emily
    February 16, 2015

    I take one of my middle school girls here bowling every year for her birthday.

    Several mentors took me out to dinner for my high school graduation present and I loved that.

    My dad and I did our bike trip through the San Juan islands last year- 5 days- it was amazing.

    This year I gave him coupons that let him choose a book for me to read every other month- one of his favorites he's always telling me I should read- so then we can discuss it.

    I love experiences for gifts. "Gather memories, not things."

    LOVE YOU.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      All such wonderful ideas, Emily.

      Reply
  3. lucylou99
    February 16, 2015

    Lisa,

    You are so often in my prayers. Your words touch my heart and my life. Thank you for sharing the raw and honest of this journey.

    I have given experiences for gifts. Twice I have given my husband a reading vacation. He LOVES reading. His profession is often disruptive, being on call at least 5-20 days a month. I rent him a cabin with no phone, cell signal or internet (very hard for me). I buy groceries and plan special meals for the long weekend. I promise to try not to talk too much (which is very hard) and we read. Lots! I purchase him a book from each of his favorite genres that he's got on his Amazon wish list. He says it's his very favorite Christmas gift of all time.

    Love and prayers,
    Cindy Mc

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      That sounds like a wonderful vacation!! Russ would love it.

      Reply
  4. Emily
    February 16, 2015

    We have done this- Maddie spent a few weeks with her Uncle the summer she turned 16 and now she has that memory and it affected her life profoundly. We gave Cal the gift of being able to work on Gordy's movie last January and then to be able to see it at Sundance this year. We often give experiences as gifts- trips to Rochester to be with grandmas and cousins or concerts. Mark's favorite gift to me is to take me to a concert usually many months away from the celebrated day. For my birthday (last November) we are seeing a show in March. I am glad you all had this time with her – it's doesn't make your heart hurt less but the memories will help sustain you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      Em, so many of your experience gifts are also family-related; I really love that. Tonight I'm feeling very sad and wishing we had even more memories and more pictures, but I'm thankful for what we have.

      Reply
  5. Christine N.
    February 16, 2015

    We have two seven year olds, three months apart. For their birthdays last year, we got a year pass to the local aquarium for one and found a groupon for a nearby water park for the other. They were really good days and the aquarium has been a fun place to go several times this year. My parents tend to take the kids out for a movie as part of their Christmas gift. They love the time together and I love less stuff in the house. It's very good.

    I appreciate your posts about grief so much during this time. I had a second trimester pregnancy loss two and a half weeks ago and then we had something else hard happen and my world is reeling. Your family is close to my heart.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      Christine, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I've been thinking a lot about how I'm grieving the loss of Kalkidan's future and all that we were anticipating. I can imagine you are experiencing that deeply. I am praying for you now. Also, the two birthday gifts are perfect – such great ideas.

      Reply
  6. Emily B
    February 16, 2015

    Two of my girls turned 10 and 12 in the fall. We were in the middle of a move and didn't have time or energy for parties. I took them to see The Phantom of the Opera when it came to town instead. It was such a special night! They wore their fanciest dresses and I did up-dos on their hair.

    I have a couple of passages of Scripture that I want to share with you, but I will mail a hard copy. There's just something about handwritten encouragement, ya know? I've never lost a child, but I'm no stranger to loss and grief. My heart squeezes with yours. I pray for you each day.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      I love that idea, Emily; they'll never forget that special time with you. And thank you in advance for the scriptures – I look forward to receiving them.

      Reply
  7. Cindy
    February 16, 2015

    Yes! We love to give the gift of experiences! With a larger family, you soon learn that no one needs more "stuff" and at least for the adults, we know the blessing that experiences will be – forever. This year for Christmas we tried something new by pairing up all of the children and giving them an experience to do together. We had been noticing some strained relationships and thought this might help. The older two boys were given money to go out to dinner to their favorite greasy burger joint. The three girls went to Color Me Mine where they were given the assignment to choose projects that they could use, not things to sit around. One chose a mug, and the other two chose plates. The final two boys had a ready-made experience since one had the other's name and I knew he was going to give him the experience of seeing a movie together. We added all the popcorn and snacks they wanted. Thank you so much for sharing how the gift of experiences can mean so much more in light of Kalkidan's homecoming. I will not look the same at our gifts of experiences ever again. How precious!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      Those are all wonderful ideas, Cindy. I've been debating how to manage Christmas for the past few years, but I haven't come up with a good plan yet. Thanks for sharing how you've done it.

      Reply
  8. Emily
    February 16, 2015

    Lisa, I love the way that you phrased that-your heart not catching up with what you believe yet. One of my dearest friends lost a child several years ago, and it was (is) so hard. At some point, all of the books or platitudes (even Bible verses shared by well-meaning brothers & sisters in Christ) seem to mock. I remember her saying that the only book that touched the truth of her grief was CS Lewis's A Grief Observed. I'm praying for you the same way that I prayed for her–that even in a world that seems dark and colorless, where it feels even perhaps that God has turned his face away, that you would know deep in your heart that Immanuel is with us, with you, and that he has shared suffering. May you have grace to grieve as is necessary for you and your family and also grace to see the love offered all around you even if it seems (and maybe sometimes IS) out-of-touch with your feelings of reality. The verse that has meant the most to me when the world feels upside down is Romans 8:25-28, and that is my prayer, also-that the Spirit would intercede with groans that words cannot express. That you would be held.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      Thank you, Emily, for your sweet words and for the verse to add to my journal. I've never read A Grief Observed, but it sounds like I need to put it on the top of my list.

      Reply
      1. Sami
        February 22, 2015

        I'm just catching up on my reader and I just thought I would throw my thought about A Grief Observed in there. When I was 27 and grieving the loss of both of my parents a month apart it did not help me. It made the darkness darker, does that make sense? I got the feeling that he did not remember he was speaking to the king of the universe. Their has to be some level of respect maintained, even with the expression of real feelings. His anger Was too much for me to take, at the time. I wonder if I could see it differently now. It's been 6 years. Also I saw on your other blog you said that you would soon get to posting on other things and I really think you shouldn't rush yourself to feel better for everyone else. People need you to be real. <3

        I can tell you the book that did help me was Lord of the Rings. His ability to capture a ray of hope in the darkest times made me weep. It was healing to feel understood, even if only by great literature.

        Reply
  9. Ann Z.
    February 16, 2015

    http://www.syracuse.com/living/index.ssf/2014/12/

    “Spending on doing is much more likely to foster feelings of connectedness than spending on having.” Kalkidan was one smart little gal!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      Great article, Ann, thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  10. kel
    February 16, 2015

    We have done experience gifts since our first son was three – a trip to a very cool train museum. A BIL jokes that we live like paupers (we don't) because our stuff is below our means, but we'd rather have a photo book and hearts full of special memories than cases of toy cars and other toys that get broken, all in pottery barn living room! The grandmas don't agree so we have plenty of toys, too :). Plus I think special, thought-out experience gifts build relationship often more than toys (but not always) which is so important for kids from hard places. Praying for you this day!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 16, 2015

      I agree, Kel, too many things are not a blessing, especially when space is limited, and/or organization is not a talent. Thank you for praying for us.

      Reply
  11. Jennifer LB
    February 16, 2015

    We all much prefer experiences to gifts. We just got back from a lovely 24 hours away. Mark and I celebrated a belated Valetine's by spending last night in a bed and breakfast in Auburn and then enjoying a couples massage at a local spa this evening. In between we brought clothes and food to a friend who's daughter is in the hospital. It made the time more special to be able to share our good fortune.

    Next month we will see Billy Joel in concert – something we've always both wanted to do. It'll be my second rock concert ever.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 17, 2015

      Wonderful gifts, Jennifer. I love hearing how other people celebrate this way.

      Reply
  12. Maureen Reagan Shear
    February 17, 2015

    My younger son has to take 2 shots daily for growth (he started with growth hormone once a day at age 2.5, and was switched to growth factor that is twice a day at age 3). Then there was 11 months it wasn't available in the US, he grew under a 1/2 inch that year. This summer, 2 weeks before he turned 6 (the last week of June), he was 39" and the drug was relaunched here in the US. As a gift for minimal/no complaints about the shots, he had been told when he becomes 42", I would take him to an amusement park (he is a thrill seaker, and the rides for the under 42" set are not so much 'thrill' rides). I was hopeful for next summer. A good friend and I went to a waterpark with many slides the last week of July. I had asked her to make sure he was going to be able to ride the slides (he was the only one of the group under 48", it would have completely ruined the outing for both of my children (as his brother understands how sad it would make the younger one) if he couldn't go on at least some of the big slides). She had hear 32". As we walked in the door, I saw the signs and cringed. 42" He walked up to the pole, and was a hairs breath above the top of the pole (in barefeet!!!!). I measured at home, he had grown over 3" in less than a month. He joyful proclaimed we were going to an amusement park before school started. We live very close (45 minute drive) to one of the largest amusement parks in the US. However, I heard that my mom's all time favorite ride had been rebuilt at an amusement park 7 hours away ('hers' had been torn down in the 60's, and it was doubtful it would ever be rebuilt). So on a day that I had plenty of things that I 'should' have been doing, I woke up ridiculously early and packed up my boys and my mom and drove. The excitement that all had that day was well worth it. Listening to them retell about the day (my mom included), made it one of the best presents/rewards I've given (not to mention I was happy to not regularly get kicked, punched, ran away from for the shots). My younger son's first 'big' ride was on my mother's all time favorite ride. A different son was explaining my mom's ride to a teacher of his (it is a very unusual ride, you literally have to stand on a scale before riding it because you can't have too much weight in a car), a teacher that is similar in age to my mom. She lit up, she too had ridden the ride as a child when it was local, and she had her own stories to share about it.

    We do a lot of 'adventures' instead of 'stuff' gifts. Going to listen to the Orchestra outside for my one son's birthday. Going to the glass blower to design their ornaments. A 'pirate' cruise. A favorite of all (but me) various train trips that I make it a point to look for (particularly on steam trains).

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 17, 2015

      Maureen, you sound like an awesome, fun mom. I admire that!

      Reply
  13. Elizabeth
    February 18, 2015

    I did special things with different members of my family and a few special friends before moving overseas for a year. My oldest brother and I went to a restaurant and a special theatre, my other older brother and I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy together, and my younger siblings and I spent alot of time playing games, watching home videos and movies, and just being close.

    My eyes still flood every time I read a post of yours. It's hard to digest what you are going through. I know our Father is so present though.

    Reply

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