More Blessed

Chinese New Year arrives on February 10th this year and marks the beginning of the Year of the Snake. It is a day celebrated fervently in the Chinese culture and is much like Christmas. A family reunion dinner on the eve of the holiday, people lavishing each other with gifts, forgiving grudges, making resolutions. Eating, celebrating, giving, and receiving. Next year, I hope and pray we will be celebrating the Chinese New Year with our Mei Mei home. But since we continue to wait for our referral, I thought I’d share what my husband and I did for Christmas gifts to our family this year (since I’m obviously that far behind).

Each year we try something new for gifts to our immediate family. One year we gave farm animals to the African village we support in Malawi. Another year it was windmills for an organization called Africa Windmill Project run by friends who are doing amazing work in Malawi with African farmers. These were nice. Helpful. Hopeful. I made ornaments to go with each one (yes, I slacked and did not blog about them). But I couldn’t help but feel that as nice a gesture as it was, the recipient was still missing out on the full experience. We were giving but they weren’t really receiving.

This year we brainstormed and (with foolish pride) I do so love what we came up with. And for non-prideful reasons, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see it pinned across the boards and taken on as a new way of giving–at Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries. To give, receive, and give again so that your recipient can feel the same joy you felt when giving them their gift. It’s like giving times 100. Paying it forward then paying it forward again. It’s re-gifting in the highest sense. So…….even though it is almost Valentine’s Day, here is our 2012 Christmas gift.

It is More Blessed to Give Than Receive

1.18.13_iphonedownload 075Materials needed:

A9 envelopes
8.5 x 11 cardstock
Baby envelopes (fit a business card)
Double-sided tape (lots of it)
Gift cards
Template for printing on baby envelopes (I followed this post and made my own)
Pretty paper
Envelope liner template (or you can make your own like I did)

You can design your card however you like. I wanted to mimic the chalk sayings that are popular these days on Pinterest and used iDraw on iPad to make my vector file. You don’t have to be this neurotic. You can totally do it by hand if you like. I set up my file in InDesign and printed the front and the inside on the 8.5 x 11 PaperBag cardstock making sure to do a couple test runs so my paper was facing the right way. Here is the text we included for the inside. Again, write whatever you like. This summed up exactly how we feel and you are more than welcome to plagarize it.

1.18.13_iphonedownload 047“And the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than receive.'” Acts 20:35.

RECEIVE is our gift to you. Because we love you. Because we want to share what we have with you. Because what is ours is yours. Because it is fun to treat ourselves and our loved ones every once in awhile–especially at Christmas.

GIVE is your gift to give away. Leave it on the desk of a coworker in the office. Put it in with your tip for your server the next time you go out to dinner. Leave it on a seat on the Metro. Put a note with it. Stick around to see the face of the person who discovers it. Hand it to the man holding a sign on the corner. Or don’t. It is yours to give however you wish. Keep it in your wallet until just the right moment–one week from today or one year from now.Think of it as re- gifting in the highest sense.

Give to someone in need: in need of food, necessities, or just a little Christmas cheer. And if you find yourself in need this Christmas, then by all means, please keep both.

We believe that God gave us His son so that we could live and love and love more like Him. So, this Christmas we will give. And, we would like you to join us.

Sending you peace and joy and love this Christmas.

So, there it is. It was honest. It was completely and utterly from our hearts. It was intentional. And it was clear. And it was totally nervewracking to put ourselves out there like that–even to our family. And now that I think of it, to the whole wide web. But you see my point. It was necessary. They had to know that there were no strings attached. No follow ups to be concerned about. They (or you) might not share our religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that the basic notion of giving to someone who needs it won’t make you feel like a million bucks.

Okay, now back to the making of the card.

When the 8.5 x 11 was printed with the front and the inside, I used my boning tool to make a nice sharp fold.

For printing on the baby envelopes, again I used my iDraw app on my iPad to achieve that hand-drawn look for the letters. I then used this great tutorial to make my own template to print on the envelopes.

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After all the pieces were printed, I then prepared my A9 envelopes. I made an envelope liner template by tracing my A9 envelope from the inside bottom to just the top of the glue line on a piece of cardstock. I cut it out then traced the shape onto some beautiful Paper Source Lotka papers. The hand-painted paper had reds, greens and golds that I knew would pop against the black and coordinate well with the red and green baby envelopes.

1.18.13_iphonedownload 069After all the envelope liners were cut, I glued them with craft glue stick to the inside of the A9 envelopes pressing firmly.

At this stage, all of the pieces were prepared and now it was on to assembly.

Organizing my gift cards into the GIVE pile and RECEIVE pile, I assembled one card at a time to ensure I didn’t mix anyone’s gifts up. The RECEIVE gift cards were from places we knew they loved so while still a gift card, it was not without thought. I want to make an important note here. My husband and I discussed in depth the monetary value of these gifts. Should they be the same? Should the give gift be smaller than the receive? Yes, it would help with our Christmas gift budget if it was, but then, wouldn’t it undermine the whole purpose? We quickly came to the conclusion that the monetary value of the gift for GIVE must be the same as the value of RECEIVE. It had to be substantial. It had to make a difference. It had to mean something to give. It had to mean something to give AWAY.

Have you ever noticed how giving is so very hard at first? Especially to someone you don’t know or don’t really like? But have you also noticed how once you do it, you feel so good about it you want to do it again. And again. And again? It’s the best kind of addiction I can think of.

Okay, back (again) to the assembly. After sealing your baby envelopes, add the double-sided tape to the sealed side and position them on the front of the card. I then used a piece of tissue paper, cut to size, to protect the front of the card as I slid it into the A9 envelope, front first. I sealed the A9 envelope and added an additional to/from sticker to make sure the flap would stay sealed. The sticker, a customized gift tag from (surprise!) Paper Source fit the color scheme and featured a gator (go Gators!) to boot!

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I finished with a label on the back denoting the recipient.

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But wait, there’s more! Since most of these were being shipped, and since I’d spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy on the presentation of these gifts, I didn’t dare muck up the envelope with a postage stamp, addresses, and mailing info. Oh no. Each envelope was then placed in a small gift box which was then ALSO wrapped in coordinating pin stripe, brown kraft paper then tied with natural twine and a kraft paper gift tag, again, with the recipient’s name on it. (Sorry, no pictures of this step but you can get the idea from the next picture.)

Redundant, maybe. Necessary, probably not. But the effect? AMAZINGLY LOVELY. Even though it was a couple gift of gift cards in an envelope, I didn’t want it to feel like a couple of gift cards in an envelope.

Now for one last bit. Some of these were traveling all the way to my brother’s family in Italy and my youngest niece is only two years old. And yet, I didn’t want her to miss out on the joy of receiving and giving either. So, in lieu of gift cards, C got two idential packages of cutesy, girly, fun bibs and bobs. One to keep; one to give. I’m sure some sweet little Italian toddler in her preschool class loved them!

1.18.13_iphonedownload 083And isn’t that the best part? Not only were we SO excited to give these gifts to our family, we are SO excited for the people that are going to receive THEIR gifts. Full circle. One family member has big plans for their GIVE cards and I can’t wait to post an update about that. They’re taking video of their give away. VIDEO.

And just like that we are more blessed by their blessing of others. Ah, I just love it. LOVE IT. What if this type of gift giving were to take over the world? Or at the very least, Pinterest? 🙂

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Filed under china, Christmas, girl, Pinterest

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