Our family has finished most of our shopping, and I wanted to tell you about some great “places” to shop at.  The upcoming Advent Conspiracy has really made our family pause and re-think how, why, what, and where we shop for Christmas.

Our children have been selecting their gifts out of World Vision’s Christmas Gift Catalogue for many years now, and each year the kids have fun choosing items which reflect their own changing interests and/or concerns.  These gifts help third-world children or families in urgent need by providing health, education, income, nutrition.  These gifts can change lives and enable people to build a better, more hopeful future.  I remember the first year we did this, Kiana selected a pair of cute bunnies, which would be a great small business opportunity for an African family.  With Kiana’s recent interest in trees, trees and more trees, this year she selected 10 fruit trees which would provide fresh fruit for families to eat or sell at market.  Jared’s first selection many years ago was mosquito nets because of his fascination for insects.  This year, he chose soccer balls because soccer is his favourite spectator sport.  We love the variety of choices in World Vision’s catalogue, and the idea of helping people with such practical yet critical needs.  These gifts give dually because our kids truly enjoy poring through the Catalogue every year in order to choose a cool gift which will bless a family or child somewhere on the other side of this planet.

This year, we discovered Ten Thousand Village’s Living Gifts and have selected a couple of these gifts.  To a brother-in-law who is an educator, we selected the Living Gift of Education (which helps students in third world countries expand their horizons and gain knowledge and self-confidence for a better future), and to Tim’s sister we chose the Living Gift of Empowerment (which gives women in Bangladesh the capacity to start over and learn vocational skills).  With these gifts we had the option to include a handmade gift card with a shooting star ornament attached.  We’re sure that our family members, who have everything they could possibly need, would love the idea of helping out people in need, particularly in areas that are important to them.

The Ten Thousand Villages shops in downtown Waterloo and New Hamburg also offer hundreds of fantastic ideas for gift giving.  Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit fair trade organization so anything we purchased there resulted in a fair wage for the artisans who crafted all the great items to choose from. You can even shop online!  Some things we picked up:  espresso coffee, a wood labyrinth game, and a very unique and beautiful brass 40 year calendar.  What’s really neat is you can look up your items on the website, and learn all about the person/people who made the product, and how you have helped them by purchasing the item.  Each item has a Printable Info Sheet or Print & Fold Card, and I’ll be printing these off to go with the gifts.  How cool is that!

As I mentioned earlier, our daughter is fascinated with trees, her current passion.  She can’t tell one tree from the next, but they are all her friends and she names them, talks to them, and valiantly attempts to grow them.  I recently discovered that Seagull Pewter (a Canadian company based out of the tiny fishing village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia) has a line of items called Plant-a-Tree products. For every ornament or keychain sold in this product line, a tree is planted.  Through this program, Seagull Pewter has planted over 1.2 million trees around the world.  I found these products at Green Earth (Conestoga and Fairview Mall), and knew Kiana would enjoy the beautiful keychain, also knowing that she helped plant a tree.  Here the dual purpose of the gift is apparent: a useful keychain for Kiana, and a tree planted to preserve our environment and improve air quality.

These are just some of the ways we’ve been shopping.  I can’t say much more without giving away surprises.  Gift giving is such a focus at Christmas time, and there’s no avoiding it.  This is how we show our love to special people in our lives, and that’s a good thing!  My own personal struggle is trying to keep the focus on the CHRIST in CHRISTmas, as opposed to all the shopping which consumes my waking hours in November and December.  The Advent Conspiracy helped our family focus our shopping to very specific places and types of items, which actually made our shopping easier.  Now, with most of our shopping done, we can really focus on the meaning of this December event called Christmas – when we remember, and give thanks to, a God who came to earth in the shape of a baby in order to connect with us in a more personal way.