Give a Gift that Lasts

Our family has adopted a birthday tradition that I’ve watched bear fruit in the lives of those we celebrate, making it too good not to share. I hope you’ll consider incorporating some version into your family celebrations…and share your own traditions in the comments section below.

For many years now our family has taken turns, during the pre-meal blessing, to offer thanksgiving for one trait of the birthday boy or girl that has blessed our lives. Recently, my sister-in-law improved on this idea by buying a bunch of mylar balloons, and tying index cards to them with a variety of words written on the front, linked to scripture passages written on the back, each representing character traits she saw taking root in my eldest son.

So encourage each other and build each other upToday that has evolved into a ritual for significant birthdays in which we reach out to friends, family and others who are influential to our children, and invite them to share “one encouraging word” they associate with him or her, along with a brief explanation of why they chose that word. We make just one ask and then trust the Lord to put a word on the hearts of those He moves to respond.

As we’ve repeated this tradition with a variety of people in our family I’ve seen God move through this simple, powerful gift in the lives of adults and children alike. In preparing to do this for one of my children’s birthdays this week, I realized three reasons this is a gift #worthimitating:

  1. It is a great reminder of how many people love and care about you and are invested in your good. This is particularly helpful to young people with extended family who may be far away, godparents and others who care deeply for them and relish an opportunity to speak positively into their lives.
  2. This world tears us down much of the time; we receive criticism, negative labels, rejection and hurt. What a beautiful thing then, on the day you were born, to be reminded of the good your life brings to those around you, to take a moment to see what others see and treasure in you. For parents, who serve their families with no expectation, it is a blessing to have the fruit of their labors returned to them as loving kindness. For children, it is a great anchor to help them define themselves by their strongest character traits.
  3. Finally, in my vocation of marketing, when I brand a company I never use a cross-section of all customers; I seek to engage “evangelists,” those who are most passionate about their experience of the company and its products. In a very personal way this gift does the same thing: Sharing with others how they are seen and valued by those who care most about them helps (or reminds) them who they are in God’s eyes, how very loved they are and how greatly their lives matter.

I invite and encourage you to adapt this idea in a way that fits your family. It is never too late to start a new tradition. For ours this has made birthday celebrations something special, much more personal, meaningful and rich, and strengthened the bonds across our family and extended family by reminding us that over all these virtues [we are to] put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)


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