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The Gift of Giving

I enjoy giving gifts to friends and family, but I'm not particularly good at it. For example, one recent Christmas, I gave a gift to my sister. After she opened it, her response was, "What were your thoughts?" which was her not-so-subtle but polite way of saying, "What in the world were you thinking?" Bless her. The particular item SEEMED like a good idea in the store but wasn't at all appealing when she tried to figure out what to make of it.

Steve is great at selecting gifts and cards for me. I'm sure my gifts to him are much less imaginative and amazing. Our daughter Laura is well known for having "The Gift of Cards." She picks the perfect one, every time.

Before our trip to Ecuador, I had high hopes that I'd be seeing several female friends while I was in the country, so I picked up some gifts from the boutiques on Main Street in Hartselle with the idea of taking them something from my hometown. Those gifts proved to be small indeed compared to the generous gestures I received in return.

On Wednesday night of our trip, we had dinner with my beloved Spanish teacher and friend, Rosana Cordoba and her husband Diego. She was much more to me than a teacher when we lived in Cuenca. She and Diego opened their home to us and introduced us to their children and other family members. We visited their farm and shared delightful meals. Our time last week was filled with laughter, memories, tons of "Spanglish," and a package of Ecuadorian chocolate she brought for us.

The next afternoon I met my friend Sarah at a chocolate shop near the town square. She brought along her daughter Amanda who was born after we left Ecuador. We have kept up via Facebook but still had much to share. I loved that she found time in her busy week to spend with me. The best gift she gave me was sharing the fact that a Bible study I had started for English-speaking women in Cuenca in 2004 was STILL CONTINUING!!! That made me SO happy!! The desserts were delicious, too. :)

While we were in Quito, we had dinner with our former next-door neighbors Alexandra and Oscar. In the last year we were living there as missionaries, the four of us had a Saturday morning breakfast habit. One week Steve and I would choose the restaurant, and we'd all speak English. The next week they would select the spot, and we'd all speak Spanish. In that way, both our language skills and our relationship improved. As soon as she saw us, Alexandra wrapped us in warm, soft scarves she had selected. The gesture conveyed so much love and felt almost as good as the great hugs she gave.

On our last day in the country, Steve's good friend Gonzalo (who was a single, university student when they met) picked us up at the hotel and drove us to his home. We met his wife and two beautiful daughters (ages 4 and 8) and enjoyed a wonderful lunch his wife had prepared for us. The older daughter Valen played her violin for us and spoke to us in English using what she had learned in school. The books we took to his family were a small token in return. Gonzalo normally works as an engineer in the production of petroleum in the jungle for several weeks each month, so we had prayed he would be in Quito while we were there. God said yes to that prayer.

The most valuable gift we all gave to each other was time, and the benefits/memories/stories of those hours will last for many years to come.

Proverbs 18:16 -- "A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great."

James 1:17 -- "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

2 Corinthians 9:7 -- "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

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