Giving a person hope.

I struggle with giving gifts. It’s not about the cost. For the people we love, we can find the resources. It’s about discovering what people actually want, tempered by what people actually need.

A few years ago, our immediate family switched from gifts to gift cards, and then started having a treasure hunt for the cards. Eventually, that grew into projects we could do as a family that would help other people.

But I still worry about giving the right gift. About finding something that will measure up, that will match what the other person gives, that will be helpful.

I think that wanting to avoid that anxiety is what took me to the question in our Advent journal today: for each person on your gift list, what gives them hope?

What reminds them of the grounding they have? What helps them find the context that will help them endure?

This isn’t a scolding thing, I don’t think. Nor is it a platitude. “God’s got this” feels really hollow when standing next to a death bed or after hearing a terminal diagnosis.

“Here’s how I know God has you, because I almost didn’t come to see you today” is a little better. Particularly if you know that this person often feels unnoticed, and if you know that listening to them over a cup of coffee is often what gives them courage. And on this day, you listened to a nudge that took you to their presence. With coffee.

So how do you figure out what gives someone hope?

You watch them. You notice the moment that you see a flicker of life in their eyes when they are weary of all this [waves hands], when they are ready to just quit.

You set aside what gives you hope, acknowledging that they are different than you, and this is not about you feeling better with an amazing sacrifice, this is about bringing perseverance to their heart on long journey.

You ask the “God of hope” for advice. And then take it.


This is some background for today’s reflection in Giving a Year Meaning: A Healing Journal for Advent 2020. Learn more at