What is the best gift you could give your wife and children this Christmas? When our kids were little we would give them lots of interesting toys that wound up in the toy box. As they grew up, electronics became the staple gift. Now that the boys are older, we tend to give gifts that they need. But, truth be told, the best gifts we give are non-tangible. I think the best gifts we can give are the words, “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, and “Thank you”.

The first gift we can give is the expression “I love you.” The deepest need of all people is to feel that they have a place in life, that they are acceptable and accepted. “I love you” expresses that kind of unconditional acceptance. It is telling the other person that they have a special place in your heart. When you feel loved you feel at ease with who you are, peaceful, joyful and safe. Those in your house need to hear “I love you” every day so that they know they are home. Whenever we express this kind of love we are reflecting the image of God who so loved the world that he sent his only son so that we could return home to him.

The second gift we can give is the gift of noticing a job well done. “I’m proud of you” lets people know that you have seen the efforts and work of the person and that it is good. Just like when God pronounced his creation good, we are called to notice and exclaim what is good in people’s lives. We think about this often for our kids, because we want to encourage them with affirmation. However, our spouses need to be noticed and praised as well. When Mary Kay tells me about her adventures at work, I look for things that I can affirm – how well she handled a difficult situation, how her students learned so much because of her skillful teaching, or kindness shown to a fellow teacher or student. “I’m proud of you” provides fuel to keep going in the right direction.

Another gift we can give is appreciation. You and I know how much it takes to run a household – laundry, dinner, homework, vacuuming, cleaning, mowing the lawn, taking care of cars, etc. The list seems endless, and we can easily take each other for granted. It is easy to go through a weekly routine and forget to say “Thank you.” A rule at our house is that no one can leave the dinner table until they compliment the chef. And even if I tell Abigail to do a chore, when she does it I take a moment to tell her how I appreciate her work. I want her to know that she is an important, contributing member of our family. Most of what we do in life no one sees, but it feels so good when someone appreciates our work and says, “Thank you.”

What gifts are you giving this Christmas? Prepare for Christmas by giving these three gifts to your family each day of Advent: “I Love You!”, “I’m Proud of You!”, and “Thank You!” If you give these gifts for a month, I guarantee that you will have the best Christmas ever.