by Emily Conrad

I’m not done Christmas shopping, and, yes, I’m aware I have less than a week to finish. What’s the hold up? Well, a lot of things, I suppose. I love to give a good gift. I love to be the one to pinpoint that thing you’ve always wanted but didn’t ask for.

I get into trouble with that “didn’t ask for” part. If you want a good gift someone didn’t ask for, you have to know them well, remember their little likes and dislikes, and know what’s different and useful in the recipient’s areas of interest. Then, you have to shop until all of that aligns into one reasonably-priced item.

At this point, the difference between my method of gift-giving and God’s method cannot be ignored.

The whole reason we give gifts at Christmas as Christians is because of the unreasonably-priced gift God gave: Jesus Christ. He set aside his glory and came to Earth as a baby. He lived and suffered here, teaching, dying, resurrecting, all in the power of a God whose love is lavishly unreasonable. Who is man that He would be mindful of us? And yet, He gave us Jesus and, through Him, the gift of adoption into His family.

This adoption, this invitation to relationship with the Almighty God is just what we need, but let’s be honest: Jesus wasn’t what we asked for. The Bible says none of us seek God on our own. Jews of Jesus’s day were expecting a messiah who would be a political ruler, rather than one whose kingdom was not of this world. They were looking for someone to solve their earthly problems, and often, that’s what we want, too. But God gave us what we really need instead. Through Jesus, the best gift we didn’t ask for, the gift that sought us out with love before we loved Him, we can receive the gift of eternal life.

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. John 3:16-17, NET

Those reasonably-priced gifts we’ll trade this year pale in comparison. Even if we opt to give something extravagant, nothing will top what God offers us. So, as we trade gifts in the coming week, may we also look for (and take advantage of) the opportunity to help someone else unwrap this greatest and first gift.

But speaking of those reasonably-priced gifts, I promised you some ideas.

Part of the problem with finding a gift for a family member or a friend is that if I don’t share that person’s interest in, say, cooking gadgets, I’m not sure what might be new, interesting, or useful to them. It’d be great if I could bring a foodie with me to point at something and say, “This is a great bet for someone who likes cooking gadgets because ____.”

Last night, I took a guess at cooking stuff without an expert along, and we’ll see in a few days if I guessed well or not. But, I thought that for any of you who still have shopping to do, I would volunteer favorites of mine for under $30 in a few of my special interest areas. Of course, this will only help if you have someone on your list whose interests overlap with mine, but some of these are pretty popular interests, so it’s worth a shot, right?

Before we get to the list, there are some things to know:

First, these ideas are under $30 before any tax or shipping, and this is based on the prices I saw as I wrote this post. Taxes and shipping will vary by site and state.

Second, the links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage from Amazon if you make a purchase through it. It doesn’t change your price. If you order through Amazon and have Amazon Prime, the site says their free 2-day Prime shipping option will still get items there before Christmas if you order before Friday, December 22nd.

Third, always check the time frames when ordering online to make sure the item will arrive when you need it! Other than Amazon, I have not checked the shipping time frames or costs. If the shipping doesn’t look like it’ll work for you, gifts similar to these ideas should be available locally, too.

Happy shopping!

For the coffee lover

Locally roasted coffee. The flavor of coffee that hasn’t been sitting on the shelf forever is roasty-toasty-good. Once or twice a year, I make it up to Bayfield, WI and stop in for a bag of Midnight Voyageur from Big Water Coffee. I recently discovered a local health food store sells Collectivo coffee, which is roasted in Milwaukee, WI. To buy locally (since that’s fun and you won’t have to worry about shipping cost or time), try doing an Internet search to see if there’s a roaster near you, or check your local coffee shop or small, local grocery stores. If you can find out which kind of roast your recipient prefers (dark, medium, light, decaf), that will be a big help, but if you don’t know, I’d say just go middle of the road with medium.

Coffee grinder. Freshly ground coffee just tastes better, too, in my opinion. (Fresh-roasted coffee ground that morning just before you put it in the coffee maker? Now that’s a good cup of coffee!) If your recipient doesn’t have one, this could make a good gift, and you should be able to find on at a local department store for under $30.

Aeropress. It takes some playing around to get the right ratio of coffee to water, but once I got it down, I now actually prefer lattes I make at home to those from you-know-which-famous-coffee-chain. It’s that good.

Mugs. Christmas mugs. Classy mugs. Funny mugs. I have a mug-collecting problem, and I know I’m not the only one who’s always willing to find room for one more. I found some cute ones locally at Hobby Lobby and Target, so you could check there. (The one in the pic above is from Hobby Lobby.) Otherwise, Anthropologie has pretty and cute and whimsical options.

For the dog lover

A convertible leash. Specifically, this one (which is on sale as I type this for more than half off, but I don’t know how long that will last). I bought mine locally at Petco after our hound chewed through his normal leash in a couple of unattended minutes, so if shipping cost or time through the site is a problem, you might find this at a pet store near you… Not sure this is a good idea? Here’s why I love mine: When we took in for a one-on-one session with a trainer, complaining about the way he reacts to other dogs on walks, one of the first things the trainer did was advise me to use a cross-body leash. This way, he’s securely strapped to me, but my hands are free, so if I tense up when I see another dog, I won’t yank on his neck, sending that tense energy to my dog. But, that aside, it’s great to be able to walk (or run!) with my hands free. And, for those times when you want to tether the dog to a chair or a tree or whatever, this leash is perfect. I can’t believe I’ve been a dog owner for over 15 years and only just discovered these.

For the word lover

Old books. Of course there are used bookstores, but I usually look for these at second-hand shops. Many thrift stores will separate the classics or “literature” from the general fiction titles, so all the good stuff is in one place. I’ve also found good ones at antique stores. Look for a pretty hardcover (you might have to take off the dust jacket) by an author you’ve heard of. Bonus points if you find one that matches the color scheme of a room in the recipient’s house! Famous titles (or titles by famous authors) in pretty covers are great for decorating–I have stacks of books adding their wordy charm to several rooms in the house. And, I sometimes take one off its display shelf and read it. Many book lovers and writers like to expand their reading with the occasional classic. For one I really want, I might pay up to about $12 or $14, but I often find them for much less.

Great pens. Because, “I’m sick of paper products,” said no writer ever (at least, not in my hearing). I like these Zebra Jimnie Gel Rollerball pens. I’ve never found them locally, but one I have been able to find in town are Tul pens, which are classy-looking and have ink that I think flows nicely.

Bookish T-shirts. Because, let’s face it: we’re word geeks and we’re proud of it. Etsy has a nice selection for both readers and writers, though, again, I’m not sure what their shipping time frames are, so be sure to check.


Okay, I hope that’s given you some ideas if you still have some shopping to do! But remember, the pressure is off; the most important gift has already been given. We accept that gift through faith. Rather than what we can give back to Him, it’s our hearts that matter to God. Let’s carry that emphasis on our hearts over into our gift-giving, as well. Let’s give what we give–whether seemingly big or seemingly small–with great love.

Because love is the one gift I can assure you everyone on your list deeply needs.

Let’s give what we give–whether seemingly big or seemingly small–with great #love. via @emilyrconrad