7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

I was enjoying getting lost in the large store, books piled high on every shelf. It seemed it didn’t have an end as I navigated my way through the vast categories of books.

As I sat perusing my fingers through some pages, I felt something staring at me.  I peered over the top of the pages, spotting a pair of eyes outlined with royal blue accompanied by an adorable little smile.   Dressed in black pants and a striped shirt, I noticed he had drawn a mask over his eyes with a blue sharpie. No doubt he had to trace it a few times to get the full effect.

Waiving softly, I mouthed hello and smiled.  His superhero face and mischievous grin warmed my heart. Instantly it took me back to those days when Lydia painted herself with make-up. The bright blue eyeshadow you couldn’t miss and the hot pink lipstick covering her mouth, chin and almost up to her nose, made you want to laugh. But she felt beautiful.

Wiping my eyes, I smiled in awe. So hard to believe she is gone.  Oh those years, what I wouldn’t give to rewind time and go back, just to have one more chance. To share those gut-busting giggles, kiss those sweet freckled cheeks, to build that snowman, to do it all again.

The days of our lives are fast and furious, passing by ever so quickly. Years fly by in a second, making us look back wondering where the time went.

You see my daughter Lydia, just turned fifteen and lives in heaven. She passed away when she was five. In hindsight, there’s so much I would do differently. When she was here, my focus wasn’t where it should have been.

Of course, I would want to shower her with gifts and all her favorite things, especially during Christmas, however, I have learned that that only brings temporary and superficial happiness as well as empty pockets.

Now as my daughter’s 15th birthday came and the holidays draw near, her absence is ever so present. My heart is heavy and tuned into to what matters most.

Take it from a mom who knows, here are 7 gift ideas for your children that don’t cost a dime.

7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

1. Give them your time.  Give those precious kiddos the last minutes before bedtime, the first minutes in the morning awakening them with hugs with wide open arms.  Take time to push them on the swings, play cards, or attend that special event.  Give them your undivided attention when you walk through that door from work, greeting them like they are the best gift ever, because they are!

2. Give them your ear. Listen to them.  Put down all the technology that we are chained to and really hear what your children are saying. Listen to the stories of their day, the drama with their friends, and the excitement about their activities.  Listen to their adorable giggles, what makes them smile and what hurts them.  They will forever be grateful for this.

3. Give them unconditional love. Tell them you love them daily, even when they mess up.  When they spill a bag of flour all over the kitchen floor, or when their grades are not as good as they should be, let them know how much they mean to you.  When they overflow the toilet or paint on walls, embrace their uniqueness and make sure they know they are special.  And when they get on your last nerve, take a deep breath, and be thankful that they are there alive, and always end every conflict with an “I love you.”

4. Give your kids the gift of teaching them about the true meaning of Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of presents, shopping, and Santa Claus.  Let them know that Christmas is about love. Let them know they matter, that they were created for a reason and are beloved in the eyes of our heavenly father.   Show them and teach them that faith is everlasting and provides guiding principles for life.

5. Give them the gift of giving back.  Take them to volunteer at a homeless shelter, purchase a gift for a child in need, or other philanthropic acts, being sure to explain the challenges and difficulties so many endure.  Let them see life from a different perspective. And as a bonus for all you parents, your children will gain hearts filled with compassion for others, guaranteed.

6. Give your children the gift of gratitude.  As they learn to be thankful and grateful for everything they have in life, they will gain maturity, responsibility, opening their eyes to the value of hard work.

7. Give them encouragement. Make sure they know how proud you are of them. When they pass a test, get dressed by themselves, clean the house, or make the sports team, tell them how delighted you are. This will empower them with confidence and give them the courage to explore and try new things.

These seem so simple, yet they are gifts that I have neglected to give my children on many occasions. Things and times I have taken for granted, which have haunted me with regret.

I too have been guilty of showing my children with tangible gifts that go unappreciated time and time again, soon to be forgotten.  As parents, I know we all have.   So before you hit those sales in the stores, this year, I challenge you to give your children something they will never forget, making those memories that will remain with them forever.   Your heart will thank you and so will they.


Finding 40-What Grief Has Taught Me Over The Years

Well here it is. It came rolling in with a bang! (Hardly! Unless you consider scrubbing dirty dishes and doing piles of laundry long into the night!)

Somehow I thought it would be different. In my 20’s, I always envisioned by life at 40, happy, career driven with a wonderful family and not a care in the world. Everything would surely be perfect as I had lived my life the first 30 years, without any tragedy or major challenge.



My last birthday with Lydia

Earlier this morning, the tears started to fall as I realized I was turning 40 and upon me is another birthday without my daughter. No matter how much time passes, the dreaded “this is my 9th birthday without her” thoughts, coming barging in without an invitation, packing bits of sorrow accompanied with loving memories of how life used to be.

It’s so incredibly hard to believe….

Where have the last 8 + years gone? I couldn’t tell you but looking back, they did scream by terribly fast. I was overcome with that rotten feeling of sadness, reminding me of how life was when I had just turned 30. My 20’s were grand, full of excitement and adventure, spontaneity and determination. It was full of confidence, friends, graduations, weddings, parties and new beginnings. And then the decade of the 30’s arrived, and only one year into them, at 31, tragedy struck and my life was instantaneously shattered into a million pieces, leaving me felling like a helpless child. When Lydia died, I lost everything. I had no direction, no purpose, and no motivation for life. My existence had been reduced to crumbs.

But somehow, some miraculous way, God held me up and gave me the strength to keep going and rebuild my life, despite my reluctance. Turning 40 for me has been a time to reflect and examine the old me and the new me and how much my life has changed.

So how is life now?

I’m happy, but also sad. I’m so blessed, yet broken inside. I’m still learning to balance these delicate feelings of grief and sorrow that ambush me at moment’s notice, while still being able to experience amazing joy and gifts of each new day.

The fog has lifted. The me who lived a decade ago is not here anymore. Not sure where she went but, an older and wiser me has evolved. I’ve learned about forgiveness and generosity, perseverance and deep love. And I’ve finally figured out how I like to eat my eggs- (scrambled), and that my favorite time of day is just at twilight when the sun it setting. The sky is illuminated in a magnificent light that amplifies the spectacular rainbow of colors, bringing peace to my soul.

As I look at the reflection in the mirror, I see a woman who feels old as the creases on my face get more noticeable. I feel exhausted, and deeply scarred. Yet on the contrary, I also see someone who is strong, full of faith and is a thriving survivor of life’s most horrific circumstances, whose direction in life has been made clear.

The most important thing I’ve learned in the past 8 years, is that if we allow Him, God will turn our grief, sorrow, and anger into something so beautiful. The trauma, the flashbacks of that horrific moment, were like stabbing pains directly through my heart, over and over again, hour after hour, day after day, penetrating my core. Yet, beneath all the pain was a tiny spark of hope that I was determined to uncover. As I reached for the light that I could just barely see, He gently brushed away what kept it hidden, and slowly He began to strengthen me, mold me, and refine all that He created in me. What He has clearly shown me in this process is that through recognizing His work in our own lives, God is able to give us the ability to see others in a different light, with a heart full of compassion. Finding meaning, and living fully with passion and purpose, is what life is all about. It’s unfortunate that it often takes us being broken and at rock bottom, before we can see the light through the cracks. But, my God is faithful, full of mercy, and His love is immeasurable.


No one is exempt from tragedy. No one is exempt from accidents or mistakes. Guilt, regret, and shame do not have to haunt us. I made a choice-a choice to find hope. I learned to gently let go of those things that weighed so heavily on me, slowly removing the blanket that once enveloped me. Although scary, I was able to get through it by clinging to my faith. He works miracles, and is the only one who has the power to bring amazing beauty out of total devastation.

For now, when I feel that time is just rushing by way too fast, I try to slow down, to read those books to my children, to play games, pick ugly flowers that they think are beautiful, explore and appreciate the sloppy kisses, silly questions, fantastic indiscernible artwork, adorable animals and make ample time for the simple things, learning that a little gratitude goes a long way. I’ve learned to embrace my unorganized, chaotic and messy life, making room for what really matters.

The scars on my arm have forever marked me providing me a daily reminder of my arduous journey, dividing my life into “before and after.” Something that I will carry with me always. Presently, I have no idea what the 40’s will bring, however, I know I’m equipped to handle whatever life throws at me.

So, my advice to you all, if I can do this, so can you. 


Ellie’s Way-Spreading Hope and Healing on The Sweeter Side

Surprised by what came in the mail, I couldn’t wait to get home to open the package.  I was nervous, yet excited, and not quite sure of what I would find inside.

Carefully, I lifted the lid, opening the box ever so gently.  At first glance, my eyes observed a box full of gifts that exuded a sense of compassion and a feeling that its contents would provide that glimmer of hope and survival all bereaved parents long for.

I saw a beautiful coin wrapped in a pink mesh laced bag, attached with a message of hope. Yes, this is the key to what loss is all about.  Hope.   “Helping is healing,”   on the front side of the card and on the back a revealing and significant bible verse, 1 Peter 4:10.


And yes, absolutely something I have found over the past years is that helping others really does aid in our healing.

In addition, looking at me was a custom photo stone with Lydia’s picture on one side and on the back the saying, “Love Never Fails.”  Perfect to carry in your pocket  or lay on your desk, keeping your loved one close to your heart.



Next, I saw a poem entitled  “The Sailing Ship,” by Charles Henry Brent….and right beside,  “In loving memory. Of Lydia Marie Greer” November 27, 2002- July 16, 2008– The poem struck a chord within me, making my grief known yet providing assurance that indeed, she is in Heaven surrounded by her loved ones.

It’s still so hard to see  that date, the day she passed.  I hate seeing those numbers 7 and 16..together or separate. This is something that I just haven’t gotten used to. I still turn my head and cringe every time I see them, as they remind me of sad memories. However, on the flip side, what a wonderful gift… the acknowledgement of a beautiful life that lived and made an impact on so many.

To me it was surreal.. It is definitely something to see your child’s name in print from, but as I experienced and lived in that moment, I realized it was about her, my daughter and me. She was here. I was 100% focused on her, her life and the deep love I felt for her still.

And then, a little pink bag.  As I looked inside, I was eager to see the gift that waited inside. I unwrapped the hot pink tissue paper revealing a magnificent necklace…one side with her photo, the other with a fitting quote. With tears flowing, I found myself talking to Lydia, telling her how much I loved and missed her…It was just what I needed.. Even after all this time the bond between mother  and child remains ever so strong.



At the bottom of the box was a pink journal along with writing prompts to encourage those healing words to come out onto the paper.  Keeping a journal saved me. I was reluctant at first, as seeing my pain and words down on paper meant they were real. It was a bit frightening, but after years of writing, looking back and reading them now, they have been blessing in disguise, giving me understanding to the world in which I used to live.

And it continued.  I then found a plethora of literature to aid my healing and direct my faith, reaffirming  my beliefs and correcting my doubts…Steps to Peace with God, Life After Loss booklet, When Tears Remain booklet, Heaven booklet, Our Daily Bread devotional, even beneficial for those who are unsure about where God is in their loss, but also provides much-needed comfort in our darkest hours, those hours when we doubt, can’t sleep, and struggle with how to survive.

The contents of this box satisfied my soul touching the depths unknown to my existence.  I can’t thank Ellie’s parents and their family enough for this life changing personalized gift they have given me. Priceless gifts from the heart. Just knowing that someone out there cares, remembers, and has put their time, heart and soul into a life of serving others in their time of need is absolutely remarkable and a true inspiration to others.

For me,  I really enjoyed “Thoughts on Grief and Loss.”  Each topic covered, 21 to be exact guide you through the feelings and thoughts that we as grieving parents all go through.  From communication, grieving, forgiveness, feelings, love and so many more, there are tidbits of support and wise words to be heard.  As if that wasn’t enough. I then see they are followed by bible passages which brings God’s healing straight to your heart allowing you to see things in a different light while embracing His presence.  www.grievinggumdrops.com

A Growing through Grief Audio CD was also there, which shares the effects of grief on us, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, spiritually and more. A valuable resource for the broken-hearted.

And finally, Stories From The Valley booklet, composed of 9 stories of parents and families who have endured such devastating losses, yet found ways to overcome and find healing through sharing their experiences and helping others, in which I am honored to be among the contributors.  I just cannot stress enough the importance and meaning it can bring to connect with those around you who have experienced loss.  Reading the enclosed booklet is essential. Hearing other stories even though painful at times, can bring a sense of calmness…they know…they get it…and they have survived.  Their lives have made a beautiful transformation, blossoming from grief to hope.


What an incredible movement God has made all because of this precious little girl named Ellie. As a result of her life, countless people are being comforted and given hope.

Even though it has been six years since Lydia died, this box brought new life and meaning to me, reviving my passion for the life God is calling me to do, to share my experience and how He has impacted my life while helping to spread he word of hope, faith, and healing.

The simple treasures of a little box bring joy and a revelation of the feeling that someone out there understands.  Remember, you are not alone, and most importantly there is always hope.

If you or someone you know has been affected by child loss, I strongly urge you to request a care package and openly receive the hope God has provided through Ellie.  There are many ways to support Ellie’s Way, through social media sharing, volunteering, or simply sponsoring a care package. Visit www.Elliesway.org to request a care package and support this life changing cause.