Dear Friend,

The number one thing your loved ones want to know at this special time of the year is that you love them, that you want to be with them. That you enjoy their company and care about their lives. And guess what, it doesn’t cost one cent for you to give them that. It only costs your time and your affection, your smile, your words, your arms and your heart. Yes, it might feel awkward and you won’t say everything just right, but try anyway. Love is not based on perfection.

Not everything you plan will go smoothly, and that will be okay too. Savor the moments driving around in the van looking at Christmas lights together, even if one of your kids complains about it being lame. Drink hot cocoa together and sit in the same room for more than 15 minutes -- that’s worth more than anything made of plastic you can buy, wrap or open. Love is not measured with dollar signs.

Take a picture by the tree that you decorated together, but not just so you can post it somewhere on the internet. Print one out and put it in a frame. Save it for later so you can remember that you feel the same way about those special people no matter what day of the year it is. Even if they want more than you can afford or they act like spoiled brats. Even if they’re awesome and grateful. Love is not based on performance.

Tell them the stories you believe and why. And don’t get upset when they don’t worship the way you think they should. Give them time and space to accept the miracle for themselves. It may take years and you might never see it happen. That’s okay, too. Love gives whether or not it is received.

Don’t get caught up in the madness. Remember that you are also a gift.

May we all handle each other with care.

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