As I've contemplated the best gifts I can give this year, the overriding thought has been to give the personal one. Meaning, the gift of forgiveness, or love or peace.

In his book "Becoming a Better You," Joel Osteen shares an experience of a woman who was driving the new car her husband had just purchased for her. At an intersection she turned too sharply and sideswiped another car. In tears, she told the gentleman whose car she had hit that she was a newlywed, and this car was a gift from her husband. He kindly said he was sure her husband would understand. As she reached into the glove compartment, she saw attached to the insurance information a note that read, "Honey, just in case you ever have an accident, please remember I love you and not the car."

Such a personal gift is priceless to the receiver. I considered a conversation years ago with a girlfriend. We were discussing her dysfunctional family, particularly her less-than-ideal father, and yet she said, "I'm grateful for the gift my father gave me." Through the untold heartache his choices had caused, she had discovered his gift of teaching her to shine, to be more than she knew, and to work for everything she wanted. Surviving this experience, she had been able to recognize in each situation a buried treasure.

As I have thought on my own dysfunctional background, about a childhood threaded with good but one I would not want for my children, I have been touched by the gifts those experiences have also given, though sometimes hidden. At one point I decided to write them down, these simple gifts of example and influence from my parents and siblings. These hidden gifts have remained ingrained within me, the sand in the clam, I suppose, to produce a few pearls of my own.

Hidden gifts, such as the way my mother taught me how and how not to sing. She sang spontaneously and often and taught me to listen to the music by feel, wait for the unexpected beat and sing it loose. This musical knowledge came without a single structured music lesson. I thought how at the time my sisters and I rolled our eyes more often than necessary as she would invariably sing the wrong words to most every tune and certainly did not show the least appreciation for this wonderful gift we received.

From my older sister, the hidden gift of the thank-you note. I remember without fail her example of selecting beautiful cards for people-moments. Her genuine joy in promptly sending just the right card is what makes me buy them in bulk today.

And from my other sister, the gift of timing. At 16, she was a master storyteller, daily commanding rapt dinner-table attention (the coup de gras). A pause here, a raised eyebrow there and a knowing glance in between turned the average this-was-my-day sentence into a performance. Every now and then I will be in the midst of a story, and the perfect shrug brings her to mind.

Whether it's about a fender-bender or purpose in life, forgiving someone or letting something go, perhaps our greatest joy this season could be to give the personal gift.

LIFEChange Tip: This Christmas, list in a gratitude journal the personal gifts that have been given to you over the years.

Book Pick: "Becoming a Better You" by Joel Osteen