If you could see my kitchen right now, you would find piles of artwork created by my five-year-old son tucked into corners, piled into drawers, and pinned to the bulletin board one on top of the other until the thumb tacks can scarcely hold them on.

I have three children, but my middle child has a passion for creating. His love language is giving gifts, usually in the form of love notes and drawings with hopelessly misspelled words, backwards letters, and drawings that don’t always resemble what he had in his mind’s eye. But ever since he was little, proudly presenting me with scribble drawings and saying, “It’s because I LOVE you!” I have received each and every scribble-marked gift with as much pride and appreciation as if it were a masterpiece of great value.

There was a Sunday morning not long ago when I found myself approaching communion with a heavy heart. I was thinking back to several things I’d said to the kids that morning that I wished I could take back, and about the way I can be slow to listen, and so stinking quick to speak and to become angry.

I was in the process of writing a book about the importance of family discipleship, and felt like a complete fraud for thinking that anything I had to say would be of value to someone else, when I couldn’t even be a good example to my own children. I even felt unworthy to approach the Lord in worship as the music began to play. I offered up a silent prayer, asking God what I could possibly have to offer him that would be of any value. And then this vivid picture came to my mind of a small child running to his parent with a scribble drawing in hand. The child and the drawing were received with unbridled joy and approval, just as my son’s drawings are received by me. But this time, I knew that I was the child, and God was the loving parent. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I realized God was saying, “This is how I see you.”

This is how he sees our gifts. We are imperfect, fallen creatures, and so the gifts we offer to the Lord—our failed attempts to parent well, our meager acts of worship—are flawed. But when our hearts are full of love for him, and we give him everything we have to give, he knows and receives our scribble-marked love notes with immeasurable love and approval.

…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
~Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

I find that the sweetest gifts are those that come from a place of love. It really has nothing to do with the gift itself, but the heart of the giver.

The Bible tells us over and over that God is the same way:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” ~ Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV)

I will never look at homemade gifts from my children again without being reminded of my loving Father. Where the analogy breaks down is that I take my son’s art and display it proudly for what it is. But when we come before the Lord as willing vessels, with humble hearts full of love for him, he can joyfully accept the imperfect gifts we lay at his feet and transform them into something we never imagined possible.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Jaime Hampton is the author of Malnourished: Equipping Parents to Battle Spiritual Poverty on the Home Front. She lives in Southcentral Alaska with her husband and three children. You can connect with Jaime at www.jaimehampton.com.