The Value of a Gift

Merry Christmas giftThe Christmas tradition of giving and receiving gifts follows the example of the Magi gifts presented to the Christ Child. They symbolize God’s gift of his Son to the world — and our receiving that gift. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

It seems that these days we are overly concerned with the purchase of gifts. Some scramble to get the best deals, even shopping in the middle of the night to chase over-hyped bargains and special deals to get the biggest bang for their dollar. Millions are spent by advertisers to lure shoppers into malls, stores and online.

Does this not raise the question, “what is the real value of a gift, or of giving?” How do we determine a gift’s worth? What makes a gift valuable and valued?

  1. Why is the gift being given?
    Birthday gifts are an expression of love. We celebrate that someone exists! However, even birthday gifts can sometimes be used to manipulate emotions, to use the gift as a means to win cooperation or to persuade the gifted to respond in a certain way. Sadly, these gifts are empty expressions, rarely valued by their recipient.
  2. Is the gift valued?
    For gifts to be of value, they must be good and do good for the gifted. A criminal may consider the gift of a weapon as good, but if that weapon is used against another human being, how can it be a good gift? Unless a gift ultimately does the recipient well, it lacks real value.
  3. What is the actual cost or value of the gift?
    How much money someone spends on a gift has nothing to do with its value as a gift. The child who spends hours making a scrapbook for her Mom out of lunch bags, buttons, ribbons and glue builds a gift of great value. A wealthy executive who is so busy that he has his secretary secure “anything” for his wife that costs at least $500 gives very little. Gifting is using one’s heart to enrich, bless, and love the one receiving the gift.

When you receive a gift, there is no expectation of repayment. It is a gift. Gifts that meet great needs or bring blessing to the recipient are the gifts that bring the response of gratitude (though there no guarantee, or should there be). There is no greater revelation of someone’s love than a gift that represents the best someone has to give. A gift that benefits the beneficiary, is given freely, is given in pure love, and that is given with some cost to the giver.

As we celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas, it is our prayer that this small essay on the true value of a gift may help you reflect on the greatest gift ever given – the love of God and the gift he gave us all – his only Son who fills our hearts with peace, love and rejoicing. May this gift of love overflow in your hearts.

Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones, from The Brownings.

How To Have a Healthy Thanksgiving

winter jogger [Photo credit: Roberto Verzo]Apple Tree Health Plans wants everyone to have a joyous and truly blessed Thanksgiving — but we also want our family of clients and friends to celebrate this traditional holiday, known for splurging on gravy-topped stuffing, marshmallow encrusted yams, and decadent slices of pecan pie, pumpkin pie, spice cake, and anything chocolate, without gaining weight. Impossible? Here are a few ways to eat well and stay trim so you can fit into that little black dress or skinny velvet sweater on Christmas Eve.

  • Walk the day before and again right after Thanksgiving dinner. Walking on Wednesday will alert your body to how great it feels to hit your pace, making you more likely to keep your commitment to walk after the big dinner on Thursday. If you’re hosting the dinner, ask your invited guests to bring their walking shoes and make the walk a fun group event.
  • Focus on the people and not the food. While you’re preparing the meal and greeting guests on their arrival, focus your attention on them, not on sampling every piece of the food you’re slicing, dicing, stirring, baking, and blending. It’s a lot harder to hold a conversation if you have food in your mouth – so don’t put it there! Stay focused on the people, not the food.
  • Instead of seeing how much you can eat, serve yourself small portions of everything, but only enough to satisfy your appetite for that “special taste of Thanksgiving Dinner” — but don’t overdo it. Make a commitment to graze on small portions, then stick to it.
  • Clean up after dinner, not the next day. All the running back and forth from the dining room to the dishwasher is a mini workout. Folding tablecloths, scrubbing countertops, and drying those heavy roasting pans can be highly aerobic. If you’re the guest and not the host, jump in and help clean up. Your host will appreciate the gesture, and you give yourself a bonus workout right when you need it.
  • Plan to workout Friday morning, even if you have overnight guests. Whether you hit the pavement in sneakers or head to the neighborhood gym, an early morning workout will leave you feeling great instead of lethargic, and keep those extra calories from sticking to your waist or thighs. Plus, if in advance you ask a friend to join you, you’re more likely to show up.

Happy holidays everyone! From the Browning family to yours, we wish you the gift of gratitude for all that God has given to us.

Medicare Open Enrollment 2014

Every year there are two things the Browning house can count on… raking leaves and Medicare enrollment time.

colorful autumn leavesUnlike the the leaves that may take a longer time to drop when the weather is warm, and a shorter time when the weather is cooler, Medicare enrollment time is the same every year — it starts on October 15 and ends December 7th.

If you are already on Medicare, you don’t need to renew, but it’s a good time to review your coverage.

By now, you are probably receiving a lot of mail about the expanded Medicare benefits under the Affordable Care Act — things like free preventative benefits, cancer screenings, and yearly “wellness” visits.

Every carrier, it seems, has new health plans and prescription drug coverage choices. It’s true, they do. And for most of us it can be confusing!

Call us to find out if your plan is still right for you. We may be able to show you plans that cost less, cover your drugs, and let you keep doing to the doctors and pharmacsts you know and like.

Behind Every Success Lies a Strong Partner

Messer Financial Group are the folks who work for us behind the scenes. As a National Field Marketing Organization (FMO) their primary purpose is to serve Independent Agents like Apple Tree Health Plans. Their motto is “behind every success lies a strong partner.”

behind successThe insurance companies we represent require that we partner with such an organization so we can benefit from their marketplace research of new products and carriers and their assistance with the process of contracting with insurance companies they support, including the Senior markets. They provide us with additional training and service insurance products that we are licensed and contracted to sell.

As a non-captive agent, I am free to do as little or as much business with Messer Financial as I desire. No single apple tree can survive in a big playing field all by itself. The tree may have many branches and good soil, but it needs lots of water, food, and an occasional pruning. It belongs in an orchard. There is success in numbers.

Messer Financial has a team of dedicated individuals assigned specific roles to help each Independent Agent and Agency to become successful in their field — and have been supporting these agents for well over a decade.

Healthcare today is a challenging world. Messer officers are “in touch” with how to partner and grow successful strong business relationships with insurance carriers, agencies and independent agents. They partner with insurance companies and ancillary companies whose products offer a better quality of life. We chose Messer because we believe they understand that family and relationships are important, and they foster those within their own organization.

As a Licensed Independent Insurance Agency, Apple Tree Health Plans is committed to provide “fruitful Medicare health planning, year after year”. So, in addition to United Healthcare, we are now licensed and contracted with Aetna, Humana, Anthem Blue Cross, and Premier Health Plans through our FMO arrangement. With an orchard that is full and bountiful, I’m better enabled to help our clients pick products right for them. Fruitful crops require additional planting, so we plan to add new ancillary products such as Vision, Dental, Final Expense and Critical Illness insurance policies.

If you would like to learn more about Messer Financial Group, visit their website ( Oh, and say hello for me!

Note: Messer Financial Group, LLC does NOT sell insurance policies, but works with individual agents and private agencies, such as Apple Tree Health Plans, LLC that do sell insurance policies.

Our New and Improved Website!

I hope that you have noticed the improvement in our communications via this new Apple Tree Health Plans website just launched.

We intend that the fonts and color palette are pleasing to the eye, easy to read, and communicates what we represent. We are adamant about keeping the content relevant to what our clientele needs – and keeping it concise. The design should make it easy for you to find what is helpful to you.

In the future my blogs will focus on upcoming events and important updates about Medicare insurance, focusing on Ohio and especially its western and southwestern counties.

Thanks for visiting our new site; let me know how I can help you.