So... Christmas. It's right around the corner, believe it or not. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that mind-numbing fact; for some reason, it just isn't happening. Yes, the stores have been decorated for months now, and yes, Christmas jingles have been playing for ages. And yes, the wish-lists of my little boys have been written and re-written and I think even re-written once again. Yet I just can't get past this crazy, bewildering passage of time. I'll never understand, for somehow it seems to hasten with each passing year, and quite frankly, I just don't care for it one single bit! I need. more. time.
Alas, no. This is the way it is, and the sooner I get on board with that fact, the better off we'll all be. So... on to Christmas. Here's our deal: in years past, Chris and I have fallen into the same old habit... spend big, shop like mad, fill our house with stuff... stuff... and more stuff... for one simple reason-- because that's what's expected. Because it makes us feel good. Because we like stuff. But to what end?? Every year we strain our budget in ridiculous ways, we drive ourselves mad as we search for the perfect gift, and then 3 weeks later we toss unused toys out the window once the newness & excitement & interest wears off.
Well, not anymore.
This year, we're simplifying...
we're shifting our focus...
we're taking our eyes off of what we can get
and on to what we can
...to those who are less fortunate,
to those who are hurting,
to those who have so very little...
to the least of these.
You see, by the world's standards, we have so much.
And we simply don't need anymore.
This culture, this age in which we live, is so consumed with self...
with accummulating more and more and more and more,
while all the while giving less, less, less.
And what does that teach our children?
That it's all about me
when it really isn't that way it all.
Or at least it shouldn't be.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost...
to live sacrificially...
to serve others...
to model self-lessness and perfect love and life abundant.
And that's what we're called to do, too.
Living inside our cushy self-absorbed bubbles won't do it.
We're called to look outside of ourselves,
beyond our comforts and amenities,
to a world that's hurting. Badly.
So... after mulling this over for quite some time, Chris and I have decided to make a few changes. We've decided to switch things up a bit.... to tackle things differently... to change the way we do Christmas. Of course, it's all still a work in progress, and over the weeks (and years) we'll surely tweak our approcah as the Spirit leads. But for now, this is how we're approaching this wonderfully awesome holiday in our home... in order to cultivate servant hearts... giving hearts... selfless hearts... in all of us... in order to sow seeds imperishable for the glory of God our Father.
1) We'll be slashing our Christmas budget so that we can give more to those who truly need it. As a family, we'll be supporting the work of Samaritan's Purse-- it's one of my very favorite organizations, as these folks share the Gospel of Christ and lots of much needed care to people all over the globe. We often send them money for use in their most-needed areas, but this year we're giving more through their gift catalog-- filled with oodles of wonderful gift ideas... from a batch of chicks to a dairy goat to a hive of honey bees to bedding and blankets and clothing and shoes... countless gifts to offer to those who truly need (and all in a wide range of prices). We've been pouring through the catalog for days now, we've been considering our options, and I think we've almost narrowed down our selections (the boys even want to contribute a protion of their own piggy banks this go roud :). So out of our excess-- out of our abundance-- we'll share the love of Christ with those in desperate conditions, and hopefully our children will glimpse eternity in the process.
2) Xerox is doing something cool... something free... something fun (the boys can't wait to get started!)-- they're sending Christmas postcards to our troops in Iraq, and we can play a part. It's super easy... just click on the link, pick out a card design, and type a personalized messsage (including Scripture if you want!). Xerox will then send it--free of charge!-- to a man or woman serving our country overseas, just in time for Christmas. Very, very cool... very, very simple... yet in God's hands, very, very powerful!
3) Throughout December, the boys and I will be making some homemade gifts & some tasty treats for our special friends and neighbors, and we'll hopefully even send a few handwritten letters to those who are far away. Perhaps we'll try our un-crafty hands at some simple Christmas tree ornaments (ideas... anyone??), and perhaps a few will even turn out alright. If that's the case, we know a few folks who just might appreciate a child's simple gift :)
4) Starting today, the boys will be making entries in their Gratitude journals (similiar to the 1000 Gifts lists)-- just 2 entries a day... to help shift their focus off of their wants and on to what the LORD has already given~
5) Modeled after our New Testament example, Chris and I have decided to give each of our children 3 gifts on Christmas morning. No more mounds of presents (which will inevitably be broken or tossed within days of opening)... just 3 meaningful gifts each... because that's enough for us. As a friend of mine recently said, "If it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!"
(And here's another neat idea to consider, if simplifying is in your future~)
So that's where we are right now. It's not much, but it's a start.
(and if anyone has any other neat ideas to share, please... please!... pass them along)
Spending less... getting less... so that we can give more doesn't come naturally to little people, and quite frankly, it doesn't come naturally to the grown-ups in this home, either! But it's what we feel led to do, so we'll start small, and by the grace of God, He'll multiply our resources and our desires... and He'll soften our hearts and change us in the process... so that He may use us to make a difference this holiday season and in the weeks & months beyond.
Oh, and before I forget... if you're interested, check out the Christmas Change site & blog (it's wonderful!)-- here you'll discover a community dedicated to spending less & giving more... a community trusting that, just as with the loaves and the fishes, our Father will take what little we have and transform it miraculously... and in the process save a hurting soul.
And one last little plug... if you have any extra change in your pocket this Christmas season, please consider making a donation to Compassion International. Our family has been so blessed over the years by the relationships we've developed with our sponsored children. Through frequent correspondence and shared prayers, we've been able to spread the love of Christ across the oceans... and the LORD has used His resources-- entrusted to us-- to bless not just those two precious families, but ours as well... just a thought :)
and Merry Christmas!
"Then the King will say to those on His right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance,
the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.
I was thirsty and you gave me somethingto drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer Him,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing cothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?'
The King will reply,
'I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,
you did for me.' "