Monday, September 3, 2012

christmassss time is herrrrrre.

it's labor day. there's 112 days until christmas...which is like 3 and 1/2 months.

did i scare you?! (this was said in the dinosaur's voice from toy story)

you're like, why are we talking about christmas right now? i want to help you plan ahead, my friendlies.   last year i decided that i was done doing christmas like we had always done it. my kids opened their presents and flopped around on the floor, bored and ungrateful and my heart ached. i had fed this ungratefulness in my own heart and in their hearts. i literally ached for change.
i read anne voscamp's advent devotions on how they do christmas and i just sat at my computer and cried. it was inspiring and convicting all in one swoop.

we had done a jessie tree co-op too, where some friends and i crafted 25 ornaments for whatever particular day we were assigned and then exchanged them with each other.  if you're not familiar with a jessie tree, each day has a particular bible verse and then you hang a special ornament on the tree. it's a way to participate in advent, which i thought was only for catholics(ha).  it was pretty incredible and it really slowed me down to think about the magnificent meaning and gift that christmas is. and the gift that Jesus is to all of us.

and in that slowing down, i wanted to commit to more. more awareness of others who are suffering, more awareness of our excessive lifestyle, and a mindfulness of our need for Jesus--who came to us as a tiny human. you know, the meaning of Christmas.

we use that phrase a lot. we say it to our kids. do you know what Christmas means? it's all about Jesus. It's Jesus' birthday! that's what everyone is celebrating at Christmastime. 

i said this a lot to layne last year. but what struck me was that i was saying those words, but my actions said, it's all about you, layne. your gifts. your christmas experience. your stuff. 

and so there was just this awkward tension that i had never felt before. it was very uncomfortable and it moved me to repentance and change. not because i think that people giving gifts to each other is bad but because it was doing something in our hearts that was feeding selfishness and unwise indulgence in the name of something good.

because i love christmas. the season is nostalgic and incredible. the music and the movies...the cold nip in the air and sledding and ice skating. the traditions and the treats. ohhhhhhh, the treats.

but i want there to be more for our family and more for me. can it be both nostalgic and Christ-centered? i think that it absolutely can be, but i haven't figured out how it should look for our family. i only know that i want to be obedient and that i want to start creating an awareness for my kids now. which means conversations that christmas will look different this year...that we won't be doing a lot of gifts for each other this year. that we will be giving to those in need in order to point us to our need for a savior. and in order to help generate awareness for the needs of others globally and locally who do not have food or clean water or blankets or fair treatment or heat or snacks or jackets or toys.

layne and i have watched the samaritan's purse video about sending a shoe box to children all over the world with little gifts in them for children, some who work all day in trash dumps to collect things to sell or scrounge for food.

he said, mom. that's pretty amazing.
he's 6. but he's starting to get it just a little bit.
he made a list of things to put in the shoe box so he could keep an eye out for them when we are at target over the next couple of months.
i love that his mind is bending in that direction at least.

and today, on labor day, we will watch this video from the mercy project and acknowledge the 5 year old children that have been sold as slaves to work 14 hours a day on a boat, receiving one meal a day and falling asleep in exhaustion on dirt floors every night in unbelievable conditions. layne thinks his reality is everyone's reality, so watching images like these, is extremely helpful.

(you can scroll down to turn off the music on the blog)
it is hard for me as a mother to think of my child living in these conditions. what is even more difficult is turning my face away from those children who live this horror every day for years and years. and there i stand in the target aisle deciding if layne needs just one more toy under the tree. it's unbearable to me when that $20 decision could help change someone's life in an incredible way.

i am ready to change this year.

i pray for our family, that we do not get wrapped up in our own selves this Christmas, but that we thoughtfully consider putting our resources towards a greater cause other than nostalgia. or what we think Christmas should look like for layne, lila, and penelope and ourselves. i am praying that as we lose the fuss of material things, it helps us to see Jesus more clearly and trades boredom, ungratefulness, and self centeredness with a love for God that empowers us to give generously and act as instruments of His love.

that's what i want for christmas. i want a changed heart.
and i'm not saying that to overspirutalize or make you think i'm this mother theresa-esque person. those of you who know me in real life just laughed out loud. i am saying that because i know that it will take a miracle from God to make this change in me. so i pray for that.

pray it with me. for God's eyes this year and God's heart. and God's hands. i bet it could be the best Christmas we've ever had.

(and i acknowledge that some of you think i am crazy and a spiritual weirdo who is too deep for her own good. sometimes if you say it out loud we can all just laugh about it and it makes it less awkward. or something? i don't think your family needs to do things like my family. i don't think your blog needs to look like my blog and i don't think you need to dress like i do. i do think we should be open to letting Christ change us in big and small ways however He chooses. so i'm processing through what that's looks like for me and my fam. )


48 comments:

  1. My husband and I have talked about making a change at Christmas time also. Our biggest obstacle is getting the grandparents on board, who want to get each child at least 10 gifts. Thanks for the push to get started now.

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    1. i always say, we can only control what happens in this house. i don't fuss about the grandparents and all that. they are spoilers by nature. LOL. but perhaps they'll come on board at some point? and even if they don't...i'll just focus on things with in these walls.

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  2. I love it when women find a way to share what God is doing in their hearts, in a way that's inviting but doesn't make me want to just click the x - it makes me want to think, and consider, and ponder what the idea you are thinking about might look like in my own family. Thank you.

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  3. I love that you thought Advent was only for Catholics, LOL ... I grew up in the Dutch Reformed church, and our family (and churches) always celebrated Advent. I think it's a beautiful tradition; it's something I look forward to every year!

    Lovely post, Jami. I'm with you.

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  4. love this. i felt similarly (is that a word?) after reading anne v's post last year also, and have felt a real stirring to do something about actually living out the call to be jesus to the hungry, the orphan, the widow. praying with you!

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  5. This is something I've thought a lot about. My daughter will just be two this Christmas, so I really want to start things off right. We didn't get her any gifts last year (she was too little to know the difference), but I have thought about how we can purposely limit her gifts so that the focus is not all on presents, and focus more on Jesus and others. And I'm totally with you- I thought advent was a catholic thing! Who knew? I also love the traditions and memories created at christmas time... Lots to think about! Main worry is how to limit the amount of presents she will undoubtedly get from my MIL.. I have no clue how to slow/scale that back w/out being rude. But it's sort of ridiculous.

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    1. i always say, we can only control what happens in this house. i don't fuss about the grandparents and all that. they are spoilers by nature. LOL. but perhaps they'll come on board at some point? and even if they don't...i'll just focus on things with in these walls

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    2. I've got a 1 year old little boy & we are going to keep christmas very simple but struggle with grandparents spoiling etc. I think your advice is the only way to go. I love just "focusing on the things within these walls"

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  6. Thank you for sharing your heart! My daughter will be one 5 days before Christmas so we are tryin to figure out ourselves what we want Christmas to be like at our house :) my hubby and I participated in operation Christmas child our very first Christmas together and loved it :) thank you for teaching your children to be aware and compassionate of others and their needs :)

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    1. you are much farther ahead of us if you did it while a newly married couple! i wish we would have started then. but what can you do. sigh.... :)

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  7. Thank you for sharing your heart! My daughter will be one 5 days before Christmas so we are tryin to figure out ourselves what we want Christmas to be like at our house :) my hubby and I participated in operation Christmas child our very first Christmas together and loved it :) thank you for teaching your children to be aware and compassionate of others and their needs :)

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  8. i love this and completely support you (and will be praying for you) in every way!
    last christmas was a big eye opener for me as well and i started making changes as well.
    you are planting the seed in your childrens little hearts, good for you.

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  9. I ADORE this. I had this same conviction last year and (tried to) put a stop to it last year. I just knew I didn't want my children to grow up repeating the line "He's the reason for the season" because it was programmed into them, but living completely differently. My husband and I don't exchange gifts, and we're just fine that way. We usually do a special little date day or something like that. And last year we declared a three gift rule and one from Santa. We still do Santa, but we told them the story of St. Nicholas and how much he loved Jesus and wanted to spread love and joy to children. Did you know he was from Greece?? So interesting! Anyway, that discussion led to our advent changing from small little gifts to activities. And at least half of those activities were doing or giving to others, but one of the important parts of that was doing these good deeds in secret, because that was a big thing for St. Nicholas. I explained that we didn't want our left hand to know what our right hand was doing, meaning, we didn't ever want people to give us any of GOD'S glory or praise. OUr reward is in Heaven, and that wonderful, cozy feeling we get inside. ;) Oh and one more thing we changed, the gifts all had a cap...I think it was $25 ish dollars (besides the santa gift) and one of them had to be handmade by mom or dad. Christmas was amazing last year...it was truly a celebration of Christ, His birth, the gifts He's given to us, and each other (family and all those we come in contact with). LOVE it. Praying for you guys!! :)

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    1. good ideas! will steal some for sure.

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  10. Yes. This cut so deep to my heart today. I'm so grateful for the post and reminder :)

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  11. Amen! I have been having the same feelings with our family of 5 for the past couple of years. Feeling the Holiday has become too materialistic and a contest to see whose kids gets the most expensive toy or the most presents under the tree. It really is a shame. Thank you so much for writing this because this topic is very close to my heart and I too pray Him to show me a way to make the Holiday less about presents and more about helping others!

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  12. P.S. What is the name of the Ann Vonscamp devotional you are referring to? I would love to take a look, thanks!

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    1. i got it in my email...you can sign up for it during thanksgiving i think. or maybe earlier. i think it's on her site. i'll look around and see if i can find it. if you find it before me, will you come back and post it so others can see it?!

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  13. Stop. Challenging. Me. Ha! But seriously, you make me examine my own heart and that's always a good thing.

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  14. you are seriously preaching to the choir here...
    this has SO been on my mind lately.
    not even thinking about christmas but i gave myself my own "challenge" if you will.
    i decided about a month ago to stop spending unnecessary money.
    you know... those $7 tshirt purchases (it's only seven dollars... it's almost free... i HAVE to buy it).
    and the like.
    it's just our excessive culture to blame?
    well, it's something we can control, right?
    so i'm not spending $$ on myself (or my kids, within reason) 'til next june.
    so... what i'm basically saying?
    please, i need prayer too!!!
    ack!
    craziness!
    but i'm thrilled about it too.
    it's so NOT about the money for me.
    it's about purpose...
    thanks for the post.
    (how many times have i said that?! too many!!)
    love ya! (in a non-weird bloggy sorta way)

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    1. dude i want to do what you're doing with the no-buying stuff. you are convicting me! i am such a sucker for the bargains that i think i need or that are too cheap to pass. my heart is so gross...because i should be able to say, no big deal! i don't need that stuff. but instead, i'm sad. like the rich dude that walked away from Jesus. anyway, i hope you are blogging this journey?

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    2. yes... just figuring out how to start the blogging on this subject.
      don't want to come across as "i'm the best... look at what i can do.", you know?
      just want people to see where my heart is at.
      i need just as much help, if not more, than the next person.
      i'll let you know when i put up my first post.
      this week?
      when i'm going crazy that i'll now have TWO all day school kids?!?
      great timing, huh?

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  15. (sorry for such a long comment but yo inspired me!)

    I came to the same realization a couple of years ago for my family and I. I was beginning to hate the Christmas season including black Friday, the massive amount of money being spent on junk, the fights, commercials, even poor Santa and the Christmas tree received the wrath of my anger against the holiday.

    I had succumbed to the idea that the commercialization of Christmas was what Christmas was about-and it depressed me.

    Sure we threw Jesus in there with children’s plays and productions and nativity scenes but it still seemed like busy work and somehow still so…commercial.

    When we started attending the church we do now, they approached the season so differently. They didn’t just celebrate Christmas but participated in advent (which I too, thought only for Catholics) and anticipated Christ’s coming. We started the “Advent Conspiracy” where we gave throughout the season to help dig water wells in Africa. We did programs and events but all to benefit Advent Conspiracy-to give to others. Instead of filling up our calendars with play practices and Christmas parties, we were encouraged to take the night off and be together as a family-as a community-and anticipate Christ’s coming in whatever form that took for your family.

    I really had to examine my heart and become more intentional with what Christmas is and how it should look. I literally wrote a list of what the Advent season means to me and the things we can do together as a family to bring God in human form. (Which, ultimately, is Christmas.) Since then practically every gift I give is either hand made, something that forces us to be together as a family or for someone else in their name.

    For example, worldvision.org is a great organization and around the holidays they allow you to buy goats, chickens, pigs, soccer balls, sewing classes you name it for people in other countries as a gift from you. So I would buy two chickens in my mothers name so a family could have their own chicken for eggs to eat, sell, etc. (I tell you this not to brag but to give you gift giving ideas this season.) we have also done Samaritans purse for years and it is truly amazing. Did you know after you give your box you can find out where exactly it went? Pretty awesome.

    Sometimes its not easy and not everyone understands but to me, that is truly what Christmas is about-giving to others and being together and in community with one another. ho! ho! ho! :)

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    1. yes, we are totally doing the samaritan's purse catalogue thing where you can buy goats or mosquito nets or whatever for a family. i'm so excited for it! i've never been so excited to buy a goat in my life. LOL.
      and i heart advent. it's so good. and i'm so sad i'm jumping on the train so late in life!

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  16. oh man SO hearing ya. I felt exactly the same way last Christmas with my fam. UGH! It's (I) gotta change..

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  17. omyword! my boys and i were just talking about Christmas last night! I asked them what they wanted to give Jesus for his bday this year! Since Jesus LOVES helping people, we know Jesus would love for us to help others.

    My friend at mops convicted my booty last year. They had a jar of 25 pieces of paper: each paper had a lil thing to do, to bless others. One day they had to run out early and give cookies to their trash man. He was shocked, like "cookies? for me?". she said the look on his face was priceless. so I totally copied her and am gonna try something similar this year.

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  18. you. rock. super convicting in a super loving and graceful way. thanks for helping me plan ahead.

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    1. yes, if you are like me and planning doesn't come natural, it's good to have someone kick your butt to get in gear early. hahahaha.

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  19. ooh, girl. good stuff. good, good stuff.
    i think about this every year. we decided to do three gifts for each kid: christmas eve pjs, a book, and a toy. three gifts was good enough for Jesus, so it's good enough for us! ;)
    thanks for the encouragement and challenge to step it up a bit.

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  20. my mind has been going to christmas since july:) have you read the book, treasuring god in our traditions, by noel piper? such a good book and lots of great ways to keep christ at the center of christmas.

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    1. totally going to check this book out!

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  21. hey jami... i totally feel this too. i remember reading your post last year after christmas and i felt that same way. I have so fostered ungratefulness in my children - and i want it to be the total opposite. thanks for the encouragement and ideas on getting started toward the change this year. we definitely send them confusing messages when we talk much about the reason for christmas, but make it more about all of us with our actions.

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  22. hey jami... i totally feel this too. i remember reading your post last year after christmas and i felt that same way. I have so fostered ungratefulness in my children - and i want it to be the total opposite. thanks for the encouragement and ideas on getting started toward the change this year. we definitely send them confusing messages when we talk much about the reason for christmas, but make it more about all of us with our actions.

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  23. This is beautiful Jami! I am so excited to see how you continue to grow in this and hopefully gather some ideas from you and your family to put into practice in my own life, at Christmas time, but also every other day of the year!!

    Growing up we did the project shoebox gifts!! At school, church and home! It was wonderful!

    Some other ideas that I know of are Oxfam, Unicef or World Vision gifts! (these are New Zealand charities, some might be available in the States) but the idea is that instead of giving your friends and family gifts for them, you buy them a gift that is given to someone else. Like chickens for a family in Peru or a well for a school in India etc. Pretty cool idea!
    Also you could sponsor another family for Christmas! Where your family buys the gifts and food for a poorer family so they can have a nice Christmas they might not have been able too!

    Love your blog Jami and your honesty!

    Ngaio May xx

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    1. yes, we are totally doing the samaritan's purse catalogue thing where you can buy goats or mosquito nets or whatever for a family. i'm so excited for it! i've never been so excited to buy a goat in my life. LOL.

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  24. Hi Jami
    (Non-Christian reader here again) I read your original post on this just after Christmas last year and thought it was spot on. We do Christmas in the celebratory/traditional/family way and I had a heavy heart last year when my two kids were so ungrateful for all their presents (there were so many) that they recieved. This year is going to be different for us too and we will be putting together shoe boxes for the Samaritan's Purse. My daughter is almost 6 like your son and I think the shoe boxes are a great way for little ones to contribute and reflect on the inequality that they are so protected from.

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    1. i know...i can't wait to do the boxes with the kids this year! i'm hoping it will be the start of a great tradition around here.

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  25. It's definitely not too early to think/talk/blog about Christmas. It's been on my mind lately, too, though more like finding good deals on gifts ahead of time. Our son will be two about five days before Christmas (same bday as previous commenter, I believe), and we intentionally do not buy him toys throughout the year, except for holidays or special occasions (the book Power of Play by David Elkind has some really interesting ideas about children, play, and toys), but when birthday/Christmas time comes around I really have to hold back. Last year he received one toy for his birthday and a stocking for Christmas from his father and I (though lots more from family and friends).
    Anyways, there are some really good ideas in the comments here. If anyone is inspired, my church does what we call the "Alternative Christmas Fair" every year--it's basically like a craft show setup where people can shop for things or just donate to charities near and far. You can read about it at http://hope-lutheran-church.com/pages/page.asp?page_id=120324. Sorry, not trying to plug an event but give folks ideas...

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  26. you wrote out all of my feelings from last Christmas and the ones before that! I sat around last year looking at all the STUFF and seeing my kids come across as totally greedy, wanting more, and I thought - NO! This cannot be our Christmas anymore! I am also not sure how to tackle this and what to do, but after your post about doing Christmas different (a few weeks ago) I made an announcement to my kids that Christmas was going to be different this year - we wouldn't be buying them a tonne of gifts. They freaked but then counted out how many gifts they get from everyone else and were like "oh okay". But I want the focus to come off of the gifts and back where it should be - Jesus Christ.

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  27. Very convicting stuff--what do we SAY Christmas is and what do we actually DO?
    And yes, Samaritan's Purse is a top-notch place to start looking for an alternative. We've done shoeboxes for years--one from each boy--and they have a great program for buying gifts, similar to Heifer International, but more faith-based.

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  28. love ya, girlie. i love hearing your deep and spiritual posts. that's ALL i've been posting these days. i share your yearning for heart-change in the hub-bub of holiday season. an area where i struggle, and thus sin, is trying to impress people with the best-wrapped gifts, the nicest tree arrangement, etc. jesus was put in a feeding box after he was born. he certainly doesn't care about ANY of those things that stress me out.

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  29. beautifully & profoundly said, jami, as always. i too have sat here and cried and been inspired by ann in oh-so-many ways, but yes christmas stuff..whew... we did a budget for our kids, with some smaller (tried for three) gifts still--but a budget of like $100 or whatever, for them to look thru the catalogs we got (heifer, samaritans, world vision, compassion). 2 yrs ago i made a little chart: x-amount per day, in varying/increasing increments the last 2 wks toward christmas. last yr just gave them the budget and the catalogs...what a beautiful thing to see their little fingers and faces pouring over THOSE catalogs instead of the other kind. it is truly such a hard thing, to change, especially sometimes when there are larger extended-loving folks who just really want to give a lot. hard to stop the christmas machine, or slow it down. that was a good book [unplug the christmas machine] i read a few yrs back, which is on its way to half-price-books (anyone want it?) in my i-love-my-books-but-i-cannot-keep-them-all purge this weekend.

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  30. p.s. --oh and then if theres time, a fun project once they have decided on what to spend their budget on (using the compassion/gift catalogs) --they can decorate a piece of paper/card/craft, etc, explaining it, wrap up what they decorated & put it under the tree as a present for jesus.

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  31. Last year we took gifts to kids outside of town. Theres this area where it's like a city made up of little one room shacks made of whatever people could find. Really humbling to imagine living that way. We took the whole church (5 people total at the time) but we gave gifts to 180 kids. (thanks to donations we were able to do 80 more than we planned) It was amazing! I had a horrible attitude about doing it on Christmas day at first. But once we were there it was crazy and chaotic and I was totally out of my comfort zone but it was so amazing to see how excited those kids were to receive an off brand barbie or a tshirt. This year we are going a little more practical and shooting for food and clothing primarily but it is definitely a tradition now. I haven't once regretted it. I just wish everyone could experience it. There is no way to really explain how it feels

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  32. my sister-in-law isn't religious but she hates STUFF specifically non-organic non-natural plastic made in another country stuff. so that has limited our gifts for my almost-2-year-old niece to clothes and books which is good when you are buying for a little one. the grandparents and extended family won't get on board most likely because it is SO good to buy something special for my niece. i LOVE Christmas as well and am almost done my shopping. my niece is getting an llbean boat tote monogrammed with her name and some clearance summer stuff for their florida trip because i know they don't have money to buy her a bunch of cute summer clothes in february. i did it last year and they loved it. my husband and i exchange one gift each and usually we know what it is, as a family last year we all agreed that only the kids get a gift and not the grownups which is nice to be able to use our time baking cookies and not on stuff. there is a lot of stuff around the holidays.

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  33. Our family has committed to doing Christmas differently this year. We want to push back against the forces of greed and discontent in a memorable way. We want to make a real difference for Jesus and we want to be transformed in the process. So...we aren't going to "do" Christmas. Of course, we'll still have our tree and decorations, our Christmas baking, but we aren't going to spend money on gifts this year. Instead, we have decided to write a letter to all of our family and let them know that we will not be exchanging gifts this year. Instead, we are going to use the money we would traditionally spend to benefit those around the word. We are going to invite them to participate with us and let them know that any monetary gifts sent our way will be used in the same way. My kids (ages 9 & 6) were initially a little bummed out about not possibly getting the new DS game they have their eye on, but now, they are starting to dream with us...of buying water...of helping out children in Uganda (inspired by reading Kisses for Katie with them)...of buying shoes or mattresses...or shopping in the Samaritan's Purse gift catalog (which we have done before). And, it is so freeing to do Christmas this way. We will still do some minimal stocking stuffers, but this year, we're going to focus on others and not just on ourselves. We've also thought about doing 25 random acts of kindness in our community too. We're still praying about all that God will have for us this year, but we grow more and more excited about it every day!

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