well, we're gearing up for the actual day of christmas around here and many of you have asked how we're actually going to "do" christmas. i said we were making changes and we are. in fact, we made some changes throughout the year trying to deal with heart issues of ungratefulness.
and lest you think it hasn't been difficult or an uphill battle. please. nothing ever goes as you hype it up in your brain, but it is going. going in the right direction. or at least our bodies are turned in the right direction.
so we certainly don't have all the answers. you're watching it like we're watching it happen and we will certainly fail in some ways. but year by year i hope to document small changes that eventually lead to some pretty huge things. in our actions and in our hearts.
as far as gifts go, we're getting the kids and each other one gift with a $30-$50 spending range. and actually at first, i said no gifts. but the more i thought about it and talked it through with my husband, the more i began to like the idea of one gift. for a few of reasons.
i want to link the feeling of anticipation for a gift/gifts to the anticipation everyone was feeling when they had been waiting and waiting for Jesus to be born and then eventually save the world. Jesus was not outlandish in his appearance or his coming and our gifts and budget won't be either. i believe wholeheartedly we can create a sense of anticipation with one gift just as much as you can with eight gifts. i believe advent helps build this anticipation up as well and refocuses our attention from stuff to Jesus.
2)the rage against excessive:
it's just too much. creating a culture in our home where too much is the norm is really getting unbearable. i can't stand it, actually. toys exploding in the living room, in their rooms, in the basement...and they don't even play with most of them. no thank you. clutter in our home and clutter in our hearts. i believe it produces extremely entitled and ungrateful children to have that much in the home. this entitlement lives in all of our hearts. and so, to see what's going on in our hearts, we are creating a sort of poverty (i mean, not truly...but a touch of depravation) to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness for what's already here in our home and for new gifts we receive.
even to clear out the visual stimulation and clutter, we got rid of a ton of unused toys and put the rest in the basement. we try not to keep much upstairs. if they want to play with something, they have to be thoughtful about it. when they play with something, we tell them to take it right back down stairs. this doesn't happen perfectly every time but we are working on it.
3) we're well taken care of: our children get gifts from our families on both sides. so i'm not worried that they won't get more than they need or can even know what to do with. on that note, we aren't forcing our relatives into our tradition. we've made gentle requests, like feel free to keep it simple! or one gift is great! and we've talked about what we're working on at home, but we can't control certain aspects of christmas and have no intention of trying to. we are only responsible for what we are cultivating in this house, not other homes. and frankly, it's not a good idea to start fights at christmas. ha! but seriously.
4) my heart:
like i alluded to earlier, this is just as good for me as it is for my kids. my heart is just like theirs. i am ungrateful and i need to change. so i say these things with my own desire for God to change my heart. i am realizing that under my ungratefulness is unbelief... unbelief that God can't satisfy me like things can. and that is ugly. i need a savior!
so those are the four main reasons for one gift. but tangibly, what does it look like for us?
we have let layne know that there will be one gift. for a while, he has known that we aren't doing christmas the usual way. this won't be a surprise! we are being intentional and we are letting him know why we're doing what we're doing. we talk about where we're spending our money.
layne, does it seem ok to get lots and lots of gifts while children have no gifts or no clean water or no medicine to live? it just doesn't make sense.
we've also been extremely attentive to ungrateful behavior. for instance, the other night for our advent activity, we announced we'd be going to the pizza place for dinner. layne said, that's what we're doing for advent? in a disappointed tone.
layne, that is ungrateful behavior. the proper response is, "Awesome! we get to eat pizza at a restaurant!!"
you can go to your room for the rest of the evening and ask God to change your heart and help you to be thankful.
your daddy will take the girls on a date while you stay here in your room.
and that was so hard to do! i want to give him good gifts and fun times. but we can't perpetuate such behavior. so nato and the girls had a great time getting pizza and layne ate a PB&J quietly and alone at the table. ugh.
i mean, i realize that may be a little hard core for some, but i'm just over it. i'm at the end of the rope here. the last thing we need are children that grow up with a sense of entitlement and a closed-in view that they are the centers of the universe. and even more so, it's a sin issue. it's a heart issue. we are trying to help him to see that this kind of reaction can only be changed by God when dealt with at the heart level.
we have also bought gifts for the our church's gift program which helps the needy in our city. we picked children close to all the kids ages so they could pick out a gift that they want and then give it away. it was difficult for layne to do this.
but this is what i want. can we buy 2? one for me and one for him?
no buddy, we need to think of others before ourselves.
we looked at the samaritan's purse catalog and layne picked out a gift. when we came to the adoption sponsor picture i said, can you imagine waking up and not having a mommy and daddy?
and he responded, that's the one we should give to. kids need parents, mom. who will take care of them?
i don't say this to say, look at us! i say this because God is changing our family and it is playing out in some very tangible ways. i also posted this later on in the christmas season because i don't want any of you under compulsion to say, we're not christians if we don't do it that way! this took us a year to really think through and plan. and repent for ways we were not looking to Christ to satisfy us. it may not be for your family, actually. but perhaps there is a stirring in your heart to change and i would encourage you to listen to that tiny whisper.
so yes, doing Christmas like this is a lot of work...these conversations, the prayer, the changes, the consequences, advent... but i am praying that it pays off in heart change. i get discouraged often when i see my children's response (and my own response) yelling, we have everything we need and want anytime we want it! we deserve this!
but like i said, we're looking in a good direction. we're at least facing the right way and it's a great start for us.