Wednesday, December 19, 2012

how we're "doing" christmas

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.

1)anticipation:
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.

50 comments:

  1. I'm blessed and challenged by your blog. Real and raw. Thanks for a great start to my day.

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  2. Have you changed the way you are doing Christmas with your extended family and friends? Or are you still giving the same amount of gifts? If you are changing things/cutting back, how did you break the news and how did they respond?

    Thanks!

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    1. Like I said we can't change our extended family and their traditions. And I don't think that's fair. But it's okay to ask your family If they want to change things up. But you really have to hold that with an open hand because they may not be on the same page. And that's okay. For instance, A couple of years we couldn't afford to do gifts for every single extended member of the family, And so we asked if we could draw names. And it's worked out perfectly And was much less overwhelming for everyone.

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  3. So many great things here... Dealing with this as I would think all families with children are. It takes acting outside of 'normal' to make a difference. I love how your focus on US the parents is spot on. Sometimes it's harder for US to change than our children....

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    1. True. I'm tired of being normal anyway. Ha!

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  4. Last night I dragged my oldest to church to help out...his heart is not in a good place lately, he's being very selfish and I told him he needed an extra dose of service to others to set it right. He ended up having some fun, actually.
    Keeping focus is a full time job.

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  5. I always look forward to reading your blog. As a first time Mom to an 19 month old son, I hope to have the strength that you do to make tough decisions that you know are so right in the long run. Thank you for being strong and an inspiration to all of us!

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    1. It just takes little steps. What you're doing right now!

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  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Jami ...

    I was feeling so confident in our choice to limit the spending we're doing on each other (and Maile) this year, until I started seeing a million posts on Facebook, Blogger, Twitter ... about last-minute Christmas shopping. Stuffing stockings to the brim. The number of presents under the tree. It's exhausting.

    I really needed this post to bring me back to that confidence (and gratefulness). Bless you!

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    1. It's so easy to lose focus! I'm not against gifts. we need to know when to say no And be satisfied. It is so difficult to do especially when you compare yourself with others

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  7. Have you read the book "Simplicity Parenting?" It's a short read and I think it would speak to where you're at right now and give you ideas for decluttering spaces, minds, and hearts. Thank you for posting this! It's a blessing to everyone.

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  8. I love what you said about this not just being a Christmas thing. I think the reason so many people struggle with "keeping Christ in Christmas" (I'm fluent in Christanese) is because Christ isn't the center of their homes or their hearts the rest of the year. We work hard at helping our kids have grateful, generous attitudes all year long so I don't feel like it's a huge, overwhelming issue at Christmas. Goodness, I'm not saying we're perfect. My kids struggle with it, I struggle with it - we are human, afterall - but I feel like the thankfulness comes a little easier because we work on it on a regular basis. (can you tell this is a hot-button issue with me? i could go on & on...)
    Also, I know some people are going to say you're mean for not letting Lane go to pizza but I say "Bravo, Mama!" Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing & I bet that was killer. You're a good mom!

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    1. You wrote my thoughts down exactly! The worst thing we can do is behavior modify around the holidays and do our regular thing YEAR.

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  9. love this! we are in a similar season with our little ones - so they are getting one (well thought out and needed) gift + christmas eve jammies. i feel so at peace with our decision not to give them a over the top christmas they won't appreciate!

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  10. Wonderful post. This hits home to what has also been tugging at my heart and we are working through getting where my husband and I want to be regarding our children being grateful for what they have/get. I agree with Katie; talking with friends and family who "go over the top" really makes me second-guess myself. A short prayer brings me back to the peace I so desire for our change. Thank you. And Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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    1. Totally. We always have to refocus ourselves and Prayer is a great way to do that. I need to keep that in mind myself.

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  11. I just wanted to tell you that I am often so encouraged by your blog, especially with posts like this. Thanks for being so bold to speak truth. It is amazing how you use this blog/opportunity to glorify God. You have helped inspire how my family does Christmas with our 20 month old already and I am grateful to be learning from your and others' experiences while it is still early for us. Thanks for being so bold :) Merry Christmas!

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  12. This is amazing Jami. Thank you for laying out such a (using a label here :)) Godly approach to Christmas, which is ultimately only about one gift. I pray that when I have my own munchkins, I will have the will power to make it an expectation every day of the year to have a grateful heart, not just on December 25th. You are making an impact on those precious children, especially on the days it's hard. Layne will gain so much respect and appreciation for what God did for us by sending Jesus, not respect and appreciation for a crap-load of gifts under the tree. Thank you for not being ashamed to share your heart :) Merry Christmas!

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  13. Have you heard of Advent Conspiracy?

    adventconspiracy.org

    You would like it.

    I'm not trying to parent you on parenting. Just throwing this out there. While I think it's important and our responsibility to teach our kids to be grateful, polite, etc...we don't want to shame them in the process. God doesn't use shame to teach us things. I just think punishing our kids for not being grateful is ineffective. I think forcing them to be grateful will only create a legalist mentality.

    I love this quote:

    “We teach children to be courteous by modelling good manners. We teach children to apologise by saying, ‘I’m sorry’, to them and to each other. We teach generosity by modelling sharing”. ~ Pam Leo

    From this article: http://www.parenting-with-love.com/raising-a-polite-child/

    Like I said...I'm just throwing it out there. I think living out our faith is more effective for raising Godly children then creating shame. But I know parenting is not black and white and is not easy. Just something to think about. :)

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    1. Also the book Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel rocked my world.

      Seriously.

      More than helping me as a mom it also helped me realize my own issues from my childhood and a fear based, shamed perspective. The basic idea is learning to raise our kids how God raises us.

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    2. We have the book and love it.

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    3. i'm wondering where you are seeing the shame in our response?

      I disagree with you that we were shaming him for being ungrateful. Giving consequences and disciplining a child for a heart issue isn't shameful. It's what we're asked to do by God and it is loving and a mirror of the Gospel. The Lord disciplines those he loves specifically/always for deep rooted heart issues--and is not interested in behaviour modification such as just being polite for manners sake. He's after the heart and so are we. that will produce consequences that are pretty tangible. for us and for our children. this is not "forcing" anyone to be grateful...that's impossible! God is in charge of heart change and not us. however, to leave a child with no consequences for certain actions and behaviors would be a disservice to them and to God, who gave us children to shepherd.

      If I would have said, I can't believe you are treating me this way! Or you are a terrible child for having that response! Those would produce shame. but instead,we are making him aware of what ungratefulness looks like and asking him to look to God to change his heart. this is the only way to have lasting heart change. Also we tell him what heart change looks like by helping him know the proper response...so he's not left wondering what it looks like to be grateful.

      I have more to say about this but perhaps I'll just save it for another blog post! Ha. Thanks for sharing your thoughts even if its different than mine. :)

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    4. I guess I see shame bc they were just expressing their feelings and you came done on them instead of taking the time to explain in a creative way. Even if it is the 20th time you have to explain. Maybe take the time and show a video of starving kids or read a bible story or I don't know...however your kids learn most effectively. Basically I just don't see this situation as a need to punish. He was expressing his feelings and while they were ungrateful he didn't do anything wrong. He's a sinner like you and me. I'm rambling at this point...I guess I just thought punishing him was harsh for this. That's all. I want my kids to be grateful bc they are genuinely grateful not because they think they will get punished.

      Good conversation. I just threw it out there like I said. I love that as a stay at home mom the internet allows me to talk to other moms about this kind of stuff. :) I'm sure you are a great mom...please don't get me wrong. I have a three and one year old. What do I really know?

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    5. I don't believe there was shame in this "punishment" at all. We would have done the same thing. People lose things in this life on a daily basis when they are ungrateful for them. There are consequences for this sin attitude(remember the israelites in the desert). People lose jobs due to an ungrateful work spirit, couples divorce because of attitudes of entitlement, murder happens because of a discontented heart. If my child understands the difference between being grateful and ungrateful, then he/she can also understand that being ungrateful is a sin and that there are consequences for repeated sin. Even if it is missing out on something really great.

      Yes, he was just expressing himself, but sinfully. If I am repeatedly ungrateful, I deserve to be punished, just like my children. I have been. I was not grateful for my appearance...always comparing myself to others. I got Bell's Palsy. My "real" face eventually came back. I like my appearance now. God didn't use a creative way to tell me to be grateful for what I had. He took it away, and I deserved it.

      My question is, how many times would you "explain in a creative way", before punishment is given for the same trangression? God tells us to use the rod(I know spanking is not always the answer), which indicates to me that sometimes punishment sucks. Sometimes it will hurt, physically and mentally, but it is for our ultimate good and His glory.

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  14. This is stirring my heart to do the same with my kids. I want so much for them, I want to give them gifts, but I want them to experience the gospel more!

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  15. Thank you so much for this! As a parent's-to-be, my husband and I have had countless conversations this season on how we want to celebrate Christmas with out children in the coming years. It's so hard to not be consumed by the consumerist mentality, and when we have all we need, it's easy to forget those who go without. We opted out of gifts this year, and instead have begun a tradition of spending time together, as a couple and with our family. I hope to continue this, along with maybe 1 gift for our children in the future.

    Thank you again for being so open and candid with your struggles (the same as many of us) and sharing what you're doing with your family to make this a special and meaningful holiday season!!

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  18. Great post! With a little baby this year my husband and I have thought "our" Christmas over and over again. Our little peanut (and the ones in the future) as of now have five Christmas'. However my husband and I are not getting her anything this year. She won't remember it. But next year planning on getting her a Bible (one gift). Our babies will have enough Christmas' to receive plenty of gifts. So my husband and I decided that before Christmas and our children's birthdays we are going to have them go through their toys and grab a bucket and fill it up. And give to those who need them more than them. That way we can keep our "toy room" not overwhelming like we have a day care or something!! Sometimes kids are more interested in the box it comes in anyways. ;)

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  19. Challenging and amazing as usual Jami!! Yesterday I told my kids we were headed to Target and without a thought 4 year old Liam asked me , what are you getting me? My blood boiled at such an ungrateful and greedy response but I realized that I have allowed that spirit to grow in my child. We are doing 1 gift this year too and so happy about it! Thank you again for this meaningful challenge. Who needs more clutter to pick up anyway!! Merry Christmas!!!

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  20. This is a great idea. I realized this year how out of control Christmas has become. I saw something on Pinterest the other day that listed the "4 gift rule" The rule being... one gift they want, one gift they need, one gift they wear, and one gift they read. I told my husband I think we should consider doing that as our kids get older. Even four gifts seems excessive, but it doesn't have to be expensive so I think we may try that next year. Thanks again for such a thoughtful post!

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  21. Wow! Thanks Jami! This is beautiful. Um, you definitely stirred up something in my heart! I have been struggling with all of the Christmas "hoopla" & reading this has really helped me. Thank you!

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  22. I think what you're doing is great Jami! I don't have kids yet, but I would love for them to grow up in an environment where giving thanks is the regular and they believe in helping others and finding their satisfaction in Christ. Many people have these issues in their heart, but don't take action or do anything to change it! I know I'm guilty of being ungrateful and having too much. You're an inspiration to change, thank you :)

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  23. I love this Jami! You are very encouraging and honest at the same time. You are right, God is the only one who can change our hearts, but God can also use us a parents to lead our children into a Godly direction, you are doing a great job at this!
    My daughter Maya cried when we went to pick out a Christmas gift from the Compassion Catalog for someone else, she really wanted to give the kids a toy (and there were no toys in the catalog) She couldn't understand that someone might want a goat or clean water more than a toy for Christmas

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    1. it is really hard when they are this little...but i think to the future when they will say, this is how it's always been!

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  24. oh ps, i can't handle toy clutter either, drives me crazy and I just start throwing things away

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  25. jami, i so admire you and your effort to change the way you do christmas. my husband and i are not in a position financially to "spoil" our kids for christmas. i sometimes get a little sad that i can't buy them all the things they want or all the things i think they should have, but actually i think that it is better for our family that we can't. i do believe that because they don't get tons of gifts they are more grateful for what they get. of course, they are still young (4 and almost 3) so i am sure it will get harder as they get older. i appreciate your blog so much and the way you are constantly pointing people back to Christ. merry christmas! thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. i agree. it would be good for all of us americans to "try on poverty" even in small ways. not just at christmas but year round.

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  26. Good stuff my friend. good stuff.

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  27. Can I just say I love this. And I literally, LITERALLY just had a conversation with my 6 and 9 year old about the ungrateful, disappointed, "uhhhhhhh" that came out of their mouth because the Christmas cartoon I chose for them to watch before bedtime was "only" 20 minutes long and basically said everything you said in this post to Layne. They walked upstairs, and I clicked on your blog post. Is it bad to say I felt a little validated? ;) Most of the things you talk about here is something we've been striving to incorporate over the last 2 years, and it. is. hard. But so worth it.

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  28. Jami, we seem to do "Christmas" very similar within our families. but I have a quick question for you: how do handle Santa? My daughter is almost 3 and we don't discourage it but don't necessary participate in it either. There is something special about the "American" tradition of having a picture of her sitting on Santas lap but somehow it seems contradictory to the atmosphere during Advent I try to create in our home. Same thing with the Elf on the Shelf. I don't want her thinking if she is good she will get what she wants and this being the daily focus and what she looks forward to the most around Advent season. I hate to be a scrooge and "that mom" but like I said earlier, I am just not sure how to incorporate these things without it becoming the focus instead of learning to be thankful and giving to others and the anticipation of Christ. (feel free to email me if you want :)

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    1. We've never emphasized Santa or done the elf on a shelf. We've worked pretty hard to look in this direction so I'm not interested in putting that energy into Santa! But with that said, I'm not against Santa or the elf and when layne asks if Santa is real, I say "some people believe and some people don't " just because I don't want to have him spoil it for the other kids. Everyone has different convictions and that's ok. Santa is not a moral deal breaker for me. :)

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  29. thanks girl! I think we will just take it holiday by holiday and see how she responds to those things all the while continuing to keep the focus on Advent. and like you said, I don't want to ruin it for other kids. by the way, I loved the story about Layne mainly because it was a direct reflection into my own heart at times. how often have I had the exact same reaction? "I hate this restaurant! yuck" "we have nothing to eat!" ungratefulness is ugly and it can be in everyone's heart. I appreciate the sincerity in doing your best to raise a grateful child and it encourages me to the same.

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  30. Thank you for posting this, Jami! These same issues of ungratefulness in my family have had my heart aching for the past couple of months. We had some baby step changes this Christmas, because that was what I could accomplish this quickly. It is such encouragement to hear that the changes you are making have been prayed over and worked through with your kiddos over the course of the year. Sometimes I feel like I just can't take it anymore, and earth-shattering changes must be made immediately, when really, prayerful consideration should have been my first step. Thank you for sharing your heart and how God is leading your family! Merry Christmas!

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  31. Thanks for posting this. I think Christ gets lots too much this time of year and even the rest of the year. I think this is a great way to approach things. Have you read Radical? It is a great devotional and our bible study group did a study over it this Fall and my husband has really taken it to heart. I am going to have to show him this post, he will love it! Thanks and Merry Christmas!

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  32. I think that's a great way to make our kids humble and greatful for what they have. I have had the same issue with my 7yr old son. I don't think is just them expecting gifts for christmas. It's them thinking they are entitled to anything when they want it. But its hard when your other family members don't think like you. I have thought of ways to make him see that he's so lucky for what he has and feel more compassion for others. I didn't grow up by expecting things from anyone. I was greatful to just have received anything and thats one thing i want my son to learn and appreciate. Great way of explaing and making your son understand the true meaning of appreciation and compassion towards others. Oh and i don't think you were to hard core on his punishment in sending him to his room. Sometimes i think that's needed for them to appreciate the little fun times with the family. Merry Christmas :)

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  33. I worked at Kanakuk this past summer and had a cabin of twelve 14-15 year old girls. I loved them with ALL my heart and seriously felt like they were my own. One thing that kept bothering me throughout the term was their lack of responsibility and their feelings of entitlement. Every morning we had to clean the whole cabin and pick up everything because we were graded on it and would receive a prize at the end of the two weeks. All I heard was grumbling and moaning from every girl unwilling to clean. When I finally got them to do something they would only clean their side and then sit their watching everyone else continue to clean instead of lending a hand. After each meal they would start talking to each other instead of put the dirty dishes up or sweep under the table, leaving it for me and my other co-counselor. It literally made me sick to think of how unwilling they were to serve. I am only 22 so I include myself in the generation I am talking about. And I'm just in awe at how parents are raising their kids these days. We are spiraling downwards and headed straight for doom living like this. Always wanting more and the unwillingness to serve has created a self-centered attitude. And I fully include myself in this way of living just like you do. It's sickening and ugly to be exposed like this. I saw myself in those kids. It's so easy for me to have the answers at kamp and to lead well. But thinking back to my own home and growing up, I never helped out as much as I wanted my kampers to. And even this Christmas break, coming home from school I have been reminded of how lazy I am when my mom asks me to help her clean the house and I ask her why she can't do it after she's worked a 40 hour week. It's so ugly to see myself this way. And it's getting worse with every generation. All that to say, I am very pleased with the way you and your husband are leading your family. It makes me smile to know their are still families out there who are raising their children to be grateful and live a life centered around the gospel. Hallelujah! I hope you blog about the reactions on Christmas day and how everything plays out!!

    Morgan Newton

    P.S. I have been following your blog for about 3 years now and thought I'd tell you I'm friends with Kate Phillips and Will Severns! I worked at kamp with them both this summer and Kate was my roommate last year when I was at the University of Arkansas (I just graduated in May)! I'm sure you know more KC girls who I was in a sorority with. Just thought I'd share that so I'm not a complete stranger. :) Merry Christmas!

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  34. preach it sister.

    having a 14 month old, we're just starting to navigate the waters of gifts, santa, want, GREED.....and looking for strategies to reign in the consumer craziness. Sounds like you're on a great path.....

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