This past Christmas was just
what how we needed. If I could celebrate every holiday with just my tiny family, in the comfort of my own home - no travel, no entertaining, no wondering how soon we can leave, no worrying about weather patterns - I would do it. Brent told me he wouldn't let me do that every year, but if he would, it would be done. It was so peaceful, so relaxing, and so....just what I needed. I loved it. Especially as this year is so tender for us, not having Harlynn, I couldn't have asked for a nicer method of holiday celebration. No chaos, no schedules, no fuss - just us. Just us and the best prime rib I've ever made.
After the mass clean up of wrapping paper, plastic, boxes, bags, etc. and seeing the sea of toys and gifts clutter our floor, however, Brent and I both agreed on one thing: Christmas is out of control.
Going forward, my family and I are revolutionizing the way we celebrate Christmas. If it truly is about Christ and his birth, life, and ultimate sacrifice for us (and we believe it is) then why - why, why, why - do so many people spend so much time forking over money for things that won't be used, appreciated, or given a second thought to? Why are people putting life and limb on the line to rush through mobs of people to get something that will be completely useless in time? Why has bargain hunting become more important than the person the gift is for?
As Brent and I stood in the canyon of toys and books and gifts for Haley (which we were prime contributors to), we realized that now we have to go through her belongings and get rid of things, just to make room for the new stuff. Christmas became a chore for us in an instant. We wouldn't think of taking the joy away from her or our future child(ren) of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. However, we do want to instill in her and her siblings what it means to give. Give sacrificially, obediently, and with careful thought and care.
Haley showed tremendous thought in her gift choosing this year. I was throwing out idea after idea for her on what to get her daddy for Christmas. After being rejected continuously I asked her, "Well what do you want to get him, then?" She answered, "Keep thinking. I probably won't like the next thing you say, though." It forced me to put a lot of thought from her perspective into what she would think would be meaningful to her daddy. As they both are die-hard NDSU Bison football fans (as die-hard as a three year old princess can be), I finally suggested she buy him some Bison attire, which she enthusiastically agreed to. When she went shopping with her daddy, she very carefully picked out two necklace/earring sets for me. She loves to wear my necklaces and loves to play dress up, and when she sees her mommy "dress up" as well, she floats high on the clouds of femininity (of which I rarely make an appearance). She loved it, and I loved getting them from her. It was so special.
My husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him I wanted new tires on the van (since we had already forked out several hundred dollars and replaced them, that was good enough for me) and the traction control fixed. The tires were already taken care of, but he ordered a part to fix the traction control. I was serious, he listened, and now I'm going to get what I asked for - a fully operational vehicle. I love him tremendously for listening and taking me seriously. I love him for so much more, and while that gift may seem fruitless to many of you, it was exactly what I wanted. He also bought me a wedding ring that won't eat my finger (I've been through two that leave my finger a mangled mess because of my skin's reaction to the metals, but this one should do the trick). Careful thought. Calculation. Meaningful gifts. It's funny to me - Brent hates buying gifts for me. He calls me "the least materialistic person in the world." I have grown up a lot. I'm sure relatives wouldn't use that phrase to describe me ten years ago. It's true, though. I don't really want anything. Every time he asks me, I think of something that needs repaired, or painted, or some sort of chore or good deed. Those are the things, however, that mean the most to me. Comfort and security. Those can't be wrapped up.
Have you ever received a gift and wondered if the person even remembered your name, because obviously they had no clue what your personal tastes were? Even I am guilty of giving something just for the sake of making sure someone gets something, and it loses meaning. It loses purpose. It becomes exactly what we don't want it to become: an empty, materialistic act. I don't want Haley or her siblings growing up thinking they are obligated to give gifts because that's just what you do. I don't want them spending money on something just to make sure money has been spent. I don't want them to go through the motions, thinking they're making other people feel good, when in reality, a high percentage of gifts given and received mean absolutely nothing.
Brent and I had a long discussion about it the evening of Christmas and the morning after. We were in harmonious agreement, and therefore I know it is the right thing for us to do. For us. This may not be for you, and that's okay. It is for us. It's what we'll do going forward. In our discussion, Brent and I came to the following conclusion: we will return purchased, material gifts from whence they came. We don't need store-bought, factory-made items. We have close to no use for most of them, and probably little to no desire for them (though he may bend if it relates to his Xbox, however). It spurs materialism and we no longer want that to be our focus. We want to remain focused on Christ, on Christmas, on what it means to us, and on the best gift anyone could ever receive: salvation.
We prefer and will gladly accept homemade/handmade items. The time and effort that go into these items make them priceless. They're my favorite gifts to receive. To see what someone took the time to choose, make, and design especially for our family is so fun. I love getting those gifts! I love making those gifts, too. My favorite gifts to give are things I've made. Whether it be knitting, baking, coloring, gluing, (or custom ordering from somewhere like Etsy - confession time) - whatever the craft - I pour my heart and soul into those gifts. And I love knowing people pour their heart and soul into making them too.
We will also gladly accept money. I'm not being funny here, either. Eventually we'll need to replace more tires, or a roof, or a water heater, or clothes our little ones have outgrown. I know some people think there's no fun in giving money instead of a gift, but I am being completely honest here. It means so much to Brent and me when we receive it. We wouldn't have it otherwise, and you have no idea how those monetary gifts get us through times that we'd otherwise be hard-pressed to wade through. Money is a practical and loving gift because it helps take care of us. I can tell you countless stories of how we wouldn't have been able to pay a bill, put gas in our vehicle, or even buy groceries, were it not for coming across the monetary gift from another person. Again, comfort and security are worthwhile gifts in my book.
The same gifts we'll accept are the same we'll be giving. We'll be making our gifts (or letting someone on Etsy make them), giving careful thought and prayer over the person they're for. We'll be giving money whenever we're able to. We know how much it has helped and will help us, and we know how much it will mean to someone at some point down the road.
Whatever we give our children, (most likely a combination of practical homemade and a few store bought toys to maintain their interest), we will be expecting them to give as well. Our children will have to give in order to receive. If they want to open their presents, they'll need to give of themselves first. Give to the homeless. Give to someone in need. Give something powerfully meaningful to someone who needs it. Serve others. Appreciate what you have by giving to those who don't. That will be our rule. That will be our standard. Love others. God so loved the world He sent His son. We will so love the world because it emulates the gospel message. It personifies the meaning of Christmas.
I don't want our children to grow up with, and I certainly don't want Brent and me to model having, an attitude of expectation, entitlement, or greed. I think this revolution on Christmas is one step in the right direction for thwarting that.