The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It\’s time again. The most wonderful time of the year!

That is still how we see it, right?

Despite the shopping lists and the overbooked calendars and the credit card bills and the cooking that needs to be done, it\’s still the most wonderful time of the year, isn\’t it?

Living outside of the US this year for the holidays is both a blessing and it brings a bit of sadness.

On the one hand, we would love to be spending the holidays with the fam, toting around our funny, goof-ball of a two year old and our brand new baby girl to all the get-togethers. I\’d be lying if I said that we weren\’t going to miss the turkey and dressing and sweet potato casserole and PECAN PIE! Oh, how I will miss you pecan pie…….

But on the other hand, it\’s kinda peaceful here. The only sign of Christmas I\’ve seen was when we went to the mall and let me just tell you, it\’s a shock to the senses when you walk in from 90 degree heat into a Winter Wonderland complete with giant Christmas tree, snow flakes galore, and Santa all decked out, waiting to hear the Christmas wishes of boys and girls. There just something weird about that….

Anyway, it\’s nice to be away from the hustle and bustle that the Christmas season has become in the US. I see so many FB statuses of long lines and empty shelves and stress and exhaustion… and it\’s only November!

No thanks.

But then again, Richard and I made a decision back a couple of years ago when we became parents to do things differently, no matter where we were on the globe. We just didn\’t feel right about what Christmas had turned into in the US, even among Believers. It just all seemed very…. wrong.

To take this season as a license to gorge ourselves on gifts and decorations and STUFF all in the name of \”celebrating the holidays\” just didn\’t mesh with what we found in the Bible.

Not the having fun part. Not the spending time with loved ones part. Not the enjoying part.

The gorging part.

So we decided to do things differently. Not because we\’re awesomely spiritual people. Not because we don\’t like to get new things or to give our kids new things. Not because we think Christmas trees are of the devil or that if you hang stockings and tell your kids that Santa is coming then they will grow up to be cult leaders.

But because we realized that while these things can be fun, there are things that are best. Things eternal.

So here are some things we\’ve chosen to do differently. No guilt trip here, just some ideas to ponder and challenge you to ask, \”Do I even remember what I got for Christmas last year? Do my kids even play with the toys we are still paying off? Do I need new Christmas decorations when I have 17 boxes full in our storage building? What are we teaching our kids about eternity through this season?\”

  • We don\’t really do the whole decorating-every-square-inch-of-the-house. First off, it\’s costly. And secondly, most of the items are \”Made in China\” where child labor is a huge problem. Last year, we had a simple Christmas tree that fit on our TV stand with some ornaments, a wreath on the door and some yummy Christmas smelling candles. We played a lot of Christmas music and it was simple and fun and inexpensive.
  • We don\’t tell Elliott that \”Santa is coming\”. We don\’t think Santa is evil and we don\’t cover Elliott\’s eyes when we pass by Santa at the mall. Right now he is only 2.5 years old so he doesn\’t really care or take notice, but if and when he does ask about Santa, we\’ll be happy to tell him about him and what the story is. But we don\’t emphasize \”believing\” in Santa. Personally growing up, we always had presents from \”Santa\” under the tree and it was fun. For our kids, though, we just realize that it\’s a dead end road… nothing eternal to teach unless you go back to the TRUE story of Saint Nicholas. That\’s a good idea!
  • We don\’t buy Elliott a ton of presents. In fact, I think for his first Christmas (which we spent in the Amazon), we bought him two presents… neither of which he played with. Last year, I don\’t know that we got him anything ourselves because we knew the Grandparents would be buying him things. This year, we will probably go with the saying, \”Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read\”… I think that\’s very practical and a good way to teach balance between wants and needs.
  • In terms of gift GIVING, we are making an effort each year to give gifts in honor of our family members to organizations and ministries making an eternal impact in the world. There are SO many great organizations out there. Here are a couple of ideas from what we\’ve done:

Last year, we bought our family members chickens. Yep. Chickens. We did it through Heifer International and it was something lasting. Heifer is a ministry that provides livestock to impoverished communities to help provide food as well as income for the families.

Check out Heifer International here: http://www.heifer.org

For Elliott, we decided to sponsor a child through Amazima Ministries. So for the last twelve months (and for many months to come), we\’ve helped provide food and education for a 9 year old little girl in Uganda. Better than any toy that he would play with for approximately 3.2 seconds before preferring his drumsticks, pots, and pans anyway.  
Check out Amazima Ministries here: http://www.amazima.org

For Elliott\’s first birthday (but you could do this for Christmas), we asked people not to buy gifts, but to instead buy gift cards or make a cash donation to a needy family from our church. I have no doubt that there are families right in your neighborhood or church family that have real needs right now… things like food and clothing, not the newest electronic gadget or toy. Ask your Pastor or small group leader… I bet they can think of someone!

    There are literally hundreds of other ministry opportunities that your family can get involved with and missionaries around the globe working to spread the Gospel. Search them out! Find little ways and big ways to give back and make a lasting impact for Christmas this year.

    I don\’t know that I have ever heard someone regret giving generously. I know we never have.

    \”No one ever became poor by giving.\” -Anne Frank

    People have, however, become poor by gorging.

    Next year, you\’ll remember what you gave and so will your kids. And eternity might just be changed because of it. 



    Some great blog posts about transforming your Christmas:

    Quit Spending Money You Don\’t Have Just Because It\’s Christmas-Sheesh!- Brant Hansen
    http://www.air1.com/blog/brant/post/2011/12/04/Quit-Spending-Money-You-Dont-Have-Just-Because-Its-Christmas-Sheesh.aspx

    Here\’s a Money Tip: Be Reckless- Brant Handsen
    http://www.air1.com/blog/brant/post/2012/11/23/Be-Reckless-with-Your-Money.aspx

    The Christmas Conundrum- Jen Hatmaker
    http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/29/the-christmas-conundrum

    Some more great ministries to give to:

    Buy coffee for a cause! Seeds Coffee Co. seeks to have an eternal impact from the plowing of the coffee fields to the steaming brew in your mug. Check out this awesome ministry… who doesn\’t love a good great cup of coffee??
    http://www.seedscoffee.com

    Help send a Panamanian Indian to summer camp! Our good missionary friends in Panama, David and Marianella Bueno, have a vision to send 100 Panamanian Indian kiddos to summer camp where they will get the chance to swim in a real pool, meet new friends, eat good food, and most importantly hear from the Word of God. For just $40, you can pay for a life changing week for one of these kids and be part of impacting them for eternity. How\’s that for making a kid smile for Christmas??
    For more info, contact David and Marianella at mariaydavid@hotmail.com
    Help reach uncontacted people groups with the Gospel! Several weeks ago, God laid on our hearts the desire to start a program to support the efforts of the Indian nationals in Brazil to reach their own people with the Gospel in areas that foreigners have no access. That\’s when Project Javari was formed.For just $20 a month, you can support an Indian national who is being discipled and trained to 
    carry the Gospel to his own people group. In fact, next month, three of these Indian men will be traveling by canoe to share the Gospel with their people for the very first time. If you want more information on how to be a part of this effort, e-mail Richard at b.r.whittemore@gmail.com.
    Help build a school in Haiti! Blogger Jen Hatmakerhas teamed up with Help One Now and Pure Charity to build a school in Yaveh Shamma, an orphanage in Petionville, Haiti, to benefit the 30 orphans and 120 vulnerable children that currently attend a tent school. Click here to find out how you could get involved: https://www.helponenow.org/legacyproject/

    (I see this picture circling Facebook, and maybe we\’re becoming desensitized. Maybe it\’s becoming cliche. I don\’t care. It makes me physically sick to my stomach when I picture Elliott\’s little bitty face and arms stretched out like that. God have mercy on us.)

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