What if we skipped Christmas?


I love love love Christmas! The traditions, Advent, the colors, the decorations, the lights, being with family and friends, the fun, the parties, the meals, being able to give and do for others… I love making lists and planning for Christmas. I list all the people we’d like to buy gifts for and think and ponder what that perfect gift for them would be. I love buying the wrapping paper and trimmings and having it match my tree decorations. I love having the gifts wrapped under our tree and knowing that we will be giving them to people and feeling their excitement and surprise for that gift. It’s all fun and enjoyable!

But you know what’s not fun and enjoyable about Christmas? It’s all the money that we spend on it. My dad used to always joke when we would start making Christmas plans, “Didn’t you hear? We’re skipping Christmas this year.” And we would all laugh and continue making our plans. But now I know why he said that all those years. It’s not that he necessarily wanted to “skip Christmas” as in the celebration of Advent & Christ’s birth. It’s that maybe he wanted to skip the stress of it all, the burden of affording everything – from the gifts to the trimmings to the feast of meals we have around this time of year. It’s alot, and I can now understand where he was coming from.

We’ve tried it years before – at least tried to make it more affordable, less of a burden… Homemade gifts, only small stocking stuffers, secret Santa gift swaps, or drawing names to exchange gifts. But the truth of the matter is that it WAS still a burden for us, no matter what we did. We tried to ask about finding an easier solution – we tried all the ways – but it never actually did make it any easier for us. We tried limiting how much we spent (and that, we did), but it was still too much. We used gifts we were given to pay for gifts for the people we wanted to give gifts to. We used our savings account to afford groceries after spending too much on “Christmas”. And every January, there’s that sinking feeling and knot in my stomach when I make the payment to pay off the credit card we used to afford Christmas.

Why is it that we are trying to live this American Dream or keep up with the family next door?

Is it because we don’t want our children to feel slighted or deprived? Possibly. I would hate for other kids to brag to mine about all they got for Christmas, and mine feel like they didn’t get as much or feel like they were less than because they received less gifts. But yall, that happens every day – as is, and it’s just a part of life. My children see things that other kids have, and they want it. They have wants and desires, just like we do as adults. But it doesn’t mean that they can have everything that they want. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. It doesn’t mean that we as parents should feel obligated to give them all of those things. Children don’t understand this as well as adults, and it’s not an easy thing to teach them, but I think that it is necessary that we do, at least to some extent. There will always be families that have more than us, nicer vehicles, nicer homes, and more and better toys. And it is really okay. But what about the flip side of this? Can we focus on that instead? There will always be families that have less than us, no vehicle to drive and no home to live in at all, no toys to play with, and even no food to eat.  Can we find a balance in between and be content with where we are, what we have now, and the things we receive? We’re at least going to try.

I don’t know if I read this somewhere at some point, and it just stuck with me, or if it’s something that God has spoken to me, but often times I like to think of things in a backwards way. Not backwards like wrong or errored, but backwards as in – When my children are grown what will they LOOK BACK ON from their childhood and remember? What will they remember from their homeschool experience? What will they say about their mama? About their daddy? What will they remember about Christmas and other holidays?

So I would like to think now about what it would be like if we did skip Christmas, if we skipped all the parts that didn’t really matter in the first place… If we elimated the stress and burdens of Christmas, and celebrated only the things that really matter – celebrating the REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON and the things that our children will remember when they’re older and looking back on their childhood.

It would be radical and unconventional – people might not understand. People might judge or even try to pity us. I’d really like to avoid all this, and the conversations and having to explain why we are doing this. These conversations are not easy to have sometimes. It’s definitely not the norm. But the truth is – that’s why we’ve never done this in years past – it’s easier to avoid those conversations and just try to make it work. It’s not fun being open and transparent about “real life things”, and NOBODY wants to talk about money!

But hey, we’ve been radical on other things before. We ARE a little unconventional as a family. I want to be the family that will go against the grain if we have to sometimes and make the tough calls and decisions when it’s needed. And I want our children to grow up and do the same.

So Here is How Our Family Will Take a Minimalistic Approach to our Christmas this Year:

1. We will be content. We are fed. We are clothed. We are happy. We have what we need. We have many of our wants too. God has provided everything for us, and He always does. We will choose to think on these things and list the ways we are blessed instead of the things we want people to buy for us.
2. We will prioritize our gift-giving. As much as I LOVE to give gifts, and hate how much it hurts my heart to not be able to do this for people I love, I’m praying that they will understand. We will still give gifts to children, who may not understand this idea. We will put our gift-giving focus on the children.
3. We will still give our children gifts. We have never been extravagant with this. Last year each child got two to three, wrapped gifts from us, and they were so excited about the first gift they opened – that they didn’t even care to open a second so it took our prompting of, “Hey, you have another gift to open.” They also really love the stocking stuffers that we’d collected over time. We will still ask them if there is anything they want. We want to validate that fact that they do have wants and desires. Just like God often gives us the desires of our hearts, we desire to do the same for our children. We want to provide for their needs but also give them some of the things they want too, in moderation of course.
4. We will still give to charities that we support. It’s never too much, for us to be able to give to those in need. As our budget allows, we will still do this.
5. We will enjoy the Christmas season. We will plan fun activities for our family. We will go to all the gatherings. We will have fun playing Christmas games and conversating with those we love and have fun with. We will do the things that our kids ask us to do, and we will not say “no” to these things just in order to say “yes” to those things that don’t really matter. We will decorate our home with decorations we have, we will bake and decorate Christmas cookies, we will listen to Christmas music, watch the Christmas movies, See the Christmas lights, Read the Christmas stories.
6. We will not feel stress and burdened. We will enjoy this time with our family – the whole atmosphere. We will not have a credit card payment to make in January. And we will feel blessed and thankful for all the fun we’ve had and that we did it within our means.

I am praying blessings over each one of you that reads this today… 
And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – this is indeed a gift from God. Eccleisastes 5:19

I want you to know that it really is okay to say no to things if they are beyond your means. It is extremely hard to do, but it is okay to be open and honest with others about it. It shows wisdom and good financial stewardship. I hope and pray that the people in your life will not judge you, but instead respect you if this is a decision you choose to make. Maybe slowly, but surely, we can make a little change on what the American Dream is supposed to look like.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with your best parts of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grains, and your vats will overflow with good wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

If you are looking for a way to intentionally slow down, savor the season, and spend time in God’s Word, here is a study that looks like it’s going to be really good. It’s called Steadfast: Cultivating a Heart Like Mary. Don’t miss the meaning of the celebration, enter the new year frazzled, worn out, and exhausted with the sting of regret. Instead, cultivate a steadfast and confident heart during the holiday season and let God ground you in His love, joy, and peace.

Let’s all have fun and enjoy this Christmas season, every single part of it! Be blessed!

A Glimpse into My Prayer Journal: Personal Prayers


This is Day 5 of this 7-Day Series. You can find the first 4 days here:
Establishing the Habit
Daily Prayers
Praise & Adoration; Rest

Today is all about Personal Prayers – the things I pray for myself.

Because it’s too personal and intimate, I will not be sharing a picture of these pages in my journal. However, I’ll tell you about the things I have listed.

I’ve listed all the hats I wear – I pray for myself as a wife, as a mother, as a small group leader, as a homeschool teacher, etc.

I pray for our homeschool. I pray for my relationships with my children who have a different personality type than me. I humble myself at this time in my prayers so that I can be moldable by God – that He can make me into a better mom. I want to understand how He created my children and the ways they tick, the ways they grow, and learn and how I can respond to them better. I want to understand my husband and serve him better.

I pray for my friendships and relationships with others.

I pray for my goals in my personal life, my spiritual life, and all aspects.

I pray that I can be intentional and prioritize my time wisely, that I can be okay with the things that don’t get done or checked off my list because they may not have been in God’s plan for that day.

I pray that God helps me to see Him in the ordinary, in the every day things – that I’m aware and can thank Him for those little blessings throughout my day.

I pray for struggles I have currently and things that God is working on in my life.

I thank God for prayers He’s already answered in my life – like my addiction to sweets & cravings, my self-image, my sins I’ve been set free from. I keep these in the forefront of my mind so that I don’t forget where I came from and what He’s done.

I have this written in my journal on the Personal Prayers page. I think it comes from the L.I.F.E. Bible study book, and it’s a good reminder for me of the areas I can pray and surrender in my life.

I surrender all…
my plans
my goals
my pleasures
my ambitions
my hurts
my furutre
my past
my selfishness
my ego
my sin
my pride
my physical appearance
my lust
my anger
my fear
my health
my unforgiveness

Usually when I “journal” prayers, more than just bullet point lists, it’s in this section. Especially when I’m dealing with hard things or don’t know what to do, I journal my feelings and thoughts and prayers to God, and it’s nice to be able to come back and see these and how he’s answered them for me.

Today, we are going to hear from Mrs. Dianne Goulet. Mrs. Dianne is also a volunteer for the Prayer Team at Northwood church. I have been blown away by the faith of this woman as she battles some pretty major things in her life. She has an awesome story of redemption and healing, and she’s a huge inspiration for me as a Christian, homeschooling mom. I know you will be blessed by this today.

Prayer is not so much a specific time of day for me, as it is a way of life.  Just as relationship between two people is ongoing and dynamic, involving frequent communication that encompasses many emotions, so is my relationship with the Father.  As I’ve grown closer to Him since the day I first surrendered everything in exchange for His all, the natural result has been that I want to talk to Him more and more.  I started out praying about problems, asking for help and healing; today, I find myself devoting more of my prayer time to worship and to listening. The focus has shifted from what I want Him to do for me, to loving and listening to Him.
The practical expression of my prayer life has varied in different seasons.  When I was a full-time student with a preschooler at home, I got up in the wee hours of the morning, before it was light, to read the Word and talk to God.  Whether I was at the kitchen table, on the couch, or out on the deck with a flashlight, waiting for the sun to rise, I always came with a hunger to hear from God and an expectancy that I would, either through His Word or as the Spirit spoke to my heart.  When I was working full time, my long commute provided uninterrupted time to pour out my heart to Him about the trials in our marriage and family, asking Him for supernatural empowerment to love through the pain and to minister, both at home and at work.  When my son was hospitalized for mental health issues, I paced the floor of my home shouting, “Satan, you cannot have my son!”, declaring the Word of God over his life and agreeing with it in a loud voice punctuated with sobs.  When it appeared that my husband had lost all interest in our marriage and I couldn’t sleep because of the agony in my heart, I laid face down on the floor of my walk-in closet, sobbing and praying in tongues until there was peace.  When doctors told me I should not be alive, I said, “Lord, what do YOU say about it?”  As I lay in bed for months, I proclaimed the Scripture He had given me declaring life and purpose, praising and thanking Him that He would bring it to pass.   At times of feeling overwhelmed, prayer has simply been sitting on a chair in the sun and saying, “Lord, I need You…” waiting there until He spoke to my heart.  In corporate and personal worship, I sing the songs as a prayer to Him.  During seasons He has called me to intercede for specific people or situations, I’ve set aside dedicated time for prayer and fasting.  I often journal those prayers word for word, until I receive a release from that intercessory mandate.  If He’s given me Scriptures to pray for someone, I’ll write those down, too.
In this particular season of life, I’m a homeschooling mom.  I start my day with prayer before my feet even hit the floor.  My husband and I pray for each other before he leaves for work.  My daughter and I start our day with time in the Word, sharing how God is speaking to us and talking about how to apply what He’s saying.  We pray before we start school, and especially before those subjects or assignments we know are likely to be more difficult for her.  As I move through the day, prayer is like breathing–a rhythm I no longer have to plan; it’s just interwoven with thought and action.  It is an ongoing conversation with my Beloved. I ask the Holy Spirit to direct my day.  I ask God how to be a good steward with our resources.  I thank Him for self-control when I walk down the cookie aisle at the grocery store.  I ask Him for wisdom to advise our young adult children.  When I see all the wildflowers in the roadside ditches, I praise Him that He has richly given me all good things to enjoy.  As different people or situations come to mind, I pray for them on the spot rather than wait.  If they are comfortable with it, I pray with them, too.  At bedtime, my daughter and I pray together for the people and situations God lays on her heart.  There are times, especially when I’m seeking direction, that I do head to my bedroom and kneel before Him, shutting out distractions for as long as it takes.  I still talk to Him while I’m driving, especially about my human relationships and about the condition of my own heart.  At times, He wakes me in the early hours of the morning to speak to me when all is quiet. I don’t worry so much about what prayer is supposed to look like…my focus is worshipping, loving and obeying Jesus, and the prayer flows out of that relationship.
Over the years, I’ve learned how vital and valuable it is to pray in agreement with Scripture.  1 John 5:14-15 NIV says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”  When I pray the Word of God, I am praying the will of God, and I can be confident of the answer.  Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s Word always accomplishes what He sends it out to do–it always produces fruit.  Hebrews 4:12 reveals that His Word is alive and powerful, able to penetrate to the heart of the matter.   Praying the Word is powerful, focused prayer that produces lasting fruit in accordance with God’s will.  As I speak His Word over situations and people, it increases my faith as well, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
The Lord does want us to bring our needs to Him and to thank Him for what He’s done (Philippians 4:6-7).  We can come boldly before His throne to find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  Jesus taught us to pray with persistence (Luke 11:5-10). Our prayers are incense before His throne, a pleasing aroma (Revelation 5:8, 8:4).  And yet…if my only communication with my husband was to walk up to him, talk at him, and walk away without hearing his response, what kind of marriage would we have?  I have learned that the sweetest intimacy with God in prayer comes from pouring out my heart to Him, and then being still before Him while He answers with the words my heart so needs to hear.
The third thing I have learned is that if I am awakened suddenly at the same time every night (for me, usually between 1 and 3 am), and there’s no apparent reason, it’s usually because the Lord wants to tell me something.  Some of the sweetest, most healing, most powerful moments of my spiritual life have come when, like Samuel, I finally realized it was the Lord waking me and replied, “Speak, Lord; your servant is listening.”…and was still before Him as He sang over me, taught my heart, corrected me, and spoke purpose into me.  I was never tired the day following those times alone with the Lover of my soul.
God is faithful to His Word, and He does answer prayer.  I have seen Him heal me of multiple sclerosis and celiac disease.  He has twice immediately opened my daughter’s airways during a life-threatening asthma attack.  I have seen Him spontaneously heal a third-degree burn, and literally set an SUV that was in the process of rolling onto another car back down on its wheels, all in response to prayer.  During the past six years He has delivered my husband from addictions to alcohol and pornography.  We have seen children turn back to following Him in answer to prayer.  Several years ago, I was hiking on a trail with my daughters and we saw a van parked at the trail head, with its windows blacked out and back doors wide open, and two men peering out of the bushes on either side of the trail up ahead, waiting for us.  Their intention was clear.  I pulled the girls closer and slowed our pace.  I had no cell phone to call the sheriff, and heading back up the trail would only put us further away from help and attention. I prayed and asked the Lord to send His warrior angels to protect us, as He promised (Psalm 91:9-11, Hebrews 1:14).  The terror subsided and I felt His peace.  The next time one man peered out of the bushes, he looked startled and ran across the trail, exposing himself to us, to reach his friend.  He pointed back our way and said, “Where did those six big guys come from???”  The second man looked, and said, “I don’t know, but they’re scary!”.  They both ran to the van and, without even shutting the back doors, drove away as fast as they could.  I saw nothing, but I have no doubt they saw the angels of God.
If you are desiring to grow your prayer life, I encourage you not to worry so much about how it’s “supposed” to look, but just cry out to your Father, Who loves you and wants to fellowship with you intimately.  He will meet you where you are.  He is not concerned with outward appearance, but with the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)–and if you seek Him with your whole heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).  As you read the Word, begin to pray it for yourself and for others.  Make time to be still in His presence, and listen to His heartbeat as you lay your head against His chest.