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!