Sunday, December 27, 2009

the end of a season

I believe I am returning from my longest-ever blogging hiatus. I've had a few topics bouncing around in my mind, but never made it to the computer with the expressed purpose of recording said topics. For now, suffice it to say that we've been extremely busy, in more ways than one. Of course, Christmas is a busy season for all of us, isn't it? My wonderful husband's dedication to building us from debt to wealth (thanks, Dave Ramsey!) really freed my stress this year. I decided to make as many Christmas gifts as possible, to get done what I could manage without gaining extra grays (where are all these gray hairs coming from??), not spend an excessive amount of money on people who have everything they need and most things they want (like ourselves), and to let the rest sliiiiiiide. And as a result, for the first time in many many years, Christmas was fun. I love giving gifts--truly--but I hate the artificial pressure of our artificial celebrations during such a sacred, REAL season of what should be the most genuine and humbling of celebrations.

Rachel is 3 1/2 now, and she understands so much. How do you teach a kid that this a season to GIVE, not get? I told her every chance I got. I helped her make gifts for a few of her most beloveds--her grandparents and her daddy. But everywhere we went, people asked Rachel what she wanted for Christmas, what was Santa going to bring her, and if she had been "good enough" to get STUFF. Stuff, people...really?? That's what it's all about?

I have never reflected on the toy drives that occur during this season. We are encouraged to make Christmas happen for families who can't afford to "do" Christmas the way Christmas should be done (apparently). I have never, until this year, considered the implications therein. What is Christmas?? Is it a time when it's okay for kids to be greedy? Who are we, that we can "make" Christmas for people? The very beauty of Christmas is that it is available to everyone, no strings attached. There are no people who cannot experience Christmas. Christmas is nothing, if it is not free and available to all.

I don't mean to downplay the mercy ministries that happen during this season. After all, as we reflect on God's mercy in sending the greatest gift to us on Christmas day (or somewhere around that, anyway), how could we not respond by extending similar mercy to those among us who are without? But this is the first year that it struck me that it is all vanity if we don't proclaim the name of Christ and communicate God's ultimate gift to us. All of our mercy-giving and gift-giving, even among our families and close friends, is vanity without Christ.

Jarrad and I are very blessed with families who seem to genuinely enjoy blessing us with good gifts during this season. We hardly feel the need (and nearly feel guilty) purchasing gifts for our own children because of the volume of gifts given them by others who love them so. We would never want to take the joy out of that. But I can definitely say that I'm at a loss for how to help my children understand that receiving gifts is absolutely at the bottom of the list of important-things-that-happen-in-December. I do think we'll start by trying not to allow our children to get caught in the "gift race," wherein one finds oneself trying to guess who will spend how much to buy which gift for me so that I can do my best to match, if not exceed those gifts by giving equal, if not better gifts in return. I shook that this year, as I've been most guilty in the past.

Okay, okay...I promise I'll do a fun post soon about all the stuff the kids got for Christmas. In the meantime, here are a few of the gifts I created for our loved ones this year:

An outfit for my nephew, from a pair of my cords I never wore (the pants are a tad too small for him...sad!) key fobs! (these were so quick and easy and FUN to make) embellished onesie and handmade tutu for my niece (my favorite gift, hands down) hand-printed tee for a cousin, whose name I drew at Thanksgiving :) ...he's a bird lover! laptop sleeve with matching drawstring cord pouch, made from an upcylced hoodie (second fav gift)