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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Redeemed

Hello, dear friends. You haven't heard from me in over a week and much has happened in that time. I hope to fill you in over the next week or so, but I wanted to share some personal thoughts, reflections and mullings I have had in recent days and weeks.

I have not written much from my own personal heart experiences lately because I have been in a difficult place, honestly, and have been wrestling with some issues. I feel like much of it is resolved now, but they are things I will continue to wrestle with in the future. So, as my therapy group (Oh, you didn't know you were my therapy group? Ooops.) I feel like I want to share with you the road that my mind and heart have been traveling as of late.

It started in the earliest days of preparations for Christmas, probably even before Thanksgiving. I just couldn't get ready for, my mind around, in the mood for Christmas. It is normally such a joy-filled and fun time for me. I normally relish every moment of putting up decorations, planning, wrapping, cooking, baking and all those things involved with what we know as the Christmas holiday. But this year was different for me.

As I realized this, over the last month I began to examine myself to try to determine what the problem was. I finally came to some conclusions and confessed them to my husband late in the evening on Christmas Eve after both the kids were in bed and we were sitting in the kitchen exhausted with still a lot to do before we would hit the hay.

It had become apparent that I have had little to no joy in the giving part of the Christmas celebration this year and that had infected my overall joy in the holiday. With our financial situation being what it has been (or hasn't as the case may be) this year, all I could see is that, with every gift we might give, we would potentially be spending money that we didn't have.

Yes, I understand the spiritual significance of Christmas and that presents are not the reason why we celebrate. And believe me, I have had to really examine how much of the commercialization of Christmas I have let myself buy into. However, as I beat myself up and had to truly examine my motives, I have had to reconcile the spiritual significance of the holiday with the secular celebration of it. I knew that I didn't want to go as far as one family I know who doesn't give any gifts to one another at Christmas, but I wasn't sure why.

Then in a conversation I had with my daughter sometime over the last week or so, I began to realize that it is okay that we give gifts at Christmas. It became clear to me that it is one vehicle that we use to celebrate. Somehow the subject came up and I explained to my daughter that God gave us the greatest gift of all in His one and only Son and one way we can celebrate that gift of grace is to bless others with gifts.

That concept had never rung more true to my heart than that day as I spoke those words to my daughter. I love how gently God sometimes speaks to us, even through our own words.

So, I had reconciled that in my mind... great. That still didn't solve the fact that we didn't have any money to buy any gifts this year. But the Lord provided so graciously and confirmed that it was okay that I wanted to give to the people that I love at this time of year. I can give you some specific examples, too. God provided for gifts for people at Sarah and Nathan's school through this blog. He provided gifts for my sisters, the kids' teachers and grandparents through homemade ideas He put into my head. The Lord provided for many of the gifts my children received through toys that had been purchased in years past for my stash to have for birthday parties and such. He provided for a gift for one of my nephews through a dear friend who had gone shopping on Black Friday and purchased a gift that she would not end up using and allowed me to barter cookies for toys. The Lord provided over and over again. He is good, indeed.

And yet there was still something else nagging at me. Expectations. Not only did I have expectations of what we could do gift-wise based on past years, but I also felt that other people in our lives had expectations. And by other people, I don't mean our kids... I mean adults in our lives. I felt like there were people who would be focused on the material thing and not be able to appreciate the handmade gifts that the kids and I had made and accept them graciously.

Looking back on some of the reactions to our gifts over the last couple of days, it appears that I was right. There were some whose reactions were less than desirable, from leaving the gift behind to making remarks about them or putting undue spotlight on the simplicity of what we were able to give. However, I am beginning to release that into God's hands. Just as God cannot force us to receive his gift of salvation, it is not my responsibility how a person receives the gift we give them. The best we can do is give what we can knowing that we are doing it in celebration of God's gift to us.

As I said, I confessed much of this to Mike on Christmas eve. And then, all of the sudden, it was Christmas morning. And as simple as our Christmas in our own little family was, the excitement that filled our house on Friday morning as our kids opened their few gifts was just overwhelming. They received nothing big or flashy. Nothing, in fact, that even required batteries. But they just overflowed with the joy of giving and receiving. And their joy was contagious.

My Christmas was redeemed and full of joy.

I hope yours was as well.


Melinda said...

This is one Christmas you'll never forget! What a blessed time for you and your children. God is so faithful!

Hollie said...

I can relate 100% with you this year. I wasn't in the Christmas mood at all and it felt like the joy of it was sucked right out of me. But the Lord blessed us with family, the Nativity Story & Snow & the smile of our 2 year old at the site of his FIRST Santa gift and the joy just radiated through the house! :D I Love how our Lord blesses us with his Joy when we least expect it! And out of the simple God-given things!

Much Love,
Hollie (aka: Groovewoman)

beyond this moment said...

My kids' favorite presents this year were books and a Date-with-Mom coupon that included dinner and a movie of their choice.

I wasn't in the "Christmas mood" either, but I think this year was the first I've really been aware of the importance of TIME with family rather than gifts.

Beckypdj said...

A woman after my own heart. I ENJOY giving too!!! I like to give thoughtful gifts, but I no longer lose sleep over what I am going to get someone.

I know Christmas has gotten out of hand in so many places. But I get tired of Christians complaining about it. We don't have to let it get out of proportion in OUR lives. Congratulations on having a great heartfelt holiday full of joy.

Surely anyone who received those adorable Charm Bible bookmarks LOVED them. They were so cute and a great idea!! If they didn't, maybe a book on gratitude would be good for them next year.

Oh maybe that last line was too far?

Have a Happy & Prosperous New Year!!

bridget {bake at 350} said...

Merry Christmas, Donna!

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

I'm so glad you had such a joyous Christmas morning!! It's very sad that any adults had an issue with their gifts, but you must do your best to remember that it is their problem, not yours! How lovely that you were able to bless others with your gifts!

Happy New Year my friend! :)

Kay said...

It is sad that adults had trouble. That is so strange since most adults have more than they need anyway. I'm glad you were able to allow God to work on your heart and make the holiday merry, even in these hard times. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're coming to terms with your Christmas this year. It's often difficult to have to rearrange priorities, especially when you feel like you're letting people down. So wonderful to hear that your kids had a great Christmas, though!

We did some re-prioritizing, too. This year, The Beloved and I gave baked goods--his awesome (seriously) fruitcake and my fudge--and gifts to Heifer International in honor of friends and family.

We don't have lots right now, either, but when it came to spending money, we wanted to give to people who truly needed it. So now, somewhere in the world, families are benefiting from our gifts of chickens, ducks, bees, etc. I think (hope) the folks we gave in honor of really appreciated the gesture.

Best to you and your family in the New Year, Donna. :)