I couldn’t think of any clever titles for this post. :) Can you tell??!
I wanted to share some things – not because I want pity but because I feel like there are more people struggling with things this year, similar to us, and maybe they feel a little embarrassed (like I did). I am praying that other moms and dads that need to see this DO see this and understand they aren’t alone.
We have no Christmas budget this year. No, it isn’t because we’re filthy rich and can spend whatever on whomever.
It is because we had NO extra money to set aside for Christmas and have NO money to spend on anyone.
I have been embarrassed about this for the past two months. I mean, who doesn’t set aside at least a little money for Christmas gifts?? Who doesn’t plan ahead and get their kids something for Christmas?
This year has been extremely difficult financially. EXTREMELY. Things we planned for and set aside money for got set to the back burner because unexpected, unplanned, big events (or, in some cases, several small events all at once) kept happening. Things with our old house. Things with our current house. And, just yesterday, things with our cars.
Our cars are six and seven years old. We know they won’t last forever, but we have been incredibly blessed with NEVER having anything wrong with them. We have never had to have major work done on them. Ever. Yesterday we found out my husband’s car badly needed the transmission flushed and it cost us our last bit of “extra” money we had. Money that I had planned to buy Christmas gifts with. Money we enjoyed having as a cushion (I know, a $150 cushion isn’t really a cushion…). So, the quick and cheap oil change we hoped to have done turned into 4 times as much money.
Our old house is in foreclosure – we received the court’s decision just two weeks ago. Unless you have gone through it, I don’t think you understand the embarrassment of saying you have a home in foreclosure. No, we don’t make a habit of not paying our debt. In fact, we had excellent credit up until this time. Because of this foreclosure and all the money we’ve had to put into it, we have let our credit card balance stay higher than we normally would…..and then the credit card company got wind of the foreclosure and lowered our credit limit….to just above what we owe on the card. So, that other cushion for any emergencies that we could use the credit card for has been removed. Our savings was also depleted in the midst of this stupid house thing.
So, we went from having a couple of options for any emergencies to having NO options.
Did I mention it is embarrassing??
Black Friday ads came out and everyone was mapping out their shopping strategies. Cyber Monday’s deals popped up and people were making their online wish lists.
Me? I was making a list of yarn I needed to crochet everyone’s gifts. Telling myself “Christmas is about Jesus not gifts” and “the kids will be better off with handmade gifts and don’t need more toys.” I just kept repeating to myself that we need to enjoy the people in our lives and not the gifts.
Aaaaaand, I was not buying any of it.
I want the toys for my kids. I want to see their eyes light up when they get that one big gift they’ve been asking about for months. I want them to be excited to open tons of gifts on Christmas day from Dad and Mom. I want to see the stacks of new things they received, knowing we provided it all for them.
But it isn’t happening. Those silly visions in my head aren’t going to play out. My kids are getting 2 wrapped things from us and 1 gift from Santa. AND I HATE IT!
I just started Christmas shopping this week – and it was for underwear and socks. My hands have been busy crocheting and making homemade items. I enjoy it, but I also kind of feel like I am cheating people out of gifts. If I wasn’t in this situation, would I feel cheated? – I keep asking myself that.
No, we aren’t poor. We have a new house and clothing and food every meal. Compared to most of the nation, I am sure we do not qualify as poor. Shoot, we don’t even qualify for government aid. We didn’t qualify for a short sale on the home. Nevermind the 7 mouths he feeds with one income. Nevermind the fact that we tried to play it safe the past (almost) 10 years together – paying off credit card balances, paying off the cars, not buying stuff we couldn’t afford. Then the rental company cheats us on the income they “guaranteed” at the old house and here we are losing that house. We naively trusted an attorney, who had us paying an expensive monthly retainer even though we couldn’t afford the home he was helping us try to sell via short sale. And we went along with it – trusting him because my husband had helped bury his father. We finally had to just give up on that because it cost too much.
I am angry. Angry mostly at myself for buying into the sinful world’s message that Christmas MUST be about gifts. We HAVE TO buy our kids something huge or expensive or electronic. Because who wants a crochet scarf as their gift? As their only gift? No one. That’s who.
We have five days until Christmas, and we still have 4 people to buy something for…because I cannot think of anything to crochet for them. I have several crochet items to make for some others. And we have $0 to put toward gifts.
Secretly, I had hoped for a bonus from my husband’s employer. Almost every year he has received one. This year he did not. And I was angry about that.
I know in my heart it isn’t about gifts. I know deep down people understand. It is just so hard to know that the big gift my girls have been asking for…for over two years….will not come from us. They will get joy in receiving the gift from their grandparents. And it hurts. I want to be able to give them that gift.
And then this morning I read a blog post about hitting rock bottom and finding God there. Not wanting to be at rock bottom but understanding that maybe that is where God wants to be with us. That maybe we need to be at rock bottom for a while in order to be with God.
I get it. I really do. We aren’t at rock bottom. But we are out of MY comfort zone. I like to act as though things are ok. I can usually scrape together a few bucks to get a gift or do something extra. But right now I can’t. We are having to FULLY trust God to provide. It is a bit painful because it means sharing that we don’t have loads of money, we don’t get to buy our kids lots of gifts, we can’t go out to eat or go out with friends, I have to decline a girls’ night out, and so on.
If I am disappointed Christmas morning with my kids’ reactions to our gifts versus their reactions to gifts from others….that is my fault and my problem. I should just enjoy being with them!
Christmas is about Jesus. This Christmas, though, for ME….it is more about Jesus’ forgiveness and providence than about His birth. Not to downplay the awesomeness of His birth. Of course, we focus on the miraculous birth of our Savior. But, this year, I have more focus on His forgiveness for my disgusting attitude about stupid presents. And His provision every day for us for the things we need.
My God has definitely supplied our needs. He has gone above and beyond our needs. I just have not been seeing things through His eyes. And I have wasted almost the whole month of December COMPLETELY missing out on that joy.
Philippians 4:19 (NLT) – “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.“
Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT) – “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
That verse in Matthew stings a bit. I wasted my time being angry about not buying Christmas gifts and ignoring the fact that I should help my children make a difference for eternity. So, in essence, I gave them absolutely nothing this season. But, I kept telling myself that we were doing a simple Christmas. That we were making our gifts and only giving things they needed. Telling myself we are just doing three gifts: one handmade, one they need and one toy. I had my pious little attitude in front of others, that I was being all spiritual about gift-giving. In reality, I was angry that I had to do that. I wanted to give them a bunch of “stuff” and couldn’t, so I twisted it to seem like a spiritual thing. I missed the point completely!!
So, I am sharing this with you. I wanted to come clean about my awful attitude the last two months. The anger and jealousy and bitterness I had because I couldn’t make Christmas about the gifts like I wanted. The fact that I made it seem like I was being godly about it. The fact that I was being completely ungodly about it.
I don’t want to be some kind of martyr over stupid money and gifts. I truly want my kids to have a heart for Jesus. I want them to see Jesus in me….genuinely. I do not want them to obsess about toys and gifts. I want them to value relationships and the miracle of Christ’s birth.
I have five days left to accomplish this. :) Best place to start??….at the Throne of Grace.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)