lessons in love

Merry Christmas!!

Such an exciting week here! The kids are all pumped for Christmas festivities this week and weekend. We host my in-laws on Christmas Eve; this year we are having a Mexican feast for dinner with them. YUM! They know the best place to get delicious carnitas. Mmmm. SO looking forward to that food. 🙂 My mother-in-law sent two carloads of presents home with my husband this weekend, so we have all the presents under our tree already. It is HILARIOUS to watch the kids try and figure out whose present is whose. There are not the usual gift tags on them, so it is fun to listen to them argue over who gets the big ones! (And I am totally ignoring their greed over the whole getting instead of giving thing. Just gonna let them be that way for now. Don’t judge.)

This weekend, we will be with my side of the family! All of my siblings (there are 7) and their families will be there, so it will be a HUGE get-together. It is always fun! The kids are pumped to see all their cousins and play in Grandma’s basement. She does have a pretty fun basement. 😉 We will wrap up the weekend seeing my newest nephew dedicated at church!

Like most moms, I am usually stressed and crabby and exhausted this time of the year. This year was a little different for me. With crazy events earlier this year and a kind of spiritual wake-up call, I changed my ‘tude a bit for December. Our Christmas budget discussion didn’t happen til probably September, due to circumstances in the Spring and Summer. I worried at first about being able to cover everyone on our list (we have 5 kids, have 7 names drawn from my side plus my parents and grandparents, 4 names from my husband’s side, and lots of teachers/leaders/helpers at church). I counted 28 people just from church I wanted to give a gift to; we are involved in more groups this year, so the number went up quite a bit! Our realistic budget scared me a little, and then I started to really consider the things my kids NEEDED.

Yes, I would love to buy them all the toys they talk about wanting. I would love to buy them cute outfits, fashionable boots, etc. I would LOVE to get my husband a million things. BUT, none of us really need any of that stuff. We have all the clothes we need from hand-me-downs(except undies and socks…I did buy those for each of the kids. Hahaha!), the amount of toys we already have is ridiculous (and most of those were given to us!), and my husband could use a few items but nothing extravagant.

I had decided a few Christmas seasons ago to do the three gift thing for the kids – a want, a need, and something to read. This year, I tweaked it a bit (since we already have a TON of books, too). I went with something they want, something they need, and something for their Spiritual life. Four of the kids could use new Bibles, they all needed underwear and/or socks, and the items for the “want” category were things not on commercials.  My boys are getting dinosaur-related things (sticker book, paper dino ‘dolls’, and small travel dino figurines). My oldest is getting kitchen items (child-safe knives and oven mitts…she LOVES to cook and bake). My middle daughter is getting a craft set that makes a four-pocket organizer. And my youngest daughter is getting a Barbie toy – yes, I realize that is a commercial item, but I really wanted to get that for her. 🙂

I know my kids’ grandmas always get them lots of things, so I scaled back and went more practical. And I was SO much less stressed! My wrapping is done, except for one item. AND we were able to give gifts to all 28 teacher/helper folks. I was able to have a sweet friend from church over to our house yesterday. It was nice to be able to sit and chat without having to worry about my checklist…because it was already done! After we open presents with the kids, I would like to be able to share with them that cutting back on our own gifts gave us the chance to give more to those folks at church that they are with every week. I want them to understand that the joy they had in giving their teachers gifts was my goal, but in order to be able to give all those gifts we had to cut back on the gifts we had here. I know they’ll understand, and I know they’d all agree they don’t need a billion toys from mom and dad anyway.

The kids and I will bake tomorrow for Christmas Eve desserts, and that is all we need to do this week!

Also, unlike every other year, we are shying away from the big present from Santa for each kid. Since our budget didn’t allow for big items, I didn’t plan for any Santa gift. We told the kids Santa worked with us for reasonable, practical things this year. 🙂 Is that ridiculous? Probably. My two oldest know the truth about Santa. And the little ones don’t really even talk about him coming. I have been trying to not talk about it. We talk more about Jesus’ birth and church activities on Christmas Eve and whatnot. I am fine with the whole believing in Santa thing. I did when I was little. It was fun! We just kind of went a different route this year. I am hoping the kids focus on the people we are with more than the whole Santa idea. Although, letting them argue over the gifts under the tree probably isn’t helping with that! ha!

I am also praying A LOT more this season – for those that don’t know Jesus, for the strained family relationships, for the church and its influence in our community, for the focus we Christians should have, for my witness to others. I am REALLY good at talking about how we all need to share Jesus with our friends and loved ones; I am less good at actually stepping out and doing it! I really want to be a light in this extremely dark world. And what better time than Christmas! I know most everyone know Christmas is really about Jesus’ birth, but I would love to be able to share more about the personal relationship we can all have with Him. What saddening times we live in. Death, murder, war, selfishness, greed, hatred – they are all so prevalent these days. I want to be able to show those I know (or don’t know) how the sweet love of Jesus can change our hearts. How his grace can save us from the darkness of this world. How His selfless sacrifice gives us hope and peace.

It doesn’t take away our problems. It doesn’t make our lives perfect.

BUT

Knowing Christ gives us peace in the turbulent times. He gives us hope in the middle of despair. He brings us joy when all there seems to be is pain. He delivers a comfort like no other when the weight of life’s circumstances is coming down on us.

As we go through this week and into Christmas with our families and friends, I pray we remember that if we know Jesus in a personal way…we have the ANSWER for this lost world. How selfish of us to keep it to ourselves! I pray we are all so overwhelmed with Christ’s love that it just pours out into our daily lives, so that everyone around us sees something different from what this world offers us.

Whether you do the Santa thing, don’t do the Santa thing, give a ton of gifts or a few gifts, see lots of family or have a small, intimate gathering…..REMEMBER the most precious gift we can give is the Gospel. And the most precious gift we have received is God’s gift of Salvation.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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