Getting from there to here

Growing up, Christmas was an EVENT.  It meant killing ourselves making cookies.  It meant 18′ trees, decorated to the nth degree.  It meant gifts stacked higher and taller than some of the children that were opening them.  It meant too much, too often and WAY too expensive.  In the midst of all this excess, what was birthed in my heart was greed and discontentment. 

I remember one year, opening gifts for over 6 hours straight (we took turns – all 5 members of my family) and getting done and looking at the pile of gifts that I had received and being covetous that my brother got a stereo and I did not.  I wish I had voiced that to my parents so that they could have addressed my sin.  Instead, I gathered the many, many, (TOO) many gifts I received and took them to my bedroom where I spent the afternoon pouting.  I remember that with shame.

When we started having children, we wanted something more than just gifts.  We began before Minijavabean #1 was born, praying for good ideas of what to do with her for the holidays.  We did get a few good ideas, but mostly I continued on giving too many gifts, with too much busyness and too little depth to our holidays. 

One day in prayer, it occured to me that if 3 gifts were good enough for Jesus, then that would surely be good enough for my children, too.  So, we began buying only 3 gifts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to adjust the amount we were spending, it just meant we could buy 3 bigger gifts, rather than upteen jillion cheaper ones.  Every year resulted in too much debt incurred on our credit card.

Within just a few years of that, the Lord graciously pointed out that Christmas resulted in ONE gift to us.  That the father provided ONE gift and that is what we should be doing for our children, as well.  So, one gift it was.  This too lasted a few years when the Lord began to work on the amount of the money we were spending.  Suddenly, we were faced with conviction about remaining within the confines of the budget and buying only one gift.  ~Whew, I thought it was going to kill me.   😉

We have a lot of summer birthdays.  Up until this time we would clump at least 3 of them (they’re all within the same week) together.  The Lord convicted me that I needed to honor each child in a special way.  So, we announced to the children that they would no longer need to choose just one birthday “cake” (we rarely have cake for August birthdays) but that we were going to make a big fuss over each of their birthdays – that this was an opportunity for us to honor the birthday person.  And as I shared that, it hit me.  Christmas is Jesus’ birthday – it’s all about Him. 

So, we began talking to the children, seeking creative ways to honor Him for His birthday.  The first year we thought that we shouldn’t give any gifts at all, (except for extended family – it didn’t seem that it would honor Jesus to argue with our family members about gift giving) so instead we gave gifts to friends and those who serve us, at Thanksgiving.  We included a note telling them that we were surely thankful for the way they served us as well as a Scripture.  We did that for 2 yrs, while at the same time, the Lord was working on Jeff and I regarding changing the way we did Thanksgiving.  Giving gifts during that time didn’t “fit” any longer. 

Several years ago, we stumbled across the gift catalogs from World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse.  That was EXACTLY what we were looking for.  Now, we can put the money we would have spent on gifts for our own family and instead we spend the holiday season looking over the catalogs to see what we want to spend our “birthday money” for Jesus on.  (We are SO grateful to Ann V for directing us to Partners International.  They allow you to buy smaller “shares” in larger gifts, allowing us to participate in even more gift giving.) 

Christmas morning, we will spend putting our “gift” to these catalogs together.  We have the catalogs and have been dreaming and thinking of what we’d like to give this year.  By getting them “early” that allows the children to hear from the Lord – to see what He would place on their hearts to give this year – and they can start earning more money if they don’t have enough for the things that the Lord has placed on their hearts. We have a container that we put all the money in – which we count on Christmas morning as part of our “gift giving” time.

Because we have always had an Advent calendar – one I made, consisting of things to do each day – so our gift giving to friends and those who serve us, just sort of melted together with our Advent calendar. 

Our children DO exchange gifts with one another – we have been doing it on Epiphany.  This year, we’re going to take Ann V’s suggestion and do it on New Year’s Day.  I like that better.  AND we only do stocking size gifts.  Nothing big. Generally the girls make things for one another’s dolls.  Uh, this doesn’t apply to Minijavabean #1 any longer.  She’s tougher for them to bless these days.   😉

Fair warning, the year you stop giving gifts to your children on Christmas is the year every kind hearted woman in Meijer is going to stop your sweet daughter and say, “What did Santa bring YOU for Christmas?”  Train them to do something other than give her a blank stare and say, “I didn’t get anything from Santa.  We don’t get gifts for Christmas.”  Then be prepared for the shock and horror on the dear grandmas’ faces.  Do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to explain this to them.  It really doesn’t work.  Honest.  I tried.

I will tell you, doing it this way has been much more fun than the old way.  We are able to truly enjoy the gifts we do get -generally on our birthdays, except this year, our kiddos will be getting a Thanksgiving gift (we found a series of books we’ve been wanting SUPER DUPER cheap, thank You Lord!) but don’t tell them.  Sssshhhh.  AND we’re able to truly focus our energies on other things….and people…that mean more than the gifts do.  Things like the Holy Walk and our Shepherds supper and the drama the kids put together….but those are fodder for another blog. 

I don’t know if I answered your question, really, whimsy.  If I didn’t please feel free to be very specific.  I will answer you the best way I know how.  (Keep in mind, the answer may just be, “I don’t know – God just worked that in us.”) 

(Edit: I’ve finished this just before midnight and my computer won’t post it. No clue what is going on.  If something dorky ends up changing when it shows up, please excuse it and know that it looked ok tonight.)

19 Responses to “Getting from there to here”
  1. whimsy says:

    Why yes it does. It’s not a cut and dry “program” to follow. It’s more about following the Lord and what He would have you do each year.

    THAT I can do.

  2. javadawn says:

    Program? 😆 That word doesn’t seem to be one that Father uses in our lives. He may urge us, He may convict us, He may even force us, but there has never been a time when we’ve done anything by a “program” – we’re too skittish to do it right, even if He did give us one, I think. 😉

    You are CORRECT!!!!! It is ALL about seeking the heart of Father and going where He leads. That’s all there is to it. And you CAN do that. I will be praying that you are able to hear from Him if there are any changes He desires to do in your family’s celebration this year. 🙂 Enjoy the ride!!

  3. Patricia says:

    Wonderful! And it truly is all about hearing from the Father and being obedient to what He is telling each of us to do.

  4. Dawn, This just sounds wonderful. I grew up in that same tradition you did – Too.Much.Stuff. And now my mom is far away and shopping for her grandkids is her THING. To tell her to cut back on how much she buys them would be like telling her not to hug and kiss them at this point. But as we work on creating our own traditions, I don’t want to pass that gluttony of stuff on to them. We have toyed with the three gifts idea and have settled (for this year) on really praying about what to get the kids and about what to do for others. It’s such a blessing to me to be reminded to bring EVERYTHING to Him and seek His will even in the “little things” and even when “we’ve always done things this way.”

  5. Ann V. says:

    Dawn, I so wanted to exchange small gifts on Epiphany ~grin~ but New Year’s has worked for us the past few years…. and, interestingly, exchanging gifts as “New Year’s Blessings”– a way to bless someone in the coming year, these gifts are smaller and seem more meaningful than the *pressure* of *big* gifts on Christmas….

    We found that Christmas was actually richer with OUT gifts (though I was *terrified* to try it ~weaksmile~) and focusing on GIVING to those outside our family….

    Tell us, Dawn… does your extended family still give gifts to your family?

    So blessed by you,

  6. JavaDawn says:

    Ann – Kind of. My dad sends gifts to the children and we allow them to open them one per day. (These kiddos are SURELY mine, as it takes so little to create…. a feeding frenzy mentality re: gifts.)

    On Jeff’s side of the family, once they heard we weren’t doing gifts, they stopped as well. It helps that their getting so large and so spread out that getting together is becoming quite the challenge. So, when we get together with them, we all give gifts to Grandma and that’s all.

    It’s really OH SO freeing, but it’s taken quite a few years to get to where we are.

    Side note – I remember taking notes from a Marilyn Howshall discussion about the holidays. I can remember being OFFENDED at her suggestion that the entire purpose of the holidays was for serving others. It’s truly a GOD thing to see how far I’ve come.

    Shannon, doing what the Lord lays on your heart will make such a big difference to your celebration. There will not be any of that feeling of ending the season with a sense of emptiness. Even if the differences aren’t that visible. It’s YOUR heart attitude that will make the difference. I’m rejoicing with you at this new direction for you!

  7. Susan says:

    Oh Dawn, you challenge me. I am a gift giver and reciever. It really is my love language. I do want christmas to have more meaning and I do not want to create greed and selfishness in my children. But it’s me that is the problem. I don’t know if I can not give them gifts. I know I likely spend too much, however, we rarely go into debt, so I guess that is good. But the kids still get too much. I too love to get gifts and feel a bit in a funk if it doesn’t turn out exactly how I want. Talk about spoiled. I grew up in a bigger christmas every year atmosphere and I am trying not to create the same in my kids. Oh, I better just go blog this.

  8. JavaDawn says:

    THAT WAS ME!! It was the hardest for ME to make the transition. My kids breezed through it. Let me give you a picture here….it’s August, I find the PERFECT gift for one of the kids. I buy it. It’s now September….OOOOO….there’s another perfect gift. I buy it. Now I’m in a quandry – I MUST give the first perfect gift to the child in question.

    Without exageration of any kind – one year, I gave my Mom 7 Christmas presents, because I kept finding *the* one. 🙄

    Susan, before this work of the Lord in my life, I was upset EVERY Christmas. Jeff was really busy working retail (think: Jan 10th “Oh hi, who are you? I don’t think I’ve seen you since the week before Thanksgiving.”) His mind simply didn’t go toward buying me anything. If he remembered that he needed a gift before the 23rd of December, it was an amazing thing. Each year, my feelings were hurt because the gifts were given without thought. You know what? That went away when we started shifting the focus onto Jesus’ birthday – suddenly it had NOTHING to do with me. It had everything to do with HIM. For the first time in our entire marriage I could give my forgetful hubby a REAL Christmas present – I wasn’t pouting about what he did or did not “get right.” I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself that no one got me something special and I wasn’t spending money on myself, justifying that “no one else will, so I have to.” (UGH – all these horrid things I have just revealed about my sinful heart. SIGH.)

    I’m not saying YOU are like I was – I’m simply saying all those painful things about Christmas, for me, went away, when we stopped giving attention to ourselves. WHOOSH! It wasn’t a process, it wasn’t over time – I am telling you, it was G.O.N.E.!!!!! I was set free and so was my family. (God is SO faithful!)

    BUT Susan, my dear Sister, the issue isn’t what the Clarks or the Voskamps or anyone else is doing – honey, Father knows what He wants for your family and it may just be giving up one aspect….or it may not involve giving up ANY aspects, but rather taking new ones on. Either way, He is the only One who has any answers for your holidays.

    Ok, now that I’ve blogged another whole blog…. 🙂

    I’ll be over to read what you wrote!!

  9. winkies6 says:

    I would so love to do this with my children. I need to run it all by Hubby first and get his feelings on it. Not sure if he would be all for it or feel like the kids were missing out on something that he had when he was little. I think sometimes he thinks I am squashing down every little tradition his family ever had…..

    By the way, I TOTALLY understand the Thanksgiving to Jan 10: Who are you? I’m married? It’s already begun! We’ve gotten to the point of not buying each other gifts. My Hubby is not exactly a server (knows exactly what gift to get for each person), so I try not to be disappointed but always end up that way. :/ I’d rather just get a big ol’ kiss from him. LOL

  10. Holly says:

    God has not led us down this path…at least the path of “no gifts.” (Yet.) 🙂 We would be very open to it, if He did.

    He HAS led us to be wise, resourceful, to seek Him before randomly purchasing. He has led us to downsizing gifts – to truly looking at the heart of each child, to seeing what might fit and fill a particular need or longing. He has led us to “gifting” others first, Sunday School teachers, workers, those who work under my husband, children in far away lands (we do both the gift catalogue and shoeboxes. The kids are giving chicks this year, and perhaps a fish hatchery and think it is the coolest thing ever.)

    I have enjoyed hearing how He has led your family, Dawn, and how you have been so faithful to listen! 🙂

  11. Dawn, this is the true essence of it all…family together, gifts are secondary things. I have enjoyed hearing your story!

  12. myderbe says:

    Well, we’re not at the same place you are, either. But we are feeling led to make a bigger effort to help our kids shift the focus onto Jesus and others.

    Our kids each get 3 gifts — one of which is ALWAYS a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve, so that makes 2 gifts each on Christmas morning. We do not spend a fortune, and we do not go into debt. I must admit — I just absolutely *love* that look on their faces when they get something they’ve been wanting. Oh, the joy! And, so far, they seem to really enjoying watching each other receive gifts and they rejoice *with* each other over the gifts. It’s sort of cool to see them learning that.

    In the past, we have made red and green paper chains with the names of people to pray for. Each night from Dec. 1 on, we’ve pulled off a link and prayed for whoever’s name was on the link.

    The other day, I saw an advent box at Target. It had 24 or 25 little doors on it, and it was a beautiful wooden box. I think it was designed to put candy or a small gift in each opening. But I want to get it and put an advent scripture verse and the name of someone to pray for in each opening. I just think a nice, wooden box would be a good family heirloom sort of thing.

    We also do shoeboxes and order things from the Samaritan’s Purse catalog. We try to order gifts in honor of people and then send the cards to them — like soccer balls in honor of the kids’ soccer coaches, midwife training in honor of my OB/GYN, blankets in honor of my grandma who always sits wrapped up in a blanket, milk in honor of the grandma who has nourished and fed so many children and grandchildren over the years, etc. I really like to pray over and personalize these because I think it makes it so much sweeter. I know my grandma enjoyed reading the card about our buying the blankets in honor of her, and WHY we picked blankets. It was more meaningful than “Hey, we made a donation to Samaritan’s Purse in your name.”

    OK . .I’ve hijacked Dawn’s blog. 🙂 I’ll go back to my own now!

  13. Holly says:

    Hey! Where are you???

  14. javadawn says:

    Hey Holly Belle, I’m doing your routine. I’ve got a really sick baby. We’ve been nothing but nursing and rocking since early Fri am. She was MUCH better yesterday – smiling, wanting to crawl for a little while, but last night late the fever came back WITH A VENGEANCE. SIGH

  15. winkies6 says:

    Awww, poor baby! I totally understand! I just hate when little ones are sick, especially when they can’t quite talk and tell you what hurts. Of course, then they get older and all they do is tell you what hurts! LOL My eldest is home sick today. She had a slight fever last night and is totally phlegmy. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I hope Javababy feels better soon!!

  16. myderbe says:

    Oh. Poor Dawn and poor Javababy. I’m so sorry. Sick babies break my heart.

  17. javadawn says:

    Hey Jenn – you just feel free to hijack this blog, any time. 🙂

  18. javadawn says:

    Thank you, too Ladies for your kindness and prayers.

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