How To Keep Your Christmas Tree from Ruining Christmas

2015 Update!

I wrote this blog about real Christmas trees 4 years ago. To date, it continues to be one of my highest read posts. As we near Christmas, the searches that lead people to my blog become more desperate and alarming. Things like ” how to revive a dead Christmas tree”  or ” what to do when your Christmas tree is dried out”  …..

So here’s the quick news you probably already know. THROW IT OUT.  Seriously, if you forgot to cut off the trunk, haven’t watered it daily and it is brittle dry…it is a FIRE HAZARD.  People die every year because of dry trees that are lit up with warm bulbs.  Please don’t do that. Please, remove the tree from your home immediately. There is still time to get a new tree and have a lovely Christmas.

 

Here’s another trick I saw today:  use a wrapping paper tube to water your tree. So easy and efficient! I just did it myself today as we have a real tree for the first time in 10 years!  I check the branches every day to make sure they are still pliable and getting water.

christmas tree watering trick

***UPDATE*** After numerous Google searches with people frantically trying to revive their sad and pathetic trees, I must interject and let you all know that #2 is SO CRITICAL to the health and life of your tree. It cannot be said loud enough or often enough….YOU MUST CUT OFF at least 2 inches  off the base of your tree before you put it into your tree stand with water. The bottom is sealed tight and opening up the trunk is the only way for water to get to your branches and needles. If you don’t do this, your tree will die and that’s really all there is to it.  Happy tree trimming and tree hunting!

I’m sad to admit that I have a very high mortality rate with any living plant in my house. I just can’t seem to have a thriving greenish type of thing that isn’t plastic, silk or otherwise fake.   And when it comes to Christmas Trees…well, I’ve killed my fair share.

Needles all over the carpet, ornaments too heavy for brittle branches, even trees that topple in the night due to pathetic hydration.

I grew up on a farm and we had a real tree every year. My mom would use a coffee can to hold the water and I really had nothing to do with it from there. I just cared about tinsel and shiny balls all over it along with the multi-colored retro LARGE bulbs.

We had artificial trees when we moved off the farm and my husband and I only started with real trees in our 5th year of marriage.  I killed that tree early too.  And then next one.  I couldn’t figure out how to prolong its life.  Until I asked my mother how it was that we always had our tree up for at least a month on the farm.  Ginger Ale.  Say what?  Yes.  You know the saying ” a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”? Well, it applies to evergreens too.  Seems that the sap in the tree blocks up all the pores when you cut it down. Sort of a life preserving technique but it makes it pretty tough to absorb any water.  So here’s the tricks I learned and let me tell you, it works and you can even revive a nearly dead tree!

  1. When you buy your real tree or cut it down , you must let it “settle” in your warm house before it can be decorated. It may take hours or up to a day.  But you cannot leave it inside without putting it in water.  So set up your tree stand(or coffee can) and fill it half full of water.
  2. CUT OFF the bottom of the trunk. Regardless if you have cut it down in the forest yourself or not, the sap will have solidified on the bottom of the trunk and you need a fresh cut to absorb the water.  I have even had to take down a tree and cut the bottom off after I’ve started to decorate just because I forgot this step. Not fun.  Also, trim off  those straggler branches on the bottom. You don’t need them sucking up the water before it gets a chance to travel up the trunk.
  3. Add equal parts of Ginger Ale(I like Canada Dry myself) and water to your tree stand.  Watch the water level~ in the first couple of hours the tree will suck up most, if not all of the liquid and you will need to top it up. After the first day you can go to a 1:4 ratio of ginger ale to water.
  4. You MUST check your water level daily. If you live in a dry climate, have a wood stove, have forced air heat it will dry your tree out quicker.  Also, if you have a vent near where your tree is, consider closing it off for the season to avoid it blowing directly on your tree.
  5. All trees shed needles a bit at first.  You are going to want some sort of proper tree skirt that will catch most of them so that you aren’t still vacuuming needles in July.(been there)
  6. Check your tree daily. It should smell, needles should be pliable and not brittle.  Keep the water level up at all times and you will enjoy your tree through New Year’s! ( I also have used a spray bottle mister sometimes to add a bit of moisture to the upper branches but that’s not really necessary if you’re watering properly)

I don’t have a real tree this year…but next year….OH YES I WILL!

*** NEW**** if you don’t have ginger ale, sugar water will work too! But my experience has shown the gingerale works faster/better??? Not sure why. I’m not an arborist or chemist.

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Merry Broken Christmas

“I’m getting a divorce.”  She whispered it; her voice cracking under the weight of what that sentence held. She could barely contain the sob that followed. It’s a week before Christmas and her family is broken.

I watched a funeral procession go by today. There were dozens of cars following the hearse and two limos. Obviously, someone who was well loved and valued in this life is being laid to rest today- a week before Christmas. That family will never be the same. Their Christmas is broken.

It’s been 19 months since Emma died. She was only 15. Her parents are experiencing yet another broken Christmas. There is no getting around it.  The family table is missing someone. Time does not heal all wounds. Christmas is broken.

In Peshawar, Pakistan hundreds of families are burying their children today. Mourning. Wailing. Scars that will never heal. Trauma that is too painful to relive. Fear. Jesus, come quickly. Broken. So broken.

It was 2 years ago this week that a madman ripped bullets through tiny bodies in small town America. Tiny lives obliterated. Broken families. Broken lives. Broken school. Broken nation.

Michael Brown‘s mother is a broken woman. And because her son was shot down, her city and country are broken too. Politics aside- these people will never be the same again. Violence against police. Violence against each other. Violence in the name of justice. Broken system. Broken nation. Broken world.

In Ottawa this Christmas, Nathan Cirillo’s young son will have to unwrap presents without his daddy.  He will never have another Christmas with his dad. His family is broken. These lives are broken. Our world is broken.

I could go on all day.  Every week there are more horror stories. Sydney, Australia.  Seattle, Washington. Portland, Oregon. Calgary, Alberta. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The family of Donald and Shirley Parkinson in Unity, SK…..I knew Shirley. She was a light in the community. A light that was tragically and violently snuffed out at the hands of her own husband. And now her daughters are left with this legacy of brokenness and unanswered questions.

It would be nice to say “Merry Christmas” and be completely oblivious to the world around us. But that would be lying. The fact is, more of us are broken at Christmas than whole. And I’m here to tell you that’s okay. In fact, your brokenness is exactly why Jesus came. Your brokenness is the dirty, filthy stable. Your brokenness is a manger made for feeding animals, not for a King. But Jesus will come anyway. He will come and He will stay and He will cry IN your brokenness, WITH you. Because Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

charlie brown tree

We have to put away this notion of a perfectly decorated tree, perfectly adorned houses, perfectly wrapped gifts, perfectly planned meals and perfectly pretty people.  Jesus didn’t come for any of that. And actually, it’s quite offensive. If your world is so perfect and sanitized then you have no need or room for Jesus. You are simply the Innkeeper telling Jesus to move along because there is no room for Him. That concept shocks and scares me. I don’t want perfection to the point where I have no room for Him in my life, in my home, in my family or in my brokenness. I would rather take all the sad, scary, horribleness WITH Jesus, than perfection without Him.

Mark 8:34-37 (MSG) Jesus says…..

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Psalms 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

Even Mary, who was so young and so unprepared for what her life would be like, knew that the coming of Jesus was not for the free and the satisfied, but for the oppressed and the soul-crushed.  Her words are powerful…these words that she uttered from deep within her spirit knowing that soon she would bear a son who would save her people.

Mary’s Song(Luke 1)

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

My husband and I had one of those epic, smackdown fights last night that don’t happen often but really shake us to our core. We are so imperfect and prideful. We lash out in defense of our own agendas. None of it is even important. But we made it more important than anything else. We’re broken.

We have four children but we rarely see or speak to one of them. Broken.

For a couple of years we have had little to no contact with my inlaws. Deep wounds. Toxic, painful memories. Dysfunctional relationships. So broken; all of us.

Money troubles, relationship troubles, family issues, job worries, houses in need of repair, unfinished tasks, assignments overdue, marks falling, everyone failing. Struggling. Barely existing. Trying too hard to get no where.

If this sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. The Saviour is coming. He is on his way to find a place to be born. Is your heart ready? Is it open?  Christmas Day is a week away but Jesus is born every day in the hearts of mankind. All we have to say is “yes Lord, I’m broken. Come and fill me. Come heal me. Come live in my brokenness.”

The woman who is getting a divorce….I didn’t know what to say. I choked back the tears as they started to fall. Her words were amazingly poignant, ” there is nothing to say- just pray. Pray, pray pray.”

All I want for Christmas is to be broken enough to be the stable and not the Inn. 

Merry Broken Christmas.

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[Some Christmas thoughts | Chris Martin Writes
http://chrismartinwrites.com/2014/12/24/some-christmas-thoughts/caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”480″] Click on this to read another blog about imperfect, broken Christmases.[/caption]

 

and a follow up after nearly 200,000 views in 5 days! Wowie!  A Viral Post and Holy Ground

I love comments but due to some unfortunate and egregious comments I am now shifting to managing comments through an approval process. I’m sorry I even have to do this on Christmas Eve but clearly the very broken are lashing out at me; someone they don’t even know. But the overwhelming majority of you have been gracious and kind and for that I am so thankful.

What Are You Listening To? {Christmas Music}

I love Christmas music. Well, most of it. Some of it(the more recent stuff) is horrid. The pop divas and pop boy bands and pop icons….they should stay away from sacred Christmas.

But I have favourites and some are in fact recent recordings. Here’s some MUST listen tos for Christmas in our house:

Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas.  

 

I just CANNOT begin the season without this. Very often, November 1.  It just warms me from the inside out and helps me to calm down, focus and be joyful.

Kenny and Dolly: 

How fun is it when Dolly sings “Christmas Time’s A Comin’ ” ? The best!

But even better is Hard Rock Candy Christmas….chokes me up every time.

Elvis’ Christmas Album 

 

I particularly love “It Won’t Be Christmas Without You”….so tender…..

 

Boney M: 

No Christmas is complete without this rendition of Mary’s Boy Child

Burl Ives: My mom still has this record. There is nothing quite like Burl Ives(who I always thought was Santa) singing Rudolph or Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.

Willie Nelson’s Pretty Paper:  Makes me cry every time- such a beautiful song.

Bing Crosby: Classic. No one sings White Christmas or Silver Bells like he does.

 

And now for some new favourites which I can’t get enough of:

LOVE all of it. It is so good from start to finish.

For a truly worshipful Christmas this one is awesome.

LOVE LOVE LOVE! Winter Snow and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus are my favs.

Seriously, don’t knock it. This is FANTASTIC. It is funny, sentimental, funny, inspirational, uplifting and downhome good. They can SANG!

Michael Buble’s Christmas album:

For the crooner and for the dinner music- awesome.

 

I could go on and on and on….I love Christmas music. Honorable mention to

Faith Hill’s – A Baby Changes Everything

The Judds- Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Selah- Light of the Stable

Alabama Christmas

The Forrester Sisters- Little Toy Trains

Merle Haggard- A Country Christmas

Okay….stopping…..now you….what is your favourite Christmas song/album?

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing to be a Peacemaker

This week may well go down in history for many reasons, not the least of which is that social media gave trash talk a whole new face and name. And I’m not talking about Phil Robertson.  I’m talking about people who spout off about something someone else said, taken out of context, blown up, shared and memed for all the world to see, read and hear.  I’m talking about those who speak before they think. I’m talking about those who would rather be right than be gracious. I’m talking about “us vs. them” .

And although I have a lot to say, this isn’t the time or the place. You see, it’s my daughter’s 18th birthday. My firstborn daughter who came into the world screaming on a cold December morning. The one who couldn’t wait for her scheduled appointment to make her debut but instead woke me 5 hours early to get the show on the road. And because it’s also 2 days before my dad’s birthday and 5 days before Christmas, I think there’s something else that needs to be said.

This weekend and in the coming days, you will gather at tables and in living rooms. You will hug and be hugged. You will share stories of the past year and exchange gifts with those you love. You will break bread together and be enveloped in fellowship and love. This is no time for debates and beating of chests.

The surest way to ruin a gathering is to bring politics, “religion” and your pride to the table. If that happens in any of my gatherings , I’m picking up my sorry ass and sitting it down at a piano to play Christmas carols loudly for all to hear. I’m taking up a game of Settlers with my girls. I’m pulling out the ROOK cards. I’m working on that puzzle. I’m going to eat shortbread and stuffing and maybe even at the same time. I’m going to laugh and share photos. I’m going to take photos and laugh at you. I’m going to defuse, distract and disseminate.  Because it’s Christmas. And Jesus didn’t come so you or I or she or him could be right and say how right we are. He came for peace.

And so, let’s all pause and say this together…..

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
~St. Francis of Assisi 

It’s Pretty, but it’s far from Perfect- Home Tour Link Up!

I’m tired.

Like, 3 a.m. bedtime tired. Don’t ask- long story. However, I managed to snap some pics of my living room when it was dark and cozy last night. Never mind the pile of cards on the coffee table, or the crap on the floor. Never mind I usually have so much more done by December 16. Whatever. Life is what it is and sometimes we gotta roll with it. I usually have my Christmas village set up. But it’s been a couple years and it’s still in boxes. Maybe next year?

For this year, I’m decorating as I go. We’ve been painting and ripping up carpet in this old house. But with snow falling I needed to have that cozy feeling inside. And cozy to me is red on white, deer, antlers, twinkly lights and candlelight.  Cozy is blankets on every chair and couch, a decorated tree, carols on repeat and something that is plaid.

We only have the living room, front hall and dining room done but it’s something. And I’m okay with scaled back, simpler and no-pressure-to-do-more this year.

I will do a few more things this week so check back on Friday!

Also: DEER, RED PLAID and ANTLERS- I’m in love! 🙂

The only thing "Christmasy visible from the street". *sigh*

The only thing “Christmasy visible from the street”. *sigh*

Red twinkly lights- when all else fails! And that ecru furniture throw? It's a bed spread from the thrift store. $7. :)  Red plaid throw? $4 thrift store buy.

Red twinkly lights- when all else fails! And that ecru furniture throw? It’s a bed spread from the thrift store. $7. 🙂 Red plaid throw? $4 thrift store buy.

Tree has been decorated over a couple weeks with deer, antlers and book page cones/pinwheels I've made. Haven't pulled out the *actual* tree decor yet!

Tree has been decorated over a couple weeks with deer, antlers and book page cones/pinwheels I’ve made. Haven’t pulled out the *actual* tree decor yet!

Twinkly lights on antlers we've had in the garage for years. My favourite part by far. And that newly painted fireplace? LOVE it.

Twinkly lights on antlers we’ve had in the garage for years. My favourite part by far. And that newly painted fireplace? LOVE it.

 

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Redeemed Christmas blocks from Dayspring, stocking hangers from Target, dollar store deer, candle pedestals from thrift store and stockings are 3 years old from Superstore.

Redeemed Christmas blocks from Dayspring, stocking hangers from Target, dollar store deer, candle pedestals from thrift store and stockings are 3 years old from Superstore.

I made this book page wreath for a sale. It didn't sell- it's now mine. And I love the silvery deer head! I didn't plan any of this and yet it all happens to work. The red flannel over the canvas painting is from my fabric stash.

I made this book page wreath for a sale. It didn’t sell- it’s now mine. And I love the silvery deer head! I didn’t plan any of this and yet it all happens to work. The red flannel over the canvas painting is from my fabric stash.

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I set my table for y'all this morning!

I set my table for y’all this morning!

 

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Laminated map from Costco- $7, manila tags and Sharpie for the words, dollar store garland to frame it.

Laminated map from Costco- $7, manila tags and Sharpie for the words, dollar store garland to frame it.

 

 

Merry Christmas organza that I've used as a tree skirt for years is now draped over the window. Curio cabinet not even filled. We JUST finished painting.

Merry Christmas organza that I’ve used as a tree skirt for years is now draped over the window. Curio cabinet not even filled. We JUST finished painting.

 

The other view- china cabinet which is a collector of stuff. Seems like if there's a place to put something, something gets put.

The other view- china cabinet which is a collector of stuff. Seems like if there’s a place to put something, something gets put.

 

 

Buffet at the front entrance for another vignette.

Buffet at the front entrance for another vignette.

 

 

I love my red thermoses which I bought a year ago for $5 at a garage sale.

I love my red thermoses which I bought a year ago for $5 at a garage sale.

 

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Couldn't figure out what to do with my card holder- and then....this!

Couldn’t figure out what to do with my card holder- and then….this!

Front hall.

Front hall.

 

 

Reality- something on the floor. Welcome to real life.

Reality- something on the floor. Welcome to real life.

Dayspring blocks.  Opened up this hall closet that was previously an eyesore behind plywood doors.

Dayspring blocks. Opened up this hall closet that was previously an eyesore behind plywood doors.

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This wasn't planned- the red, flannel, grey, deer, woodland theme....it just morphed...over several years.

This wasn’t planned- the red, flannel, grey, deer, woodland theme….it just morphed…over several years.

 

And this- this is what happens when stockings get too close to heat. It happened 2 years ago in our last house with a gas fireplace.  Perfectly imperfect, right?

And this- this is what happens when stockings get too close to heat. It happened 2 years ago in our last house with a gas fireplace. Perfectly imperfect, right?

 

 

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!!

Linking up with The Nester for this year’s home tour. Check it out: 2013 Tour of Homes

 

Profanity, Humanity and The Fake War on Christmas

I may ramble.

This could possibly be 3 posts but I’m packing it all into one super, duper post. But I’ll keep it short- promise. Just  a few observations from the world wide web.

I always am slightly amused by people on the internet. People who like to tell other people how it is, how it will be, how they should be, what they should say, what they shouldn’t say.  It’s like 63.7% of people on the web think they’ve figured out all the things of life and are now totally in a place to tell the other 36.3% of us how to do it.

Profanity is one of these little irks of mine. And I’m totally on the fence, over the fence, through the fence. In fact, my philosophy on profanity is neither here nor there. I am not the same girl from 20 years ago in which “no unwholesome word shall depart from my lips” but neither am I the girl who says, “FML”.  So, this leaves me squarely in the middle with a few thoughts on swearing, cuss words, the profane and the vulgar.  There are categories. There are levels. There are definitely  lines to be drawn.

When I was a wee one in grade school we had to read aloud in class from our reader. Remember readers? I loved them. I wish my kids knew what a reader was. Anyhoooo…….it was going to be my turn and I took my reader home to prepare(so studious I was). Upon discovering that my particular section had a “swear word” , I was mortified. I was also 8 . And in my 8 year old world there were a host of choice words we were not allowed to say, think or read….ever. And I told my mom that I was going to have to think this word, read it and say it all at once and it was too much for my heart to take. My mom was no help.( sorry Mom). She told me to do what I felt was right. Good grief. The short of it is this: I read it, I hated it and I felt a lot of guilt. But it was done and gone. So now you all want to know what word was in a grade 3 reader in 1979, right? The word was…………..”Gee”.  OH THE INHUMANITY!!!!!!

Now before you giggle away the rest of the day, let me clarify.  In our house a “SWEAR” word was any word that took the name of God or Jesus and used it inappropriately. Words associated with damnation and Hell were also terrible and unholy.  Gee is short for Geeezzz…which is short for Jesus. I think we can all agree that this is in fact truth. So for me to say “Gee” was horrible.

My looses lips now say “Jeepers” Or “Gee whiz”( I used to say Cheese Whiz to get around it).  I also say darn which is only the milder form of damn. Is that swearing too? Some would say it is.

My mom thinks fart is a swear. But my kids have been saying it since they could speak.

The fact is this: our usage of slang, swear, cuss, vulgar words is often for emphasis. Saying I’m really cold doesn’t quite get the point across that I am DANG cold. Darn, Dang, Damn……they all mean the same thing but progressively stronger.

My friend posted a comment a few days ago about the “assholes” in front of Toys R Us smoking. She’s right. They’re idiots. I don’t call people assholes because I don’t. It’s  actually quite gross when you think about it. However, smoking is gross so maybe she is more right than I am.  One person completely missed the point of her post and said “classless”….and “unfollow”‘……..because of the word “assholes”.  Really?? I mean. In your real, everyday, walking around , enjoying life world you would actually defriend, dissociate, condemn, judge and unfollow a friend whom you had previously liked, agreed with, enjoyed because of the word “assholes”??   Listen people, if that’s how you do the internet, you might be in the wrong place. Stuff gets said all the time that I don’t agree with but I don’t even challenge it with a word or thought. I say stuff that people don’t agree with .  I read stuff I don’t agree with.  I love the people I don’t agree with. Opinions are good . My kids say stuff every day that ticks me off. I don’t write them off.

jamie vwmIt’s silly, isn’t it?

Humanity- we’re all humans. Here’s a shocking statistic:  100% of the things you read on the internet are written by humans 100% of the time.

For some reason, there are a whole bunch of people on the internet who think they can say whatever they want to whomever they want all while sitting behind a keyboard and it doesn’t matter. Because *I* am the only one who actually has feelings, right? It’s all about *ME*.  No one else could possibly feel the way I feel.

Ugh.

Seriously, writing a blog takes guts. And I’m not saying that because I have a blog. Because I don’t really have guts. I want to say stuff that I can’t. For a variety of reasons I am my own worst critic and #1 filter of all that is controversial or raw honesty.  But I have friends who spill their guts and it is beautiful and inspiring. And then they get flippin’ yahoos inboxing or posting on their pages that ” you know that autism is a form of demonic oppression…” to the mom who has an autistic son. Really. Not even kidding.

Or , I have been the recipient of such dandies like this: “the article you posted was written by a gay man, I just thought you should know”…because of course being gay negates the possibility that you could have a brilliant mind and common sense t’boot!?

This happens all the time. Well meaning individuals think that they have all of life figured out. But they forget we’re all human, we all have feelings, we all learn and grow by being challenged to think outside of our own small, narrow view of things.

Which brings me to the war on Christmas.

There is none.

In 1979 our school pageant had the words “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings”. Was there a conspiracy then to undermine and usurp the traditions of Christmas?? *GASP*!!

In 1941 the movie, Holiday Inn was made.  “Happy Holidays” was the theme song….now sung by generations. I particularly love the Williams Brothers and Osmond Brothers rendition…..have a listen….

 

I could ramble about this but I just want to ask you some questions:

1. Has anyone in your town, village or kabutz asked you NOT to say Merry Christmas?

2. Have you been told to take down your tree or lights or turn off the Christmas music?

3. Have you shopped in a major department store and heard one of these playing: “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”?

4. Have you been publicly harassed for saying Merry Christmas?

5. Are you deeply offended by those who send you a card with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” on it- so much so that you have to return the card with a terse note about keeping “Christ” in Christmas?

….do you want me to go on?

I have Jewish, Athiest, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and Agnostic friends. They are all very good at saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and never once have been offended or hurt that I do the same.

There is no war on Christmas. There are a few media outlets who keep reviving this and challenging us all to stand up and fight. But there is nothing to fight. There  is only a war if we take up arms. And I am not. Our town has nativities and carol festivals. I see trees, lights and hear carols everywhere I go. There is no war. Please stop posting the “I hear it’s offensive to say Merry Christmas….” type of forwarded emails and photos.  It isn’t offensive. It never has been. Just because one dude in Saskatoon wants it to be an issue doesn’t mean we all have to jump on the bandwagon and make it one. Don’t give in.  Be the same as you always have.  Spread joy and cheer and sing loud for all to hear.

merry christmas

I don’t swear, but I may cuss a little sometimes. I don’t always agree with everything you post but I’m not going to call you out or publicly shame you because your opinion is different than mine. And there is no war on Christmas.  Happy Monday.

 

 

A few things you might want to read: The Internet is Alive with the Sound of Critics

Or this from Glennon at Momastery: mommastery

And my own post from 2 years ago:  The Profanity of Christmas

 

Gift Giving 101~ No pressure, No tricks.

I’m reposting from last year’s series on Redeeming Christmas. You can catch all my posts here.  I’m attempting to pull some of my favourite ideas and posts and bring them to a new audience for this year.

 

Gifts. I’m not really sure where to start with this. I used to love shopping. I actually still do~for other people. I like finding that one thing; the one that will make people cry and tug on their heartstrings. I love those kinds of gifts.

What I don’t love is shopping malls.  I. HATE. MALLS.   They are money pits that serve one purpose: indulgence.  Bigger malls are being built with fancier stores than I ever recall being built in my entire 40+ years on this planet.  Shoe stores, women’s stores, men’s stores, jewelry stores, toy stores, hat stores. Too many stores. And WAY too many people in malls on any given day.

 

I people watch and what I see in malls is a lot of people buying a lot of stuff that they don’t need and in 6 weeks won’t care about or want anymore. A lot of time and money is wasted in malls every year. And the other thing I see is stress. Stress on the faces of all those people. Frustrated, hurried, concerned and not at all cheerful.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

If we are to be cheerful givers, not under compulsion to give, not reluctant givers then why do we make the lists  that lead us into a guilt-laden journey?

Can I tell you a secret? You don’t have to give anyone a gift for Christmas.  You don’t! Really, I’m not even kidding. You DO.NOT. HAVE. TO.

Buying gifts to me should be intentional, for the purpose of building up, blessing and out of the generosity of our hearts.  If we feel guilted into it then we have missed the point. If we don’t even like the gifts we’re buying, we’ve really missed the point.  And if we are TOLD what to give and who to give to , then we are actually disobeying the Word of God. 

Here’s my experience:

1. I don’t give to the same people every year. Some are the same but most are not. Of course I give to my kids; I want to . I enjoy it. But I don’t HAVE to.  And they don’t HAVE to give to me either.   I rely on circumstance and opportunity to dictate who gets gifts from me.

2. My parents and inlaws often do not receive gifts from us.  I may really be stepping on toes with this one but I want you all to think about this. Our parents have lived longer than we have. They have every token, trinket, picture frame, sweater, appliance that money can buy.  They are fairly self-sufficient and they also have quite a few kids and grandkids.  Our parents like giving their grandkids gifts(if money permits) but don’t usually expect much in return. And I know what you’re thinking: ” All parents say ‘don’t get us anything’ , but they don’t really mean it; they’re just being polite.”‘  I disagree.  Sure they probably love the thought of the gift but if you were to really have a conversation with them, they don’t want any more stuff. They don’t need it. They are trying to downsize and simplify along with the rest of us but they have 20-30 years on us! Now, my mom lives alone and I like to make sure she gets something from us , even if it is small. I will talk about *Christmas in a Box* in a later post.  But unless we’re spending Christmas with one set of parents, we don’t generally send anything to them.

3. My husband and I go regularly without exchanging Christmas gifts.  Gifts cost money. And when money is tight you trim the budget and the list. We don’t need anything else. If we want something and can afford it, we buy it. We don’t need a calendar to tell us when. Besides, we have a lot more fun buying for our kids and friends.Very often we will give a card that expresses in words how we continue to give our hearts and our lives to each other. I love those cards. They are priceless and they’re one of a kind.

4.If giving isn’t fun, I don’t do it. Ever.  Remember that part about a cheerful giver? Ya, that one.  I take that very seriously. The FUN of giving is well, fun!  When I get something that someone is going to love or that I am going to love giving(because it’s silly, ridiculous or just plain awesome), I cannot tell you how great I feel. It is a rush. It is more fun than getting a gift any day, hands down. So if you’re one of those list people that beats the pavement to find the very thing your kid wants and you hate every minute of it, stop it.  Just stop. Cheerfully.  Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself this question: ” What am I teaching my children , my friends and the poor clerks in the stores about my faith?”  Ouch. Painful, isn’t it?  You should never ever put a retail clerk on minimum wage through the ordeal of dealing with your crabby moods because you can’t find the exact colour or size of what Missy said she HAS to have. EVER.

5. Giving gifts should never put you into debt. Cash people. Use cash.  If you don’t have it, you don’t buy it. Don’t justify under any circumstance the use of credit to buy someone a gift. It’s not worth it. On Boxing Day people wake up to their stupidity(overspending and needless debt) and also to the pouty same faces they saw two days before Christmas. Things don’t make people happy. Things don’t make kids more behaved.  Things don’t satisfy.  So, no debt. Say it with me : ” I will not go into debt this Christmas”.

6.I never expect a gift from anyone. Growing up poor has a lot of benefits. If you see your single mother struggle to put food on the table you darn well know not to expect a gift under the tree. And then when you get something, you appreciate it so much more.  Don’t give your parents, your husband , your friends or anyone a list of what you’d like. Don’t Pin a Christmas Wish List board for all to see.  Don’t cut magazine pictures and put them on your husband’s side of the bathroom mirror.  Don’t send e-mail hints or set up gift registries.  Don’t. Can I tell you a sad story? I know of someone who is middle aged. He has kids. A couple of years ago he went to his mother’s house for Christmas dinner.  When gift opening time came around, his elderly mother had a gift for him and one for each of his kids. When he didn’t get more than one(as he had come to expect for his 40+ years of existence) he picked up his kids, stormed out of his mother’s house in disgust and made it clear to all in attendance how disgusted he was that all he got was “one measly gift”.   You can’t make this stuff up. Pathetic. Ungrateful. Unkind.  My shock and outrage…well, I’ve had to let it go because it doesn’t affect me. But what an awful thing for his mother to endure.

7. If a gift doesn’t make me think of Jesus, I’m not buying it. This might sound silly. But remember, we’re redeeming Christmas from commercialism and the *way we’ve always done it*.  When we see people with the Father’s eyes and we love them the way the Father loves: lavishly, uninhibited and generously, then we will give accordingly.  If you go to the dollar store just to fill up space in a stocking or give to a kid in the family who you don’t really know but feel obligated to give to, then that’s not really seeing them from a Jesus perspective.  When you buy a gift you should see it as a reflection of your love for the person and the love Christ has for them(because obviously, we give to some people we don’t love very much…or love very well).  If we spend too much on something that isn’t really that great, or if we buy because we’re in a rush or pressured or obligated, we won’t give the way Jesus would give. Consider the gifts that Jesus received as an infant: gold, frankincense and myrrh…special, selective, rare, expensive. We can’t maybe afford the expensive but we can afford to be selective, take some time and make it special. This is why handmade or rare gifts say so much. The sacrifice of our time and effort can speak to the recipient of a gift.

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This topic of giving gifts is deep and wide. If you have some other thoughts or advice, please share. For most people who celebrate Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is the most important, central theme of their Christmas experience.  In fact, there are many who believe that without the giving and getting of gifts there would be no Christmas. We need to cautiously examine the message that sends to our children and our larger communities. Redeeming Christmas~the renovation of what  we’ve  always done ~is not an easy, painless process. It will require a huge shift on our parts to become cheerful givers who are not bound by the same routine of obligatory gifts to the same people year after year. I look forward to hearing from all of you.