It’s Complicated{Day 31 of 31 Days to Redeeming Christmas}

You see that little status that notifies you of  a relationship change on Facebook.  “It’s complicated”. Immediately you think that clearly things are not okay.  Someone is thinking of leaving? Someone wants to leave? The status of a relationship is big,big news on social media.  Friends ask if you are okay.  Family treads softly around your tender heart. But everyone is confused.  What does it really mean?

It’s complicated.

This is how my relationship with Jesus is.  Don’t get me wrong. I love Him with all my heart.  I’ve known Him my whole life. I’ve never once doubted that He is who He says He is.  I’ve never doubted His promises.  But, well, sometimes we’re just roommates.  Sometimes we don’t talk much and I feel like He doesn’t really understand me. Other times we laugh and talk for hours.  I tell Him everything and He responds in every way.  But, it’s complicated.  It’s hard. Sometimes it’s just hard to know where I stand.  And my faith is a bit fuzzy.  I fuss about things that are so insignificant.  I whine, complain, lament and page through the sorry-Psalms(as I like to call them).  The wailing of David in all of his torment seems fitting often.  I’m sure Jesus feels the complexity of my inconsistencies too.

Christmas is like that for me.

These past 31 days have been really eye-opening for me to understand what I want out of Christmas.  What do I really need to get out of this relationship? Do I want to walk away? No.  I love Christmas. I adore the candles and the carols. I crave the shortbread and the singing.  I find peace in the snowfalls and the Shepherds abiding.

Abiding.

Maybe that’s where I am.  Abiding in this new found relationship that Christmas isn’t what it used to be. Not what I thought it should be and perhaps, I’m just finding a shepherd kind of peace in where we are at.

Christmas is complicated. There’s no doubt about that.

But my desire for Christmas is not.

What I wish for a redeemed Christmas is this:

  • simpler gifts
  • longer evenings spent by the fire
  • meandering phone calls and letters from friends
  • small gifts for precious folks
  • late night walks on lit up streets
  • sugar cookies and milk for me and the mister and maybe the kids too.
  • smiles on neighbour’s faces
  • hugs from loved ones
  • joy on faces
  • no shopping stresses
  • no built up expectations
  • Jesus

I won’t be doing everything on all those posts from this series.  I will do some.  The point isn’t to do it all. The point is to  take back; renovate; redeem all of the Christmases we’ve spent worrying and hurrying.  We redeem them when we listen to the still small voice.

1 Kings 19:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

In the still,small voice of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes we find peace, rest and hope.

This is what a redeemed Christmas looks and feels like.

Now go and tell the whole world.

***At the top of this page you will see the link to 31 Days to Redeeming Christmas. In there you will find my “manifesto” of sorts for what Christmas means to me as well as links to all 31 posts in this series. Happy reading and Merry Christmas! ****

Redeeming Advent{Day 30}

We’ve spent the last 30 days dissecting some of the things we do to welcome Christmas.  Many of our traditions aren’t very Christ-like.  I’ve come to accept a lot of it as cultural, seasonal and related to our surroundings.   But there’s one thing I’m kind of hoping we can all agree on.  Advent.

Wikipedia says this:

Adventanglicized from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming“, is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. It is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences onAdvent Sunday, called Levavi. The Eastern churches’ equivalent of Advent is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs both in length and observances and does not begin the church year, which starts instead on September 1.[1]

The progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. At least in the Roman Catholic,AnglicanLutheranMoravianPresbyterian and Methodist calendars, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, the Sunday fromNovember 27 to December 3 inclusive.

Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used in reference to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent serves as a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ’s return from Heaven where he now sits at the Right Hand of God.

Advent is , at its very core, the most spiritual of all our Christmas celebrations.  I did not grow up in a particularly liturgical church but for December, there were always the Advent candles lit and a devotional to prepare our hearts.  My mom had a little Angel Advent candle  display and it was extremely peaceful and comforting to watch the angels with their trumpets spinning around * announcing the birth of Christ*.  

Sadly, for many, Advent is a chocolate calendar.  We’ve all bought them. I am guilty.  What a horrible way to downplay something so special. If I could redeem any one thing this Christmas, it would be to redeem Advent. There are so many wonderful resources online.  Here are just a few:

  1. Caleb Voskamp, son of Ann Voskamp of 1000 Gifts fame, has hand carved Advent Wreaths. They are simple and beautiful. You can buy one here. You can also go to this blog post of Ann’s where she gives some ideas for Advent.

2.  If you are on Twitter, follow @OccupyAdvent for powerful quotes, songs and images to incorporate into your Advent tradition. I really loved this last year. Some very thought provoking and beautiful comments are shared.

3.For families with little ones  truthintinsel.com  has some great ideas, an e-book and printable ornaments to lead you through the season.

4. Read a book that engages you during the month of December and takes you back to the coming of the Lord Jesus as a baby. I’ve heard such good things about this book by John Blase~I am ordering it!

 I’ve also heard really good things about Advent Conspiracy too.  It’s on my list as well!

5. And finally, I just LOVE the Nativity movie. I find it to be so well done, culturally and historically accurate and with just enough creative license to make for a great re-telling of a beautiful story. It is totally worth watching each and every year.

If you buy chocolate countdown calendars for your kids…..they are just that. Countdown Calendars.

Advent is so much more. So much deeper.

I, for one, am going to stay away from these:

Pic borrowed from my Twitter friend Michele Rajput @dsmyxe

The Sights. The Sounds. The Smells ….of Christmas{Day28}

I don’t think there’s any question that Christmas~the word~means different things to different people. In this series to Redeeming Christmas, I have been trying to get us to focus on the simple message of Christ, His birth, His sacrifice, His gift.  Redeeming Christmas is all about taking the things we love about Christmas and doing them better, different and in such a way that we point others to the person of Jesus Christ.

As a mom, there is no better way to show Christ to my children than modeling Him in all that I do and say. And for my little kids, I used the tangible; the everyday, the ordinary things that others may take for granted and make my children think about Jesus.

Some of these things may seem elementary. Others may seem silly to “spiritualize” inanimate objects.  But I have found, now that my kids are older, they still remember these stories and themes.  That is really the point.  When people come into your home, do they SEE the theme of Redeeming Love? Do they see Jesus? Do they see your faith in action? Do they see that you are not ashamed of the gospel? You would be surprised at what people will remember and how the simplest effort can make a lasting impact.  Here are some for you to consider:

  • Red is a colour we associate with Christmas. It is a colour of passion and love. There is no greater love and no more intense passion than that of Christ laying down his life, shedding His BLOOD for the redemption of mankind. Make sure your kids know this.
  • Green ~our evergreen trees….they are EVERgreen to remind us of EVERLASTING life.
  • Gold~one of the 3 gifts brought to Jesus from the Magi. It is rare and valuable….just as we are to God. It also reminds us that the rare and special gifts are the best. ;)
  • Candy Canes~ red and white in the shape of a Shepherd’s hook.  They remind us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who would give up His life for just one of His sheep.  Red and white to show that His blood has washed us white as snow. Also, upside down it is the letter “J” for Jesus! 
  • Nativity Scenes~ one of my most treasured seasonal decorations is our cardboard nativity set that we have used for the past 20 Christmases. It is a reminder of the simple way in which Jesus became a man to show us the way to eternal life

  • Angels~ Heavenly messengers bringing us the Good News of Jesus’ birth
  • Stars~Probably one of my favourite decorations because it means HOPE and FAITH.  The Wise Men followed the star…not really knowing where it would lead, but they were confident of the Hope of what it offered. It took them a lot of faith to follow something they didn’t understand and couldn’t see.

Cinnamon and Nutmeg~ the spices that we use during this season are a great way to remind us of Frankensense and Myrrh which the Wise Men also gave to Jesus. Special and symbolic…the spices were used in the burial of Jesus after His death.

  • Carols~ It always warms my heart to hear  “O Come Let us Adore Him, Christ the Lord” , ” Joy to the World, the Lord is Come”  and “O Holy Night~ When Christ Was Born”‘  playing in malls, stores and other venues of a month every year. Play them long, play them loud, play them for all to hear.  They have a message and the message is good news!

 

  • Decorations~ use the names of Jesus creatively in your decor. Use words on your doors, your houses, your walls, your tree, your gifts, your cards, your letters……WORDS are powerful.  Holy, Glory, Jesus, Christ, Redeemer, Faith, Hope, Love.

There are many more. You just have to use some creativity…and Google. You will find that it is very easy to tell and share the story of Christ at Christmas. Your children, your neighbours, your family and friends will hear it, receive it and they will be blessed.

The Ones Who Hate Christmas {day 15 of Redeeming Christmas}

I’ve been trying to figure out for years why some people absolutely  LOVE Christmas (like me) and others dread it,hate it, even loathe it.  I could be wrong but I think one of the major pitfalls is putting way too much emphasis on one day.  Remember this whole redeeming theme is about doing things better. Different. More intentional. Renovating our thoughts and attitudes takes some shifting of gears.

I have always loved Christmas because I treat it like a season. I warm into it. I decorate. Listen to carols. Decorate some more. Bake some cookies. Go to a concert. Drive around and look at Christmas light displays, make a gift, write in some cards, volunteer at a soup kitchen. Do what you like, but don’t do it all.

Perhaps in th focus on a five course meal for turkey dinner, the brunch that precedes it, the gifts that preceded that and the preparation of every detail, we have come to hate the entire process because it’s over before we can truly enjoy it or we don’t have time to enjoy it because we’re the ones who have placed all the expectations on ourselves that no one else asked  for.

if all of your Christmas planning is focused entirely on Christmas Day and nothing else then it is no wonder you get stressed. It is also not a surprise that you are let down, exhausted, sick and fed up when the day is over.

Read Matthew 11:28-30. In Jesus’ own words He says, ” my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

Hmmm, sounds like the perfect sentiment in our quest to redeem Chistmas from the chaos.

Easy and light.  That is what Christmas Day should be. That is why Jesus came.

—–this post was typed with much frustration on an iPad. We’ll see if I can manage it tomorrow otherwise there way be a couple days’ wait for more! Still hanging out on a roof top with my husbanding: day 5!——–

 

 

Giving Thoughtfully {Day 10 of Redeeming Christmas}

This may be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to what kinds of gifts you should give.

Mark 12: 28-33

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Your neighbour: the person beside you. The person on the bus with you. The person in the grocery line with you. The person who sits beside you in church. The person in the bedroom down the hall. The person on the other side of town who you meet for coffee. The person you talk to, visit with, see, touch, know.  EVERYONE is a neighbour of yours in some way.   And if you are to love them as you love yourself, that changes how you shop for gifts, doesn’t it?

If you could have THE MOST thoughtful gift from anyone, what would it be?

Think about that and then think about how you have given and purchased gifts in the past.  Do you run into the store on Christmas Eve and grab the latest , greatest(not) bath accessories basket for your mother in law?  Or how about that cheap toy for your nephew? Or maybe some pajamas on sale because ‘who doesn’t like pajamas?’

Okay, so clearly these are not the most thoughtful gifts. We need to clear our minds and shake off the bad habits we’ve developed about ‘anything is better than nothing’.  Because at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. More stuff we don’t need that we feel obligated to buy.

Here are some ways to give thoughtfully:

1. A family who has moved into a new house recently: how about a new mailbox and new house numbers? They’re a frivolous purchase for someone with house expenses but very thoughtful as a gift.

2. New parents are sometimes struggling with lack of sleep, lack of support and lack of funds. Knowing that someone is there and sees/understands this stage is priceless. What I wouldn’t have given to have had a break in those early years.  A laundry basket filled with diapers, formula, baby food, laundry soap and a meal or two is the perfect gift for new parents.  A coupon book for free babysitting  or letting Mom have a nap in her own house while you watch the baby for a couple hours. Add to that a gift card for a local steakhouse and you just have the young couple a date!

3. For grandparents, this cool subway art with all of their grandkids’ birthdates is perfect! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have something special. And it fixes that age old problem of your parents calling you to find out what birthdays they’ve missed. ;)

4. A letter that your grandpa wrote to your grandma in their courting days would be a lovely gift copied and framed and given to your parent and uncles/aunts.  It’s unique and exclusive to your family.

5. A handwritten recipe from your mom or grandma’s recipe box, enlarged and framed for your siblings.

6. Vinyl Records are coming back into fashion but there are still tons of them to be found on buy/sell websites, thrift stores and ebay. If you know of a group or song that meant something to someone special, finding that record would be a touching thought. Just make sure your recipient has a record player or you might have to buy that too!

7. Sometimes you might have to spend a bit more to do the thoughtful gift. We had a couple of good years when we owned our own company. I asked my husband ahead of time if I could have $1000 to get him something. We NEVER spent that kind of money on each other. It was always small purchases or nothing at all. I figured he earned something awesome. I collaborated with a friend a few hours away and we both bought our husbands tickets to a Leafs/Bruins game in Toronto. We booked the flight and then made up cards to reveal the surprise. Neither knew what was to come. We gave them their cards with the tickets on Christmas Eve. We were 8 hours apart but  they phoned each other right after  they opened the gifts~shock and disbelief. It was a priceless moment. They were able to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame and have a complete guy weekend that they would have never planned on their own. Once in a while, spending your entire Christmas budget on something this big is totally worth it!

8. For a guy, finding a state or provincial license plate with their birth year on it is pretty special. Try to get their state or province of birth.

9. I love photobooks. They are so easy to do with digital online websites. I love personalizing and adding comments. There are literally endless ideas when it comes to photobooks:

  • scanning slides from your parents’ or grandparents’ stash and publishing the photos( this is on my to-do list)
  • a family event from the past year that someone may have missed
  • a collection of family photos from over the years of your extended family….seeing how everyone has changed
  • childhood photos of one or both of your parents
  • a family history book with as many photos as you can find from any and all sources
  • baby,child and teen photos of all the grandkids in the family to give as a group gift to grandparents
  • if you can, get photos of significant family homestead sights, gravestones, barns, towns where your loved one grew up or where the family had its origins in the country~build your book as a story: old photos with new ones

The possibilities are endless. I like Shutterfly. I use their Custom Path method to personalize to my liking. Here is a sample of a book I did earlier this year to memorialize my grandfather’s funeral.

Front cover

10. For your love~how about the first love letter he ever wrote to you, framed? Or your wedding vows.

11. Last year I got my husband a digital photo frame with pictures of our farm, the kids , the dogs, some of our favourite times together. He was living/working away from home and very homesick. He loves that gift~still has it on beside his computer on his desk and regularly takes time to look through and pray for all of us.

12. Do you have a reader in the family? Someone who loves books but is running out of bookshelves? That’s me! My dear friend Tammy surprised me with a Kindle in the mail this spring. I never thought I would want one as I love the feel of a real book in my hands, but I was SO wrong. I love my Kindle. So small and compact and very easy to use and read. I have tons of books on it. What I particularly love is all the books that come out free, sometimes for only 24 hours but if you can catch them, you can save them to read at another time! I have about 15 on there right now that I have yet to read but they didn’t cost me a cent(and they’re all new titles).  A Nook, Kindle or any other digital book tablet is a really great choice for the reader on your list.

13. Handmade~but just not anything that you picked up at a craft sale. Something made by you for someone is the most special gift because you sacrificed time and energy, patience and planning.  When you make a gift for someone, you are telling them they are worth it.  A piece of furniture, a doll cradle, a baby afgahn, a pair of slippers, a new bedspread, a snowboard case(I need to do that this year!), a messenger bag, an iPod case, an iPad cover….so many options!

Check out my Pinterest boards:

http://pinterest.com/prairiejuan/thrifty-gifts/

14. Finally, one very thoughtful gift is that of a person. Maybe you have a family member who lives a long way away. Does your mom have a kid that lives far from home? Pay for her to go fly there for a visit. Give her the itinerary for Christmas. Or fly in a special someone for Christmas. Christmas is not about things, it is about people and therefore, bringing people together in my books is THE BEST GIFT EVER.  This requires coordination, collaboration and finances but so worth it.(work together with siblings, aunts, uncles or whomever to get it done)

Okay, so there’s a few ideas. Are you getting the picture?

What are some of YOUR ideas for thoughtful gifts?

Thoughtfulness.

A kind heart. A generous giver.

This is how we will Redeem Christmas~removing the rush, panic, stress and obligations of giving.

Gifts for Tweens and Teens{Day 9 of the Redeeming Christmas Series}

Have you forgotten what the word *REDEEMED* means? Sometimes I do and I need a reminder.  From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

  • Do something that compensates for poor past performance or behavior
  • Compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something)
  •  Atone or make amends for (error or evil)

Are you willing to have a heart to heart with your teen?  Are you willing to admit that perhaps you’ve made  a mistake(or many) in the past when it comes to giving gifts and teaching them about Christmas ?  I’m willing to bet a whole cheesecake that your kids would rather have an honest conversation and a modest gift from you than the best_______ money can buy.

I’m also fairly confident that what our tweens and teens want more than anything is to spend quality time with us, their parents, and to have us be interested in what they are doing.  Quality time vs. quantity stuff.

So, with that in mind, here’s my ideas for how to give to teens and what to remember in the process:

1. If you are engaged in your kids’ lives you will know what kinds of things they are interested in. There is nothing that speaks to a teenager like a gift that they didn’t ask for but is exactly what they want.

2.I rarely think gift cards are okay for Christmas gifts….except when it comes to teenagers.  I don’t know what it is , but their need to spend someone else’s money on something they really want is like giving candy to a baby.  My son adores Best Buy gift cards like they’re rare jewels. He will save up as many as he can get until he has enough to buy whatever techy item is on his mind but too pricey to get.  This is a great option for aunts, uncles and grandparents.  Likewise, my daughters love gift cards to their favorite clothing stores. They giggle with delight like 4 year olds with a new baby doll.

3. What I love about teenagers is their willingness to negotiate for something better or different. They are  the best age group for forfeiting a gift under the tree in order to get something else.  For example, if your daughter has been begging for a room re-do/up-do/renovation but you haven’t been able to *find the time* or afford her dreams, consider swapping out the money you would have spent on Christmas gifts for her and surprise her with a new room. You can tell her some or all of your plan , or be like me and not say a peep…have her go to a friend’s house for a couple nights and days and then commit to getting it done: paint , curtains, bedding, decorations.  Do the reveal just like Extreme Home Makeover with her friends. Try to do it as close to Christmas as you can. Trust me, this sort of thing works great.  Another idea: rent a roller rink, skating rink or laser tag and give your kid the gift of a night out with all their friends including food(of course).

4. I like to give the gift of an experience or an event as opposed to a tangible gift. This promotes togetherness and memories and eliminates clutter and stuff! Concert tickets, a weekend away for skiing, a family vacation, lessons(riding, skating, piano,voice….)

5. Don’t spend more just because you don’t know what else to do. Ask your kids’ friends, look at their FB /Twitter/Pinterest for ideas. Teens these days have grown up in the social media spotlight. They rarely withhold information and for once, this is going to come in handy! You can find out a lot about your kids by what they read, listen to, wear and look at. Don’t  buy something just to give something. It really is the thought that counts and this is a HUGE deal to teens~that you hear them and that you get them.

You were looking for an itemized list of what to get your kids, weren’t you? Admit it.  It’s sometimes easier to have someone tell you what to buy than to have to come up with the idea on your own, right? But here’s the thing, your kids are YOUR kids.  They need you to think more about them than the game score or the bottom line.  If you are really serious about redeeming Christmas, it starts now. You have to lay the groundwork NOW to be able to give the right gift in 11 weeks.  Yes, it’s only 11 weeks till Christmas.

Giving the right gift and redeeming yourself and your kids from all the lame, last minute, indulged, excessive gifts from the past is going to take some homework and legwork on your part. Sacrificing your time is going to speak to your kids more than anything you give them.

Tomorrow we talk about THOUGHTFUL gifts.  You won’t want to miss it because it will help you with every gift you give.

Gifts for the Little Ones {Day 8 of Redeeming Christmas Series}

We’ve already established that giving is a good thing. A fun thing. And in no way am I saying that gifts shouldn’t be exchanged at Christmas time. However, I think it’s our attitudes in the giving that need the adjusting.

My kids are growing up and giving gifts has definitely changed. It used to be very easy to buy the latest, greatest , trendiest toys and know that they’d giggle with glee and delight. It was also very easy to go overboard.

We had a couple of Christmases where I threw my *3 gift rule* out the window. (One they want, one they need and one thing I want to give them).  We lavished  the Lego, My Little Pony, Barbie, Princess, Bionicle, movies, games and more all over our dear little ones. There was laughter and joy….for an hour.  There was giggling….and whining. And fatigue and failure. There were broken bits and missing bits before we could even get the horse out of the Fisher Price Barn.  *sigh*  Good intentions. But bad parenting. Less is more. Less is more. I know this and yet we didn’t listen to  our own good common sense or intuition.

And then there were the lean Christmases.  The one when my son turned 2 and we got him the Fisher Price cassette player with the microphone.  That was all. The $30 it cost me to buy that was all the money in the world we had. My husband and I didn’t exchange gifts that year and our 1 year old, she didn’t get anything.  She was too young to know and we couldn’t afford anything since her birthday had been 5 days before Christmas. Her birthday gift? An $8 blow up fire engine that she bounced and laughed on until it popped a month later.

But that cassette player for my son that Christmas was THE BEST gift ever.  Our boy carried that everywhere. He sang every Veggie Tales and Kids Worship song at least 100 times over. He got so good at rewinding and changing cassettes, we knew he’d be a genius(he now runs sound,plays electric guitar in a worship band and knows ALL things technology).  One gift.  ONE.  He was two.

I think perspective is good here.

Our babies don’t need every gift money can buy. They won’t know and they won’t remember. They also don’t need our $200 spent on them when there are so many more worthy causes where that money could go. Our 3 year olds don’t need iPods or Nintendo DSi’s.  Our 5 year olds don’t need ponies in the backyard or every age-appropriate toy.

Here’s a few guidelines for giving to kids under 12(and these go for grandparents, aunties and uncles too).

  • 1. Mom and Dad know their kids best~even better than the kids.  So choose what you know in your heart will speak most to your child’s gifts, desires, hopes and dreams.
  • 2. Don’t try to balance out the price you spend on each child. This is foolishness in my opinion.  A 10 year old boy may relish the chance to get a $150 train set but his 8 year old sister may be the happiest girl in the world with a $40 doll stroller.
  • 3. Be up front with your kids. If times are tough and you don’t have a lot, then tell them the gifts will be lean. They can take it. They understand. 
  • 4. Grandparents, if you are giving to ALL of your grandkids, then give to them ALL. Trust me, they will find out if one grandchild got something and they did not. And please, for the love of your children and the sanity of all, don’t buy toys from dollar stores, EVER.
  • 5.Aunties(you are the worst) and Uncles, please ask your brothers/sisters before spending a whole bunch on your nieces and nephews. It can make for hard and uncomfortable feelings if your gifts trump mom and dad’s gifts. Be conservative. It REALLY IS the thought that counts in times like these. Christmas Day is not the day to show off how much money you have.
  • 6.Parents, refrain from giving your child more gifts for their age. A baby doesn’t need 12 gifts to open. And neither does a 2 year old or any child for that matter. Use the rule: 1 they love, 1 they need, 1 they wear and 1 they read.  Books, PJs, a toy and a treasure. 
  • 7. When you buy a toy or a treasured doll/stuffed animal. Don’t buy on impulse. Think about it. Research it. Ask your friends what their kids love and play with.  If I could go back and count up the money I spent on things that looked cute or fun in the toy store but ended up being the biggest waste of money, I would be rich. People who buy on impulse are what’s driving the rampant consumption we see around us. DO NOT SHOP WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY TO BURN AND NO SENSE OF FOCUS.
  • 8.Remember your kids are fickle. They will love something Christmas Day and forget about it by June. If you do end up with a lot of toy gifts, especially with little kids under 6, put some of them away immediately. Do not pull them out until February, March or later.  When you do pull them out, it will be like Christmas all over again. And then put the played-with toys away for a few months. THIS WORKS WONDERS.
  • 9.I will be doing an entire post on consumable gifts. They don’t always apply to small kids but it’s worth mentioning that if you have a baby on your list this year, think diapers, wipes, formula, baby food and toiletries. These items are extremely costly for new parents and a baby doesn’t know and doesn’t care what you’re giving to him/her.  
  • 10. Above all else, remember that children don’t have the capacity to understand the economy, finances and affordability  Therefore, do not teach them about excess and having it all at an early age or they will come to expect you to out-do yourself year after year after year.  Start out slow, be conservative and TEACH them with your giving about being thankful for the small things and for ONE thing. 

 

Tomorrow’s post will be some gift ideas for Tweens and Teens.  Right where I’m at….I have homework to do!

Here’s the link for the rest of this series on Redeeming Christmas.

Redeeming Christmas Week 1~What Have We Learned So Far?

It’s day 7 of my 31 Days to Redeeming Christmas and I don’t know about you but I am feeling challenged, inspired and so motivated to redeem our Christmas this year from the usual commercialized chaos that we have all come to know and hate.

I’m loving your comments on Facebook, Twitter and the blog itself! You guys are the ones giving me the ideas and pushing me forward.

Today is Sunday and I’m taking a break to be with my family. It is Canadian Thanksgiving  and that means turkey, stuffing and PIE! But it also means a bit of reflection on the past year and how far we’ve come.  I really will sit down one of these days and re-cap what has happened with our move, the lack of finances due to our acreage STILL not being sold and how life has changed.

But for today, let’s look back on what we’ve learned about how we can redeem Christmas. If we’re going to do this, we have to know why we’re doing it and what our goals are for our families.

1. Let’s call out the lies that we tell ourselves~December 25 is NOT Jesus’ birthday and getting gifts does NOT make or break Christmas.

2.Get rid of Wish-Lists unless you’re wishing something good for someone else. Perpetuating a cycle of want and excess is what’s driving the stress and commercialism of the season. So let’s all stop it.

3. You don’t have to give gifts to anyone, ever. If giving isn’t fun, don’t do it. And when you give, give extravagantly and ridiculously.

4. If you really want to redeem Christmas, you will need to unbalance your calendar in favour of giving, serving and being the hands and feet of Jesus. You will need to sacrifice your time, home, comfort and money to do it.

5. Kindness-Bombing…taking your group or family to the streets and making a BIG IMPACT and BIG SHOW of generosity.

6. Be a light in your community. Literally. Don’t be afraid to light up our house, your doorway, your tree.  These are dark days and lights make people happy. You are a light, so show it off!

How do you feel? Inspired? Ready for week #2? It’s going to be all about creative, redeeming gift giving! I can’t wait!!

Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful for all of you precious people who read my little corner of the ‘net.  You bless me. <3

Click HERE to get caught up on all of the 31 Days to Redeeming Christmas posts.

Riggin’ Up the Lights! { Day 6 of Redeeming Christmas }

Okay, this will be an easy one! 

Lights!! LOVE THEM.

Wait, let me rephrase that.  I LOVE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS MORE THAN ANY OTHER DECORATION!

Why? Because they’re bright and twinkly and soft and glowy and warm and welcoming.

Think of all of the things you hate about Christmas…I can almost guarantee that looking at Christmas lights is NOT one of them.

They bring out the best in us. You can’t be mad when you’re looking at Christmas lights and that right there is one of the best redeeming qualities of them!

I live in Western Canada. By the time December rolls around we can be dark anywhere from 5-6 pm at the latest. We also are very dark until after 8 in the morning. If it’s cloudy or snowy, that just magnifies the darkness.  It can be a very depressing season for many people. The farther north you go, the less daylight hours we have leading up to late December. We are also a wintery country. We have snow usually by December and it can last for 4-6 months.  There is little to break up the darkness and that is why Christmas lights are such a welcome sight.

Admittedly , there are the Christmas light purists who only light up for December. But then there’s me…..I can’t wait to have my lights up and on for Halloween. What BETTER night to light things up and take the fear and darkness out of an otherwise scary holiday?  I’m a Halloween hijacker. I love to hijack the 31st of October with the kick-off to Christmas season.  We’ll save all that for another day.

It’s dark. It’s cold. The winter is long.

Don’t be a Scrooge when it comes to lights. You don’t have to be Clark Griswold(although that’s kind of fun) but a few lights around your doorway or lighting up the front window is a welcoming announcement to your neighbourhood that real live people live in this house and they actually care.

Here’s a little inspiration for you~~ something to work towards for next year. ;)

Isn’t that just awesome??

Okay, so we can’t all be like this but a little bit of light goes a long way.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for us. I have already scheduled the blog post to go up so I won’t have to worry about it tonight or in the morning. It’s family time.  And then, get ready for an entire week of some of the BEST ideas for giving gifts. You won’t want to miss these. There will be something for everyone~thrifty, frugal, homemade, original, thoughtful, personalized and fun.

If you haven’t read the previous 5 posts in this series, check them out here.

Changing Our World, One Kindness-Bomb At a Time{Day 5 of Redeeming Christmas}

We’re not going to change the world. Let’s just get that idea off our plates right now. As long as people have free will(as it should be), they will choose the fool-hardy pursuit of things, excess, indulgence and momentary pleasure. That’s our world, we have to accept it to a point.  However, we can change our little corner of the world. We can change how we do Christmas.  We can change how our friends and neighbours VIEW  how we do Christmas~because they are watching.  And it does matter how you act behind closed doors when no one is looking. How you think in your heart and mind will directly reflect how you act outwardly.  How you treat people is directly related to what you think of them.

The people around you want the same things you want. They want to be loved. They want someone to care. They want to be heard and not judged.  They also want to be noticed. So, your homework assignment for this day is to LOOK. Really look around you.  Watch your neighbours. Watch the people on the playground.  Watch those coming out of grocery stores and gas stations. Are they happy? Do they look tired?

Smile and say hello.

Watch what happens next.  Did their head pick up? Did their shoulders relax? It’s amazing what one simple act of kindness can do to the countenance of a person.

Have you ever heard of phot0-bombing?  It’s when a person (or animal) steals the show in a photo unbeknownst to the actual subjects of the photo. It’s hilarious.

I think it’s time we started a different kind of *bombing*.  It will take a bit of planning and a lot of spontaneity.   Are you with me? Do you want to try it?

I propose we kindness-bomb the heck out of December.  In the most ridiculous, extravagant fashion. Money will definitely be a factor as will time and availability. Kindness-bombing is bigger than just random acts of kindness(which we will talk about too). Kindness-bombing requires more people doing the same thing all at once. Your small group, neighbourhood, youth group, ladies group, coffee group, family, friends….whatever organization you belong to can be involved in making a BIG impact. These require pre-planning and resources but wow…so much fun.

Here are some examples of kindness-bombing:

1. Pay for someone’s groceries at the grocery store.  Now, I have done this and the person felt awkward and embarrassed so I have come up with a good alternative.  Buy up a few hundred dollars worth of grocery store gift cards. This is one place where I actually think gift cards are ….da bomb! :) Pun definitely intended.  So, let’s say by December 15 you have $300 worth of gift cards. Go into your neighbourhood store on a busy evening.  Walk through the store, pray and ask the Lord to lead you to the people who need help the most or need a lift to know that someone cares.(this is where God does miracles~~ He will have already got 1 or 2 or more people in that store who are on their last dollar and have no idea how they’ll buy what they need~~ this is where you and I come in). Walk up to them and say “Merry Christmas, God loves you and He wants me to give you this/these” …I know that’s bold, but do it. You will be shocked and amazed at the doors this opens.  Be prepared with tissues and breath mints. (seriously) Getting gift cards in $25 dollar denominations works great because you can give 1 or 2 away at a time…or drop the whole lot on one person!

2.Kindness-Bomb 7 Eleven and late night convenience  stores. Get a few people together for this. Make up treat bags of homemade cookies, hot cocoa mix and small New Testaments.  Drive around after 10 pm  and hand them out to gas station attendants and late night clerks. Most people don’t think of these folks but they have some of the loneliest , scariest jobs and they need to know someone cares. Make your bag pretty and cute or do something like a candy cane sleigh. You can have a party and get your kids to help make a ton of these in one night. Don’t make a big deal, just go say  “Merry Christmas~you deserve a treat tonight” .

3. Bomb an entire neighbourhood after a big snowstorm(those of you in the south could maybe do leaf raking or sod-turning? I have no idea). Rally the troops and go out and shovel every single driveway on your street. If the home-owners are out doing it too, just get in there and help them out. Knock off 10 houses in 15 minutes. Do sidewalks too. Get as many people in one place as you can and try to pick neighbourhoods that are low income, rental housing or senior areas.

4. The cookie kindness-bomb.  In every city, every single night of the week there are people on duty to keep us safe. And sometimes they go weeks or months without any thanks. They are our public servants. This is easy: bake up several kinds of homemade treats and take a platter to your local police station and every fire hall. And if you have a mall or common area where buses line up at certain hours of the day, go and take cookie bags to each and every bus driver sitting and waiting. All you have to say  is “Merry Christmas and Thanks for what you do”

Are you getting the idea? Does this sound like fun or what?

The idea of a kindness-bomb is BIG impact with a LOT of people in a SHORT amount of time. Random acts of kindness can be done on a smaller scale but the purpose of a bomb is to MAKE JESUS FAMOUS. If we’re going to Redeem Christmas, sometimes we have to get loud! Renovations are not meek events; they are loud and explosive.  That’s the mission.

Now, share some of your ideas of how your group or family can perform a Kindness-Bomb.

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