Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thoughtful Giving

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Try as you may, it is impossible to avoid it. You can read the Biblical account of the first Christmas aloud, make your own nativity out of sugar cookies, host a birthday party for Jesus (complete with cake and streamers), serve dinner at a homeless shelter, and pack a box for Operation Christmas Child. However, your child’s favorite part of Christmas will still be the presents!

What’s more, they will be particular about what they receive. My kids decided three days before Christmas this year that they both wanted e-pets, and were disappointed they didn’t get them. They have one grandma who gives too many presents, so my kids always comment on the fact that they only get one or two from their other grandma. Despite my efforts to impart the true meaning of Christmas into their hearts, it all boils down to the presents.

And, I have to confess, in many ways it does for me too. I feel disappointed when I receive a gift that clearly contains little thought from the giver. To me, the fun of giving is considering what would be special to each person as an individual, and taking the effort to find just the right thing. When someone gives me some run-of-the-mill gift that clearly expresses no personal thought or meaning, I feel let down.

I think that from now on I will stop trying so hard to divert my kids’ attention away from the presents, and instead refocus that energy into teaching them how to be thoughtful givers.

How do you handle Christmas giving in your family?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gratitude in Sorrow

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." – Psalm 119:28

You no doubt heard about the shootings in Colorado recently, at a church in Colorado Springs and the Youth With A Mission training center near Denver. The gunman took the lives of four young people, and one family lost two daughters in this tragedy.

I feel such sorrow for the families who lost loved ones, especially since it is so close to Christmas and their cherished ones were places where we are meant to feel safe. My thoughts frequently rest on the mother who hangs two fewer stockings this year, and spends most of the holiday season at the hospital visiting her husband who was also hit but thankfully survived the shooting.

What encourages me about this tragedy, however, is the press coverage. So often, we Christians come off as fanatical nuts on the evening news, but not this time. Parents and friends of the victims have openly spoken about their faith and several have publicly forgiven the gunman, citing their Christian beliefs as the source of their compassion.

It is troubling to me that it takes a tragedy like this for the news outlets to open up enough to show the gracious, humble side of Christians. However, I am grateful these families had the opportunity to share their love for Christ in memory of their loved ones.

Horrors like these shootings cause us to take a moment to give our own children an extra hug and send a prayer of gratitude to God for the safety of our families. As Christmas approaches, I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Between The Breaks

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Mark 6:31

The span of time sandwiched in between the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks is tough for my second grader. For five, chilly November mornings she gets to sleep in, eat breakfast whenever she is hungry, and wear sweatpants and tee shirts rather than her school uniform. When her turkey-filled tummy returns to school, it knows Christmas cookies are just around the corner and the anticipation of another break in only three-and-a-half weeks is torture.

It is hard for me too. While I know a lot of moms look forward to having kids in school so they can pursue their own, productive routines, I love having my kids at home. Sure, the house is a mess and I become tardy with every deadline I have, but the sounds of my children playing and laughing are worth it. I look forward to Christmas break so they can help me bake, and we can go ice skating or sledding if there happens to be snow.

An uncomfortable sense of urgency fills the three-and-a-half weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Suddenly my daughter’s ability to build a three dimensional diorama inside a shoe box for school, and play a medley of carols on the piano for a recital become of paramount importance. Christmas may not come until December 25, but if you’re not ready for it by December 1, you are considered late (and I always am). The calendar fills until each little square is ready to burst. But this all ends on December 19, when the only thing written through the end of the year is ‘no school.’

I now face two and a half more weeks of Christmas shopping, sending cards, hanging lights, and shuttling my family from one holiday event to the next. We will make the most of this traditionally crazy time of year until we get to December 19. Then we will breathe a sigh of relief and relish every minute of Christmas break.