Dec 9, 2011

Simplifying Christmas - Somewhat

So Tone and I read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan and "Radical" by David Platt and we were challenged to do more each advent day focusing on the meaning of Christmas and less on presents and such. We were also challenged to spend a lot less money on ourselves and more on others. Anyhow, I found these darling little ornaments you can make for a "Jesse Tree" from this link from printcandee and we are hanging them on the tree each night and reading the corresponding scripture. The kids find them in their countdown boxes.
Here is a picture from the link. Cute aren't they?
I also have this really awesome advent calendar which has a little book for each day that tells the advent story in beautiful pictures.
On the side of it are scriptures which we are memorizing. You should hear them belt out, "And He shall be called, Wonderfuuuuul, Counseloooor, Almighty GOD, the Everlasting Father, the Pwince of Peace!" They sing it Handel style since I showed them how it should be sung on Youtube. They love it.

We also read every night from my Christmas book collection. Some of the books are not uber spiritual but just for fun. You just have to have some fun and magic as well, right!?
Just because we decided to refocus a bit this year doesn't mean I simplified my decorating because that is a huge family night that is special each year. One addition I added this year was this photo wall. I found plated silver plates at the Dollar Tree and spray painted them cream and added black chalkboard paint in the middle. Then I printed the kids in their Santa hats that I have taken every year and attached the pictures with magnets. All three kids have worn the same Santa outfit as babies. It's hard to tell who is who.
This one below is actually Hunter. He was pretty cute....and looked just like Tessa. It's uncanny. My bookends are so much alike in looks and personality.
Here is our tree this year. No presents yet. And it's on a the table. Can you guess why? I'll give you a clue. Unbreakable ornaments are on the bottom 2 feet. (And no, my floor is usually not this clean at all).
This picture was taken on the second day the tree was up. She had filched Baby Jesus out of his basket stripped him naked and was grabbing an ornament on the tree. It took about three days to train her to not touch the tree. We lost four ornaments which were saved with super glue. 18 month olds and trees aren't a good mix but thankfully she knows now to leave it alone. The only Nativity set low enough this year to touch is the kid's Veggie Tales one. Keeping it classy!
My older two have decided that the best thing to do is turn on the fireplace (yeah, we are city slickers who turn ours on with a switch) and lay by the tree with lights on. Tonight they were watching "Mickey's Christmas Carol" before bed - a favorite of mine.
I thought we would decorate the mantle with some fun graphic words that celebrated the meaning of the season. I found a few prints off of pinterest, put my favorite two in frames, and I wrote the kid's favorite verse with dry erase marker on the picture frame glass which has been backed with burlap type fabric.
The main way we have decided to refocus on Christmas is to tell the kids that they only will be receiving two gifts from us this year and one family gift to share. The rest of the money that we could have spent on them will be donated to World Vision's Gift Catalog where each child got to pick out something to give. One would think that the kids would have been super disappointed but they were not at all. We had spent all of November focusing on what we were thankful for and writing it down every night and discussing how they were much more blessed than others. They were really eager to pick something out when it came time for Christmas. Hunter picked a goat, Ainsley a sheep and we gave two chickens for Tessa. We printed the pictures of what they gave and hung them up.

Tone and I spread out all the presents the other night along with the presents sent to us from Grandparents and other family and we realized they were still making a haul. There was absolutely no need to buy them more and it was far more fun to be able to spend a lot on someone else.

We also counted up the amount for stamps and realized $60 for our Christmas card list could be better spent elsewhere. Guess what? For the first time in nine years, we are not sending out cards. I kinda feel a little like the Grinch but's it's kind of a relief and everyone we know is already connected through this blog or Facebook. But we did take our kids to pick out a present for our church's Mission Christmas toy drive. Anyhow, a Christmas letter always feels to me a little like bragging.

Christmas has not lost any joy or magic by toning down the presents and materialism this year. We feel that we still have much joy and magic but by refocusing we have actually added to the meaning and joy of the message of God's gift. We are always a bit stretched during the month of December, but this year it's not because we spent such an excess on ourselves, but because we have spent the same amount but a lot more of it on others.

And just in case this post sounds like we are bragging, ummm, no. I am actually super humbled this year by refocusing and looking at the amount we have spent on ourselves each year, and even so, how much we still are. This little bit of giving stretched us a little and in some ways, that is a bit sad. We decided to try it and experience the joy of giving when we are stretched even just a little. By giving a little more, I feel more materialistic than I did last year when we didn't give near as much. I think God is teaching us this holiday season.

But we haven't gone super spiritual and taken the fun out of Christmas too. For one thing, I don't think Christianity and fun belong in separate sentences. The kids are having so much fun experiencing the season. Today we did a big Christmas craft and we are baking, watching Christmas parades, putting Baby Jesus under the tree, playing with the Nativity set, caroling, and experiencing all the usual fun bits of the season. And we TOTALLY are doing Elf on the Shelf with our elf up to all kinds of tricks. Call us heathens now.

However, a highlight for me was that last night, Ainsley walked into the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and initiated a conversation with me about God's reason for being born on earth. She had mostly figured out the Gospel message from our various conversations, but during the course of our conversation last night, it clicked. She could explain it herself in cute little four year old vernacular and it was absolutely precious. I know that later she will need to believe for herself outside of what I have told her, but right now, she has the faith of a child and completely believes that God loves her, was punished for her, and is her friend forever and she will be with Him forever. God, and how He loves us and who He is, is a part of our daily conversations all the time in our household. I truly believe that He should be first and foremost in conversations and decisions in our house, but in a nonlegalistic and natural way.

This is going to be a very fun Christmas season and so far has proven to be a meaningful one.
"God Bless Us Everyone!" in the words of Tiny Tim.
(Since we watched that tonight, I guess it's on the brain.)


  1. You are an awesome parent and role model and I think it's great what you all are doing this year. We also decided to give more to mission work, etc., but like you said you hate to feel like you're bragging about it. It's such a good feeling to know that you've spent time and money helping carry out the great commission. No one will really care that you cut back in terms of material things and the benefits of having your kids be able to recite scripture and seeing it all click is totally worth the trade off.

    And I have to know where you got those advent boxes??? I've been looking for one with decent sized spaces and cannot find one anywhere around here.

  2. I totally copied your advent idea and did it with my high school girls at church this past Sunday. They LOVED it and continuing on on their own. Thanks for sharing!

    I'm on the hunt for those advent boxes too!