Last year we tried to be very intentional about keeping Christ at the center of Christmas. This year I feel like we have done that but n a different way...instead of constantly doing activities we have been a bit more quiet, a bit more prayerful and a lot more peaceful. Going into this holiday season I set my mind that anything that stressed me out as we prepared for the holidays wasn't from the Lord. If it was stressing me out...He wasn't in it.
We decorated the house and continued with our homeschooling lessons, finished up our fostering homestudy work, and just genuinely have enjoyed each other. I haven't had time to bake a bajillion cookies and we haven't done half of the traditional things we typically do, but there is a peace and a joy about our house that has been lacking for far too long.
I firmly believe the decision to homeschool our kids this year was from God. I do however believe it was less about their education and more about refining me. It has caused me to take a look at my selfishness and really die to myself each day. It has brought me to focus on truly doing everything as unto the Lord and to find joy and gratitude in all situations. I am coming to realize that I do not need validation and praise from my family (though it is nice). I know He knows my heart and He sees. I am ever so thankful that His grace covers me in all of my shortcomings and am learning each day to be sure and extend that grace.
A week or so ago as part of our Advent Challenge we decided to sponsor a child from World Vision. We typed in Isaac's birthdate and up popped the picture of sweet Samuel, (who we later found out when we received our information that his last name was Happy...Thank you Lord!) and Luke read from the Bible and as we talked about giving to "the least of these" as a way of giving to Him for His birthday, my sweet 8 year old looked up and said..."Then mom, are WE the least of these? Why do we get toys for His birthday?" Um...I had nothing. I rationalized all kinds of things about celebrating and wanting to give to the people we love (which is somewhat valid) but largely...I was at a loss.
Howard and I discussed not getting the kids presents this year but I wasn't ready for that...I'll be honest...I LOVE to see their faces on Christmas morning, and we don't go crazy, they each get a gift from each of their siblings and one from us and we do one family gift from Santa. I just love the joy of the kids on Christmas.
A few days later we were again discussing our Advent Challenge and decided to let the kids pick something from the World Vision catalog to buy for Christmas. They decided on chickens. We told them that for every dollar they contributed we would match it. That afternoon, Luke asked if he could go to my dad's garage to stack wood to earn money. (Grandpa pays well and I had seen Luke eying up a Star Wars Lego set) So he came home a couple of hours later and opened his hand and showed me that Grandpa had paid him SIX dollars. I told him to go put it away and he said, "No, mom...it is for the chicks." I stood there feeling guilty for taking his money. He assured me he wanted ALL of it to go to the "chick fund" he had done the math and he knew with his donation we were halfway there.
That night as I tucked him in he was GIDDY. I mean seriously crawling out of his skin and jumping for joy. I asked why he was so happy and he said. "Mom, I never knew giving everything I had would feel so good. It seems like it would make me sad but I am just so happy I could do that. It is so fun to give. This must be why Jesus gave up everything for us." My eyes filled with tears and I kissed him good night as tears fell down my cheeks. I had forgotten. I had forgotten that allowing and even encouraging our children to GIVE WAS A GIFT. My gut reaction when he handed me that money was to give it back to him and tell him to save it for his Lego set. Had I done that, I would have robbed him of an even greater gift.
I am not sure what Christmas will look like next year in our house, but I am so grateful for the reminder that joy doesn't come from opening gifts. Joy comes from the Lord. It comes from gratitude and giving. The world teaches us that Christmas means presents. This Christmas I am thankful for his constant presence in my life through those I love most. Luke astounds me and makes me want to be a better me. I am so very thankful for all of the amazing gifts I have been given...not one of those being "things". What are you thankful for this Christmas? May your holiday season be filled with His presence.