So, I’m not a blogger. I’ve thought many times about starting a blog but have decided time and time again that I don’t want the hassle. They are beautiful and inspirational when well done, but they take a LOT of work if done well (and I’m the type-if I do something, I want to do it WELL.)
A thank you to Rachal for allowing me to guest post on her blog-it’s an honor for me to be able to share a bit of my heart with you. As a little intro, I am a stay-at-home farmer’s wife, homeschooling Momma, and entrepreneur (think, as a child, I used to sell beads in our stairwell). I currently am rebuilding an Etsy shop after an extended leave (difficult pregnancy) and also do flowers for weddings and special events.
So. Thanksgiving is over, and Christmas is about a month from now. As a mother (or an adult who has even a mild affection for any human being in this world) holidays in general can be overwhelmingly stressful.
For the last three years this time of year for us has been broken bones, ER visits, and never-ending sickness. It’s hard to feel merry when you’re on the couch with your head in a bucket. Or holding the hurting body of a small child waiting to see a doctor in the ER. Or driving to the hospital with your sick kids in the back seat and your husband who has broken ribs in the front-crying out to God for strength, wisdom, and a level head. (Philippians 4:13 became real to me in those moments…)
It’s easy to see the beautiful pictures of glowing fireplaces, happy, smiling families, glorious food (one of my personal favorites about all holidays–FOOD). Maybe, like me, you feel an instant sinking feeling wondering how you are going to make your own experience magical.
Let me encourage you (as I sit here reminding myself)… Keep things simple. ENJOY the simple pleasures. Don’t try to go all-out (to impress others OR yourself). Learning to be content with what you have-and even thankful for what you have–even if it’s not what you expected or planned. If you have a whole day to bake cookies, go for it!! If you have zero time and buy a few packages of Oreos and put them in a pretty cookie jar, hey! That’s great too.
Sometimes God has plans for us that we cannot imagine or possibly plan for. But if He planned it, we can be sure they are better than anything we could hope to plan-even if it doesn’t seem pleasant at the time (Jeremiah 29:11) So I would love to share with you a few simple principles the last few years have taught me.
1) Take care of your OWN immediate family first. Have you ever tried to go all-out for an extended family member or friend and realized, wow, I didn’t even spend this much time or energy on my own kids? That’s ok if it happens on occasion. Sometimes others need a little extra love and God lays it on our hearts to give. But it shouldn’t be the norm. You don’t want your kids to see you giving of yourself constantly to others while, in essence, neglecting them. Your kids were given to YOU. It is highly likely that no other human being will ever love on them the way you will. So be extravagant in your love to them. Never let them doubt or question your love for them (hint: this doesn’t mean going into oodles of debt to buy them the latest and greatest ‘thingy’-kids are as much impressed by a BOX than the thingy that’s inside of it) Loving on them could mean driving around, spending time looking at Christmas lights. Or singing Christmas carols while washing dishes together. Being 100% present with them.
2) Don’t buy unless you have the cash for it. I know this is rather a touchy subject with pretty much everyone…but have you ever purchased something and as you are getting in your car leaving the store you have this sinking feeling because you know you shouldn’t have purchased that item? Imagine a year WITHOUT buyers regret. Is there any item that is worth more than your family’s financial security?? Exercise discipline and save up in advanced for larger purchases (or smaller ones too) If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy it. Boom. I have heard it said that going into debt to buy something (instant gratification) is like negotiating a future pay cut with your boss. Would you do that? Uhhh no. But that is what is happening every time you choose to get what you want NOW instead of patiently working for it and saving up.
3) Make the most of what you have. Possibly the greatest combatant of discontent is thankfulness. (Philippians 4:11-…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content) Did you ever think to yourself, why am I so down, and, where did my joy go?? How’s your thankfulness? (1 Thess. 5:18-In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you) Do you have a complaining spirit? Joy is not something we can just conjure up. It is a deep-seated internal thing that circumstances cannot shake. (Nehemiah 8:10…for the JOY of the Lord is your strength.) (Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world but be ye TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING of your MIND, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.)
4) If funds are short-give the gift of time. If there is someone super special in your life (that is not in your immediate family) and you’d like to get them something incredible but only have funds for something less than incredible-get creative. Give the gift of time. Even if they live across the country or across the world. Write a beautiful handwritten note about how much this person means to you. Or perhaps you can write and reminisce about how you met-or old times spent together. Send a package of tea and plan a date/time where you can have a tea party ‘together’ from afar. Do a Christmas themed photo scavenger hunt together. Make a list of Christmas items (nativity scene, red Christmas lights, a huge inflatable yard snowman etc) and go around searching and taking pictures together. When you’re all through, go home and have a cup of hot chocolate.
5) Not as a little add-on at the end or some cliche, but stop to remember why we even have a thing called Christmas. Jesus came to earth to be born in a humble setting for the purpose of eventually dying for our sins. Does it make Jesus happy that we have turned His coming into an overwhelming performance/stuff-based time?? What are you doing to intentionally keep Christ a part of your celebrations?? This part for me has been incredibly humbling as I have failed so often to show my kids and others I come in contact with that Christmas really is about Jesus. Last year we did an advent calendar with verses. One year we did a chocolate advent calendar (well hey, God gave us our taste buds…) We have several nativity scenes the kids can get their hands on and we talk about the different players around Christ’s birth. Whatever you do, make it intentional and make it happen. If you don’t tell them the real reason for Christmas, there are any number of sources to tell them what Christmas is NOT-so be persistent.
I have attached several of our photos for you all. As a behind the scenes side note-there were tears involved by all (including Momma) We were all tired and ready for some snuggles by the time picture taking was done. I love the pictures that came out, but remember-there’s always more BEHIND the pictures If you’ve made it to the end of this long slog, I applaud you. Hopefully it was encouraging to you as the lessons learned continue to encourage and rebuke me…