Christmas will look different this year.
I remember being at the end of October or the first week of November when Kevin and I really began to have conversations about our thoughts about the holidays. Who would we visit and when? What things did we want to do with the kids? Which traditions should we start, which should we toss out and which should we hang on to with dear life? What would we buy as gifts and how on earth would we pay for it? Basically, WHAT did we want the holidays to look like.
Plain and simple: We wanted it to look and feel VERY different than years past. We immediately made the decision to take MUCH different approaches. We didn't want the rushing around and stress. NO swapping money or gift cards because "that" is what was expected. NO overflowing Christmas trees with gift after gift that would be forgotten by the next day. We wanted to completely bring CHRIST back as the MAIN and only focus of our holidays this year. That at times was going to mean that it might "hurt" a little. We might irritate some people when we said "no" to gatherings or to purchases. We might find it painful to give up some of our "old" traditions that didn't fit in with our new focus. It might be hard to stick to the budget we had planned and it might get hard to say "no" to purchasing gifts. WE love to give, so NOT giving can be hard.
In regards to the kids, we made the tough decision to change our approach to Santa. Instead of our normal traditions, we decided that there would only be three gifts for each of them this year. We decided on the "three" gifts Christ was given and that they would receive three as well: one that helps them in their spiritual growth, one that is a NEED, and one that is a want. Nothing else.
In regards to gifts for others, we decided that ALL gifts would be either handmade or purposeful. Money normally spent on cards and postage would instead be spent on making Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. We wouldn't attend countless gatherings and decided to choose one or two to focus on and spend more time at home as a family. We decided on what mattered most to us and came up with ways to make sure those things became priority.
We were rolling along right on track. The kids are actually excited about their three gifts because we've talked so much about the REAL reason for the holidays and about our focus on Christ instead of Santa and "more, more, more". Gifts were beginning to get made and plans were constantly being tweaked for the countless crafts that made the "final" cut on our list. No longer having TV sure helped lessen the "I want that" mentality.
Then life took a very sudden, drastic change. Life has been in upheaval. Stack after stack of partially completed gifts lay around. The realization that there is no way they will be completed on time has sunk in. Christmas shopping for the actual gifts that made the list hasn't been completed. The budget has taken another hit since I haven't been as focused on our food budget during the stress and because of so much travel. We don't even know when we will be able to spend "our" time together or time with family and friends. Nothing is settled. Once a plan gets made, it has to be changed.
Guess what? It's ok. It is just TRULY serving to bring the REAL focus of what matters most. The budget has been re-tweaked and amazingly, the numbers will work out if we are very careful. The handmade gifts for friends and family may not make it by December 25th, but they will get done. The house may not be fully decorated inside and out like I normally want. The baking, cooking, crafting on "my" list is being reduced to the essentials. My normal spotless house, is tolerable. School isn't on schedule, but the train hasn't derailed. It's ok.
The truth of the holidays is FRESH in our hearts and we are witnessing the power of it EVERY day. We are TRULY not caught up in the rat-race of what culture says the holidays should look like. We wanted a SIMPLE Christmas with family and that is what we are getting. Snuggling up and watching a movie, reading a book, or just taking the time to LAUGH and be together.....that is what we are focusing on. Talking about the meaning of the holidays and talking of ways that God is blessing us....that is our blessing in this chaos.
This Christmas is completely surrounded in chaos not of our choosing. Upheaval is a mild word to describe it. The only thing we can count on right now is that EVERYTHING changes and can change a hundred times a day. We can easily get caught up in the "what ifs" and unfairness. EASILY! Instead, we are focusing on keeping things as stable for the three "little" people in our home and doing our best to cling to precious memories and make new ones.
Yes, this Christmas looks very different. WE chose for things to be different in some ways and in others we had no choice. What matters is that at the end of the day, we are still a family and we are growing deeper and more steady in that love. We are growing more in touch with finding the little blessings that God has given us. Christmas is about the ULTIMATE gift and that is what we are celebrating. WE WOULD BE LOST without it! So, I'm glad that Christmas looks VERY different this year.