Whether you love it or hate it----today is without a doubt the notorious Black Friday. You may be one of those that camped out last night to get front in line to purchase gifts on your list at a discount. You may be one of those (like me!) that spent a bit of time online getting some deals from the comfort of your own home. You may be one of those that refuses to shop at all today.
Regardless of where you find yourself on that list, I implore you to consider the greatest deal ever given.
Eternal life, no cost to you. The cost was paid on the cross. The cost was IMMEASURABLE, but there is no cost to you. It's just up to you to accept the gift. No bumper to bumper traffic. No fighting for parking. No waiting in line for hours.
This special deal requires no money. Not even a promo code or discount coupon. It doesn't need to cause you any stress as you try to figure out how to make room in the budget for the purchase.
It's just a matter of heart and acceptance.
The customer service is like no other. It's one on one and personal. The line is never long and the desk is never closed. No need to go from one department manager to another. You are immediately connected to THE ONE IN CHARGE.
It's priceless. It's the greatest gift you can ever accept. It's the greatest gift ever given.
As today kicks off the "official" Christmas holiday season, take the time today to put your focus on the reason we celebrate. Take the focus off the gifts, money, stress.....and focus on the manger. Focus on the cross. Nothing else matters.
Today is also one of the biggest days for leftovers. Though my fridge isn't full this year of leftovers since we were blessed to attend an incredible "feast" with some of Kevin's extended family, others of you will have bowls, platters, and plates galore stacked with leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving is notorious for those "leftovers".
I want to encourage you to stop and think about another type of leftover. The leftovers we give to each other. It's something I'm constantly convicted about and constantly battling.
I don't want to give Kevin the leftovers of me....and I don't want his either. My kids may spend nearly 24/7 with me, but I still don't want to be guilty of just giving them the leftovers. We pack our days so full of things we THINK we have to. We leave the best of us at work and bring home very little to our families in regards to "us". Our hobbies take over our time. We waste countless hours running around doing things that don't matter in reality. We think our kids have to be involved in dozens of activities. We think we need "me" time (don't get me wrong....some IS ABSOLUTELY necessary, but there is a definite balance!). We plop ourselves down in front of TVs for hours on end. Gosh, we can't even sit together at a family gathering without looking around and seeing dozens of phones connected to the internet. Our time is so divided.
This time of year it is absolutely critical that we work to not be giving leftovers to those we love. We can all open our planners and see how just overbooked we are as we run from place to place celebrating the holidays or preparing for them. The result is that we have nothing left to give to those that matter most to us.
Today, stop. Stop and see where you can make adjustments. Do you need to take things off your list? Can you cancel something and spend some one on one time with your spouse? Can you turn off the TV, turn on some Christmas music and pull out some board games, crafts, or books? Can you knock something off your list and simplify? Do your kids really need 15 gifts that they won't remember by this time next year? Would it be a greater impact on their future if you instead invested time with them instead of money? What about stopping and sending a heartfelt card or letter to someone spending much of their time alone? Pick up the phone? Send an email. Find a way to connect.
As a culture, we've gone TOO far away from what the holiday time of the year is about. It shouldn't be about causing yourself such stress as you try to find ways to pay for gifts that TRULY don't really mean much. As a family, we've been fighting HARD against culture on so many levels and Christmas is a HUGE battle. We "want" to fit in and make everyone happy. Yet, at what cost? Are our marriages worth the stress that being too busy and too financially burdened brings? Are our children learning the TRUE meaning of Christmas or are they learning to expect and want more and more? I guarantee that God is NOT wanting us to celebrate His birth by being in debt, stressed out and on edge.
I don't have all the answers of how to flip the holidays back to the focus it should be. Sometimes it is such a hard battle to be "counter-cultural". I do know this, you HAVE to start. You have to make a decision that from this point on we are doing things differently. Some family members may not be happy when they don't see the big gifts under their trees. It's ok. It really is. Some people may not value the hours spent on gifts that are made from the heart. It's ok. It really is. Some of us know that no matter the amount of money you spend on someone, it probably is still not "enough". Someone can always do more. It's ok. It really is. Some may not understand why you are not attending their gathering, party, or activity. They may not understand you need to keep things simple and focus on your own family. It's ok. It really is.
You just have to start somewhere. Your kids REALLY are going to be ok with less. I promise they gain more! They gain the purity of the holidays. They gain the value of family and faith. Those things can't be wrapped up in red, gold, and silver paper. Yet, those things have life long results. Ones that matter. Ones that change the world.
Accept the best deal ever given: the gift of eternal life.
Give those you love the best of you----not the left-overs.
Fight against the "normal" holidays and simplify. Put the TRUE focus of Christmas as the focus. Not the packages. Not the parties. Not the endless financial stress. Give of yourself.
These are my wishes for the holiday season that starts today. Last year was definitely different than I ever dreamed and my heart is obviously heavy right now, but before life took such a stark detour we were already moving towards the holidays being different. May Christmas 2011 be the year that we move closer and closer to the meaning of the holidays. May we find ways to continue what we started! It's my Christmas wish.