Oh the weather outside is frightful…unless you live in Florida where the weather is truly delightful and the thought of building a fire is frightful. We have to buy our snowmen down here, dontcha know?
With the holiday season fast approaching (or, you know, already upon us), I thought it would be fun to share some ideas on how to make the holidays count. The greatest thing about Christmas is the spirit of giving that seems to overtake us. Though we try to keep that spirit up all year long, this time of year is always especially sweet and poignant. So I’m going to share a couple of things we have done, or are doing, and I would love to hear what you’re doing with your families.
Two years ago, we threw a Christmas party at our house for the kids. They played, ate Christmas cookies and Lee read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. What made this party particularly fun for everyone was all the kids brought new, unwrapped toys which we then donated to the local Ronald McDonald House.
We didn’t have a party like this last year because we were new and didn’t know anyone, but the party is on again this year and we are so excited! There’s something so fun about coming together as a community and blessing ohters in need. The kids especially get into it, which makes it even more delightful.
Another thing we love to do is give gifts through Compassion International. We go through their gift catalog and each kid gets to pick one or two things they would like to give. Usually these things end up being farm animals because really, what’s more fun than buying a goat for someone?!
Having travelled with Compassion to Tanzania in May, I’m so much more connected to this process than I was before. I saw how a goat could not only provide a family some nourishment, but also a stream of income, which would allow them to provide for their children. Providing livestock for a family is the best $50 you will ever spend, I can guarantee it.
Last year, on Christmas morning before we even opened gifts, we shuttled the kids out the door, met up with some friends and headed to downtown Tampa where we served the homeless hot coffee, breakfast sandwiches and a little Christmas love. This was deeply impactful for the kids and for Lee and I. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the morning and I believe we came home feeling equally blessed. I’m not sure we can do this again as laws have changed and been put in place to prohibit those things, but we are looking into it.
The most important thing we’ve learned over the years as we’ve parented and raised these children is how little our family needs and how much so many others lack. We have drastically reduced the number of gifts our children receive at Christmas for a number of reasons, one of them being the fact that they just don’t need more toys to sit in their rooms and gather dust.
I would rather buy my children two meaningful gifts that they will love and use than five useless toys that they’ll play with once and cast aside. I love giving my kids gifts. I love seeing their faces light up when they open a present. Those looks are so much more meaningful, though, when we all know we have given of ourselves first.
This has been a learning process for me. I was so worried that my kids would be disappointed when they saw how little was under the tree, but I so vastly underestimated their capacity to love others and their desire to bless. My kids did not complain at all about not getting many gifts. What a lesson that’s been to me.
So how about you? What do you do to foster the spirit of giving in your home? I know you all have a lot of great ideas. None of our ideas are original. We didn’t think of those things on our own. We learned from observing what others have done and we decided to follow suit. I don’t share any of these ideas to toot our horns by any means. I always love to hear how others are working to make the holidays more meaningful and learn from those ideas.
I’d love to hear how you are blessing others this season. Or perhaps you have been on the receiving end of a blessing. How has that affected you?
MERRY CHRISTMAS, FRIENDS!