A LARGE beautiful tree - complete with matching ornaments, and beautifully wrapped presents even in matching paper....
The smell of many homemade sweets baking and sweet smiling children awaiting....
Christmas music playing softly....
A clean house....
A crackling fire that is smelling oh so like the mountains....
Christmas cards/letters mailed out with this adorable family picture on them
And of course SNOW (ok, not in my control but in my mind!)
Anyway - you get the idea right? Well the problem with this beautiful Christmas picture is well, ummm....it really hasn't happened in well like....ok well pretty much not ever. I can't pin point it other than to say most of the time life just doesn't match up with the picture in my mind.
A few years ago, as Joel and I began to talk about gifts for the kids, and our Christmas budget I came across this great idea on the internet to give your kids 3 gifts. Gold - something they want; Frankincense - something they wear; and Myhr - something to help them grow spiritually. So, that has worked for the most part and we love it!! This was the beginning of a journey to "re-think" Christmas at the Arringtons.
This year, our budget has been really tight. Now, some of that was in a trip to Disney World which we LOVED and I wouldn't trade for anything but a lot of it has just been life and unexpected expenses. As we neared the holidays...I found myself a little down because slowly, one by one, the things in my picture of Christmas were just not going to happen....
We don't have a Big tree...in fact, we have no tree.
We don't have a fireplace and thus no fire...
The house isn't clean but only picked up
Baking just hasn't happened
Snow in West Texas???
Christmas cards...yeah that one NEVER happens! LOL
There are no matching presents carefully wrapped
Before I go on,...let me explain something. Joel and I have been on a quest. A quest to live a life that is simplified, that is focused on Christ like living, and that seeks to create a "new" normal for us. We are revamping our budget in BIG ways, we are rethinking how and why we do things and more than anything we want our life to reflect Christ in EVERY area. With that in mind...we have chosen to simplify what the world defines as Christmas....Here's how:
1.) We are celebrating gifts with our children in January and letting December be all about Jesus and family. So, other than some small very token type gifts our kids aren't opening presents until then. We have explained to them that Christmas is about Christ - not us. I won't say they cheerfully accepted this, but they are warming to the idea. I won't even say this will be a yearly thing - just where we are THIS year.
2.) The money we would spend on gifts - we have split between giving to a single mom with 5 children and using to travel to spend time with family.
3.) We officially are done with Santa - not only do our kids now know he isn't real but he just gets far too much emphasis.
4.) We aren't "over indulging" in the amount and types of foods we bought for the holidays - just the normal everyday budget friendly eating. (of course, we do enjoy the yummy food at parties!)
5.) We are THOROUGHLY enjoying quiet nights and days at home with the kids filled with movies and board games.
6.) We are enjoying time talking with our kids about what Christmas is REALLY about.
I know this is weird and it is so very different. It has been hard for me to adjust to in all honesty - however, based on events the past week - I am so thankful God has me in this place. The tragedy in Connecticut has our entire Nation hugging children just a little tighter. In addition, a friend from High School died very suddenly and unexpectedly just yesterday.
Things like this make me realize something - I want my children to experience the joy of giving and building relationships. I want them to see Christmas as a time to give away and not get. To focus on a Savior and not the shopping and the stress. Please know, we don't frown upon traditional Christmas activities by ANY means. Nor do we think everyone needs to simplify. Next year - my Christmas may look a little more like that picture - or it may not.
My point is this - there is no tradition or expectation of the Christmas Season that should take away from the joy of Christ and giving to others. If circumstances in your life have forced you to have just a smaller than normal Christmas remember the humble stable where it all began. It wasn't in a decorated house, there were no lights on the tree, or cookies baking in the oven. In fact, there were no presents that first night (the wise-men arrived two years later). It was a quiet peaceful serene moment...the focus on a small baby.