A Different Kind of Christmas

This Christmas has been interesting for me. Superman and I decided to take the family on a trip for Christmas. Superman, Mary Claire, Tyler, Adam, Thomas, Nanny and I will be hopping on a plane and traveling for Christmas. It is a once in a lifetime experience. Because of this amazing trip, we explained that there would be no gift exchanging. This trip will be the gift.  

 This is the extent of my decorating. No tree. No swags. No outside lights. 

  There have been no Reindeer cookies like these from the Budding Baketress. I have made batches of these for 23 years, until this year.
Every year I would joyfully buy presents for everyone I knew. I would carefully wrap each one. In our house, Santa would wrap each child’s presents in their own paper. I loved picking out three different papers. This year there are no colorful papers, ribbons, or bows. 

 I miss having the memories flood over me as I unwrapped the ornaments to decorate the tree. I secretly long for my first cup of coffee in the dark morning to be had in the glow of the tree. 

This past Sunday, sitting in church, as I sang along I began to cry. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was feeling a bit lost. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself because of some perceived thought that I was missing Christmas. But as I continued to listen to not only the words of the songs, but the message from our pastor, I realized what I was truly missing was Jesus. For whatever reason, I have put aside my daily devotions and prayers. I miss the connection to God. The memories and feelings I associate with Christmas’ in the past, are filled with joy, love and giving. There was excitement with a house of three young children. Yes, one child is married, one is in college and the other is working and attending high school. We are out of the pink aisle and truck section of Toys-R-Us, but I still have the opportunity to experience that Christmas joy, love and giving! When I realized this, I cried for joy.  

  The look of Christmas is different this year. Instead of giving for my small children, I created gifts for the small children in my life. Little boys will have dinosaur tails to attach to their waists, so they can roar and pretend to be a T-Rex or a triceratops. 

 I watch two sweet little girls squeal with delight over a restaurant kit I made them. The kit included menus, tickets to write the orders and hand sewn aprons. I got so much joy out of making these gifts for the small ones in my life.

I accompanied a sick five year old boy to receive gifts given to him by the area postal service carriers. I wrapped gifts for a little girl whose father is in jail right now. I’m going to decorate wreathes with ladies living in a homeless shelter tomorrow night. 

In a couple of days I’m boarding a plane to spend nine days with my most favorite people in the world! This year’s Christmas looks a bit different, but yet it will still be the same. Instead of reindeer cookies, we’ll be eating Strufolli and biscotti. Instead of having a big ol cup of coffee by my Christams tree, I’ll be sipping esspresso in the village cafe. The gifts won’t be wrapped in holiday paper. The gifts will come in hugs, kisses, laughter and in making amazing memories. I cherish our Christmas’ of the past and I look forward to new and changinging seasons to come.

My pastor, Richard, just needed to remind me of the real meaning of “Awesome”. It’s not in artificial colored lights, but in the one true light who came to earth, lived among us, died for our sins and has given us an everlasting hope. Awesome is not in cut n’bake cookies, but in the sweetest tasting bread and wine of life. Awesome is not found at Toys R’ Us, but in the love given to us by a holy and AWESOME God! 

Merry Christmas!  


The Day I Found my Christmas Spirit

I love Christmas!

20131218-101047.jpgI love decorating the inside and outside of my house. I have boxes labeled for each room which makes it easy peasy.

20131218-101148.jpgI love finding that gift that has that recipient written all over it.

20131218-101253.jpgI usually host two or more parties during the holiday season.

20131218-101328.jpgIn fact, one year I had 50 or so teens and parents over for an Ugly Sweater-Game Playing-Carol Singing-Sugar High-Christmas Extravaganza, just days after having PRK LASIK surgery on my eyes. Not really the best idea, but I loved having the party.

20131218-101635.jpgI bake my kids favorite cookies and candies.

But this year, I just haven’t had the energy or spirit. The banisters are bare. The outside of my house is dark at night. You won’t be receiving a family card from us this year. The one batch of cookies I threw in the oven are gone. And no parties will happening at this crib.

“Less fuss”, they say. “Say no to Santa!” The blogs shout out to “Keep it Simple”! Well, I’ve tried, but I don’t feel happy and joyful. I’ve had some anxiety attacks and honestly, just wanted to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my head. That doesn’t sound like much HoHoHo.

Then I found my spirit!

It wasn’t until I read this post by Courtney at Women Living Well, that I fully understood what I was feeling. Her post titled, “Is a Simple Christmas a More Godly Christmas?”, hit the nail on the head for me.

People’s lives are fuller than they’ve ever been and we just keep on adding more – grasping for the elusive happiness we hope the next thing will bring us.
And so the backlash is to call a time-out and remind everyone to stop it and simplify.
And I get it because it’s what I need to do all year long. I need more boundaries and to learn to say more “no’s” to people, stuff and food!
But here is what is not helpful, telling a busy woman to simplify her life – equating it to a higher standard of holiness or godliness.

I agree, full heartedly!

Here’s the deal…
In some cases (not all – hear me on this friends) simple = selfish.
There is a danger in simplifying to the point that we don’t reach out to the hurting and the lost because it takes precious time and makes life feel full and overwhelming!
Serving is not simple.
Serving is a sacrifice.
And the baby born in a manger – was the ultimate sacrifice.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:45)
Simple does not always equal Godly.
So this is for the woman – whose plate is really really full. God is not looking at our calendars – but at our hearts.
Is your calendar full from striving, serving or sacrifice?

There are some things that if I didn’t do them, of course would make my life simpler. For example, I have said no to tennis for a few weeks. I have said no to 5:30 am boot camp for just a little while. No to extra decorating and shopping.

But there some things that are non-negotiable. I will drive over seven hours round trip to bring my boy home from college.

I will take a car-less friend to Walmart to pick up a prescription for her son.

20131218-104213.jpgI will go to Miracle Hill Rescue Mission and make wreathes with the women there.




20131218-104519.jpgInstead of decorating my own house in the way I’ve always done it, striving for some sort of illegitimate perfection, I helped some women, living in a shelter, decorate their own spaces in a way they never would have been able to do without our time and resources.

20131218-105007.jpgInstead of crafting selfishly, entirely for me, I will use that skill to make presents for some sweet high school girls, whom I pray will continue loving Jesus when they go off to college. Not only were gifts made, but I did it by spending special time with a friend.

20131218-105515.jpgI may not be having a Christmas Extravaganza Party, but I am celebrating with my friends as we join together to fill 25 bags for the women at Miracle Hill. These bags are being filled with donations of shampoo/conditioner, lotion, panties, socks, pajamas, blankets, journals, note cards with stamps and more. I have had such an enthusiastic response, that I am giddy about this project we are doing together.

20131218-112501.jpgI spent over an hour shopping for two teenagers, whose mom is in prison and won’t be home for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my family will deliver wrapped gifts to homes with incarcerated parents. We will be Santa’s helpers by letting the children know these gifts are from their parent and that they are loved.

Yup! I’m pooped. I have a lot of things on my plate. But I’m tired not because of selfish pursuits, but because I believe the ultimate sacrifice that was done for me. God decided to leave his perfect home and to come live here in this sinful world. I am so thankful He did. I can show my love of Him, by sharing His love with others. Does everyone have to do it my way? Nope. These are just the
opportunities that God has given me.

I pray you have the right spirit within you in this most special season. I’m sorry that this was kind of a long and rambling post, but I hope you will feel some comfort if you too, have a full plate this Christmas. Thanks for dropping by!