Tag Archives: holidays

Serene Saturdays #34

We are complete again!  Our eldest came home from college on Thursday. Woo hoo!

For us, the holidays will really begin today, as we get to watch my youngest dance in the  Nutcracker.  For over 14 years, we have been attending the Nutcracker to watch one or both of our daughters dance.  This will be the first time we’ve watched the performance with our eldest sitting in the audience with us.

So that I can really focus on my family for the remainder of the holidays, I am not planning on posting this week.  Therefore, I will take this opportunity to say MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!  I hope your holiday is amazing, playful, and replenishing!

This week I am grateful for:

*  Reading aloud with my kids.

*  A furnace that kicks on.

*  Spanish and Art tutors for my kids.

*  A book study with great, wise, and fun ladies.

*  Getting to watch my youngest in the Nutcracker, sitting next to my eldest, my husband, and our dear, dear friend.  Priceless.

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My Holiday Scorecard

I have felt quite a mixed bag when it comes to Christmas this year.  On the one hand, I have really enjoyed getting our Christmas tree put up and attending our city’s tree lighting ceremony.  On the other hand, I have found myself wanting to stop school a early and let my kids watch way too much Christmas TV.

Therefore, I thought I’d make a little log of the “goods” and “bads” of my behavior.

Ways I have fallen short:

Not enough consistent school.  This is always an issue, but especially during the holidays.  It always feels like there is so much outside of education that needs to be done.  I am tempted…and the kids aren’t complaining!

Too much Band Hero.  Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, my elder son bought Band Hero for our Wii, complete with a guitar, a drum set, and a microphone.  And this confession is that it isn’t just the kids who are spending too much time conquering Band Hero, but I am right there with them!  I am wicked on the guitar…just saying.

I haven’t purchased or made a single present.  There are a lot that need to be done, but I haven’t found the ability/motivation/joy in doing so yet.

Not getting our Advent activities ready.  Every year, I create an activity-a-day based around a Christmas theme (i.e. crafts, baking, holiday movies, driving to look at Christmas lights).  For some reason, I haven’t been organized/motivated to do so this year.  Maybe it is because the kids are so busy that we don’t have many evenings home together.  It doesn’t seem as worth it this year.  But, my eldest has specially requested that I get them organized for her when she comes home from college…so I have to create the activities by then.  Yikes!

Just today, I mailed my daughter’s college finals care package to her.  I’ve had it in the car for well over a week – maybe two weeks.  I just haven’t made it into the post office to get it sent off.  I’m sure she’ll get it right about the time that her finals are over and it is time to travel home…

Ways I’ve been stellar (I like this list much better!):

I created the whole Thanksgiving dinner all by myself.  I know this is a little out-dated, but I still am giving myself credit for it.  In year’s past, we’ve had tons and tons of guests, each bringing a dish to share.  This year, with it being just our family and two guests, I did it all.    You’ll have to ask my family if it was any good.

I edited a pamphlet for a friend.  This one probably shouldn’t count, because I really enjoy editing, I really enjoyed what he had written, and I really like him.  But, it did take a chunk of time, and I need all of the stellar moments that I can count right now.

I got the Christmas tree lighted.  For some reason, this job always falls to me. This year, however, when I pulled out the lights, EVERY strand wasn’t lighting. I wrap and pack them away meticulously, but somehow they lost their ability to light over the year; therefore, getting the tree lit this year meant a bit more work than usual.

I am hosting a party for the teens in our church.  Our church is very new, so there aren’t THAT many teens, but I wanted them to have a chance to all get together to celebrate.  So this Saturday, we will welcome them over for Christmas movies and snacks.  There will probably be a little Wii Band Hero going on, but I will refrain from showing them all up on the guitar…

I have run driven/waited/eaten/read/slept/written in my car as I have shuttled my younger daughter all over the stinkin’ universe for Nutcracker practice.  The performance is on Dec. 17th, and I am eager, both to see her dance, and to have the rehearsals over!

I have drug myself out of bed early every morning to exercise at the gym.  That is huge, considering that I hate every part of the exercise process.

I have kept this blog going!

I guess that’s all.  I hope that my cathartic exercise relieved you of some guilt, or gave you someone to which you could compare yourself so that you could feel better about how you’re doing!

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Christmas with No Money

My heart really aches when I interact with society these days.  Sometimes I feel like the world isn’t really talking to me – it is talking to people who have money.  When I watch advertisements, news stories, or consumer reports, I tend to tune out.  The news seems to be all about when the best time is to Christmas shop, whether this item should be purchased now or closer to Christmas, or about strategies to getting your Christmas shopping done early – to me, it sounds like a foreign language.

We’ve never really had a lot of money.  It has always felt lean in our home, and we’ve always been on a budget.  But I must admit, we’ve gone overboard for our kids’ Christmas in years past, and we’ve made gift-receiving a big part of the celebration of the season.  Our stated limits have been one big present per kid (something that would truly thrill their hearts), and then other little presents as we see things that would make them smile.

But this year, we really don’t have money.  We are behind in our mortgage and are struggling to balance keeping bills paid and keeping food on the table.  My husband’s business is amazing and fruitful and satisfying, but as of now, isn’t profitable enough to generate a salary for us.  For months.  And months.  We are so buried that it takes a lot of mental energy not to fret all of the time.

It is under those circumstances that we approach the Christmas holidays.

I’ve been forced to stretch myself to think outside the realm of normal when it comes to honoring the traditions and joy of Christmas without money.  To me, the key is finding tangible ways to share the love that I feel…not by my money, not by the limited effort exerted from buying a present, nor by filling a gift card.

As I have racked my brain to come up with virtually free ways to make Christmas special for your family, I thought I’d share a few.  I’ve implemented most of these ideas over the years, and have found them to be really fun and festive.

Making Presents:  Almond bark covered pretzels, coupon books for services/time together, potato chips dipped in chocolate, taking your child’s art and cutting it to fit on blank notecards, etc., are all ways to be creative and frugal at the same time.

Making Service a Present:  Serving food at a shelter, sponsoring a Compassion International child as a family, choosing a neighbor and being their “secret Santa” for the month (or even the year).

Check out the free section of Craigslist or take advantage of Freecycle: There are a lot of great items that have served their purpose at one family but are ready to begin a new life in another family.

Redecorate your kids’ rooms with simple changes:  A new coat of paint, reorganizing a closet to make it a reading space, adding a new pillow or two can all really make a big difference and help the kids feel special and loved.

Buy a family gift instead of individual gifts:  One suggestion is a subscription to Netflix/Blockbuster.  For around $8/month you have access to a myriad of movies that you can instant stream into your home.  Other family gifts could be a board game that everyone could play, a family membership to a health club, movie tickets, or a read aloud book.

Make gift giving an event/activity:  Give everyone in your family a dollar and make a trip to a Dollar Store near you.  Tell your family members that the goal is to buy the biggest or smallest, or most outrageous or most thoughtful gift that can be purchased for a dollar.  When we did this, we made a night of it by making the goal to find a gift that represented the other person (either silly or serious), and then during the gift exchange time told the stories and explanations of why that gift was purchased.

Do a family activity together:  Sing Christmas carols or go caroling, drive around the city to look at lights, snuggle in for an evening of Christmas movies, or have a board game night.

Talk with your kids:  Letting everyone understand the “why” behind the minimalism gives them the tools to understand the choices being made.   Preparing them way ahead of time can reduce the amount of disappointment or complaining, and allows them to join in the creativity of present giving.

I don’t want to be in this position, at Christmas or at any time.  It isn’t comfortable or secure; however, I also know that being here is working great things in me:  Creativity, compassion, understanding, humility, etc.  Because of those benefits, I wouldn’t trade this season for the world.  If you find yourselves in the same place, I pray that your needs are met and that you are provided for.  If you aren’t in that position, I encourage you to find someone who is, and shower them with Christmas blessings.  We all need each other.

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Filed under Family and faith, General thoughts

To Celebrate, or Not Celebrate – The Halloween Debate

So what do you think about Halloween?

I received an email this week from a very conservative group whose mission is to restore the Christian family culture one home at a time.  Its message was that there are 5 truly scary things that you can do this Halloween, one of them being to not skip Halloween celebrations. The opinion communicated was that Halloween was conceived in evil and has remained a celebration that uses children to promote a fascination with superstitious fear; therefore, it is our duty to skip the traditional holiday festivities.  (It does give alternatives, such as celebrating Reformation Day.)

When we moved from the south to the northeast, we came with many values to which we were very committed.  The avoidance of Halloween was one of them. We didn’t celebrate Halloween, nor did we watch much mainstream media during that time period because we knew we’d encounter all kinds of dark imagery and scary scenes.  Our kids were much younger at the time, and it was very important to guard their hearts from scary images that would trouble their minds.  It also was easy to dismiss a cultural mainstay such as Halloween by simply explaining that we don’t celebrate it.

When we moved onto our street in the northeast, we were quickly informed that this community took Halloween seriously.  It wasn’t the darkness and evil history of the holiday that they celebrated.  It wasn’t the costumes and pumpkin carving that they took seriously.

What this group of people took seriously was making this holiday an opportunity to love on the kids from the projects that are 3 blocks from our homes.

It was the opportunity to welcome kids and their parents from the neighboring streets that might not otherwise ever step foot on our properties.

It was the opportunity to take one more event to cultivate fellowship within the neighbors that sat on their front porches the whole evening, often times straying from their stoops to sit and visit with friends on other stoops.

My husband and I had to make a big decision.  Do we take part in this celebration that had been so easy to dismiss before?  It might be difficult to do because it came into conflict with our present value system – but if we didn’t, we’d miss out on an opportunity to strengthen relationships within our inner-city neighborhood and to join with our amazing neighbors as they celebrated our community.

It wasn’t that this group of people didn’t celebrate other holidays.  They equally valued and honored all cultures, and they made a habit of celebrating Easter with the larger neighborhood, having fall festivals, conducting soccer camps, sponsoring educational summer programs, etc.  All of these celebrations we quickly became a part of with them.  Halloween had just become one more opportunity to live out the values of generosity, openness to others, and community among all neighbors.

Hadn’t we moved from our home in the south to be a part of such things as these values?

The first year, we sat on our porch and shared candy with the huge traffic of kids as they passed by.  We roamed from home to home visiting with other neighbors who were out doing the same.  Our kids stayed with us, not in costume, but observing the way that a heart to love can transform something evil and make it beautiful.

As the years have gone by and our kids have gotten older, we still celebrate with our neighbors this opportunity to reach out lovingly to our fellow neighbors.  You might find our kids in costume, and you will see pumpkins carved on our stoop.  You will definitely see a huge supply of candy being distributed to the variety of kids in our area.

     


The last thing I want to do is to raise kids who blindly fall into every cultural tradition without applying thought and value to their decisions.  But along the same vein, one of the last things I want to do is to raise kids who shy away from opportunities to reach out to people because they value their traditions more than people.

To the organization I referenced earlier, Halloween is a clear-cut issue:  it is clearly evil and is to be avoided.  To me, it is an issue that should be handled with prayer and thoughtfulness.  It should be weighed with the scale of love, and within a greater context of community outreach.

So, what do you think about Halloween?

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