Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas with no presents? Can it be?

Our Christmas Tree from 2010, the Year of 'No' Presents
It all started about three years ago, when we gave Christmas presents, and for whatever reason, all our kiddos were struggling with their attitudes on that day.  My children are sinners too, and they had been on the road, were just a bit cranky, and unthankful. Although they received some beautiful gifts, they didn't say "thank you", and started fighting right away.  We dealt with their attitudes, and my husband made a decision that the next year, we wouldn't be giving them presents for Christmas.  This was not punishment, but an opportunity to see that we can have a fine Christmas without presents.

To be honest, I wasn't too crazy about this plan, but I wanted to make the best of it.  We told each of the girls to work a little every week and earn money, because this next year they were going to give something instead of get.  The Bible says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive,".  We said that this next year we were putting that statement to the test.

I was surprised at how wholeheartedly the girls worked, and we added up the total that they were earning.  The next year was our first Christmas in Tizayuca, Mexico.  They were each doing a little something, earning a peso here and there, and I tallied them up on a paper attached to the fridge.  As the holiday season got nearer, they began to get excited about how much they were earning.  The week before Christmas we chose a family in our church with health needs, and purchased them a heater to help with keeping their home comfortable.  The girls had earned nearly $60 altogether, and they were so delighted to help someone with their own work.

That is not the end of the story, however!  Since we were new in Tizayuca, and it was the first time we lived in Mexico far from the border.  We didn't really know how the mail works here.  We were pleasantly surprised to see three good-size boxes of presents arrive in time for Christmas.  This was unusual, although we had at times received boxes from some dear friends, we had never had so many presents for the children, and this time, they waited patiently, enjoyed the Christmas story being read, and thanked God for the greatest gift He has given us.  They had a greater appreciation now of what it means that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son".  I told the girls that God always blesses those who give, and their biggest blessing was to see that God was pleased.

However, I did not realize what a miracle it was that those boxes even arrived at our door.  Now we kind of know how it works.  Mail is delivered on a motorcycle.  Boxes don't come on these motos.  You have to go down and get them, and if the box doesn't have a number to track, it's very unlikely that you will be able to get it from the post office.  They don't give you notification that you have a box either; you are supposed to track it, then go and get when you see that it has arrived at your local post office.  Since then, we haven't received any boxes from the mail carrier, and several that were sent to us went back because we didn't pick them up in time.  The fact three large boxes came to our door was a work of God!

More than the overload of presents we had that year, I am delighted to see how God has worked in the hearts of all my children.  They love giving, and Christmas just gets more and more fun.  My biggest challenge in the holiday season isn't finding super gifts for everyone, it's making sure all of them are given an opportunity to exercise their giving muscle, whether it's making something, or earning money to buy for someone.

It always pays when you put God's promise to the test.  While we didn't actually have the presentless Christmas we were planning on having, we got to see that God's heart is giving, and He gives back more every time. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Inside info on good ol' Saint Nick!
Not much is known about the man named Nicholas, who's life's story evolved into the Santa Clause. We know that he was the pastor of the church in Myra, where he was born.  Most of the stories we have are legends that have filtered through several different cultures, and there is no physical, written evidence of him from that time.  During the third century, the church faced two great persecutions, and Nicholas spent some time in prison for not forsaking his faith.  He made a name for himself through his generosity.  He had come from a wealthy family, and he gave liberally, trying to do so anonymously.  His most famous story, which very well might have some truth in it, is that he secretly gave money for the dowry of three sisters to keep them from being forced into prostitution.  Poor children were known to leave their shoes out on their doorstep so he could drop coins into them at night.  He wanted people to give the glory to God, not himself, so he did his best to hide his giving.

As you can imagine, the rumors spread about him, and after his death, many Christians were inspired by him to continue the practice of anonymous giving.  As the rumours spread, they began to be corrupted by pagan fantasys, and eventually his legend morphed into the myth we have today.

So here's my two cents.  I think Nicholas, or at least his legend, was a shining example of Christ's Spirit in action in the Christian.  We have been given to, the greatest Gift of all. Therefore, it behooves us to give, without grudging; doing our best to let God recieve all the glory.  We understand more of God's heart the more we give.  This story is far more beautiful to me for it's sweetness and humility than Santa.  That's not to say that Santa Clause is the devil.  I just think Christians needs to guard their focus, and many times the clown in the red suit is a distraction to us from the heart of God, which is love.

For us, the trappings of Christmas are all optional.  We've celebrated Christmas on the road, without decorations, we've even celebrated without giving gifts to one another.  (That's a separate post!  I promise to tell that story;  it's a good one.)  We celebrate this truth, that we have eternal life, an unspeakable Gift that came at an unspeakable price from God Himself;  that Christ is one of us, that He knows us, understands us, and loves us anyway, and that without sin, He is able to redeem us to the uttermost.  As we are encouraged in Philippians 2:5, to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" I think we ought to see others with more patience, be more willing to help others, and more willing to tell them of God's Gift.  I think Nicholas had that one down!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blog reboot

My life has swung way out of the range of my blog to keep up with.  We are kept busy with ministry and homeschooling, and the blog is left on that back burner is never getting attended to.  I thought I would move the blog off the back burner for various reasons.  Family and friends love to keep updated on our life, and I enjoy the interactions with them when I discuss current events.  I also want to keep the old creative juices flowing, even though now it's a little out of my comfort zone to stop and think so much at the end of the day.  Therefore, I'm not bringing it forward much.  I'll prepare one blog post a week, unless something is going on in ministry.  (Real life still trumps the internet.)

 Another reason I want to do this is that my daughter has started writing again on her private blog, and I want to keep her motivated to write once a week too.  If you are part of the cool crowd of privileged individuals who have received an invite to her blog, you can check it out.  If not, make a comment to request one, and if I know who you are, I'll send you one. 

Here is a random picture of a camel trying to stick her head in my window.