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Boldly Reclaiming Joy in the after Christmas Crash

In the days after Christmas, the excitement of anticipation fades. But I can make a choice to reclaim joy amidst the chaos, finding peace & rest for a new year.

In the days after Christmas, the enchanting excitement of anticipation has faded. Boxes lay littered around the house. Piles of once demanded gifts lay in heaps waiting for someone (i.e. ME) to restore order.

And I’m really tired. I did the browsing, the planning, the shopping, the wrapping, the baking (9 types of cookies & homemade cinnamon rolls), the advent celebrating, the 24 books of Christmas reading. I even managed to get Christmas cards in the mail – mostly in time for pre-Christmas delivery.

In the midst of it all, I did my best to be present and enjoy the fleeting magical days of my daughter’s childhood.

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But if your holiday was anything like mine, real life didn’t stop for Christmas or holiday preparations.

Trying to combine Christmas magic with normal life is hard.

As much as I tried to pull back from commitments and just focus on the enjoying the festivities, grocery shopping, laundry, and toilet bowl cleaning wouldn’t wait. Bills still came. Crises were not averted . . .

Our holiday crises sound like a twisted version of the 12 Days of Christmas: two ruined batches of cookies, three dirt bike crashes, two broken bones, a deathly ill dog, two scary vet trips, a lost suitcase, and one dead minivan at church . . .

Would I keep calm and worship on, or look like the fiery stick man on warning labels “Do Not Try This at Home”?

Which all added up to two very long ER visits, two long and expensive veterinarian visits, the most expensive car battery I’ve ever had, and days of crying over the dog.

I turned up the Christmas music, forced a smile and regrouped. The cookies turned out fine in the end, but each disaster rolled neatly into another making those last few days leading to Christmas a test of my spiritual maturity.

Then Christmas day was just about perfect, but was over too quickly.

We slept in (thank goodness for older kids), took turns opening presents, had the older boys go on a scavenger hunt. We ate a late but bountiful brunch and a simple dinner.

Our poor dog started struggling the second time on Christmas eve. By Christmas night, she was at death’s door again. Her fever was raging. We all tearily said good-bye to her again the next morning. After adding another $100 to our already steep bill, the vet sent her home again. She is not out of the woods, but seems to be doing better.

Then it was time to race the boys back to the airport which is exhausting and stressful in spades around Christmas.

But God was clearly present in so many little ways. There was a major accident on the way home from the airport. If it weren’t for locating the missing suitcase, the boys might have been in the middle. I knew we were going to be okay. It’s just the roller coaster ride.

I did my best to enjoy the season, but navigating all these strange difficulties while maintaining joy and peace was exhausting.

So how am I recuperating and boldly reclaiming my joy after Christmas?

I made the executive decision to act like a kid again.

I was not going to go anywhere or do anything unnecessary that was stressful because I was going to enjoy these weeks after Christmas as much as the kids all enjoyed the weeks prior.

Take time to play!

We played all the games we got for Christmas: Charades and Clue and colored pictures and solved puzzles I even drove the RC cars!

I curled up by the tree with my new book.

Meals have been leftovers and snacks. Christmas cookies for lunch? Okay, in moderation.

Plates have ALL been paper.

Seriously, I googled it. Washing dishes takes enough water that the environmental benefit of using real dishes over paper plates is negligible. Foil pans and paper plates are FINE when we need a break.

I recorded the Hallmark channel’s Happy Yule Log on Christmas. It’s a roaring fire with a holiday set and Christmas carols. We watch it on repeat everyday.

My husband gave me Yankee candles for Christmas.

I’m usually a candle hoarder. But what’s the point of having them if I never enjoy them? So I’ve been burning one all day, enjoying the light fragrance and warm glow of the candle.

I’ve taken the stress and mess out of as much of daily life as possible.

And my husband has stepped up to tackle some of the household stuff. I love his helpful heart and I’m doing my best to just say thank you instead of offering ‘helpful’ critiques. In a crisis, how doesn’t matter so much. I’ve learned better to be thankful for any help.

I have wanted to play with hand lettering for some time – fauxligraphy if you will. For Christmas, I got a beginner’s set. Today, I set aside an hour and spent some time practicing with my new markers.

I’m not letting the mess and disorder get me down.

Christmas took weeks of preparation. It can take weeks to pack away. I try to tackle a box here and there, put away one area of items at a time.

Simply, I’m doing everything slowly.

Christmas decorations can stay up as long as I want them to.

I’ve shut down the internal voice that demands everything must be done right now. And I’m resting. Tackling a few chores here and there in small bursts allows more down time.

We’re eating lots of leftovers. We’re finishing up all the Christmas movies on the DVR. Crackers and cheese for lunch. PJ’s all day.

Real life hasn’t paused any more this week. However, I take time for myself to play, pray and rest each day.

I can’t stop the world so I can enjoy the holidays, but I can stop myself from doing all the things.

The crazier things got, the more intentional I was about being in my Bible and spending time in prayer, which sets the tone for joy. Finishing my reading plan for the year, I was deep in the prophets. Seeing God’s plans for Israel, the prophecies for our savior helped me remember that nothing escapes His will.  We just need to rest there.

I plan to carry this attitude into the new year as well. The best present I got came after Christmas in the reminder to be present.

God’s got us. We just need to reclaim joy in the ride.

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Last Minute Ways to Make Christmas Magic

Need some last minute ways to make Christmas magic? I realize now, the magic of my childhood Christmases doesn't cost a lot, & even with only a few days, anyone can make this kind of magic.

It took me a long time to realize what made Christmas magic in my home growing up. In fact, I don’t know that I really realized exactly what it had been until today. But I realize now, it didn’t cost a lot and even if you only have a few days before Christmas, anyone can make this kind of magic.

I only remember a handful of gifts, but the feeling of that childhood Christmas magic will never be lost for me. My mom always made Christmas magic for us. As the mom of my own home, I’ve tried really hard to re-create the sense of wonder from my memories, but as I stood over the chaos in my kitchen four batches of cookies into the day, I realized I’ve never really given deep thought about what made it so special.

I know it was hard work. And maybe I’m a bit emotional because my mom turned 75 today and I couldn’t be with her. But she got Christmas right in my memories every year because she loved us.

As I scooped our family’s traditional chocolate drop cookies with sticky fingers, I thought about what made it all so special. The baked treats were special, but they were only part of the puzzle.

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It was mostly love. But it was love spun into family traditions and kneaded into cinnamon rolls, wrapped into presents, shared through stories, and baked into cookies. That is the Christmas magic I really want to pass onto my children, the magic of our savior’s birth and how we love each other because of Him.

That kind of Christmas magic doesn’t cost money and if you haven’t found it yet this year, it’s cheap and easy to find.

Focus on the right kind of presence.

First, wrap everything you do in Christ’s presence. Be intentional to focus on ways He is present everyday. Be His hands and feet to your family, neighbors, church.

and Be present yourself. Quit worrying about all the things that need to be done or the next thing you’ll be doing. Just be when and where you are. There is so much rest that comes with focusing on the moment we’re in.

When I remember Christmas in my childhood home, we were all present more than just physically. Our family spent quality time together. We sat around the table for meals. We talked about our lives, whether it was difficulty with division or anxiety over college applications, or future plans. And there was always so much laughter.

All the funny stories we’d gathered over the years were remembered (and embellished). My dad’s laugh is the kind of wheezing gasp that builds into giant guffaws. It’s still so contagious!

Take the time to treasure your family.

Talking to each other is a lost art. Revive it. Sit around a table with nowhere to go, nothing to do. Get the grandparents talking about their memories. Ask the kids deep questions about their lives or their favorite memories. And really listen.

Kids today don’t know how to sit and listen. Mine are no exception. But I try to teach them to listen to the stories, to value giving someone your attention over staring into a screen. They learn mostly by watching, so show them how to tune out everything but God and family right now (or after you finish reading this ;)).

Play family games. While the younger kids are up, play games they enjoy or family games they can join. Charades or drawing games are always good. A few of our family favorites are shown below. We also really enjoy Wits & Wagers. Older kids are sometimes harder to engage. A family game that forces us to be silly and drop our guard can be just the ticket to find some togetherness.

Turn on the music & turn off the lights.

When I think about my childhood home at Christmas, I remember how peaceful it was. The lights were soft. The house was warm. It smelled of sugar cookies and cocoa and cinnamon. And Christmas music was always playing from the gigantic record player in the hall.

Dad would put on Bing Crosby’s Christmas album and we’d sneak in Amy Grant’s Christmas before Mom’s favorites. We’d listen for hours. I remember falling asleep to some of those songs. Nightlights were Christmas bulbs and Emmanuel would play down the hall. I would sit at the edge of my bed and sing my little heart out.

Let the only lights be candles and the Christmas tree. Everything is more magical by twinkle lights. If you have a fireplace, light a fire when you’re all gathered together listening to Christmas music.

Sitting in the dark to just a handful of lights somehow reminds me of the first Christmas. One tiny baby came to light the world. At first only a few could see who He was and bask in His light, but eventually, His light would transform the world. Sitting in the quiet next to the tiny white lights of my tree reminds me how one tiny light is pretty, but how when we all work together, it’s breathtaking.

My mommy heart wanted to offer her every precious thing that would bring her joy, but I knew the better lesson in disappointment.

Read together as a family.

We used to read the Christmas story while setting up the nativity. Each of us had to race to unwrap and place the characters as Dad read from Luke. It was such a fun way to learn the Christmas story and decorate. My daughter doesn’t have to race against two sisters, but we read the story as she sets up her nativity too.

We didn’t have a television in our living room. We didn’t have smart phones. Books were a popular escape, but we would sit together and read, diving into our books, but still together and coming up for air, cocoa, cookies, snowball fights and trivia nights.

Even big kids like to be read to more than they let on. A few good Christmas books have the kinds of stories that can tug the heart strings of all ages. We just finished Holly & Ivy tonight. The last few pages always make me cry as an adoptive mother.

Store bought cocoa, cookies, and movies can be homemade Christmas magic.

A hot cup of cocoa or mug of apple cider over a plate of Christmas cookies feels pretty magical no matter how old you are.

While homemade treats might not be on your radar this year, powdered cocoa is plenty special with a candy cane to stir and squirt of whipped cream. If you’re feeling really snazzy – use a vegetable peeler on a chocolate bar to add some pretty chocolate shavings to the top. Easy magic!

Buy some different types of pre-made cookie dough. Roll it out and use cookie cutters to make Christmas shapes. Red and green colored sugar will make any cookies feel like Christmas. Decorating is the important part anyhow. Pre-made peanut butter dough, coated chocolate candies, and pretzel twists make fun reindeer cookies.

If you feel like baking, try to let everyone pick a favorite recipe so they can all enjoy a taste from their memories. I took a bite of my mom’s molasses ginger cookie recipe today and was transported to 1983 . . .

Drop everything else.

After Jesus, this is the most important one. If at all possible, drop everything else. Focus on the most meaningful parts of Christmas and stop running for the next thing.

Put down the phone. Step away from the laptop. Turn off the television. Whatever you need to do to be able to focus on just loving the people in your life and home for the next few days.

Play on the floor with the kids’ toys. Build with their legos. Have snowball fights (use rolled socks if you don’t have snow).

For all the presents under the tree, the one thing that makes Christmas magic is the presence of the people we love.

In my family tonight, we are celebrating (from afar) my mom’s birthday, but also remembering losing my husband’s grandmother 8 years ago, and mourning his aunt who shared a birthday with my mom.

You won’t get back this Christmas no matter what it looks like. Embrace the best this year has to offer and trust God in the worst.

You won't get back this Christmas no matter what it looks like. Christmas Magic means embrace the best this year has to offer and trust God in the worst. Focus on the right kind of presence this Christmas. Click To Tweet

Our Christmas this year is a mixed bag. Our boys will be here, but our families came for Thanksgiving, so it will be just us five. The boys are grown and get boring gift cards and new socks. We are facing major changes and some emotional struggles. But we’ll never be here in this moment again.

We can enjoy what we have with a sense of awe and wonder that the God who created the universe provides for us. He gave the ultimate first gift saving the world through His son 2000+ years ago.

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Solving Family Conflict in a Christ Pleasing Way

Family conflict can be especially hurtful. When family conflict surfaces, we are often deeply wounded. And don't always solve it in a way that pleases Christ.

Family conflict is especially hurtful. We know the world at large will hurt us, but expect our family to be a safe place. We hope our family loves, respects, values, treasures us. So when family conflict surfaces, we are often surprised and find ourselves deeply wounded.

But when we are hurt, we usually don’t respond well. Our first instinct is to get defensive. Our second is to wound back or withdraw. Neither response strikes at the heart of the conflict or reflects Christ.

And families often gather at already stressful times: weddings, funerals, holidays. Emotions are already running high. One careless word can ignite a firestorm if we don’t focus on solving our family conflict in a way that pleases Christ first.

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I can’t speak for you, but my selfishness is something I battle minute to minute. I really prefer to have things my way and struggle to relinquish the illusion of control. In the heat of the moment, selfish behaviors I believed long dead can still rise to the surface.

I see the world through only my flawed, human perspective. And when I let my hurt feelings take over, I think the worst of everyone and function from fear.

So handling conflict takes focusing on my new nature as a Christian (Romans 12:2).

I need to seek God’s perspective on the situation over my own.

So what is God’s perspective on family conflict?

First, He loves all the people in the conflict equally. God’s desire is for all to come to the life-giving-salvation Jesus provided on the cross. PERIOD.

Even if you’re the only believer in your family or the only one who seems to be walking by faith right now, God doesn’t love you more or better or think you should get your way because you’re a Christian.

Plus, how we handle the conflict might be more important than the actual resolution.

Is the issue at hand more important than anyone’s salvation?

My petty bickering with my husband really pales in comparison to thinking about his salvation being on the line with how I conduct myself.

Solving family conflict should start with being more concerned about our witness than getting our way.

While some conflicts are very serious and might require setting boundaries or seeking professional help, using the standard of the other person’s walk/salvation keeps us from elevating even the most difficult issues above our witness as a disciple of Christ.

When we focus on our witness over our way, God is glorified.

Is this family conflict more important than their salvation? When I focus on my witness over my way, God is glorified. Click To Tweet

If you have unsaved family, how you deal with hurts and conflict might be the best witness you ever have because how God asks us to live humbly and gently is so counter-cultural.

It takes a deep change in our hearts to give up taking offense, but I’ve never taken a hurt to Him and not received a verse or perspective shift that has allowed me to begin the process of forgiveness.

But we have to be willing to let go of our anger, which is easier said than done. Sometimes being angry feels like a right. Someone has mistreated us and we feel we deserve to be hurt, angry, indignant. We let that anger blossom in our chests like fire unfurling.

We let it roll around and grow into huge hurts, grudges, bitterness because we are so focused on ourselves. But that only hurts us and damages our relationships which doesn’t please Christ at all.

Secondly, God asks us to think less of ourselves and more highly of others.

Philippians 2:3 ESV Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

If we remove the rivalry and arrogance from our hearts and fill ourselves with humility, we’ll take less offense at the unkind words and attitudes of others, realizing that there are many dynamics to consider before responding.

To handle conflict, I have to be in right relationship with God first.

The more like Christ I become, the more I realize how far from Him I truly am. But seeing myself accurately is a gift from God. When I can see how desperately I need God’s grace, I have the humility of heart to offer grace and forgiveness to those around me.

I learned a lot about focusing on my own relationship with God in marriage (and all relationships) in the book I just finished using to lead a small group.

Before my emotions take over, I try to pray. Then I seek to understand the heart of the other person.

For example, my husband walked through the door, grumbling. His tone was sharp and he had a stompy attitude (You know, stomping around the house, slamming drawers while bitterly mumbling).

Deep breath – honey, you seem upset. Is something bothering you?

The wonderful bureaucracy that is the army had thrown a curveball into his day. It had nothing to do with me. While I didn’t appreciate his stompiness, I didn’t have to be hurt by his inability to cope with frustration. I could love him instead. I asked what he needed and let him have some space.

Even when the other person’s behavior is wrong, unkind, even abusive, we need to recognize their need for Christ. Letting their sin surprise us is where we go wrong.

I’ve learned to expect sinners to act like sinners. Even wise, obedient, mature Christians sin. Taking offenses to God in prayer before reacting from hurt is always the best answer.

I’ve found the closer I draw to God, the more sin grieves me for others than for how it affects me.

But I still struggle with entitlement: I think, deserve to be treated better!

But that isn’t really how Christ handled it. He expected to be rejected and abused, but responded rightly every time. Some instances, He exhibited righteous anger. While at others, He suffered quietly, allowing the silence to convict more loudly than words ever could.

Righteous, loving silence and the Holy Spirit can convict more loudly than any words. Don't react in surprise to the sin of others, but respond in peace. Click To Tweet

And he never told us to stand up for ourselves . . .

Matthew 16:24 ESV Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Ok, so that is super hard. Painfully so. But when I hold up my fist and demand my rights, I end up more angry and do more damage to my relationships.

Sometimes, I still struggle with getting sucked into this vicious cycle. I’ll start having a conversation, but if the other person responds poorly, I begin to feel unheard or disrespected. If I don’t step back to let God work in both of us those emotions run roughshod over reason. I’ll talk myself into a tizzy trying to fix something that needs me to be quiet.

Being quiet invites. We can gently ask questions and listen.

  • Your reaction surprised me. What hurt your feelings? I didn’t mean to hurt you. 
  • That sounds like it might be a painful topic for you. Want to talk about it?
  • That hurt my feelings. I’m sure you didn’t intend to, but I’m sensitive about that.
  • I’m not sure I understand. Can you tell me what you wanted to communicate?

That gentle heart assumes the best of the other person’s intentions and heart.

We hear the words people use, but don’t take the time to really understand what they were saying. People are messy – especially family members with whom we have so much history.

Proverbs 15:1 ESV A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

We make judgments and decisions based on twenty years of knowledge not just a single conversation. That’s not really fair, but it’s human nature. Assume the best and answer softly.

Try to see from their perspective.

Maybe your mother criticizes your husband because she worries about your happiness. She might be showing it in a terribly destructive way, but maybe that’s her reason for saying the things she does.

It’s so much easier to keep from getting angry when we recognize the humanity behind hurtful actions or comments. Maybe she misses the closeness you had before you were married or resents how far you have moved away from her.

Hurtful actions come from hurting people. When we love them, we can start to heal their hurts and our relationships.

The aunt or cousin who offers unsolicited parenting, marriage, housekeeping advice might be feeling unappreciated, unnoticed, or might simply be concerned about you.

The mother-in-law whose offers to help feel like backhanded attacks might be worried about how you are loving her child. She wants to see him happy.

Hurtful actions come from hurting people. When we embrace them, we can start to heal their hurts and our relationships. Click To Tweet

Don’t react, respond. Put yourself second and love the person whose comment or action hurt you. Why did they do that? What made them say that? How can you respond in a way that puts their needs and feelings above your own?

  • I know you worry about me. Thank you for your concern, but I prefer to talk about all the ways my husband cares for me instead of his mistakes. I sure make enough of my own. 
  • Oh, I do hate mopping. What have you found that works? 
  • Homeschooling isn’t the only option, and I your concerns are ones we’ve really thought and prayed over. I love that you love my kids and want what’s best for them! 
  • It’s really frustrating that this recipe didn’t turn out like Grandma’s. How do you make it? 
  • The way our marriage works is different, isn’t it? But your son is such a blessing to me. He is a good provider and father. 

In those hurtful moments, if we speak to their hurting places, we can better offer grace and work through the conflict.

What if you caused the conflict?

What if you thought light-heartedly teasing your cousin about being a terrible cook was no big deal, but touched a soft spot for struggling young wife. Or something you did years ago has become a bitter sticking point for a sibling.

Don’t let it go. Own up to it immediately. Apologize as if you had offended Christ. Because when we don’t love each other the way He commanded, we have.

John 13:35 ESV By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We won’t always get it all perfect. Expect to fail. Expect to need to apologize. We hope to get along with our families, but navigating personalities, emotions, and sensitive topics is a minefield.

As we demonstrate Christ’s love in our witness, people will see our faith.

My prayer for your family is the same as for mine, may the unity of Christ govern all we say and do because His love solves conflicts where our human nature would leave chaos.

Colossians 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

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The Best Christmas Books You Need in Your Home

We love reading together all year, but a few books are so touching and special, they've become part of our family Christmas traditions every year.

Do you love reading with your children? It is one of my favorite times to share with my daughter. I I especially love sitting around the tree with Christmas music softly playing as we read together as a family.

One low maintenance tradition we celebrate each Christmas is the 24 books of Christmas.

Wait – I though you said LOW MAINTENANCE?!?!

I know 24 books doesn’t SOUND low maintenance, but this really is pretty easy. I buy one fairly large gift bag and a package of tissue paper. While some people prefer to wrap a book for each day, I found that I just wasn’t the kind of person who will keep up with that.

While my daughter is busy, I take all her Christmas/Winter themed books from her room a few days before December 1. I am always amazed how she opens each book as if it were new and truly enjoys the magic of rediscovering her favorites even if she is a bit too old for some. I add a couple of new books each year, so she has a couple of real surprises.

After she goes to bed, each day I wrap one book in tissue paper, put it into the bag, and put the bag under the tree.

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She is getting too old for some of the books from the first year we did this, but can’t quite bear to part with them.

(to keep this affordable, the first year I did a dollar store toy or Christmas coloring book every other day and only purchased 12 Christmas/Snowy day books)

There are a couple of our Christmas books that are just for fun and light-hearted tales of reindeer and sweet little children (or mice!) and we enjoy the beautiful illustrations and seasonal stories.

But there are a few stories that have become as much a part of our Christmas traditions as decorating the tree and setting up the nativity.

The first book that has become treasured in our home is The Carpenter’s Gift. I give this to my daughter the day we watch the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center (which I DVR so I can pick a convenient night). The Carpenter’s Gift is a fictionalized story based on the first Rockefeller Center tree and focuses on the kind of sacrificial giving Christmas is really about.

I generally get teary-eyed at the ending.

I won’t ruin it, but the best gifts are the ones we give away.

Another favorite, is the Nutcracker. This version is perfect for younger readers. It is beautifully illustrated and keeps the story very simple. Reading it always builds excitement for our annual Nutcracker date.

This year, we weren’t able to afford tickets to the big area production, but one of our family friends was in her dance company’s production. I purchased tickets and put them in the bottom of the bag under this book. We read the book together first. Then she found the tickets, she was so exited! And thanks to reading this book, she was better able to follow the story of the ballet.

Price: $14.83
Was: $17.99

This year, my husband has shared more of our reading times than he usually does. His time in the army is winding down and his responsibilities have decreased allowing him more time at home.

He was able to share one of my favorite stories with us for the first time. It was emotional for us all. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree is set 100 years ago, during the Great War. It’s about a soldier who is called to serve before Christmas and isn’t sure he’ll make it home in time to provide the church with the tree he promised.

The little girl in the story is a sweet angel in the church pageant and has simple wishes for Christmas, a doll and her daddy. Her mother moves mountains to give her daughter the things she can, but can’t bring daddy home faster.

As a wife and mother who has missed her soldier too many times at Christmas, I struggle to get through the last few pages, but the story is beautiful and meaningful.

One of my favorite books as an adoptive parent is Holly & Ivy about an orphan girl and a Christmas doll who just want to find a family.

It’s hard to read without getting emotional as Ivy proudly declares she is going to see her grandmother (who does not exist) over the Christmas holiday from the orphanage. She randomly searches for a family, but when she finds Holly all the details seem to fall right into place.

The other points of view are Holly, a beautiful new Christmas doll who dreams of being loved by a little girl for Christmas, and a childless couple aching for a daughter.

All three of these characters is searching for the others. My heart aches along with them as I read this sweet and tender story to my daughter. We both hug each other a bit tighter knowing the twists and turns that God used to bring us together too.

Lastly, If He Had Not Come and God Gave Us Christmas are such a good books that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.

If He Had Not Come paints the picture of what our world might be like if Jesus had not chosen to come. It helps us realize how much of the goodness in our world is reflections of Christ in us.

And God Gave Us Christmas is part of one of my favorite series. Narrated by a polar bear telling her daughter about how God gave us Christmas, the story reminds that we have fun traditions like presents, but that the gift of Jesus is the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

We added one special book this year that I just know will become of our favorites. Each day is a character quality that will help us all be more Christ-like. It’s called a Character-Filled Christmas Book and we’re really enjoying it. It is all about the kind of heart and service we should strive for all year, but especially during the Christmas season.

Lastly, we read the Bible Christmas story, because it’s the greatest story ever told and God’s best gift for the world.

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The Importance of the Lost Art of Sacrificial Giving

Sacrificial giving is a lost art in our #blessed culture. Too often, we'll give from the overflow of our closets rather than of our hearts. We can give better.

Is sacrificial giving something that weighs on your heart like it does mine? I find myself torn because so many causes seem worthwhile, but giving sacrificially is so much more than just donating. It’s having the right heart in the process.

Sacrificial giving is a lost art in our culture built on abundance and wealth. Too often, we’ll give out of the overflow of our closets rather than the overflow of our hearts.

Or we pay all our bills and then see what’s left for the Lord and charity. Or give away items we’ve loved just a bit too long.

Sacrificial giving is a lost art. We give out of the overflow of our closets rather than the overflow of our hearts. Click To Tweet
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And I’m guilty! I’ve chosen to give away things that in retrospect would shame me if I were accepting them.

We really don’t do this maliciously. We think, this has some value left, someone with nothing would appreciate this. It’s better than throwing it away. 

And sometimes we’re just too tired and overly busy to take the time to decide what to do with things that might help someone, but might not. . . and thinking donating is better than trashing, we bag them up and haul them to the nearest charity.

But my scripture reading has really been challenging me to think more about my giving . . .

And about the person receiving my donation. Will they be blessed by my gift? Will my gift remind them of their worth and value, show them they are loved?

My old pair of sneakers doesn’t say any of those things, if I’m honest. While a pair of shoes I’ve barely worn might actually be useful and appreciated, the Bible’s themes on giving have changed my perspective on how our family practices tithing and giving.

I've changed how I think about donating. Will my gift tell the person receiving it that they are valuable and loved? Because it should. Click To Tweet

Give First

Set aside your tithes and charity gifts from your budget as a hard line item. Then work your budget from there.

Proverbs 3:9-10 ESV Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

He wants our best and first.

But God doesn’t need anything we have, so why does it matter what we give or how?

Because He wants us to give for us.

Because when we give rightly, our hearts acknowledge Him. We bask in humility knowing it is by grace alone we have things to give away, and that we rest in sure salvation with the promise of eternal life.

Those are the gifts we’ve been given, and when we give rightly, we reflect that John 3:16 kind of love. God’s love for us cost Him. When we give it should cost us, too.

Give Sacrificially

Giving doesn’t have to be hard and painful, but it should cost the giver something, even if just our time. Because our giving isn’t really for the orphans in China or to build a well, our giving is really a right response to God.

While not technically about how we are to give to the needy, one Bible story always comes to mind when I think about giving.

David was making atonement for his sin and building an altar to worship God. But when he found the place where God wanted him to build the altar, the owner of the threshing floor offered to give him the place, grain, animals he needed for the sacrifice as his service to the king.

In 2 Samuel 24:24 (cross referenced 1 Chronicles 21:24) But the king (David) said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

And neither do I want to offer God gifts that have cost me nothing.

This week our home has practiced sacrificial giving. We gave some things that we loved and some that cost us financially to help friends in need. But we also gave away something very precious that no amount of money can restore.

I will not offer gifts to my Lord that cost me nothing. This lesson from David echoes in my soul when I think about sacrificial giving. Click To Tweet

And I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I can write about it in a way that encompasses what this meant to me, but I’ll try.

Having a daughter was my dream. I imagined playing with her hair, learning to braid it, trying cute styles. And then I had this kid whose hair does-not-grow. She was nearly bald until she was almost two. By the time she was three, she needed her first real trim, but I was letting her hair grow after that so I could enjoy having those little girl moments with my daughter.

But that all changed in October 2015 when my best friend’s two-year-old son was diagnosed with a down syndrome related form of leukemia.

Very early into his treatment he lost his hair. My daughter, who was five at the time, grew very sad imagining all the little girls fighting cancer who would lose their hair as well. She promptly asked me if there was some way for her to give them hers. I was very moved. We began to research ways to donate hair.

We grew our hair for more than three years before this picture and our donation. We learned that sacrificial giving matters to God because what it teaches us.

While we understand there is a gigantic cost in creating these specialty hair pieces, we decided to donate only to companies that provide their wigs free of charge for the recipients. And my daughter was set on donating specifically to children, so we chose Wigs for Kids.

We both had already gone about a year between haircuts when we decided to donate, but our hair had to be 12 inches to donate, so we wanted to grow it a bit longer.  I thought it might take six months.

We grew our hair for another two years!

For myself, I was getting fed up with taking care of it!

I can’t tell you the number of times I accidentally trapped myself on the bed by laying on my hair!

Drying my hair took forever! And drying hers was starting to be a nightmare between dealing with tangles and a squirmy seven-year-old.

Drying my hair and hers was taking forever, but giving it away was harder than I thought it would be. I learned a lot about sacrificial giving!

But I loved my daughter’s long beautiful hair.

I was finally learning to French braid, and I had truly enjoyed watching her hair grow. Seeing the sunlight glowing in her auburn locks helped me better understand when the Bible describes a woman’s hair as a crown of glory.

When it came time to donate, I tried not to be maudlin, but the moment was very bittersweet. As slowly as her hair grows, she will never have these little girl locks again. She’ll be almost ten before it’s this long again.

Cutting twelve inches off her hair meant giving up on a silly, selfish, but very natural MOM desire of playing with her hair.

Sacrificial giving is a lost art in our #blessed culture. Too often, we'll give from the overflow of our closets rather than of our hearts. We can give better.

This fall, as I struggled with taking steps to finally cut our hair, my dear friend’s older son was diagnosed with brain cancer. He is fighting his own battle with radiation and preparing for chemo in the new year. I couldn’t know that we would be donating in honor of both her boys, but was glad we had waited.

We proudly filled out our donation forms, one for Will and the second for Jon.

Happily, a very talented photographer spent an afternoon capturing the memories for us which made it a little easier to finally schedule the appointments knowing we would always have pictures.

The day of our salon appointment, I was talking with my friend. She felt a little guilty that we were cutting her hair. But I stressed that the giving had to cost us something to be a sacrifice. Then, we were both tearing up.

The best part of our sacrificial giving is that we both ended up more beautiful - on the inside and out!
The best part of our sacrificial giving is that we both ended up more beautiful – on the inside and out!

And it only took a few snips to let go of what had taken years to grow, but the lesson it taught us both in giving was priceless.

While I learned to let go of her hair, another mother is struggling with the idea of letting go of her child. Precious bald heads are fighting battles I can only pray over and dare to imagine if it were mine.

In a few weeks, another mother may stroke my daughter’s hair on her daughter’s precious head, treasuring those sweet moments more tangibly than I ever could.

Our gift will allow some little girl to shine like the sun with her new, sun-drenched locks. That sweet young woman will feel beautiful and treasured.

Just like God SO loves us.

John 3: 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

And he gave us this sweet lesson just in time for Christmas.