Monday, January 02, 2012

Our New Kind of Christmas Take 1

You know what? I love Christmas. I just love it. I love the twinkling lights and the parties and the excitement and the excuse to eat sugar and hang out with a lot of my favorite people. I love getting adorable Christmas cards and putting up Christmas decorations. I love pondering Immanuel, God with us. I love thinking about the deep and wide and vast love of God for us to come to this earth to be our brother, friend, teacher and Savior.  (Seriously, you have to watch the Nativity Story next Christmas. We watched it Christmas Eve just before bed and loved it even more.) We attended Redeemer Church of Knoxville during Advent and really enjoyed using the church's Advent guide for weekly family devotions. Andy especially liked talking about how celebrating Christ's birth is supposed to get us excited about Him coming again.

 We hosted an Open House for our neighborhood for the second year and had a lovely time. We have a small neighborhood and a lot of people came by. We have some of the best neighbors that you could ever ask for and it was nice to catch up with them.

 This year we tried our hand at a new kind of Christmas where we gave gifts to Jesus rather than to each other. The week before Christmas Andy and I finalized our choices for our Christmas gift donations. We had a lot of fun looking through the catalogs and choosing gifts. We purchased a year of primary school education for an abuse survivor through IJM and donated a cleft palate surgery for a Chinese orphan through Show Hope among other things. Family members donated to Hope Resource Center in our honor as well as an incredible foster care ministry that is being started by family friends in Missouri. The greatest gift is that our sweet pseudo-sister Sarah was inspired by our donation of the cleft palate surgery and rallied her company (a home health provider) to raise money to donate to Show Hope as well. My heart swelled at that news because our counter cultural Christmas message spread to the hearts of others and their donations will change the lives of some fortunate children.

It was an interesting experiment to have a "gift free" Christmas. I say "gift free" because we still got some stocking stuffers and various gifts from friends and family. However, the focus of our gift giving was to buy for the least of these. I liked that a lot. Yet, I learned that others want to buy you gifts and it makes them really happy. My sister, for instance, told me that she was an adult and could buy me a present if she wanted to. She did and I loved it. I also learned that there is some excitement that goes along with gift anticipation that I don't want to completely remove from our household. I told Andy that it felt really different to not be looking forward to opening gifts. He asked if it felt like going to someone else's birthday party? Touche - it is Jesus' birthday afterall. We spent the Christmas Eve morning with our little nieces and nephews and they were ready to explode with excitement because Santa was coming THAT night. I want the focus our family Christmas to be the coming of Jesus and giving to others, but I also want to figure out how to incorporate the excitement of the season and receiving gifts. Chris and Stacey do a great job of balancing all of this with their little ones and I want to learn more from them. Keep your eyes peeled for how our traditions evolve.

We exchanged stockings with our Sto-Nack family the night before we all went our separate ways for Christmas weekend. Our choice for gift giving made my life a lot less stressful during December. I had fun looking for stocking stuffers and ornaments for Andy, Sam and Sarah, but didn't feel the pressure of having to find the perfect gift.
This is Sam's attempt to look excited for a picture because Sarah gave him a trip to the Grand Old Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The perfect treat for the guy who can sing every word to every country song ever written.

Sarah didn't follow our no gift guideline and bought us a Keurig machine. Andy has been wanting one so badly and was thrilled with her thoughtfulness. We love our new toy and we are very thankful for her thoughtfulness. 

Our annual trek to St. Louis was a lot of fun. We saw both families and lots of friends.However, we have a woeful lack of pictures. Alas, I resolve to be a better picture taker and blogger in 2012.


Kris said...

as always, Leslie, you have pleased our Heavenly Father and brought much joy to those less fortunate along with that wonderful husband of yours. Thank you for loving Jesus and spreading His love and lots of joy to those around you. From the day I met you at HRC, I knew you were a different special kind of woman...always smiling, always full of energy, and always ready to bring a fatigued mother a Starbucks. We love you and would like to spend more time getting to know you in 2012. Love, Kris and Sarah Jean

Sarah (and a few others) said...

What a great idea!!

chief said...

I am humbled by your spiritual level. It inspires me to be less selfish and more giving of myself to others. Add that to the list of goals for 2012.

cristine said...

Love, love, love, love, LOVE this! Oh man, it's encouraging to see other Christians centered on being others focused and trying to have a godly approach to the giving/receiving gifts dilemma, while at the same time trying to keep the focused centered on CHRIST!!! God has been doing a lot in our hearts this year in regards to that and you gave me an idea with the "Open House!" What a FABULOUS idea! We are loving reaching out to our neighbors and that may just be a great option for the Christmas season! Thanks Leslie!