~ Christmas Traditions ~

I hope you are enjoying a lovely Saturday in your little neck of the woods. I am feeling kind of reflective this afternoon, and since I have nothing else that needs doing five days before Christmas, I thought I would peck out a few thoughts on this ol’ keyboard.

Christmas means something different to each human being. In fact, one’s definition of Christmas can change with time. I know mine has. I can still remember the magic of childhood Christmases when I would wake up to find my before-empty stocking filled with goodies and the realization that Santa had been to my house! (Yes, I remember believing in Santa. I still speak to my parents, even though I was deliberately lied to. LOL)

As I got older, I looked forward to baking cookies, taking part in Christmas musical productions, and wrapping gifts. Some of my best memories involve listening to “A Partridge Family Christmas” on my record player in my room over and over again, singing into the proverbial hair brush at times. We didn’t have karaoke, unfortunately.

I remember listening to another Christmas album that had something to do with Snoopy and the Red Baron suspending their eternal feud for Christmas. Does anybody remember that? It was kind of popular at the time. Oh yeah, and then there was my mom’s Glen Campbell Christmas album. The memories are flooding back now in time to “pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue-ooooo. ” And what could compare to a candlelight Christmas Eve service?

As I think about what I was doing while listening to Christmas music those many years ago, what I remember doing is just hanging around the house on our Christmas vacation from school. (No one homeschooled 25 years ago up North.) My dad would be at work, and mom would be doing regular mom stuff. We did not have much money, but it really didn’t matter. Christmas was not about what I would be “getting.”

To me, Christmas was about Jesus coming to earth, and it was about living in the moment. I didn’t stress over Christmas years ago. The freedom from school work and the regular routine was a gift in itself. The food and fellowship at special get-togethers was pretty nice as well.

Then I got married and had a couple of children. Somehow Christmas started to become more and more intense. I took upon myself this burden to make Christmas “perfect” for my children, which meant lots of gifts, decorations, a huge tree, and lots of useless stuff that only stole from the joy of the season.

After having a few more children, Tim and I became convicted about the commerciality of Christmas in our home, and for a time we eschewed almost all Christmas influences altogether. This was a reaction to just too much pressure for too many years. For me as a mom, it was incredibly freeing! We were home-churching at the time, so it was less complex to withdraw from the tree-thing, the endless buying of gifts, and all the hoopla. It was actually quite peaceful on December 25th as we would read the story of Jesus’ birth together and have a special dinner.

To my knowledge the kids did not feel left out or slighted because we did not do a big Christmas thing. I think it was very, very good for them to have the cycle of commercialism broken. Once we just said no to holiday hell, we were able to enjoy the simple things once again.

Now we are slowly adding things back in as we feel led. I have actually been working full time outside of the home for the past four Christmases, so this is my first one home in quite a while. And I am loving it! Yesterday as the girls and I were making sand tarts together with me rolling and cutting out shapes, and them taking turns decorating large sheets of cookies, Olivia said to me, “Mom, remember last year when you were working? You were all stressed out, and we didn’t do much together.”

Yes, I *do* remember, and I am so sorry that she and the others have this memory. I can not do anything about the past, but I can do something about the now. I am going to continue doing what we have been doing, which is taking one day at a time, using what energy the Lord has given for that day as well as the resources He has provided, and work with those things without lamenting that we don’t have more money to work with, or more time to do this or that.

making-cookies

~ Cookie baking fun ~

ad-with-cookies

~ AD’s prize cookies ~

lilie-pointing

~ Lilie doesn’t want credit for making “THE cookie” ~

taylors-cookie

~Close up of Taylor’s creation. Yeah, we thought so, too. ~

lydia-decorating1

~ Lydia nicely decorates hers ~

So this afternoon I am sitting in the freshly-cleaned family room that is alight with three strands of pretty lights, some holly I cut from our trees, a couple of candles for atmosphere, and my children coming in and out of the room as they enjoy their day. I will put on a favorite Christmas album (with Amy Grant’s “Tender Tennessee Christmas”), and put the homemade bread in the oven to bake for supper.

Christmas is once again simple, but there is a real joy in that simplicity. In a couple of days we will do our Christmas shopping, which is very small: we all draw a name on Thanksgiving, and we purchase gifts within a set amount of money for the person we chose. (This Thanksgiving we had to pick names five times because each time someone would pull their own name, and we would have to start over. Is it any wonder no one can remember who they have this year? LOL)

On Christmas morning it will take us quite some time to watch each person oooh and aaaah over the gift that one of their siblings or parents chose just for them. It is more fun for them to watch their “person” open what they carefully purchased for him/her than even the shopping was.

This year Grandma and Grandpa Calderwood will be joining us for a few days, which will add a layer of joy to the week. As we are sitting around the family room in the evenings with the grandparents here, with Nick and Lauren home from college, and with the rest of our healthy family, I know I will have tears in my eyes which will be just a reflection of the peace and joy in my heart this year.

Christmas has come full circle for me. It is about me doing mom things, and the children enjoying time off from school and the daily routine. It is about Christmas music playing in the background, accompanying us as we enjoy just being.

Now I am not stressed about the holiday season because I know without a doubt the best thing I can do for my family is to not stress. The best way to not stress is to be at home and enjoy doing some special things for my family, like baking cookies, changing the scenery with greenery indoors, and just enjoying the moment with them.

“Little is much when God is in it,” says the signboard of a local church here in town. For many people there will be “less under the tree this  year,” but I see that as a blessing. It isn’t the stuff that makes Christmas. This year there have been times when we haven’t known how the next day’s needs would would be met until that day arrived. Raising a larger-than-average family on normal-family budget is an ongoing challenge and daily cause for faith, but that is not a bad thing.

One thing has always been true: Jesus has taken care of us. Without fail. I am learning not to stress but to relax in the arms of my Creator who has had my days planned out since before the foundation of the world. He knows all of your tomorrows as well as your yesterdays.

The most wondrous gift to humankind was Jesus, and He was born into poverty. His parents had very little to offer him at the time of His birth, yet the angels from heaven accompanied the Gift, and there was a heavenly sign given as well — the Star of Bethlehem. The heavens themselves declared the Gift’s arrival. Great men traveled to present their gifts to him, but He himself had little of His own throughout His 33 years on earth. Yet all of His needs were met by His Father.

This is the same Father who created you and who wants you to lean on, trust in, and rely on Him. Accepting the gift of Jesus means realizing that you can not come unto the Father any other way but through Him. His arrival into the world was heralded just as His Second Coming will be as well. He is waiting to see you face to face at a time only the Father knows.

But for now, He wants you to come to Him,  lay down those Christmas burdens, and rest a while. Trust Him to be your Savior, and prove that He is your King by leaning on, trusting in, and relying on Him.

I wish you a very peaceful holiday season with those who love you. If you feel as though you are just going through the motions and are stressed as I have been for so many Christmases, think about what would make this season more enjoyable for you and plan for next year so you don’t get caught in the same trap in 2009.

As for this year, simply SLOW DOWN: relax more, listen more, give attention more, and love more. May Christmas have little to do with things, and everything to do with a thankful, humble heart.

Merry Christmas!

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2 Responses to ~ Christmas Traditions ~

  1. Gayle says:

    Joanne, I am just reading this the first week of January, but I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing your life experiences with us. It seems so simple…but most of us don’t get it.

    It always “hits me” when I think in terms of what I am teaching my children and they in turn will teach theirs. It is so cool when the older kids express their appreciation for the way we tried to lead by our example. I pray everyday that I can be that example. I imagine you are hearing those things as well. For me, it started when they went away to college and realized what others had experienced.

    Thanks again for your words of wisdom. There is nothing so wonderful as the Peace that comes from knowing Christ the King!

  2. hi-d says:

    Thanks for your wonderful wisdom Joanne. You hit the nail on the head every time! I am glad that you got to be home with your darling kids this Christmas. Simplicity is GOOD!
    :0)
    Your sister in Christ,
    hi-d

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