That being said...you probably won't be getting one from us this year.
So, I decided we weren't going to do it. We weren't going to be trapped, in debt, and stressed this year. We talked to our family members about it and explained our situation briefly and also offered them the opportunity to not have to buy presents for us either.I didn't want to be a scrooge...don't get me wrong. I just recognized that everyone we love has a lot of stuff...There wasn't anyone in our family who needs another sweater or a book to go on their shelves or really anything. We certainly didn't NEED anything. As I sit at my laptop in our beautiful home which God has provided, I am unbelievably blessed.
But not everyone is as blessed. There are people in Africa and in Asia and in the inner city of Greenville, SC and all over who need things. They need education and clothing and food and hope. So we decided to take Brandon's bonus, which last year went to paying off a portion our credit card Christmas spending, and investing it in a life...
Meet Brian Otieno. This picture was taken in March 2004 when I was in Mbita, Kenya on a mission trip. I fell in love with this little guy (who has grown up a bit since then, I'm sure) and took the opportunity to support him through Christ's Gift Academy, a Christian school that my old church, Seacoast Church, supports in a holistic manner. This year, our money went to make sure that he is going to have an education, food, clothing, and medical care in 2008.
We also spent money on items to throw 2 parties so we could spend quality time with friends during this season. I had a diva drop-in for my girlfriends in the area, and my sister-in-law came down to help out...It was AWESOME! Later, we were able to open our home and bless some friends who are expecting their second son by throwing a baby shower for them and hosting the get-together well into the night.
Finally, I was able to use my creativity in making one-of-a-kind gifts for our closest family members. I won't get into it yet because it's a surprise, but I wanted to let them know that we love them and are willing to put time, thought, creativity and love into their gifts this year.
I have had more time, energy and excitement about spending time with those I love this year than last.
I also was given another idea from my cousin, Tracy, concerning Christmas presents. Tracy and her husband, Chris, are pretty amazing business people. To say they are well off may be an understatment. They have 3 precious children who could probably have anything they wanted if money was the only concern. I was talking to Tracy yesterday, asking her what the kids were asking for for Christmas. She said her youngest (who is maybe 5 or 6) said he didn't want anything.
What 5 year old doesn't want anything? I've never seen it with my eyes, especially at Christmastime.
She said that each of the kids usually get about 2-3 small presents and then the rest of the things under the tree are IOU's...wrapped up like gifts. They are for activites with the family, like a bike ride or an ice cream cone or special alone time with Mom and Dad.
I thought it was brilliant. It values family, quality time spent together, and memories over materialistic things that end up at the bottom of the toy box. I think I might steal that idea from her when Ella and her future siblings are old enough to understand what society says Christmas should be.
I know this is a LONG post. If you made it this far, my hat goes off to you. I appreciate you trudging through my thoughts, and I would love to hear your thoughts as well (please comment, no matter whether you agree or disagree with me). I also want to thank my family and friends who usually find a store-bought gift under the tree from us and won't this year. Thanks for your support and your understanding.
Brandon, Ella, and I want to wish everyone a BERRY Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. May the reality of our Savior's grace, love and hope overwhelm you this season.