December 10, 2008

We're not a bunch of Grinches . . .

Today is December 11th and already the holiday season is in full swing. Our tree is decorated, our stockings are hung, pine-scented candles burn, and even the weather seems to be cooperating. =) I've watched "White Christmas" twice and I'll be showing "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to my ESL class later this week.

No doubt about it. No denying it. Christmas is here.

And while I enjoy everything this season has to offer, I love it for one more reason. It is the season of giving.

I love to give. When I was ten (and making all my Christmas gifts by hand), I planned to give four gifts each to my mom, dad, grandparents, and best friend. I have the old secret Christmas notebook to prove it. Four gifts each, proving that a) I am an over-achiever, and b) I seriously love to give.

Think I outgrew that trait? Ha. Just ask Jason. He'll tell you I'm still an over-achiever. =)

And I still love giving. It's one of my spiritual gifts. And I have a spiritual-gifts-multiple-choice-test-paper-thingy from church proving that, as well. =) I'm bona fide.

I'm also addicted. Whether I'm mailing money to feed hungry children or making free glyphs for our guildies in WoW, I get this tingling-y happy feeling from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Every. Single. Time. Better than caffeine.

Good thing I married Jason, or else I'd be broke right about now. Jason does not have the gift of giving. That's not to say he doesn't enjoy gift-giving. He does. Just not to the same break-out-and-start-dancing-in-the-rain-while-singing-at-the-top-of-your-voice way that I do. Which is good. He brings balance; he also makes sure we still have money for things like food and rent and all that.

So with all the joy to the world flitting about our home this Christmas season, you might be surprised to hear that we aren't giving gifts this Christmas. Not to our family and not to each other.

Gasp! Shock! What the . . . !

Now before you write me off, or stop reading, or hurriedly cover your children's eyes for fear of what they might see, let me explain: this is all God's fault.

The Lord has been doing a work in my heart. A work that started last Christmas and has been quietly, unobtrusively going on for the past twelve months. Last Christmas, we had no money. Literally. We had enough, praise God, for the important needs, but no more. We told our family not expect presents. I think we scrapped enough money together to get our son one small thing. That was all.

And oh! how I struggled. How could you have Christmas without presents? Would the holiday even come if you had nothing under your tree? I felt poor. I felt humiliated. I certainly didn't feel very Christmas-y.

Then a strange thing happened. December 25th arrived. And like the Grinch observed: "It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. I puzzled three hours, till my puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch, er, I thought of something I hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," I thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Christmas 2007 wasn't ruined as I had feared. We had a wonderful day, full of family and good food and a little boy who thought the wrapping paper and bows were the best part of the gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. =) The day was still beautiful and special.

Fast forward twelve months. This year we have more money. We have money to buy presents, anyway. But when I sat down to start my gift list last month, something stopped me.

Maybe it was the realization that our pantry is full of food and our closets are full of clothes. Maybe it was the realization that all our needs are met every month, and many of our wants are, too.
Maybe it was the thought that the friends and family I planned to buy presents for were in the same boat: all needs and many wants already met.

Maybe it was God who brought all these things to my mind.

Suddenly, the idea of lavishing more stuff on those who really didn't need it felt shallow somehow. Why do we give gifts after all? Well, because it's tradition. And as I so foolishly believed last year, you can't have Christmas without presents. Right?

I'm not so sure about that anymore. So this year, we Neuhausers are trying something new. We are spending our Christmas money on items from this catalog and we've asked our family to do the same.

Now if I were a super-spiritual type person, I'd have three Bible verses listed here on how Jesus told us to help the poor and why giving is so godly at Christmas time. Heck, maybe I'd even use the Three Wise Men as an example, just for good show. But I'm not super-spiritual, and I'm NOT going to tell you that you should be doing what we're doing.

Simply put, our family is thankful to Jesus that He so faithfully and abundantly provides for us. We want our Christmas gifts to make a difference to the people who receive them. I'm not writing this so that you guys will think "Wow! How philanthropic those Neuhausers are! How sacrificial! How godly!" Absolutely not. And before you get any other weird ideas, yes, we are still planning one or two surprises for our son to find under the tree. We didn't go off the deep end completely. =) I just wanted to share with you what the Lord has shared with me; it's been a hard lesson, but you know what? My enjoyment of the holiday season hasn't diminished at all.

And with a Christmas party next week, my last night of teaching tonight, and Christmas Eve approaching, I still have plenty of opportunities to scratch my gift-giving itch. Granted, most of the giving will involve food, time, and energy, but that's ok with me. =)

Merry Christmas, ya'll!

1 comment:

LeAnna said...

I think that's a neat idea! It's been hard this year determining between the wants and needs of loved ones. Not everyone is keen on practicalities, but that's too bad :) It would be a neat tradition to set aside one gift for each family member and do something like this.