Friday, November 27, 2009

It's The Most Wonderful (expensive & stressful) Time of The Year

Oh how I love this time of year; family & friends whom one hasn't seen since this time last year come together for the annual parties and get togethers. It's always so nice to see everyone but with all this comes the added "fuss and stress" of things. Between school parties (if they allow the kids to celebrate nowdays; you know everything has to be so politically correct. They now have 'winter parties' instead of CHRISTmas parties. It's now Winter break instead of CHRISTmas break.) There's the Church parties, company parties, neighborhood parties...everywhere you look there seems to be a party.

There's the holiday baking & cooking to be done. Deep cleaning & decorating of the house to do (we certainly can't have holiday guests visit us have our home less than holiday perfect now can we?) Of course in order to do our holiday cooking we need groceries, so there's the "extra" grocery shopping trip and spending to do. All the while we have our usual daily life to tend to. There's so much to do and fit in...where on earth are we going to find the time for it all!

This is enough in itself, but wait...the newspaper ads and the email solicitation have just greeted us with the reminder that we only have 29 days left until CHRISTmas so we must get busy with our gift buying. (I will admit, I am a "how many days until CHRISTmas" counter myself but not for the same reason. I just love to know how long I have to bask in this glorious season.) Not only do we have our normal living expenses to deal with, but now we have to look at how were going to fit into our budget (if it hasn't been budgeted for already) the extra money for buying gifts. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy being able to bless someone with a little something just to let them know I care and was thinking of them; but really...let's think about this... should we have to go into debt to do it? I don't think so.

Let me share a personal story here if I may...I grew up not really getting alot of "stuff" through out the year as a child. Yes, I had the necessities and a few extras here and there but when CHRISTmas came around, the tree was loaded and I mean loaded with all kinds of presents for my sister and I. Yes, I was that child who woke up at 2am CHRISTmas morning just ready to open all my presents. I was also the same child who my Mother would sternly tell to "get back in that's too early to open gifts." Once time came that we were allowed to start opening things...wrapping paper and bows went flying everywhere! Oh the thrill of that new toy or that new doll. One of my favorite gifts I remember getting, when I was 14 years old, was a powder blue colored electric clothes iron. Yes, I said it was one of my favorite gifts. (Back then I loved to iron all my clothes. It had to be crisp and neat...down to my sheets. Well, I out grew that in my early 20's. *grin*) You know what I also remember about all the things we got back then? I remember playing with my new stuff for about a month and then it was slowly forgotten about. (If you have children you can relate to this well.) I do remember as I got older and could understand more about finances, that those gifts might have gone to the wayside but the debt of it didn't. We got gifts on December 25th, but our Mother kept getting gifts in the mail from Master Card, Visa, Sears, etc. right on time each month. They never seemed to stop coming. Next CHRISTmas would be here and the same bills/gifts would keep on coming, but they had not only last years forgotten gifts they now included the current years gifts as well as other items through out the year. I don't know about you but I don't like that kind of monthly gift.

As I grew older and got out on my own, I fell prey to the same thing...over indulgent CHRISTmases that I never got paid off before the next CHRISTmas came. It was a vicious cycle...trying to "show" everyone how much I cared for them by buying things and going into debt to do it, because after all...what's CHRISTmas without all the gift giving!?!

Now I know I am not the only one who has fallen into this "holiday trap," but the LORD finally opened my eyes one day. CHRISTmas is about giving, but not in the manner we are accustomed to, it's about GOD freely giving us HIS One and Only Son JESUS. Although the price of this precious gift cost far more than anything we could 'buy,' GOD didn't go into debt to show us how much HE loves us and cares for us. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

When I got the real revelation of what CHRISTmas was truly about, boy did it change my heart and my eyes about things. Yes, I still wanted to give something special to those I cared about, but instead of going into debt for it, I began to get ideas of how I could really bless the person. For example, GOD has given me a gift of baking and canning. So if I know an Uncle loves fig preserves, then when figs are in season I will make it a point to can up several jars for him. When December comes, I can easily whip up a loaf of homemade bread or two and wrap it nicely for him to give as a gift along with his preserves. (He just loves this more than anything & I so enjoy doing it for him.) Now I give as GOD has blessed & equipped me, not by what the world says I need to spend to make the person feel treasured.

Hubby & I have downsized our gift buying, party attending (yes, we still attend some but our social calendar doesn't over ride our family calendar) and such over the years and we have been able to enjoy this time of year so much better than ever before. Our focus is able to stay on the true meaning of Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas....our Savior and LORD, JESUS ~ and the many blessings HE has bestowed upon us daily. Yes, we are able to have more fun because we know come January, we don't have the credit card "gift(s)" being sent to us. We can also enjoy going to the mall in December (if WE want too, not because we have to) and just stroll around taking in the decorations and sights. One of my personal favorites is watching all the people hurry to buy-buy-buy, and know that I am no longer that person. I do cringe though when I walk by a checkout register and see more plastic being handed over for payments instead of cash. Been there done that...not going to do it again.

So how do you handle it when your friends (who can't really afford to buy things/gifts but charge it anyway and complain later that they are always broke) don't receive lovingly the quilt you made for them, or the basket of homemade and home canned pantry items that you prepared, or the gift of cleaning their house for them (yes, there have been times when a friend has commented that they just never have time to clean their house - so you bless them with the surprise of a clean home when they get in from work or shopping at the department stores. Cleaning their house was a gift you gladly did to help them.) Even after you all discussed it and said "this year let's not buy anything for each other; let's save our money and just enjoy fellowshipping with everyone." Or you all agree to "do" something instead of "buy" for each other and they go right on out there and buy-buy-buy anyway. I used to feel bad but then I stopped. I can not let material things and situations dictate to me how I am to feel. If I make them a throw that they love and use, but didn't come from a store so that causes disappointment to them, then that's their own issue to deal with. I gave from my time, talent and heart. Not that they didn't give from their time (they spent time going to shop for it) or heart or talent (the talent of spending *grin*) mind you. It just shouldn't be about the gifts and money anyway. So, I have learned that you can't make everyone happy so do what you can and how the LORD leads you to do it and be happy.

As we go forth into the next several weeks, let's not get wrapped up in the things of the world but instead let's enjoy the peace of the season. Peace that comes from the LORD. Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

1 comment:

Carrie of Farming On Faith said...

I so agree with you. I just sat down a minute to catch up with your blog. I leave tomorrow morning. Please keep my Boston in your prayers.
I am having a hard time leaving My Brian~ but excited to meet Boston!