Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I am discovering this Christmas is very different from past ones due to our financial downsizing. I can remember spending hours and weeks shopping for the family and then just as long wrapping. Then there were weeks of baking and delivering goodies to friends and loved ones. By the time Christmas came (and even up to the night before) I was still running back to the stores thinking I didn't have enough and looking for just 'one more gift'. I crawled out of bed on Christmas morning feeling beyond exhaustion. It was fun in a crazy, insane kind of way. But, living on less money has brought it's own kind of peace in the midst of the chaotic storm of December that I'm frankly enjoying.

I can remember reading excerpts from Laine's Letters on her gift giving budget of $3.00 per person and wondering how anyone could buy a decent gift for that amount. (She made a specific effort to point out that she prayed for the Lord to give her 'eyes to see' before she entered a store). The thought stuck with me and now, more than 8 plus years since I first read her letters, I am seeing that it's very possible to give less and still bless the person you are gifting. I love to look back over the years and see how the Lord has brought different people into my life that have radically impacted my way of thinking and prepared me for the life that He has given me the past few years.

This year I cut my gift giving budget down to a third of what we normally spend. Practically speaking that means I targeted to spend $20.00 on each grandchild. The adults have exchanged names this year with a $20.00 budget per gift. I have 7 grandchildren that I buy gifts for. I also have 3 birthdays in December. I asked their parents to give me suggestions which was very helpful and then I watched the sales. I was able to find a nice gift for each child... one that they had hoped for.

A few of the BEST gifts I received for Christmas last year...
performing for Grammy!

Staying out of the stores this time of year has been essential to sticking with my budget. I've had one point this month (thankfully it was while I was at home) that I panicked feeling that I had not given enough. If I had been in the stores regularly or reading the sale ads I'm sure I would have given into the pressure to buy more. When I really took time to look at the panic I realized it was a fear that my grandchildren would not love me as much because I was unable to buy them more. Once I evaluated the fear I could see it was ridiculous.. I am not loved because of what I can or cannot give at Christmas. If I am.. then we have a serious problem.

As much as I love to give gifts I can see the downsizing as a very good thing (if received in a godly manner) to not be bombarded with every material thing the heart desires. Do you remember that episode of Little House on the Prairie where the children were snowed in and it looked like they were not going to receive any gifts for Christmas? Remember Mr. Edwards? He came at the very last minute and brought oranges I believe and maybe a few small trinkets. The children (and Mrs. Ingall) were overwhelmed with gratefulness. Can you imagine the response from a child in this generation if they were given just an orange as a gift? Their expectations have been raised by the abundance of a prosperous time in the history of our nation. As our economy (and the nations) downsizes I'm hoping so will their expectations.

There will not be the crazy wild tearing of a gazillion packages with paper flying everywhere this year. I'll kind of miss that in one way. I do love to give and see the excitement on a child's face when they see a mountain of presents. But, my heart is content knowing that God has sovereignly assigned the amount of money He has given and it is all working into His plan for my good and therefore the good of my children and grandchildren and all involved. That contentment brings far greater pleasure than a mountain of gifts ever could.

I continue to learn in God's school that age old lesson that Paul spoke about several thousand years ago ...

But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.

For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 1 Tim 6:6-9 NASB

Has your family cut back on your budget for Christmas this year? How has it effected you personally? What did you do to cut back?