He’s changing Christmas this year…

image via pinterest

I love, love, love the holiday season. The family get-togethers, the presents, the traditions, the food. So many of my favorite memories have been tied to those things. But for some reason, Christmas is different for me this year.

I can’t put my finger on it, but I was walking around Target last weekend, and I was nearly in tears. There were so many beautiful items to make you and your home and life lovely, and all of the sudden, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that it all seemed so ridiculous and excessive. And Target has always been one of my very favorite stores.

But $5 paper rose ball ornaments, $55 white bedskirts, 24 different types of coffee makers, entire aisles of hair accessories? Suddenly my stomach was hurting. How many times have I participated in and enjoyed this indulgence? How many times have I bought into the lie that I “needed” all of this stuff? Too many to count.

I’m so stinking guilty, it makes me feel sick.

I don’t understand, God- what am I doing? Why do I buy hundreds {maybe thousands!} of dollars worth of junk every year for myself? What is wrong with me? How can you stand to see me do this? Oh, please forgive me! Keep me from doing it again, because I know I will if I’m left on my own.

Babies are starving, and I’m trying to figure out what presents to buy for my children who already have more than enough books, toys and clothes.  I’m buying my 8th cardigan sweater and people have no Bible in their own language.

What is wrong with this picture?

I’m walking down the aisles of Target, asking God how we are supposed to live here and do this Christmas thing when people are dying from no clean water, having never heard about Jesus. Where do I go from here? I’ve never even been on a mission trip, and somehow I’m feeling culture shock. God, what are you doing?

Either my eyes are more open this year, or He’s working on lots of people I know in the same way. One friend I have doesn’t do Christmas presents with adults- they only give three presents to their little ones. Another friend posted this on her Facebook wall:

definenecessity

My heart was broken reading how radical Christmas could be from Ann Voskamp.

And my husband came home two weeks ago and told me we should buy these chickens for Christmas presents this year.

God is changing our family’s view of Christmas and holidays. It’s kind of scary and strange to think about not enjoying our traditions like we always have. What will happen? How do we interact with people who don’t feel the same way?

I don’t really know just yet.

We enjoy giving gifts to our family and friends- so we will still do that this year. I’m trying not to just buy things, but to really put even more meaning and love behind the gifts that we give. To make more instead of buy more. To enjoy the company of others and show them love instead of just focusing on gifts or ourselves.

The Target trip really convicted me of my senseless spending- do I really need pretty disposable plates and matching napkins that say NOEL for a Christmas get-together? Shouldn’t we just eat off of plain ones this year? My standards for beauty and perfection need to change. Why do I care what my tree looks like when people across the world need food? Ugghh, how ugly has my heart been?! What else am I doing now that He will show me next week?

I feel like God’s really leading me to get rid of the excess stuff here, to decorate and make things using little money or what I already have on hand, and to be more conscious of what I buy for myself and the house.  We like to buy used- but it’s very easy to use the savings to buy more things instead of giving it away or using it to pay off our home debt.

I’m not sure if Rob and I will exchange gifts- really, we both have far more than we need. I have no idea what Christmas will look like this year- but it feels different already.

I’ve been praying since I turned 29 that God will radically change my heart and visibly change my life before I turn 30 next October.  I guess I really didn’t expect Him to start by changing my perspective of one of my very favorite things in this life- Christmas.

It makes sense though- He started radically changing the world with a birth at this time 2000 years ago. Should it really surprise me He started changing our hearts at Christmas too?

I am so in awe of the God who works in us- He’s opening the eyes of my husband in the same way He’s opening mine. I have no clue what He has in store for us next. We both have this weird desire to give up all these silly things we have- to let go of our traditions and comforts here. It doesn’t logically make sense- we have everything we’ve really ever wanted- and to give it all up seems crazy.

We don’t know what will happen in the future, but at least for the moment it seems very clear that He really wants us to give up our ideas and fantasies about Christmas and to open our homes to others and share our feasts and parties when we normally wouldn’t. To show love to our friends and family and strangers instead of loving an idea of what Christmas should look like.

I can’t wait to see what happens- will you guys pray that He continues to work on and in our hearts and that Christmas will be continue to be changed among His people?

He is such an amazing- amazing- God. How awesome that He can radically change us- that we have His Holy Spirit because He sent His Son to be born among men so many years ago. He is the only reason for this season. I am so excited to see what He will do with His people! Let’s pray that He will be our focus this Christmas. :)

40 comments

Cubarado said...

Stumbled upon your blog recently, and am Loving it!
Praise be to God! I am thankful for your honest & humble words. I too feel God has opened my eyes a bit more this season! Here's to the true reason of the season, Christ Jesus!!!

Chrissy Johnson said...

Thank you for this post: very encouraging and uplifting, challenging us to really think about the reason for the Christmas season!

Michelle Norris Wimp said...

wow, you had me in tears, this post speaks so directly to my heart's desire. but i do feel worried about how people would react and really i should only worry about the I AM's reaction! it can be sooooo soooo hard when even the people that are supposed to help you attain your goals doesn't want to help because its "not the norm" and "really arent you going to miss that $25 gadget that i will never use and eventually give away" instead of doing a collection to buy those chickens or help with a clean water well site. and when your heart starts doing those things that He wants us to do it seems like there is an ever consuming fire to do more. i'm going to pray fervently about this and how i can somehow mesh the two togather. thank you mandy!

Mollie said...

I love this. My husband Ronnie and I have been hit with the same thing. We have been challenged to live generously and to love the unlovely. Here is a post I did on that yesterday. http://yellowmedaisy.blogspot.com/2011/12/better-than-christmas.html I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas, whatever that may look like this year.

Blessings,
Mollie

Michelle Norris Wimp said...

He can and He will!He's moving things sister, He's moving peoples hearts. I feel it, all over the world, change is coming and I feel us moving back towards our biblical roots, i pray and hope that I can bring more people to His luv, His wisdom, His Kingdom.

Leah Ficek said...

Wow. I think God must be really stirring the hearts of His kids this year because I have had the same feeling for the last couple of months. I am always so gungho to get going on the holidays but this year I've really had to force it. Just this last week as I was wrapping gifts I just had the thoughts of 'What am I doing?' and 'This is just ridiculous' about all the excess we are living in and forcing just because it's Christmas time. My husband and I have decided to have a No Spend year for 2012. Mainly it was to really kickstart our getting out of debt but recently I am becoming more inspired to see just how much we can live for others and not ourselves. I highly recommend the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. If you think your heart is broken now just wait til you read that one! Merry Christmas to you and your family!! And thank you for this inspiring post. :)

Luann said...

To show love to our friends and family and strangers instead of loving an idea of what Christmas should look like.

:high five sister: make that a double high five !

EM said...

God never commanded anyone to celebrate Christmas. Early Christians have no record of celebrating Christmas. The origins are pagan. Why would a Christian striving to follow God keep these days? please spend some time studying this topic.

Luann said...

and the issue isn't specific to only this time of year, but EVERY DAY of the year. same with gifts, gifts are good! thing is, it's not a gift if it's given under obligation. a gift is freely given -and i firmly believe- inspired. and the more i grow in the Lord, the gifts that i give are to encourage growth in the Lord. a re personal and inspired of the Lord. AND gifting is OF our Lord!!! we have so many opportunities in giving. even when i give a gift and a person responds with that trite "oh you shouldn't have or didn't have to" i stop it right there, and clearly communicate to them that i KNOW i didn't have to, that i wanted to and that our Lord inspired me to do so.

beyond that, it is GOOD to question why we do things. my husbend and i have done that since our engagement. questioned certain wedding traditions and excluded some. same with holidays. if we can't explain why we are doing it, or if the why is weak sauce, then we don't do it. SO. MUCH. :hug:

Luann said...

i also meant to say that i am rejoicing with you girl! break our hearts Lord!!

Ginger said...

Thanks for this. Some decisions we've made well; others we've allowed ourselves to be "swept" into. I love the comment that reminds us that the giving isn't the problem; it's the heart attitude and the blessing in it that changes everything.

Rhonda Dunklin said...

Mandy, I feel the same way about the over abundance that we have! I would love to not buy anything for our family because we do have so much and give it all away to those with needs.... but how to break the cycle? My little ones can't even come up with anything they really want. If it were up to me we would definately do things differently! I do think the Lord is working on several hearts, I will be praying and by the way, I love your blog.

mandyBH said...

Oh, it's so hard too- God put us here in this place, at this time, with our children, in our city for a reason- so how do we live out every part of our lives with the things and the traditions and comforts that we know- we are so rich, and have so much- what do we keep and what do we give up? So many hard questions- where does He want us to be and when do we go? In the meantime, I feel like He has given me the desire and talents and resources to host others here in the home he's given us for Bible studies and parties and dinners, for fellowship and reaching out- but how much is too much? Should we be in the streets evangelizing, and do we relax and enjoy fellowship with other believers sometimes too? And how do we make it for Him? All of it? There's so much to learn- I hope he gives me wisdom or a lot of years to understand and gain it! :P So good to know you, friend! lots of love!! We need to get together!

mandyBH said...

totally agree with you- I think gifts are great, and the Lord is the giver of all good things and wants us to give as well! It's the excess of things here that we don't need that we are trying to avoid. We don't want our children {or ourselves} to expect things just because, but to learn to really receive them graciously and with thankfulness, and that they really learn to give from their hearts instead of because of expectation. Luann, we need to be neighbors!! When are you moving to Texas? Hugs! :D

mandyBH said...

I love that book!! It was very convicting and motivating at the same time. Ahhh, it so cool to know He is working! The older I get, or the more I have, the more it seems so pointless. And I love Christmas too! It's such a weird feeling. I'm thankful for technology- that we get to see the people who are in need, and help them so easily, and that we get to live together as a body of believers here in this place and share what He is doing!! Ah, God is so good!

mandyBH said...

You're so right Ginger! We do get swept in so very easily sometimes. I think it is about the heart. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

mandyBH said...

Oh, thank you for your sweet encouragement!

Luann said...

i hear ya on the excess and the expectation. been simplifying again and again. so freeing. this life is temporary and i NEED so little. the expectation aspect is one i am mindful of right now.

i smiled at your comment about moving because i was JUST thinking how i so want to get together with you and other like minded sisters and encourage each other in this and Romans 1:10-12!

it saddens me how many are missing out right now. with all this 'shoulding' and 'having to' business.

i enjoy and appreciate you so sister :)

mandyBH said...

Oh, how awesome!! I love that you got to see those sweet children in person! I am amazed at how people from other countries worship- it's so convicting and their faith is so inspiring- I love that you got to meet your sweet Hellen!

mandyBH said...

Oh, Michelle, thank you for sharing your heart! It's such a hard thing too- what is the balance between what we believing and showing love to others by participating in the traditions they care about deeply? When do we speak up and when do we keep silent? Oh, I'm praying for you too! I know God can give us the wisdom!!

So thankful for your sweet comments! Thank you for praying!

mandyBH said...

Oh, I feel the very same! it's so hard to buy more for them when they have so much! I want to show them love at the same time, and in my biggest dreams I hope for them to want to give their own gifts away for others. We are changing a few things here on Christmas this year so that they aren't slammed with presents- we are going to try a one present every hour or two, for the morning/afternoon. They normally get so many from the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and us, that they end up going from one to the next without really being thankful. So hopefully the one hour thing works to let them really enjoy their gift and be thankful for it and play with it without being so focused on what I can get next. It's such a weird place to be- what traditions do we keep and which do we let go of? And how do we do it in love and with consideration for others?

I will be praying He guides you guys in what your family should do! Thank you for reading along here and for your sweet prayers and encouragement! So thankful for you!

Luann said...

so, next time you are in the CO area (or even CA as i visit there) let me know and next time i am in TX i'll let you know!

Mandyslovelylife said...

this was an incredibly beautiful post Mandy. Thank you!

mandyBH said...

most definitely! :D

mandyBH said...

I don't believe God commanded us to celebrate Christmas, and I do hope I haven't given that impression. Whether it's origin came from evil people or not, I think celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and friends is a very good thing and that feasts and celebrations are not wrong in themselves. I don't believe a particular day, celebration, or holiday has any power over us as believers, but if it does cause another believer to stumble that we should consider stopping celebrating it for that reason. I'm mostly seeing my own sin in being focused on things other than Jesus, and God has brought that to light through this Christmas holiday, which I am very thankful for, personally. :)

Aimee Lane said...

Mandy, that is all so true! You write beautifully! And I'm loving your book ornament! Like totally need to have my B's get busy tomorrow making me some!

XO, Aimee from ItsOverflowing.com

Lee Anne said...

Christmas IS about gifts! The gift of salvation. The gift of love. The gift of faith. The gift of giving. It's all about gifts! ^__^

Visit me:
LeeAnne, Style N Season
http://stylenseason.blogspot.om

Desiree Robinson said...

This is so good! What's funny is that my husband and I are having a very similar reality check this year! We don't have kids yet so we've been figuring out what we're going to do NOW, to instill into our own lives so that when we have kids, its a natural tradition to give, give, and give some more! I think Gods convicting us all do so much better at taking care of each other, and its great that he's teaching us that! But this is great! Thanks for your vulnerability! Happy Holidays!

Mary said...

This is so spot on, Mandy.
God is indeed working through you to bless and encourage others.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart in such a transparent way.
Changing our traditions may be uncomfortable, but what God reveals to us through our surrender to Him is a gift beyond compare.
xoxo

:)

Savanna Bennett said...

I love this post. It is so nice to know that other people are sick of a commercialized holiday.

Luann said...

ginger,
i got your encouraging, neat comment and wanted to respond but can't find a email option via your blog ??

Shull Susan said...

This is my first visit to your blog, but it won't be my last. Your post brought tears to my eyes and I see God working in my heart and the hearts of my friends as well. Thank you so much for expressing it so well. I see so many people around me who are poor in resources, but they are also poor in spirit. I see people who have "everything" but don't have the only think that really matters. I pray that we who have Christ will freely share the good news with EVERYONE! God Bless you and your family!

Rachel Fisher said...

This is something that I have been feeling similarly about.
Here is what my family does:
My parents give myself and my 3 siblings one present each; my family does Secret Santa (about $10 per person); all of us cousins stop receiving gifts from aunties and uncles at the age of 14 (grandparents give one gift each); my other grandparents do splurge more on us.
I personally bake some small goods for relatives, and purchase "gifts" from Gospel For Asia, and give the cards to just a few close friends, tellling them that instead of giving them a gift, I am providing __ for a family in Asia.
I just loved your post. I've been searching my heart a lot about how to celebrate Christmas. I don't want the focus to be on me, or even on my family. I want to look outward - because when God sent Jesus, He DEFINITELY looked outward!!
I am so happy that the Lord is working in your heart. Though you may get confused and the changes may be hard, and often it will seem that no one "gets" it - keep pushing on. When things are born from HIS heart, it will be worth it in the end!

Shelley said...

I posted that same picture on my facebook recently..I believe God is dealing with many individuals about some of the same things you have shared in this post. I have been weeding through my STUFF all this past year and have gotten rid of so much....I much older than you,a grandmother. I have never had much in the way of material stuff...but,still I have so much more than others in this world have....I chose to decorate less this year,make my gifts although I didn't allow myself enough time to accomplish that task so,now I am buying a few practical gifts to make up for the ones I couldn't finish. Anyway,I enjoyed this post and believe God is showing you some much needed wisdom...some that all of our society could benefit from. Blessings to you this Christmas

Carolyn said...

I have sooo been feeling the same exact way you described above. You put it all into perfect words. We have three girls, ages 3 and under, and God has really been convicting me on how to raise them in a biblical way. I was NOT raised that way, so it's been a struggle. But i have definitely felt his nudges and convictions on things, and celebrating the REAL meaning of Christmas was a HUGE conviction I have felt this season. It is hard to think of making such a drastic change and I do worry about my side of the family and how they will view us, but I cannot ignore Him. I am so excited to read more of your blog, and be encouraged. Thank you so much for being real!

www.apurposedrivenhome.com

thekindlecrew said...

Mandy, you have no idea how your post expressed my heart exactly. I've been broken over these same things since Thanksgiving. We didn't do anything meaningful to honor Christ over the Thanksgiving week...we didn't share his love with anyone that doesn't know it...I felt empty and confused....I've been that way for weeks now and the past two weeks I've been trying to put into words what I'm feeling and thinking but I haven't been able to do so....you have. My heart doesn't feel like what I think Christmas should feel like and I know it's because we've made Christmas into what we think it should be instead of what Christ wants our days to be lived out as truth.....I too have never even been on a mission trip but I desire to do so. I too do not know what Christmas looks like to honor God but I desire to let it happen. I too have been convicted over our greedy gimmies....about how our lives go day in day out and we have offered God's kingdom so very little. Even now, my children are playing the wii....my counter tops are filled with yummy goodies, my christmas decor is pleasant and I have enough dirty laundry to clothe the African nation this winter...please, Lord...use my life to make a difference.....yes, in my home with my little ones but broaden my reach and teach me to walk in obedience...open my eyes to life beyond my circle and open doors to make a way. Thank you, Mandy for this post! Jennifer

Amy Bryan said...

I am sooooo totally with you on ALL of this post! I feel it too, and will be praying for ALL of us to listen to the words He speaks to our hearts....how we can be led to do for others instead of ourselves. Thank you for your tender, loving heart!

Lizy said...

I've just stumbled upon your sweet blog. What a moving post! God has been working on my heart this year too and I've been making some small changes. He truly is the reason for the season. Merry Christmas from New Zealand xx

Ashley Werner said...

Such a wonderfully encouraging post Mandy:). This same subject has been tugging on my heart a lot lately. Thank you for mentioning the chickens from http://www.gfa.org/gift/ I think that is a great way to help others in real need. I sometimes get down about how we don't have much money especially around this time when everyone is buying tons of gifts and in the 5 years my husband and i have been married we have only been able to afford to buy each other gifts once but you know what my husband has a job, we own our home and have made it lovely through thrift store finds and are able to put food on the table for us and our daughter. There are many people out there who can't say the same. Any time i think we may be cutting it to close and won't have money for all our bills and such, something sells in my little etsy shop and we are able to make it through. God is always faithful. Thank you so much for being such an encouragement.

Amber said...

Great post, each year I have been feeling more and more like this to where Christmas makes me feel miserable. I know Christ's birth shouldn't make me feel miserable but the way it is celebrated does. In fact we stayed home as a family and had dinner together instead of going all over God's green earth and being bombarded with gifts. Although my In laws and mom came the very next day to give gifts LOL We did get gifts for our parents, my sister and our nephews but that was all this year. The kids got some nice things we found at Goodwill (they were new or in excellent condition) I am not sure what we will be doing next year but God has put a change on my heart as well for the season. It never really set well with how our families seem to celebrate it but that is a whole other story. Anyway thanks for the post and know that I am feeling the same way.