Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas UNshopping!

Yippie!!! We have done something that will impact us mildly this Christmas and impact certain people on our planet MAJORLY over the next twenty years. That's a pretty lofty thing to claim, so let me unpack it for you.

Brian and I did all of our Christmas shopping for our family back in October. We were feeling mighty fine about that!! DONE! Smiling over a cups of hot coffee at Panera we felt so happy that we had made all our Christmas purchases in one morning and stuck fairly close to something I can loosely refer to as a "budget." And the kicker? The kids will LOVE this big gift and all the trimmings--for sure!

Enter a few chapters from The Hole in Our Gospel sprinkled in with a few podcasts by Erwin MacManus and another chapter or two from a book called Radical. The undoing of our lives had long ago begun, but it was about to unravel a bit more.

I would like to say that we decided to go Christmas unshopping because God had just moved our hearts and we obeyed, but that wouldn't be the whole story, and I feel pretty certain it should be told accurately. We became painfully aware that we really didn't have money for these gifts that we so jubilantly tucked away in their hiding place. Several times over the next weeks Brian suggested we simply take the whole kit and kaboodle back. I wasn't married to the idea of giving it to the kids, but certainly did NOT feel like starting all over again! What would we give the kids in its place??? Brian boldly suggested nothing in it's place. "WHAT!?! We can't do that to our kids!! They wait all year for Christmas!" He suggested maybe we take Christmas morning and serve someplace so we are busy rather than feeling the loss of presents. A good idea that I really liked. We prayed and God indeed did provide the $ to cover the gifts. We had them paid off by the time the credit card bill came due. Hooray! Keep the gifts! But the idea of serving on Christmas morning really appealed to me.

Well, because of this discussion, we realized that perhaps we could go and serve somewhere on Christmas morning and then give our children these gifts in the afternoon (God had provided, after all!) We began to look for places to serve. It wasn't looking good. The kids have to be 14 to serve in a soup kitchen, men are not allowed in the battered women's shelter, the elderly in the nursing home do not wake up early on Christmas (or any) morning and wouldn't be available for a Shaw production until the afternoon. Something wasn't quite right.

I am so blessed to know some really amazing sisters in Christ, one of whom has gone before me in international adoption and is blazing trails left and right. She had just blogged about her own family giving up their Christmas tree and giving the money to purchase a flock of ducks for a needy African family. You can read her inspirational blog post here. That in the back of my mind, I went to pick up my children from the bus stop. We got into a discussion about body fat. "Some people are fat because they eat more food than their bodies need at the time, so their body simply stores it for later. The problem is that when "later" comes they have plenty to eat and so they do. More and more gets stored on their bodies and they become fat." (You didn't expect a Beachbody coach mom to not teach her children this did you?!) "Compare that, " I continued, "with a person living in Africa who only manages to eat one meal a day. Their body, if they had stored extra food for later would have used it up when no food was eaten. They are not fat. In fact, their body is so hungry that it eats away at the muscle and they become very malnourished." From that comment I kid you not, my 10 year old says, "You know what would be great? If people had chickens! They could eat the eggs and also grow some up to be meat chickens!" And *BLING!* an idea suddenly sparked in my mind! I immediately asked them, "Okay, what if we had a dramatically smaller Christmas this year and we gave chickens to families in Africa who really needed them?" I had not even gotten the question out of my mouth before my 8 year old piped up an enthusiastic, "Oh YES!!!" Then two more enthusiastic affirmations followed. (Darrah Kate remains wordless at this point!)

I spoke with Brian on the phone once we got back to the house, "The kids are willingly choosing to have a small Christmas so we can bless people on the other side of the planet!" He too was thrilled. We made plans and the next morning I drove the 45 minutes to the back to the store and returned all but a $20 gift that we'll give to all the kids together. I was Christmas unshopping and it felt SO GOOD!!! We decided later that night to give to a group called Charity:water that is bringing clean water to people who are literally dying for lack of it. Our donation is going to give people clean water for TWENTY YEARS!!! WOW! How is that for an excellent trade? :)

{I am inserting a paragraph to illuminate why we chose to go the water route rather than the chicken route as a family. Feel free to skip over this if you don't need to know every detail!} Incidentally, I came down with the flu while I was out returning the gifts. After I was home, I was lying on the bathroom floor between heaves and thinking, "If I lived in Africa as an impoverished person, I would have no clean toilet, no clean floor and I would feel like this often without much hope for getting better." Later as I thirst for water while I was in bed and some family member graciously delivered to me a whole Nalgene full of clear, filtered water I thought, "Now what if the only thing to slake my thirst while I was this sick was contaminated, dirty water? I would have very little hope of getting well." It was like a very practical, personal wake up call to the need for clean water around the world. This pushed our decision to give to a non-profit to build wells in places that desperately need access to clean, unadulterated water.

Jensi (our 10 year old) has decided to take on the chicken giving project on her own. I'll probably come back and write more about her venture later. We also are still planning to do something on Christmas morning, even if we simply wait until the elderly wake up to bring them some kid-hearted Christmas cheer. For now, I am just feeling so thrilled to have gotten an idea, allowed God to tweak it just right and then to have moved on it!

Jesus said to His disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambitions, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life." Matthew 16:24-25

It will be a small Christmas that will be remembered...for many reasons. Hopefully it's just the beginning of us all learning to give our lives away for the sake of obeying Jesus.


  1. Incredible, Amy. God is doing mighty things in and through your family. You are showing your kids what it is to be a true missionary and what it means to live like Jesus. I know it warmed your heart that they were so enthusiastic about giving their Christmas to others in need. You have such an incredible way of communicating your life, your feelings, and what God is doing in and through your life. Thanks for taking us on this journey with you. It's such an inspiration!! Praying for you daily. - Kel

  2. This is sooooooooooooo good.I love it so much.


  3. This is sooooooooooooo good.I love it so much.


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