Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What It's All About

The blog has been quiet, really quiet.  I have sat down to write a few times, but ended up closing the window and moving on.  I guess I just needed a little "alone time" and am not sure how much I will write this week either.  My plate is really full right now, so is my heart and head.  We are back at school as of yesterday, home from California where we visited our family for Thanksgiving, and for us it is the start of a new semester.  We are sort of fuzzy on that sort of thing, working well outside the standard school calendar and not paying much attention to it at all.  I like the freedom of it, and we naturally move at a different pace. 

As we rush headlong into the holiday season, I am really taking stock of what this is all about.  Christmas is probably my least favorite holiday.  I've had some wonderful ones through the years, and some really painful ones as well.  Every year I keep looking for it to gain more meaning, for it to be less about commercialization and more about Christ.  In our culture, it is very challenging, but I think it may be the only way for it to eventually move up my personal holiday list of favorites.

I think overall though, that the kids are developing into different creatures about Christmas, and I appreciate what we are seeing.  We have never, ever encouraged them to create lists, and as they grow older I am so happy we didn't.  Although it can make it harder at this "tween" stage to buy for them, it also means they don't focus much on the gift part of the holiday, and for that I am grateful.  Instead they asked who we were going to try and help this year, like last year, and though many won't believe it, not a single one of the five kids came up with something to ask for.  In fact, knowing it is going to be a slimmer year this year, Angela said "Why don't we just go to the Hot Springs Pool for the afternoon and call that our Christmas gift.  We don't need anything else."  A $10 gift would be enough.  Her generous and understanding heart almost made me cry.

We decorated a couple of days ago, and they delighted in the act.  In fact, Kenny and Matt are still finishing up their Festival of Lights outside, carefully stringing them across shrubs and hammering in new nails under eaves.  It was funny to see Matt at his new size and with that depth of voice acquired this year giggle and rub his hands together with glee as he was told "Yes, you can go dig the decoration boxes out of the shed."   Olesya was nearly dancing as she pulled out the ornaments, most of which are personalized in one form or another, and she kept declaring "I remember this one from last year!"...and then turned to me and melted my heart when she grinned from ear to ear and said "I am so happy I am part of this family!!".  She and Angela retold the story of our creche, remembering that it was hand made by my own grandfather, handed down to my mom, and always put up by me when I was a child.  Kenny was worried that some shingles are loose on it and pointed out we needed some small nails for minor repairs to it, because some day they would all want to share it for their Christmases with their children and we needed to keep it in good shape.

I want Christmas to be about the joy, not the gifts.  I want it to be about giving, not receiving.  I want it to be about the music, family, faith and friends.  The past couple of years I have found that what helped me gain better perspective was making a vow to shop solely online for those gifts we purchased.  I realized that not becoming a "Mall Rat" or combing the aisles of our local Walmart went a long way towards helping keep my head where I wished for it to be.  Not caring much for shopping, what for some is a sheer pleasure is for me a despised chore and sapped me of all sense of Christmas Spirit. 

So this weekend we will do the things that make it Christmas for me...we will spend time with beloved friends as we watch the Christmas parade together and we shiver in the cold, drinking thermoses of hot chocolate.  We were gone this year for the lighting of the town Christmas tree, known fondly around here as "The Pickle Tree", aptly named by Joshie years ago due to its blueish green lights strung top to bottom.  We will continue with our deeply meaningful tradition of attending the Christmas concert with the help of free tickets from friends who look out for us and share their extras, then head over to our adopted Grandpa George's house where we will once again help him get in the mood by decorating his tree with him and sharing a meal together.  We will add in a new first with dear friends as we attend a presentation of The Nutcracker.

And I won't care a hoot about gift lists or hosting parties or finely wrapped packages.  Instead we will gradually work our way through Advent, resting in the knowledge that we don't have to create a holiday that looks like everyone else's.  We lack not a single thing, and "enough" includes enough love, enough life giving relationships, enough Spirit.  We'll throw pies at each others to celebrate Christmas being brought to children in Kyrgyzstan who have yet to experience "enough", we'll listen to Christmas carols and laugh over how bad the LaJoy Family choir sounds, we'll giggle and laugh as we watch Sunny bat at ornaments on the tree.  And on Christmas Eve we will stand together at "our pew", children ever taller and hearts ever larger.

Yeah, that's what it's all about.


Dee said...

Your kids totally get what the holiday is SUPPOSED to be about. Bravos to you, Cindy!

I am doing a book giveaway on my blog if you want to check it out..

Anonymous said...

I've been giving thought into all the ways and reasons why we celebrate Christmas as we do. My daughter lived in Japan and was disconcerted to find that the Japanese celebrate Christmas gift giving without the Christian faith behind it. Their path to God is through Buddhism. Is it crass commercialism, or could it be that for some it is a way to give love when it is difficult to express it openly?

I can think of a lot of reasons to be mall hopping shopping. One is that for some it is difficult to express love openly, but by buying and giving we might somehow convey that message. (I cook for loved ones.) Another is, of course, seduction by advertisement. Giving to others what we felt we lacked, giving self the satisfaction of giving to others, vicariously filling (or giving ourselves the illusion of filling) the holes left by childhood lack (or perceived lack), business promotion/contacts through gifts (often food or liquor), etc.

Then there is the reason behind the season, and when we are aware of, enhancing the birth of Jesus in our perceptions and actions, we may choose to moderate our presense in the malls or on the internet shopping sites. We may choose other ways to honor the light and way of living that Jesus' life brings into our lives.

Maybe it is just as well that creches aren't as prominent in malls. The idea of giant lit up manger scenes with baby Jesus ten times the size of life, surrounded by jeweled wise men and kneeling shepherds doesn't do anything for me. Maybe each shopping center could set up a quiet chapel, a resting place for the body and soul, with a modest manger scene.

Meantime, you are leading your children toward God in a way that celebrates the light, joy, hope, and love of the season, the reason for the season, rather than false ways to show love or to promote belief.

Kudos to the LaJoys,