Saturday, November 29, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas

"Season of Peace" by Bill Breedon

On Thanksgiving night my husband and I caught a little bit of the local news before we went to bed. Now, I am very thankful that the top stories were not all sorts of gruesome news (which is why I do not ordinarily watch the local news), but let me tell you what the first nearly 15 minutes of the broadcast were about: shopping. Yes, that's right. They had live "action" cameras posted outside the outlet mall where folks had spent more of their Thanksgiving day than with friends or family. Some were camped out from the night before.

It saddens me that so much attention is paid to this ridiculous tradition every year. It's the same scene every year and the same sorry behavior that is part of the reason our country is in the pickle it's in. Real news is that no matter what kind of "deal" you believe you're getting, it's no bargain when you can't actually afford to pay for it. A sincere prayer of mine this year is that the difficulties of our nation will encourage real change - that behaviors and habits that include living beyond one's means will be looked at and altered.

For years I have wanted simpler Christmases. I even facilitated a workshop one year based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. I have learned a lot from that book and incorporated much from it into our own celebrations, but this year is going to be even simpler and I am thankful for this.

Due to the unemployment we went through this summer and the new job my husband got, but with less pay, my girls know not to expect as much as in years past. They know they will be getting one thing they really want (within reason, of course) and the rest of their gifts from us will be hand-made or second-hand or other small surprises. Gifts to other family members will be the same. I am excited about it and am looking forward to interesting and creative gift-giving and receiving this year.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling a little bit glum about the upcoming season. Not because of the aforementioned things, but because I was feeling a little bit like we were just going through the motions and that is definitely not the way I want to feel at Christmas! I was beginning to feel that the busyness was going to be rushing in and I didn't want that either. So, I started with asking my children what they really wanted this Christmas - what was important to them?

Their answers were few and simple:

They wanted to be at one of their grandma's houses this year for Christmas. That was easy. Maia wants me to make Kringla, which is a Norwegian cookie my grandmother used to make every Christmas. That's easy too, but that may be all the baking I will do this year. Baking is not one of the things I look forward to at Christmas and so I don't plan to do much of it. Maybe if the mood strikes me, but I'm not thinking of it as something I "ought" to be doing with my children. We've baked the traditional, cut-out cookies every year, but no one flinched when I said I didn't really want to do those this year.

One thing I will do is make the homemade, iced cinnamon rolls I make every Christmas morning. And Eve wanted to be sure that we have the Christmas music playing to signal them when they can come running out of their bedrooms on Christmas morning.

I think there is a Christmas parade in a small, charming town south of us. Perhaps we'll go to that, do some window shopping and maybe have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. I will also be seeking out some way for our family to serve others.

I usually enjoy a Christmas Eve service despite the fact that our small, house church does not do this. Last year I went to my old church to see old friends and hear the choir. This year I may visit another pastor friend's church. We also have been invited to our friends' annual Christmas pageant, which we attended last year and which we'll likely do again.

All of these things seem easy to me; doable and cost little to no money. They center around things we'll do together, but won't require a lot of preparation or stress.

More than anything, I want this Advent season to be deeply and quietly spiritual for me. I kept meaning to look for an Advent devotional online to use for myself and perhaps with my girls too, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. God is so good at knowing our hearts, though, and to my delight and surprise yesterday morning when my mom stopped by to drop off a few things, she also had picked up an extra Advent devotional at her church last Sunday. So, while I won't be getting out the whole of our decorations today, I will be rummaging through for our Advent wreath which will grace our table for the entire season.

This year, I want to be having something of a Merry little Christmas. We'll see how it goes, won't we? :)


Aimee said...

Beautiful post, Nicole! Your hearts shines through so brightly! I think the things we always love and remember are the family traditions and never the gifts. Thanks for sharing this!

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

Yep, great post. We've been cutting back our Christmas commitments a little every year but this year I'm hoping to have a much simplier Christmas. I was appalled to see that a Wal-Mart worker died yesterday and the reported reactions of the shoppers! It truly disgusts me that some people are so caught up in having "things" that a human life means nothing to them.


Karen said...

I love this post, and love your blog, and could not agree with you more that people are way too greedy and it's caused a large part of this "wall street" crisis ... even though most people seem to still be completely in the dark about their part in it. i heard a store worker somewhere in the U.S. was killed -- KILLED -- when a FOUR A.M. crowd surged into the doors. absolutely disgusting. this practice of stores opening so early (or LATE, in my opinion) and the whole notion of people camping out just to buy junk they likely don't need must. stop.

i love the idea of buy nothing day, but this year i had no choice but to hit a few shops yesterday (AFTERNOON, mind you, lol) --(due to some recent financial stresses and the timing of my most recent paycheck, and some other factors). i did shop a little bit at target, but felt great about proceeding to get almost everyone in my family's gift for $110 total at the fair trade shop here. what a nice feeling that was. and what beautiful things they are! now i just have to amp up my knitting and finish the three scarves i'm making for cousins .... ; )

thanks again for your post. i love all of your ideas. and a few posts ago, you talked about finding great things at the secondhand shops. how right you are ... my eyes are always open for the "finds!" now that's $$ well spent.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy...your words certainly ring true for me this year. With my change in jobs and a severe cut on pay, we're cutting back drastically. My kids understand and are not asking for much.

And for us the lesson will be more far-reaching than just Christmas. We are one of the many who have lived beyond their means, I'm ashamed to say. I can blame most of it on my daughter's soccer career, but still...

My prayer is that I will be more fiscally responsible when all is said and done...that I will use what God has blessed me with responsibly.

Christmas certainly will be a good test of that.

Thanks for the wonderful post.

Hilty Sprouts said...

Can we do Christmas with you? ;0) That sounds like the perfect day. One of the traditions that I look forward to every year is one my mom used to do with my brothers and me. On December 1st she would bring out the christmas coloring books, brand new crayons and play christmas music. Those are some of my happiest christmas memories. My kids love it too.

Hilty Sprouts said...

This is not related to your post, but I wondered if you could give me advice on what supplies to buy to get a good start on knitting? I have no clue about types of yarn, needles, etc. I am a complete novice. I did check out your links on learning to knit. I think they will be helpful.

Creative Life Studio said...

Happy to be of service, Jennifer!! :)

I would suggest about size 10, bamboo needles. They are less slippery than metal. I would buy a worsted weight size yarn, which will be a '4' on the label. There are many, many fibers to choose from, wool being the most popular, but it is not vegan, so I am trying to steer clear of it and develop a knowledge of the nicer acrylics. Just a note about that: there ARE some independent farmers out there that are good to their sheep and service the vegan community. Of course, their prices also reflect their specialty. But large-scale shepherding which provides much of the fleece to large, yarn companies and chain stores (read: less expensive) is most often brutal.

I have found Vanna's Choice by Lion Brand to be a nice acrylic that has great colors. Also, Caron's, Simply Soft feels wonderful. Bernat has some nice acrylic too, and their new bamboo blend line is SOOOOOO soft!! It is one of my favorites. It is a bulky weight yarn though (a 5 on the label). Bulky would be okay to start with too by the way, if you find something you like.

So, those things should get you started. Also, I would say, just learn to knit on a practice piece first. Don't expect that it should BE anything. Just knit and knit and knit for a while. When you are comfortable with that, try a small, gratifying project like a washcloth. Lots of folks like to start with scarves, but they are LONG - even for an experienced knitter. You don't want to get bogged down and discouraged. Of course, when you start a washcloth, remember to purchase cotton yarn.

I'll try to post something for beginning knitters this week. In the meantime, hope this helps and have a great time knitting!! :)

Marianna said...

Wonderful post Nicole. I like the idea of asking the kids what is important to them. Like your kids I suspect most would want the simple things and to be with family.

I was appalled to hear the story of the W-M worker in New York. Retailers must realize that they play a role in this sort of frenzy and simply stop!


Anonymous said...

Great post! Enjoyed learning about the yarns too. I too was appalled at the greediness of the people who would get up so early to go buy "stuff". showing where their priorities lie! I also was saddened at the death of the Walmart employee! So unnecessary!
Love you, Mom

Anonymous said...

Great post! Enjoyed learning about the yarns too. I too was appalled at the greediness of the people who would get up so early to go buy "stuff". showing where their priorities lie! I also was saddened at the death of the Walmart employee! So unnecessary!
Love you, Mom

Hilty Sprouts said...

Thanks so much for the tips! I really needed something to go on. The other day I walked into a craft store and walked back out because I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by all the choices and all the "crafty" people who seemed to know exactly what they were doing! Armed with my newfound yarn knowlege, I will return and conquer my craft store fears! ;0)


Anonymous said...

lovely post

our motto last year - and again this year: do less, enjoy more.

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