Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Controversial Christmas

Jen Hatmaker - The Christmas Conundrum

In the above link, you will find an extremely compelling article detailing what exactly is wrong with the consumer Christmas, and what she suggests to do about it. I agree whole-heartedly.

As married college students, we often engage in this conversation with other Christian couples, "What are you going to do about Santa?" Now that we are actually parents, the importance of this question is much weightier. Granted, Roman will only be 1 this Christmas 2013, but we want to be prepared. We want to be grounded in our beliefs before the chaos of traditions set in and we end up feeling like we can't go back.

As an older, unmarried teen, I didn't like the idea of Santa at all. I told my parents I didn't want my children believing in Santa because it is pointless to lie to your children, even if it is intended for good fun. I felt like the Santa-myth bred so many points of gluttony and greed in children and I detested the song, He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake! The idea that our children would value Santa over God is appalling. We shouldn't be threatening our children that Santa won't bring them any gifts if they aren't good throughout the year. We should train them to be obedient because God has called us to do so.

Similarly, the lengthy letters to Santa with item after desired item written inside puts children in a position of expectation. They may understand their parents' financial situation, but Santa is magic. He and his elves make the toys (that you somehow also see identical replicas of in the stores...? How did this not occur to me as phony as a child?) so they can afford to give you whatever you ask for. When Christmas morning comes, and under the tree is a modest assortment of things your parents can afford, disappointment sets in instead of joy.

The author touches on this bratty greed by remembering Christmas 1985 when she was mortified to discover one of her sweatshirts was a $3 sale item at Walmart. Have I been this child? Absolutely. Do I want to see this in my children? Absolutely not. This isn't about my children simply respecting the means we have (or don't have) as parents to provide for their wants, but it goes further -- into their hearts. I want my children to have nice things, but I don't want them to be defined by nice things.

Even more important than the depth of my children's character regarding gifts, is the notion that if you lie to your children about something so intrinsic to our lives and culture, such as Santa, how then are you supposed to gain and maintain their trust when it comes to crazy integral parts of our faith -- like, hey, the existence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit...or the validity of the Bible...or anything else we hold so near and dear?

There are many other extremely worthwhile points in the article, but the one that struck me with the most resounding impact was the issue of Santa. This is a completely attainable way that I can show my children what Christmas is truly about to me. This is a way to bring my focus and my heart back to what matters.

With that being said, we are saying NO to Santa. We are telling our children the story of Santa, just like you may tell many beloved fairy tales, Disney stories, or other Christmas tales like Frosty or Rudolph. We will tell them about St. Nicholas and his love for Christ that led him to give. We will talk about the wise men who brought gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold to baby Jesus. We will talk about how our gifts (both physical and gifts of our time) effect others. We will hold these stories in our hearts and cherish them as fond Christmas fun -- but they will not be our focus. Our children will know the story of Santa, and they will understand that your children think he is real. If the school takes a picture with Santa or colors a Rudolph picture, more power to them. I won't interject. These things are all good fun, but we won't make Santa an idol in our home.

I understand that many people, family included, may think I am sucking the fun out of Roman and our future children's Christmas season. You may see a belief in Santa as harmless fun, but to me, this is an assimilation into the consumerism that we are all entangled in so deeply. I want my children to know the truth. I know we will receive judgment, but I will never put my faith aside to make you more comfortable.

It's an issue that has been nagging at me since before I was a parent, and now that I have a chance to mold the life of someone so precious, I want to make sure I train my child up in the way he should go -- starting with celebrating the birth of our Savior the way it should be celebrated.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Give a Care Package

This week, I spent a few minutes putting together a care package for a family whose <1 month old boy has been hospitalized with bacterial meningitis in his spinal fluid and blood. He had seizures, and was previously intubated, but is now extubated. I go to college with this little boy's aunt and after how kind she and her boyfriend were to me during my pregnancy, I had to do something for her family. And after all, I am a mom, so I automatically put myself in the place of this boy's parents. As a complete stranger to them, this seemed like the perfect way to offer encouragement.

I love gift-giving, and especially as we approach this season of giving, it truly gives me joy to spend my time and money giving something to someone else. With that said, I don't mean this post to be a 'look at me giving a care package, I'm so great' post, but rather a suggestion of something you can do for someone going through a tough time.

Your care package doesn't have to include this many items. Not long ago, I sent a care package to a classmate of mine whose son underwent an open heart surgery. I sent a toy for the child and a package of snacks for the parents.

I'll break down the items I chose and tell you why:

The family has two older children, a boy and a girl, so I chose 2 coloring books and 2 packs of crayons. There will probably be several times that the kids are at the hospital with their parents or even home with a babysitter and it can be helpful to have something entertaining to do. Typically if a family with a small child is in the hospital, or in need in any way, I give a coloring book and new crayons to the child.

These items are for the parents.

  • A magazine to pass the time. 
  • Gum for those long shifts at the hospital when they didn't get a chance to brush their teeth, or maybe just to help with nerves. 
  • A notepad and pens to jot down medical jargon or make notes.

Snack food is always a great item to include in a care package. 
  • Ritz cheese crackers
  • Mott's natural fruit snacks (these have fruit AND veggies in them!!)
  • mini Nilla wafer cookies
  • Flips white fudge covered pretzels

As you can see from my pictures, Christmas is right around the corner, so I challenge you to make a care package for someone you know during the giving season. Maybe it will go to the family of a child at a Children's Hospital, a shut in from your church, an elderly person, or anyone having a tough time. It can be so rewarding to step back from the consumer culture we live in during this time and be the giver for a change. I also challenge you to selflessly give without looking for praise or recognition. 

Join me in praying for the family of this sweet boy who is going through some serious health complications!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

As I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post by one of my friends reading,

How unbelievably true. 
Sometimes we mess up.
Sometimes everything is hard.
Sometimes I don't do the right thing.

This post is as much directed to my heart as it is to everyone else's, and to be honest, here are a few things I deal with on a weekly basis. In the spirit of dispelling the myth that some parents/couples/adults have it all together, let me be very open with you.

  • Sometimes Roman makes me so crazy frustrated that I put him in his crib and lay on my bed and cry until I feel like I can pray for a better circumstance or a better attitude.
  • I typically don't fold or put away ANY of my laundry. Like none of it. I wash it, dry it, and throw it in a basket in my hall. I spray Downy wrinkle releaser on stuff or tumble it for a few minutes in the dryer. I also don't sort my clothes by color. I wash baby stuff in one load and Mommy & Daddy stuff in all the others. (just because I eliminate fragrance from Roman's laundry)
  • My bedroom floor has little piles of dirty clothes on it because all of my hampers are filled with clean clothes that I won't put away.
  • I drink way more caffeine than a breast feeding mom should..
  • I honestly don't try that hard to make Roman sleep in his crib all night. Sometimes I just let him sleep in our bed all night because with our busy schedules, that feels like the only time all three of us can be together.
  • I take my education for granted. I think about quitting on a daily basis, but I have to remind myself that this is the only chance I will get to graduate debt free.
  • I bounce between an over-glorification of myself and an over-glorification of others -- a.k.a. A depreciation of myself. I may do a great job on my make-up (which is a fun hobby for me, not a mask I hide behind) and pick out a really cute Fall outfit, but then I catch a glimpse of my (literal) neighbor leaving for work with her long shiny hair and her sophisticated outfit and suddenly I feel like 2 cents instead of a million bucks. 
We live in a Pinterest culture where you have to feed your family Paleo-organic-not processed-homemade with love dinners in your Pier One catalog dining room while looking like you have a personal stylist.

Holy crap. Get real. No one lives like this. 

And if we're talking about comparison of relationships, Dillon and I argue about 
dumb stuff like chores. 

Like all couples, we argue about stuff like why there are 10 Starburst wrappers on the entertainment center (Dillon) or who let Roman have a sippy cup with a loose lid that resulted in water being poured all over his body and our carpet (Me). These little 1 minute arguments are normal and we typically apologize and say I love you. We've only been married for a year and three months, so more serious fights may come up in the future, but we picked marriage, and we picked forever. That means a lot to us, so we put our arguments into perspective and work things out.

We don't have it all together.
Don't be fooled by all the pictures on Facebook  - my child does misbehave and cry!
Sometimes I misbehave and cry. 

Comparison is the thief of joy. Your happy doesn't have to look like my happy. If your happy does look like my happy and you are missing that happy, try to remember that I spend a lot of moments sitting on the couch making to-do lists that never get done.

A lot can be said about my priorities too. Roman and Dillon first, school second, Chi Alpha third, and my house is waaaaay last. I end up the most upset about the way things look, which is ridiculous because it is last on my priority list, so obviously if I'm not getting around to it, I must be doing a kick-A job with stuff on the top of my priority list.


Don't let your perception of others steal your joy. 

A moment spent in comparison is a moment wasted.

I can't think of another cliche to prove my point, so...

Go, live your real life and be proud of it!