Tag Archives: Simple Christmas

LESSONS I LEARNED DURING FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS: PART TWO

Store Your Treasures in Heaven

We had just sat down for dinner when my preteen son noticed the bottle of salad dressing was not his favorite kind. Like a typical American kid, Thomas said, “Yuck. I’m not eating a salad tonight if this is the only salad dressing we have.”

At the time, our grocery budget was very small because of our less-than-average income. We ate rice and beans very often and didn’t buy many well-known brands. I had bought a salad dressing for about half the price of the popular brand.

I decided to refrain from lecturing my son during dinner. With patience, I picked up his salad bowl and placed it in the refrigerator while saying, “I’m sure someone else will be happy to eat your salad later on.”

As we sat at the table enjoying our meal together, Thomas got out of his chair and walked to the refrigerator a few minutes later. With a puzzled tone I asked, “What are you doing?”

In a subdued way, Thomas said something like this: I know there are children in the world who don’t have enough to eat. They would be happy to have a salad and wouldn’t be complaining. So I’m happy to eat my salad.

Immediately, tears came to my eyes and a warm feeling washed over me as I realized that my son had grasped a concept I’d been trying to teach him throughout his young life. I rejoiced greatly that he’d learned something around the age of eleven that many people four times his age couldn’t grasp. It was evident Thomas understood gratitude that day. Amazingly, I have never heard him complain about anything he lacked since then. In a society where it’s more common to be ungrateful, my children learned the gift of gratitude during our hard times.

From the day my children were able to talk, I would not allow them to complain. Especially during the times when our income fell very low, I would remind them of our blessings by saying, “We will not ever feel sorry for ourselves. We are so blessed to have a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothes to wear.” It was important to emphasize the point that we had absolutely nothing to complain about, ever.

Last month, I shared about our journey that led to our financial challenges in “Part One: Lessons I Learned During Financial Struggles.” As we’re in the midst of the Christmas season, it’s a good time to think about what really matters most in life.

Are you discouraged because you can’t buy your family expensive gifts for Christmas? Let me encourage you with some of the great lessons I learned when we were scraping by on a small income.

A grateful heart makes it possible to be joyful in all circumstances.

Gratitude takes the focus off of what we don’t have and places the focus on what we do have to be thankful for. A thankful heart is a joyful heart. I learned to be content in all circumstances when I lived with a single mom as a teen girl. My son and daughter learned to be content as a result of their simple upbringing. At eighteen and twenty-five years old, they are both grateful for everything they have. As a family, we learned that we are very blessed even when we have less than others.

Children thrive in a loving environment even when finances are lacking.

Now that my two children are grown, I can see clearly that raising them without an excessive amount of finances was actually a very good thing. When the environment is filled with unconditional love and joy, children are content with simple gifts. During the years we struggled financially, my children were learning to think of others more than themselves. Instead of having an entitled attitude, my children grew into contented, generous, and compassionate people. I believe growing up with less than their friends helped mold them into people who want to serve others. They give sacrificially by volunteering at non-profit organizations and helping the homeless and other people with unmet needs.

There are many creative ways to live frugally.

It’s not the amount of money we have; it’s how we manage what we have. We learned how to buy things for a fraction of the cost. Making handmade gifts, shopping at thrift stores, finding deals at consignment stores, and buying used items on eBay are some of the ways we found affordable gifts for our children through the years. One year, my husband bought a used XBOX game system for $40.00 along with about five games for our son’s Christmas gift. Thomas was ecstatic with joy about receiving his first game system. During one Christmas season, I found our daughter a “like new” bicycle at our favorite thrift store. Christa was elated about her beautiful, pink bike. She could have never imagined that it was purchased for only $15.00. With my childlike faith, I believe God placed that bike at Bargain City Thrift Store especially for my daughter.

Contentment does not come from material things.

No matter how much a person tries to believe that happiness comes from having stuff, it’s simply not the truth. The human soul has a God-sized place that can only be filled up with God’s love. Nothing can satisfy the soul’s need except for our Creator. Unhappy people try to fill their souls up with things money can buy. That’s why they are not truly content.

Are you feeling the contentment that comes from knowing Christ? I pray you will draw near to God and that His presence in your life will be your greatest treasure. The things of this earth are slowly wasting away. Love, joy, peace, kindness, and generosity are things that will last forever.

May you find your joy in the eternal treasures this Christmas season.

“Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

— Matthew 6:20

4 TIPS FOR KEEPING CHRIST THE FOCUS OF CHRISTMAS

Keeping Christ in Christmas

The very essence of Christ is peace, yet we often let the celebration of His birth be filled with stress and chaos. I remember a time many years ago in my twenties when I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off during the holidays and ended up with a pounding headache and so much stress that I barely enjoyed Christmas. That year, I began rethinking my priorities and started making big changes in the way I celebrated Christ’s birth. I put together a list of some ways to truly enjoy the holiday season.

Let Peace Rule the Holidays

To keep from getting swept away in the whirlwind of holiday festivities, we can first set our hearts and our minds on the real purpose of the season. We are celebrating the birth of our Saviorthe Lord of peace who gives us His peace at all times and in every way (2 Thessalonians 3:16). His peace can rule in our hearts and in our holidays as we pray daily and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. In Luke 11:13, it says, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Simply asking Christ to be with us is all it takes to live and walk in His peace during the holidays and during all our days throughout the year.

Make a List of Priorities

If we make a list of what is most important for us as individuals and then stick to those things, we won’t fall into the trap of getting over-extended. For me personally, my priorities are maintaining a peaceful household, spending time with my family, and carrying on a few Christmas traditions like having an Advent calendar and decorating a gingerbread house.

Don’t Try to Keep Up With the Jones’

It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others and what they’re doing. Just because someone else has the greatest light display in the whole town, doesn’t mean we need to have one too. I actually love and enjoy those beautiful light displays. But I know that with having a full life as a mom, I don’t have time to place an award-winning light display on my home. For me, decorating for Christmas is low on my priority list. I used to spend hours and hours decorating my home. Now, I simply put up a Christmas tree and a few other simple decorations. Decorating in a simple way can be beautiful, yet saves us a great deal of time and energy. For simple decorating, I love the ChristWreath.

As followers of Christ, our identities are in Him, not in what we own or what we accomplish. If we are tempted to play the comparison game, we can pray for contentment, and God will grant us our desires, so that we can maintain our true priorities.

Keep the Gift-giving Simple

Giving at Christmas time represents who our Father in heaven is. He is the Giver and we want to carry out the nature of our heavenly Father. However, we don’t need to stress over it. Every year, I am tempted to worry. Thoughts will fill my mind as I begin shopping. Will I find the perfect gift for every family member? Through prayer, I resist those temptations of worry.

At the times when we don’t have the finances for gift-giving, we can give home-made gifts, write love letters to our loved ones, give our time and talents…on and on the list goes. There are countless ways we can give without stress. In our family, we have decided to minimize our giving to each other and give instead to people who are truly in need.

The Spirit of Christmas is with us always so we can spread our gift-giving throughout the year. This helps us to focus on the birthdays of our loved ones, rather than making Christmas the only time to give.

Do you have any tips for keeping Christ the focus of Christmas?

I pray that your holidays will be happy. May you have a peace-filled and stress-free Christmas season.

The photograph was taken in my neighbor’s yard after a beautiful snowfall several years ago.