by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery
Most of us parents, even the most frugal among us, have an inner tug to splurge come Christmas. Our instinct is to ignore our budgets so we can get little Johnny that perfect toy that will create that perfect Christmas memory, or perhaps, show the extent of our love. Because honestly, who doesn’t want to see their children’s faces light up, to hear them squeal with joy?
After years of irresponsible living, my husband and I had landed in a financial mess. We’d racked up $35,000 in debt, and our credit cards were maxed out. And Christmas was just around the corner. We had two choices—take out another card and bury ourselves further, or make some drastic changes, even if that meant turning off cable, eating in every night and… not buying Christmas gifts that year.
That hurt. A lot—to know our daughter would suffer because of our sin. But sometimes it hurts to do the right thing, and we knew, should we continue the way we were going, she’d hurt even more if we lost our home, our vehicles, or destroyed our marriage.
So what’s a mom to do when she desperately wants to give her daughter something special for Christmas but doesn’t have the money to do so?
I decided to make her presents. Luckily, she was still young, at that age where ordinary items like toilet paper rolls and pine cones made the best toys. And she loved Polly Pocket dolls and Barbies, so I decided to make Barbie food from bake-able clay.
Day after day, as she napped, I’d pull out the clay and create chocolate chip cookies and hamburgers, lettuce and all. I made pizzas with pepperoni and bunches of grapes, lovingly crafting each and every item.
Jesus reminded us not to hold material wealth too tightly or give it a foothold in our hearts. He said, “‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB).
The best gifts, whether during Christmas or otherwise, are those—like love, hope, joy, relationships, and faith—that last forever.
It’s funny, but that lean Christmas was one of our most memorable and cherished. Oh, what joy I experienced every day as I worked on her gift! She may not have known how much time and effort I put in, but neither did she feel deprived. I suppose because, when it comes down to it, Christmas is largely what we make it.
We can stress over gifts we can or can’t afford. We can allow our children to believe they need that latest and best video game or electronic device.
Or, we can step back, scale back, and simplify things a bit. Many times, when we peel back all the fluff, we discover our Christmas isn’t dependent upon what is wrapped and under the tree.
That Christmas so many years ago taught me something: we don’t have to allow Christmas obligations and expectations control us, our families, or our finances. We can focus on those things of eternal value and intentionally center our hearts in Christ.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NASB
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Join the conversation: What ways have you found to bring true meaning into your Christmas?