Tonight we drove home from having our annual family Christmas pictures done, finally. Larry and I were chatting a little, with interruptions here and there, from Solomon,
"Mommy! Daddy! See the lights?!"
Or telling us about how he shared his "handy cranes" (candy canes), or how the song on the radio was "that Rudolph the Reindeer song"!
I told my husband right then, on this seventh day of December, that this is already the best Christmas I've ever had!
It wasn't just the lights and the music, but instead the joy coming from the backseat. Experiencing this season alongside my 3-year-old, as he takes in and embraces, in his own little ways, everything that Christmas brings, shows, teaches, and gives, with my silly baby girl joining us for the ride - it's just one of the single greatest privileges of my life!
This year, we began our December with all new traditions. We welcomed an Elf on the Shelf into our home for the first time, but added a different spin. As opposed to the naughty and nice list incentive, we took inspiration from Following in My Shoes blog, and included a letter from Santa. The letter explained that Christmas is not at all about earning gifts, but about GIVING love, showing kindness, and sharing the hope of Christ. Our Elf - who Solomon named Red - will be a helper, here to remind us to act with kindness and love, and to try our best to be a help and encouragement to others.
We decided to make this happen by using our Advent calendar, including a gift for each member of the family, and a gift for others. For us, with such very little ones in our family, this means that before bed each night, everyone gets a little treat, and there is a little note to tell us what we can do the next day to reach out to someone else. Each day is something different, and specifically planned so that the kids can participate, and learn from.
Some ways that we have reached out to others so far have been putting money in the Salvation Army bucket (and getting to ring the bell!), brought a little get well gift to a family member, made and delivered cards for sick friends, surprised Daddy at work with a treat from Starbucks, and shared our candy canes with family.
Throughout the month we will also bring a gift to church for our annual Winter Share program, give away some of our unused Christmas decorations, donate items to those in need, and more.
None of this has been physically or monetarily taxing on us. It has all been planned with the goal of focusing on others rather than ourselves (a change that I, personally, very much needed) and teaching our children the true meaning of Christmas. God showed His extraordinary love for us through His gift of a Savior. We have found it to be true already this season, that the best gift we could give to our family this year, is to give love for Christmas.
You might think that at one and three years old, that Adalyn and Solomon will never remember any of this. For my youngest, that may or may not be true. However, we are not simply making memories, we are building a foundation. For the future of our family, for the future of each of our children, we are starting something now, in their most formative years, that we can grow from and build on, for years to come! Adalyn may not remember, but I believe Solomon will, and I know that Larry and I will! And we will all talk about it together, and reminisce about it, and be thankful for the opportunity to give, together as a family, for years and years to come! That matters. Regardless how very little our babies are, their service and giving matters. It matters to me. It matters to God. It matters to anyone and everyone that they share love and kindness with.
I am more than confident that God can take our small and simple gifts, and make them big, meaningful and powerful in the lives of others. That is His specialty, after all! A humble young girl, a simple rugged shepherd, a dirty leftover stable space, were all used to gift to the world the greatest miracle of all time.
The extra special blessing of all of this, though, is that we are SO blessed to be a blessing. I always wanted to give more during the holidays ... someday. But just going for it, not worrying that my gift might not be enough, or that my kids wouldn't care or join in, but instead taking the first step - that's where God met me. My mind has been changed. My focus is different. My worries have faded. Only the power of a gracious, loving Savior can change someone from the inside out! Let me not fail to also mention how incredibly privileged I feel to share Christ with my own tiny humans! My little manchild is now talking daily about helping his friends, making people feel better, sharing treats and presents, as well as even overcoming some of his own personal challenges to become a better listener, a better sharer, and really really "getting it", a little more every day. Oh the gifts that Christmas gives!
If you are on Instagram or Twitter, I'm sharing our experiences throughout this Christmas season with the hashtag #givingloveforchristmas. If you would like to join in, please feel free to hashtag your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts alongside ours! Wouldn't it be great to spread wide the love of Christ at Christmas!