My Own Advent Conspiracy

*This blog is not for everyone, if this just sounds awful to you, read the disclaimer at the bottom. I am positive this is not right for every family, but it is for mine. I am simply presenting an alternative to the common celebration for those who feel they want something different.*

I tend toward minimalism, not as some deep philosophy or set of rules to live my life but just because I find that in almost every case having less is actually easier. Less to clean, less to put away, less to spend, less to waste…just less.

So last year as we sat in our church listening to them explain their Advent Conspiracy my heart was pricked. We didn’t buy gifts for the kids when they were babies just an ornament and a stocking then as they got toddler age a stocking and a $20 or so gift. It still felt like I was buying them stuff just to buy them stuff because…I was supposed to buy them stuff.

The “Advent Conspiracy” our church does is to push against the buy, buy, buy of the season and encourage families to maybe cut back on what they give their kids or family and donate a portion of that money to the Advent Conspiracy fund. Instead of giving in to the societal pressure to buy more they suggested we spend more time together, pray more, focus on Christ more and give that extra cash to a worthy cause.

Last year’s substantial fund was enough to help support some humanitarian efforts in central Asia and a good start toward renovating a building in Turkey so that Syrian refugees will have a community center/school. It will help students, who are not being welcomed into the public schools easily in the area, to continue learning, have a safe, clean place together and regain a sense of community.

Our extra $10 here, $20 there helped do that. This year the funds raised will finish the support needed for the community center and send workers and funds to Corpus Christi which still has hundreds of displaced families who simply can not rebuild alone. (Getting insurance in a known hurricane zone can be more expensive than their mortgage so sadly many did not have any at all).

I decided just doing this little bit was not enough this year. This year I wanted to take on our own advent conspiracy project. What if instead if buying any gifts for my own family we chose to give Christmas to a family in need? Well, I can tell you it’s been fun. Each family member will still get their small red stocking stuffed with trinkets, socks, underwear and snacks but that’s it. My kids are excited to see what we buy the other family, help wrap it and put it under the tree until I meet the social worker next week to pass off the now giant pile.

I don’t share this to pat myself on the back, on the contrary I am now convinced we can do even MORE. We can adopt a family and give to Advent Conspiracy and do Operation Christmas Child and something else I don’t know yet because we still manage to get fast food a few times a month and we still don’t go without one single thing we need so there are still places to tighten our belt and help our fellow man.

I DO tell you this because I want to encourage those of you who felt like me but haven’t taken the leap yet. You worry what people will think and say but you are convinced this season is so much more than presents. You are right. You worry your kids will be resentful. You worry you will look cheap giving smaller gifts to your family members. I can’t promise none of those things will happen. But I can promise you will find joy in the giving, joy in the absence of commercial trappings, joy in the spirit. My kids are more excited than ever… and they still have multiple grandparents to spoil them so even without me they will get plenty. I don’t think our family has cared at all what we buy them, they seem to like that we put a lot of thought and creativity into our low budget gifts. I can’t promise you it will be the same for you but I want to encourage you to try it.

My kids don’t believe in Santa but they do believe in God and it has given them a heart for their fellow man. If I can encourage that compassion and sacrifice, teach them to live below their means and share their excess then this little experiment in going against the Advent Conspiracy is beyond worth it.

*****If you are not interested in this that’s ok too, this blog isn’t so much for you. To some people the idea of presents or santa or X tradition is so tied to Christmas that what I’m saying feels wrong to them. If that’s you that’s ok, you do you, no judgment. But for those who feel like me there shouldn’t be any judgment either.******

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More isn’t Better & Good isn’t Necessary

Do you have opportunities to do good things all week? I know I do! Do you have opportunities to do more all week? I do!

Good is good, right? So…. I should do it…because it’s good.

And more of good is even better so I should do more, right!

Wrong.

More isn’t always good and good isn’t the same as necessary. Good must always be examined in light of best. Your good may be someone else’s best. Your saying yes to good may also hurt your best.

Let me explain.

Say I could volunteer at a women’s shelter and I could work with college age students and I could help in my church nursery. All great things right? But which one am I going to be best at? For me it is the work with the college age students. Can I invest time there and also volunteer at a women’s shelter or work in my church nursery? Maybe if I didn’t also have a full time job and two young children….but I do. But guess what? Someone out there doesn’t have a full time job and two young children OR they do but their best is helping at a women’s shelter so they are passing on the college students I am heading for.

Busy is the enemy or growth, especially for a Christian. There is a reason for the cliche saying that if the enemy can’t make you bad he will make you busy. The reason is it’s true.

People all need love, young people, older people, babies, rich, poor, religious and not, nearby and far away. They ALL need the church to show them Christ’s love. But I can’t be the church alone and I need to stop trying! I had gotten to a place where I wasn’t doing my best. I was a stay at home mom so I felt I HAD to help everywhere help was needed so I was volunteering in a children’s class and the nursery and awana and on special projects and I wasn’t really investing anywhere. I wasn’t spending time praying for, thinking about and fellowshipping with those I was ministering too. That’s where the real growth happens, relationships that encourage discipleship.

I had to learn, all over again to say no to some things. To walk away from many good things. To turn down more things. But i’m not saying no to protect an idol of time or self interest, I’m saying no to prevent an idol of ME. When we believe WE have to fill every need we are thinking too highly of ourselves. Saying no is an exercise in humility. I pride myself on being capable of a great many things (i’m a jack of all trades, master of none) but just because i’m capable does not mean I should. Instead of agreeing to mediocrity in many areas I am striving for excellence in one.

To be the wife, mother and teacher I have been called to be I must be very selective, protective even, of how I use my time. I must choose wisely the things I can do well and still continue my callings.

I know this problem is not unique to me, or women, or even Christians.

Tonight I pray, Lord help me to be a Mary in a world that encourages me to be a Martha. Help me to see the important tasks set before me and focus on them, leaving the things which can wait to wait. May I be consumed not by busyness but by glorifying you through all I say and do. 

Assessing Walt’s Worldview

Everyone has a worldview, a way of thinking about or perceiving the world through the lens of their own experiences, ideologies and misconceptions. I am a follower of Christ, as such I attempt to perceive life through a biblical worldview. I do not always succeed. I am, however, able with mindful examination to discern the way I *should* view things when I stop and try to run things through the filter of Scripture. Spoiler alert, I often get it pretty wrong before doing this and still likely get it wrong after but with each pass through I am hopefully getting closer to the truth.

Accepting that everyone has a worldview that changes the way they see reality & therefore the way they present reality makes it strange that I rarely stop to consider the worldview presented in my entertainment. Maybe it’s because in our culture entertainment is often prided as being “mindless” so of course thinking to heavily about it would be silly right?

I also happen to be a huge Disney fan, a Disney Nerd if you will, who loves that shining beacon of capitalism and wholesome family fun; from the parks to the movies and everything in between. But what if the worldview of my favorite mouse creator is at odds with my own? What if, by sharing my favorite films and stories without deeper discussion, I am slowly indoctrinating my children to see the world in a way I believe is false?

I was reading an article in the current issue of “The Classical Difference” called “The Jungle Book Unearths Cultural Treasure” that used Kipling’s Jungle Book & the 1967 and 2016 Disney movie versions to highlight the underlying worldview shifts that subtly change the message of each retelling when it hit me that good ole Walt Disney and I don’t see eye to eye!

****I am using Walt Disney as a figurehead for the Disney corporation, obviously he did not write each movie and he himself was purported to be a Christian but the Disney corporation is made of members of society and therefore reflect the worldview of the time and place around them in their work.****

As I started thinking through many of my favorite Disney films I found big ideas I just can’t get behind when taken out of a cartoon context…so why I am I cool with them as long as they are voiced by a colorful, non-existent character?

Some of these ideas include:

Aladdin: The End Justifies the Means, I mean we are cool with Aladdin stealing to eat because he’s poor but then we are cool with him lying and creating a fake identity because… well i’m not sure why?

The Jungle Book: Life is about having fun and a friend you can trust, we can all get along if we just ignore the parts of each other’s lives we don’t like.  Not “bad” stuff but from a Christian perspective pretty false.

The Little Mermaid: You can make deals with the devil, run away from home, turn your back on your family, marry strange men and it will all work out! It’s about love right? You know love between a teenage runaway and the 1st random sailor she sees usually is a great idea! True love conquers all, also true love can be found simply by looking at someone!

I could definitely keep going but you get the idea. See the fact that I am looking at the world as a place with very clearly defined good & evil means I am going to have different ideas about what is right and wrong than someone who thinks it’s open for interpretation.  We can’t see eye to eye because we are starting from totally different places.

This doesn’t mean I can not enjoy a Disney movie or even find good messages in them! (There are many messages that can be reconciled with a Christian worldview) What it does mean is that I absolutely MUST examine the worldview and the messages and even more importantly I have to discuss them with my children. I have to model critically thinking about even “harmless” entertainment. I have a responsibility to show them that even if something is enjoyable it can be false and truth must weigh more than pleasure in our valuations.

I will continue to enjoy Disney, and other types of entertainment, with my children but hopefully with a bit more intentional discussion and calling out of wrong thinking when I see it. I look forward to building bridges between the stories they enjoy and the Word!

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You

 

Every day you work hard to provide for our family but that’s not what makes you amazing.

You get down on the floor to wrestle, change the princess dresses, play hockey in the drive and run around the playground but that’s not what makes you a terrific father.

You help me demonstrate every single day what a loving, healthy marriage looks like, that fun and love, apologies and respect are all part of the daily give and take but that’s not the thing that makes you such a titan among dads.

What makes you the example I thank the Lord daily for is the bible verses in your email, it’s the passion for understanding God’s will, it’s the desire to do what he calls even when it’s not what you “want”.

Our children are so blessed to have you, science can show the impact of a father on almost every area of a person’s life from self esteem to education and earning potential but it can not quantify the impact a Christ following father has on eternity. The seeds you are sowing in our family will sow seeds in their families and so on through the generations. I am thankful for the quanitifable impact you have on our kids but more so for the things that can’t be seen, those are the true treasures.

 

Teaching my Kids Truth AND Tolerance

Our society loves to throw around the word tolerance. It’s become synonomous with “accepting everything as right or true”. Sorry folks, you need to break out the dictionary because tolerance only deals with how much you can put up with an opposing view point, it does not in anyway mean you accept it as valid. [Actual Definition: “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”]

I want my kids to be tolerant but also not to accept false things in the name of “tolerance”. It’s a tricky path but for the Christian a 100% necessary one. Jesus preached against adultery but still loved the sinners caught in it. I love alot of people I disagree with but that does not change that they are wrong (just like people who love me when i’m wrong). Being tolerant of their views can NOT look the same as agreeing with their views, I can not knowingly support something that is wrong but I CAN knowingly love someone who is wrong. I am called to love my fellow sinners. I am raising my children in a society that hates truth (because truth is offensive to those who live in contradiction to it) and it would be poor parenting on my part to let everyone else’s desire for political correctness overshadow truth.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Disney’s Mulan when the emperor says, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.” Truth is unchanging, it is not a societal construct that can be changed to suit our moods.

I am raising my children not to speak about things they do not understand (the opposite of our culture which encourages children, and adults for that matter, to speak loudly and frequently regardless of whether they have any actual understanding of a topic). We forget that freedom of speech is not a compulsion to speak! They will not be jumping into the bandwagon with the Argumentum ad Populum crowd and proclaiming they know best because “a whole bunch of other people agree so it must be true!”. I see this far too often but popular does not equal correct.

My children are being taught to think for themselves but to make sure those thoughts are backed by facts before they share them. I was taught to think for myself but also to have deferrence for facts and life experience and wisdom and I am thankful for that, in fact without an open mind AND closed mouth I may have never become a Christian. People can only hear what they understand but they can only understand what they stop to actually hear. I want my children to grow up listening, knowing they can speak up anytime they need, but having the maturity not to always exercise that right.

Our society has created so many false dicotohmies that sometimes it seems like there are only two choices: religion or science, republican or democrat, christian or atheist, pro this, anti that, the list could go a while but there is no actual duel between truth and tolerance, in fact I think they coexist perfectly, you can know and speak truth AND be tolerant of others views. Telling someone you think they are wrong is not actually an act of aggression, in fact, if done for the right reasons, in the right way, it is an act of love!

Disagree, people, stand up for what you believe in but don’t hate those who disagree with you. The hatred in our society is an overwhelming force. Don’t participate simply because it’s popular.

 

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You have a Christmas Complex

Some people have a Christmas inferiority complex, some have a superiority complex and alot manage to have both but it seems Moms across the nation have a complex when it comes to Christmas. If you doubt me go look at ANY article dealing with a Christmas tradition like Santa or that Elf and you will find moms attacking one another and anger abounding.

Some think you are evil if you “steal magic” from your kids by not doing the Elf or Santa, others think you are promoting dishonesty by doing Santa or the Elf. Others say there is a “right” number and type of presents (tired of hearing: want, need, wear, read anyone?). Some think the more the merrier and some think we should just say “no” to gifts altogether.

None of this is right or wrong because it’s all just different ways to do the same thing: celebrate.

As a Christian I am alot more worried about WHAT we are celebrating than how.

We are celebrating the birth of a Savior, the moment that changed the course of history for all of eternity, the most selfless act mankind can ever know. 

So do you really care if your friend brings in a magical man in a red suit or a historically accurate portrayal of the man Saint Nicholas or a kinda creepy lil elf doll? Does it matter if I do “Truth in Tinsel”, “What God Wants for Christmas” AND “Adornaments” with my children instead, does that make us more holy somehow? I admit I have a complex too, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of a holiday meant to celebrate the most simple beginning in history. He came as a babe. No OBGYN, no midwife, no golden throne, no sterile hospital, no 5 piece layette, no royal artists to capture the moment. He was born in the least remarkable way and the truth he came to bring was simple. Simple but lifechanging. Christ is the only way to God, to truth, to heaven, to life; real, abundant, everlasting life. 

Can we focus on that?

I am not a “good secular mom”, I don’t do the elf, I don’t do Santa, I don’t do shoes left out or pickles in trees…heck I only give my kids one gift (and not even that as babies). [And yes I realize Christian moms do these too but I don’t see them being heralded as a benchmark for being a good Christian mom.]

I am not a “good Christian mom” either, I bought “What God Wants for Christmas” and tried to do it but my 3 year old just wanted to play with the people and so for the last year baby Jesus, the angel, Mary…the whole set have been lovingly toted around and played with alongside Elmo and Jake the Neverland Pirate. Maybe i’ll try one of those other sets someday…maybe I won’t.

Because I don’t think it matters what I do or don’t do to celebrate Christmas because I know that I am telling my kids the REASON we celebrate. I am showing it with the love and care I put into choosing gifts that I want to demonstrate Christ’s love. I am teaching him joyful service as I donate my time and talents to help where I can and when I can. I may not have a fancy way to do it but all year, especially at Christmas, I am teaching him the Word of God and the importance of Christ in our lives. If he grows up knowing the beginning of the greatest love story ever told then I will consider my Christmases a success no matter what else we did or didn’t do.

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*I am talking about the Christian holiday of Christmas, if you do not celebrate this then this blog isn’t directed at you but if you would like to know more about Christ and why Christmas is so important then contact me, I’d love to share the truth with you.*

The Joy of Gender Roles

Usually when I hear people use the phrase “gender roles” it is not in a positive light. Modern culture suggests that women and men do not have gender roles, that they are equal and capable of doing all things the same (save childbirth).

We are supposed to earn like men, lead like men and all but be men. The problem is I. AM. NOT. A. MAN.

Just thought I would get that out there. Am I as valuable and worth while as a man? Absolutely. Can I do “everything a man can do”? No, not really. More importantly I don’t want to.

I have always been a strong opponent of most of the ideals of feminism as it is popularly held. I can feel more absolutely than ever though the joy and freedom of living within those gender roles now that I am staying home.

Am I an intelligent, educated and capable woman? Yes. Have I been the bread winner in our marriage before? Yes. Do I speak my mind and have a huge role in the decisions of our family? Yes.

Do these things change that my husband is the head of our household? No.

I defer to his leadership whenever an important decision arises, more importantly I want to live in a way that makes his life better and easier.

Why? Because I love him, because he loves me and because God placed him in the position of accountability for our home.

I have been living with one foot in for a while because despite my desire to be a good wife to my husband I found that after working full time and being a mom there was little time or energy leftover to devote to my poor husband. I could not cook him meals as often as I wanted, grocery shop or do the dishes to prevent them from being a burden to him or show him the kind, gentle support he deserved. Instead I often found myself splitting the household duties and getting grumpy with him over small things simply because I was stressed out from trying to be all things to all people.

Staying home has allowed me not only to devote myself full time to being a better, less frazzled mom to my children but also to being a better less exhausted, stressed wife to my husband. I don’t think I realized how much my entire household would benefit from my being home, in fact I felt guilt over doing so, but as I see the rewards play out I recognize that I am already reaping a harvest from this decision and it is confirmed daily that I made the correct choice.