Define Necessity

  Have you read the Bernstein Bear’s Book called “The Greedy Gimmies”? 

Every family should own this book, so it can be pulled out and referenced to our kids.

 America has a BAD, BAD case, of the Greedy Gimmies.

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  This selfish need for stuff……for more, more, more.  Overflowing closets, toy baskets and towering garage sale piles prove it.  How about Christmas trees with gifts so stuffed below it, that it threatens to tip over? 

  Couldn’t that money be better spent on someone who struggles DAILY to feed their family?  To someone across the world who doesn’t have the privilege of clean water at their disposal? 

  We are SPOILED ROTTEN and we are blind to it.  Cupboards full of food and clean running water, soft beds and shoes on our feet are a PRIVILEGE and we should be thankful to have our daily needs met so easily.  Somewhere across the world a Mommy longs for food for her children’s growling tummies, or water from a source other than the muddy stream, and you want another knick knack for your shelf? A bigger TV?  A softer mattress?  $170 Ugg boots?

   There are so many GREAT options out there for Gracious Gift Giving:

  Like Samaritans Purse, who sends out a WONDERFUL catalog each year with items like: “Feed A Hungry Baby for A Week – $9” or “Buy a Family A Months Worth of Milk- $18” .  I wrote about it last year:  Check it out here.  

  You can purchase these items and many, many more, in honor of “Aunt Sue” or “Uncle Jim”, and Samaritans Purse sends a lovely card, so they know just what your gift to them did for a family in need.  A gift like that keeps on giving the entire year, long after our Christmas trees are tucked away, our knick-knacks put up on the shelf.

  How about using Christmas as a Season of Compassion and adopting a child from Compassion International? 

 We are big believers in their ministry, and sponsor 2 children each month from Uganda.  We’ve sponsored Bampata John for 8 years now, and Nahabwe Deborah for 5ish.

Bampata John

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Do you know how good it was, for my kids to realize that the Birthday money we sent John, went to buy him a BED?  That the Christmas money we sent, bought his family a COW?  Life changing items to his family who needs so much.

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   So what does this post title mean: “Define Necessity”?

  Saying “No” to our kids is a hard thing to ask a parent to do, but since when does purchasing things equal happy kids?

  IT DOESN’T.

  Now, don’t get mad at me here for coming down on you, I’m totally talking to myself in this post too.  Our toy closet is full!  Even though we don’t buy toys just because we step foot in Walmart, it has still slowly filled up.  We don’t buy 20 gifts for each kid at Christmas; they get 3 from us, just like Jesus received from the 3 wise men.  (This helps limit our spending, as well as their need for MORE.)  Yet, the toy closet is so full it makes me angry every time I step foot in there. 

  I’d rather have 1 toy my children can play with 7 different ways, than 7 different toys that can only be played with one way.

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We live in a See It, Want It, Buy It generation. 

  Commercials flash across the screen, designed to grab our children’s attention and create a need in them.  It’s a trick, and I won’t fall for it.  We rarely watch TV, but when we do, you better believe the commercials get muted and kids sent off to brush teeth or something. I won’t have it, it makes me too mad to watch them invade my home with the intent of screaming:

 “BUY MY PRODUCT, you know you WANT too!!!!!!!!! You NEEEEED it.”

  What are we doing to protect our children from this nasty cycle of “Stuff”? 

What are we doing to teach them to SAVE their dollars and work hard for what they want, rather than watching mommy pull out her credit card once again to get them what they “HAVE to have”?

In a time of a low economy, job losses, recession and foreclosures, we need to teach our children to appreciate what they ALREADY have!  To play creatively with toys that don’t whir and spin, sing and move.  What happened to good ol’ fashion fun under a sheet-covered dining room table?  Or basic wooden blocks to create castles and entire towns out of?  What about a trunk of old clothes and shoes, just begging for an afternoon tea party in full costume?

Let’s get creative, and you don’t need new toys to do it!  Let’s finger paint with pudding.  Let’s bathe dolls or float boats in a kitchen sink chock full of bubbles.  Let’s get out a bowl of water and a paint brush and paint the bricks out front.  Let’s give those well-worn books another read.  Let’s make shopping trips a rare treat, not the norm.  Let’s use gift buying as a way to bless others or reward a month-long “Job Well Done”, or when a child finishes filling their chore chart with stickers, not to quiet a fit in the middle of Target.

   Don’t we want our kids to learn to be content as they grow up?  Are we creating a generation of Greedy Gimmie Kids who will enter the work world expecting to have all their demands met when they stamp their foot?

YES.  And it’s time to stop. 

  There is nothing wrong with buying a few Christmas gifts for your children.  It’s the taking it OVERBOARD that is killing us!

  Have you ever watched a child surrounded by 12 new toys?  They can’t focus or enjoy one, too distracted by the other, then the other, then the other, never really enjoying them to their full potential. 

  Let’s teach our kids first to GIVE rather than receive, then, let’s limit what we choose to give them in order to teach them to appreciate what they have.  Let’s reach out to a family in need to make our children aware of how much harder someone has it out there.  How blessed we are to have full tummies and soft beds.

  Let’s stop the Greedy Gimmies in their tracks……….let’s get our kids back to the basics. 

Let’s

Define necessity

Starting now.

It’s past time…..

~T

Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas

Reposted from Christmas 2010, but still straight from my heart:

  Christmas is rapidly approaching, and with it can come a sense of panic, a need to rush into town, push through the crowd towards near empty shelves, and snag those last few items on your Christmas shopping list. Standing in long lines, being told “Happy Holidays” by the greeter as you leave, rushing around to prepare for office parties & family get-togethers, addressing Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, and on the busy-ness goes……

Somewhere along the way, the peaceful, quiet days of Christmas past were lost. Somewhere along the way, Jolly Ol’ St Nick, stole the limelight from baby Jesus, and the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, replaced the leisurely gift shopping of days gone by. Instead, it seems, we celebrate materialism, indulgence and the idea that we need more, more, more.

As a kid growing up, I recall knowing who Santa was, I think he even signed a couple of our packages under the tree a time or two, but I can’t EVER recall a time, that I didn’t know it was really my parents.

I have great memories of Christmas growing up, but you’d be surprised at the ones that stand out most. I remember the year dad went back to college, and we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, so we decorated the artificial fica tree that stood in our living room, instead. Tiny red apples, red velvet bows and empty mini raisin boxes hung from its branches….

To my little girl eyes, it was beautiful!!!!! There were very few presents under the tree that year, but I don’t remember thinking much of it. Mom kept us busy with special baking and craft projects, and dad kept us in hysterics on Christmas morning, sticking his new electric drill up his nose, stating it could also double as a nose hair trimmer.

As we got older and became teenagers, our finances changed, and my parents got more and more creative in their gift giving…..

  One year we went on a family vacation to the Bahamas instead of getting gifts. Another time, Hawaii. One year, we got cash to spend after Christmas at the big sales, teaching us the value of the dollar, and that it could be stretched much further by waiting for a sale day after Christmas to shop. Another year, after my dad sold his trucking business, and things were incredibly tight, we did intangible gifts. We wrote letters of appreciation to each member of the family, and that Christmas morning was not spent under a pile of wrapping paper and boxes, but quietly seated around the fireplace, reading those letters of love & affirmation to each other.
But, the Christmas that stands out the most in my mind, was not the tropical vacations, not the new boom box or new car…..

No, it was the year we adopted a family in need, through a local church. We were given an address to deliver our goodies to them, in person.

We all loaded up, driving further and further into the oldest part of town, until we arrived in front of a very humble home. Arms loaded with boxes of goodies, we walked to the front door. Once we were done with our “good deed” for the day, we could go back home and have our own Christmas.

We knocked on the door, and were welcomed in broken English. Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed was the home was sparse in furniture. Mattresses serving as beds lay on the floor, and open cupboard doors revealed they were indeed, bare. My heart softened. My “good deed” for the day, suddenly turned into so much more.

Oh, the joy on their faces as we unloaded box after box of groceries, clothing, toys and necessities. I recall tears streaming down the mothers face, as she thanked us over and over in broken English. The father reached out his work-weary hands, silently grasping ours, tears in his eyes telling us how humbled and thankful he was for this, though no words were spoken. Their children ran circles around the old sofa, the language barrier not stopping our interpretation of their squeals of excitement and joy!

Tears filled my eyes, as I looked at the space around me….thinking of the home full of stuff we had left just 10 minutes ago, the gifts waiting under the tree, the food filling 2 fridges. This families Christmas blessing, was my every day life……

I didn’t know a day without food. I didn’t go to school without a coat ,because we didn’t have the money for one. I never walked to a cupboard to find it bare. We had so much, and they had so little. Why did I even need the few gifts waiting for me, under the tree at home?

It was then I knew what God was showing me…….THIS is what Christmas is about. Giving to others in need, showing them the love of Christ, not receiving! Why, when I had such an abundance, did I need anything? I became more convinced than ever that Christmas was going to be forever different at our house!

Fast forward 15 years, I now have 4 little ones of my own, and the huge responsibility of establishing my families traditions….

From the very beginning Christmas morning has been Jesus’ birthday, nothing else. We feel Santa “waters down” what we are trying to do with Christmas. Our goal is to keep it about Christ, and His birth, and in striving towards this goal, of keeping Christ in Christmas, we chose to exclude Santa from any of our celebrations.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids know who Santa is, and that he is part of the general season of year. In fact, the older two, were playing reindeer and Santa the other night!

That doesn’t bother me a bit.

Neither does letting them watch the evening Christmas specials on tv, about Rudolph or Frosty. What a special treat! But there is one rule and requirement of evening TV watching……

Commercials MUST be muted.

  I can’t stand how they try to grab my kids attention and stir up the “Greedy Gimmies” with the ads for the “coolest toy ever“!

But, when it actually comes to Christmas day, does Santa have a part?

Nope, not around here. We want Christmas Day to be sacred. It’s special. It’s a quiet, calm. A peaceful celebration of the birth of Jesus. It’s not wrapping paper piled knee-high on the floor. It’s not toy fire engine sirens, crying baby dolls and whirring helicopter toys, drowning out all other sounds of worship of our Lord and King…..the whole reason we celebrate in the first place.

On Christmas morning, you won’t hear shouts of ”Santa came!” Instead, shouts of, “It’s Jesus birthday!” are heard. Followed by arguments about who gets to blow out Jesus’ birthday candle after we sing Happy Birthday to Him.

After reading the Christmas story, we give each child 3 gifts, representing the 3 gifts given to baby Jesus by the wise men. Buying only 3 gifts for each child, keeps Dale and I in check, as we are doing our Christmas shopping, and allows the focus to remain on Christ, not the need for more, more, more.

Later, as our children get older, we will deepen the significance of these gifts, by assigning a meaning to each one:

Frankincense: A gift for spiritual growth. (A new devotion book, Bible or Christian CD.)
Myrrh: A practical gift. (A new pair of jeans, a coat, a laptop for school, a car emergency kit.)
Gold: A gift that fulfills a want. (An ipod, shopping certificate, jewelry, bike, MP3 player etc.)

We celebrate Christmas based on God GIVING us His one and only son, who later GIVES His life as a living sacrifice for us! We want giving and not receiving to be the focus of Christmas. This is why we choose to adopt a family in need, or participate in filling individual boxes, when our church adopts a local school.

What fun it is to stroll through the store, with each of my children clutching a paper in their sticky little hands, with a name…….a name of a special boy or girl, about their age, who we can be a blessing to. I love to see their faces as they figure out that no, these new toys aren’t for them to keep, they have enough toys at home. These gifts are for a little boy or girl, who might otherwise have nothing new at Christmas!

Granted, sometimes its hard to pack that giant bouncy ball, or sparkly nail polish in the box, for the other child! But, it doesn’t take long for them to grasp, at their level of understanding, the kindness and love they are showing to another child. To understand that Christmas is about giving to others, not asking, begging and pleading for the latest and greatest new toys.

It is my hearts desire for our Christmases to be SO focused on Jesus Christ, from my children’s first memory of Christmas on, that they don’t know it ANY other way!


Keeping Christ in Christmas goes much farther than a “Merry Christmas” greeting to a cashier, only allowed to say “Happy Holidays”. No, it comes from you momma, as you set the tone of your home for each and every holiday tradition to come……

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

~T