All I want for Christmas

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year.  I love everything about it….the music, the smells, the traditions, the memories, the foods, the meaning, everything.  I stretch Christmas as far as I can.  I’m not one to wait until after Thanksgiving to get into the spirit, and not because I’m rushing past Thanksgiving, but because, for me, they go hand in hand.    For both holidays I’m simply thankful.

Thankfulness is something I desperately want to create in the hearts of my children.  One of the difficult aspects of creating thankful hearts at Christmas is the materialism and commercialism which surrounds us this time of year.

I want my children to understand what it is we are celebrating at Christmas and realize it is about much more than gifts and that the holiday isn’t about them.  It’s about the birth of a Savior.  And it’s about how we can show His love to others.

Each year I find I have to work harder and harder to keep the true meaning of Christmas as the focal point of our festivities.  Each year I try coming up with a new system for raising grateful children who aren’t giving me gift lists a mile long of what they want for Christmas.  Each year I find myself saying things like, “Remember Christmas isn’t about gifts.”  Or “Remember, Christmas is a time we can show love to others and bless other people.”

My childhood Christmas memories are filled with traditions, memories, and moments with my family.  I honestly can’t tell you any of the gifts I received at Christmas.  I’m sure there were some great ones.  But that isn’t what I loved about Christmas.  I loved knowing that I would get some great quality time in with my family.  I loved anticipating the traditions that would take place each year.  I loved the decorations.  I loved playing outside, running laps around the house with my sisters, while my dad spent half the day on a ladder stapling big, fat, colored lights to our roof. I loved leaving my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve and hearing my dad talk about Santa’s sleigh being spotted, so we needed to hurry home to bed.

Rarely do gifts create lifelong, lasting memories that make an impact such as time, experiences, and moments.

This year God called our family to something we’ve never done before.  During the Christmas season we will be hosting an orphan from Latvia for 4 weeks.  The last few weeks have been very busy as we are preparing to have Viktors in our home.  Because we have spent so much time focusing on someone other than ourselves, we’ve had no time to even discuss the material aspects of Christmas.

When the boys got home from school, they were ecstatic to see some of our Christmas decorations were displayed.  In all their giddiness, I never heard them mention a single gift or want.  I heard things like, “Oh I can’t wait until the night we get to watch Christmas movies and drink hot chocolate.”  “I can’t wait to see the ornaments on the tree.”  “How long until we can open the first Advent door?”

But I kept waiting.  I just knew at any moment, it would begin.  We would begin talking about the gifts, the wants.  Jacob said, “I hope Santa puts a note in the tree that tells us to look in a different spot for something.”

“Will you be disappointed if he does that and it’s something rather small?”

“Mom!  Of course not!  I just like the note part.  In Little House on the Prairie, when Laura, Mary, and Cary received a cup, a penny, a heart-shaped cake, and a candy cane, Laura felt like they were the luckiest girls in the world.”

Zachary, overhearing our conversation, piped in, “Do orphans get Christmas presents?”

As I was forming my answer to say something about how we will not be getting many presents this year and we need to be sensitive to this child who comes from a country where materialism isn’t rampant and how he doesn’t likely receive anything for Christmas, Zachary’s eyes lit up as he exclaimed, “We can give him presents!”

Often kids become focused on what they want because we adults are putting the focus there for them.  We are saying things like, “So what are you asking for for Christmas this year?”  We are training their minds to focus on themselves by constantly asking what it is they want.  I’ve tried to throw away the toy magazines that flood the mailbox this time of year so the boys can’t become fascinated with having to have something they didn’t even know existed 5 minutes prior.

So I want to try something new this year.  I want to not ask my kids what they want for Christmas.  I want to not ask for a list from them.  I want to spend the season talking about what we are doing to bless others.  How we are serving others.  How we are showing God’s love.

I realize they will still be asked what they want by other people.  Or they will themselves begin thinking of what it is they want.  But as parents and grandparents, we have an opportunity to guide their thoughts.

I want to enjoy the season by not weighing us down with Christmas spending, taking some of the joy away from the moments.

I want our Latvian orphan, Viktors, to experience life with us, to feel loved, and not be confused that love comes from a show of material gifts.

When December 26th rolls around, I want to wake up satisfied that we showed love, we shared love, we gave freely, and we celebrated our Savior.  I don’t want to wake up to a house full of toys that will be abandoned in a month.  I don’t want to wake up to a feeling of guilt over money spent on things we didn’t really need that could have been used to bless someone else.

I want to wake up to a house full of little hearts that grew bigger this Christmas.  Little hearts that got the message.  Little hearts that saw what was most important.  Little hearts that focused on the unseen, not the seen.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Just Like My Kids

I wonder how many times I’ve heard my boys say, “When I grow up, I want to be…”  The answers change as they age and interests change.  I’ve always engaged in the fun speculation of what their lives may look like one day.

Listening to my 2 older boys discussing life plans, it hit me.  When I grow up, I want to be like my kids.  I want to be like them.

I want:

  • to have a seemingly blind faith
  • to see the innate good in a person-to be able to look past our preconceived notions of a person and to see the good that is within them.
  • to skip and hop as I go about my day because I’m not weighed down by the worry out to steal my joy and my moments
  • to laugh more, to take life less seriously, to lighten up
  • to be ok with good enough and strive less for unattainable perfection
  • to care less about the clock and more about the moment
  • to have an unguarded heart that cares less about the potential hurt and more about loving
  • to forgive in an instant, to let go of hurts, to keep no record of wrongs, to truly understand how to forgive from the heart
  • to say I’m sorry quickly…and mean it sincerely
  • to be a peacemaker, to work to help friends in conflict with each other
  • to give away my money freely because I haven’t come to believe in the lie that my security is tied to it-even if it means giving away the entire $20 received as a birthday gift just to see joy on the other person’s face
  • to see, really see, the beauty in nature-to shriek at the sight of the sunrise rather than rushing by assuming we will see another like it
  • to be captivated by the wind, how it blows through the trees, to stop and watch a caterpillar as if I’ve never seen it
  • to ponder the awesomeness of God, how He created the birds to fly, how He created the ocean waves to tumble
  • to ask a million questions a day because I’m truly in the moments trying to piece them all together
  • to continue to be shocked by immorality, not numbed by a desensitized culture

You see, in a way, kids have a lot of it figured out.  They just don’t realize it.  They strive to be like us.  I want to strive to be like them.

The next time my boys tell me what they want to be when they grow up, I will redirect them back to the heart.  Instead of focusing on what profession they will have or how many children they will have, we will discuss the matters of the heart.  We will focus on the areas that come naturally to them now and show them the beauty of those traits as an adult.  We will discuss how their hearts hold so much of what we adults need and have lost.

But we can get it back.  We can grow up to be like our kids.

Memories on Canvas


A close 2nd to memory making is memory reflecting.  Watching their expression as they study a picture  is a sweet moment in itself.  A blank expression transformed as the mind recalls the events, the moments, the feelings.  Lines soften, brows raise, smiles break through.

Experiences tie us together.  Time together draws us closer.  When we spend time reflecting on family memories and stories, we are deepening that connection.  We are aiding our children in recalling the times in our lives that create our story.  Our family story.  It’s a gift we can give our children.

A special place for our family is the beach.  Any beach really.  Honestly, I could sit on the sand for days on end mesmerized by the awesomeness of the sea.  The power.  The beauty.  The serenity.  The mystery.  Glimpses of our Father.

Over the summer the grandparents gave a great gift to our family.  They invested time in our kids for a week.  A week of just boys and grandparents.  A week that I had alone for the first time ever in 9 years.  The memories the boys walked away with are priceless.  The rest I was able to get was priceless.  It was an incredible gift.

During that time I tried to catch up on our scrapbooks and framing pictures.  I came across some stunning beach shots from our vacations that I felt needed to be displayed in our house.  We should be relishing in these memories.  Reminding ourselves of the times we’ve been given together, the fun we’ve had, the bonds that have formed.

So I ordered 4 beach shots in 8×10 size.  Until recently they sat in my office.  I wanted to display them simply, yet beautifully.  I’ve always loved canvas art and canvas prints.  So I thought I would give it a shot with these beach pictures.

This was the easiest project I’ve ever done.  I got 8×10 canvases.  I coated the canvas with Mod Podge (a staple in my home).  Next I lay the picture right on top of the Mod Podge covered canvas.  I gently used a cloth to smooth the picture on.  Then I turned it upside down so I could press the back of the canvas to be sure the glue would adhere evenly to the picture.  I let it sit upside down for about 30 minutes.  I took the canvas picture outside and sprayed it with Clear Acrylic Sealer in a Matte Finish.  The End.  That easy.

Total time for 4 8×10 canvas pictures not including drying time: 15 minutes.

Total cost for all 4:  $30

You could even paint the edges of your canvas.  My kitchen is white, so I liked the white edges.

I love filling our home with meaningful displays from our lives.

Let’s Chat

I closed the door on 2 of my soon to be sleeping boys and snuck down the hall to have some alone time with my oldest.  He was leaning against my bed looking at a magazine on my nightstand.  He didn’t notice me coming around the corner, and I couldn’t help noticing how much taller he seemed.  Sensing my presence, he turned towards the door where I was standing.  The soft lamp light reflected off his glistening eyes.  His best efforts couldn’t disguise the crack in his voice as he began to talk.

“Why are some kids orphans?  Did their parents die?  Or did they just not want them?”

The stress of the day that caused the tension to develop  in my body simply fell away in that moment.  I felt my body soften as I watched my boy look into the eyes of a child who doesn’t feel loved.

“Each orphan has a different story.  Some had parents who died, some had parents abandon them, some had parents who hurt them, there is a different story for everyone.  It’s very, very sad.”

I reached down and hugged him so tightly. “Some have never felt a hug like this.  Or had someone look them in the eyes and tell them they are special in God’s eyes and they are loved.”

His voice still shaky, he said, “If we had an orphan in our home, I would hug him all the time.”

“I know you would.  I love that about you.  Can I lay with you for a few minutes so we can just talk?”

“Sure.”  He never hesitates.  This boy is quiet.  He will rarely fight to be heard.  He always takes the backseat to his brothers.  For him it is pointless to fight to be heard.  But he has a lot to say.  And so he began.  I said few words back.  I simply lay next to him.  I would have laid in silence if that is what he wanted.  But he had a lot to say.  He told me about school, his friends, who has a crush on who, who gets along with who.  He talked about what it felt like to pitch in his baseball game.  He simply talked.  I simply listened, nodded, affirmed.

I have underestimated the power of simply being with my children.  Simply being physically present and completely undistracted with them.

It only took about 15 minutes.  A 9-year-old can say a lot in 15 minutes.  Those 15 minutes further strengthened our relationship, built up the trust and openness.  It was a time for him to be heard.  It was a time for him to share his heart in an easy and non-threatening environment.  A time that he wasn’t listening to demands or being corrected for something or asked to do something.

We need these times.  We need to store up as many as we can.  Because times will come when the relationship feels rocky, when they are going through emotional and physical changes that they can’t understand.  We need these times to fall back on.  We need these times to create the bonds, to form a strong connection, to build trust.  We need them now, before the rocky times arrive.  It’s much harder to build the relationship in the midst of struggles.

That time with my son reminded me of what is in his heart.  Compassion is in that kid’s heart.  He deeply cares for others, which causes him intense pain at times.  This helps me to realize in those times when I question why he could do what he just did, that his heart goes deep.  And sometimes that 9-year-old tries to protect that heart.  When he allows me in, I have a chance to keep that heart soft and let him know it’s all ok.

We all want someone to care enough to listen to what we have to say.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable

Last week we celebrated my son’s 9th birthday.  Great efforts were made to make his day, his week, extra special.  Special touches, simple actions to let him know we love him and we want to celebrate who he is.  All 9 years of him.

In the midst of all the celebrating, the Lord broke my heart.  He broke my heart for the children all around us who don’t have families making their day special.  The children who don’t have a warm bed to sleep in at night, who don’t have a safe place to lay their head, who don’t have families showing them they are valuable in God’s eyes, who didn’t get a birthday card or gift.

I was lying in a bed soft and warm, fleece sheets pulled snug to my chin.  The conditions were perfect for the most comfortable night’s sleep, yet I felt miserably uncomfortable.  As I pondered the weekend with my children filled with wonderful moments where memories were made,  my heart became heavier by the moment.

On my nightstand I had 2 magazines and some information I printed online. A Compassion International magazine, a World Vision magazine, and information from a non-profit I discovered in Charlotte.  As I read article after article, the ache grew.  Because we live in a world where millions of children are hurting, starving, and in unimaginable circumstances.  They are not in warm beds.  They have no food to fill their starving bellies.  The Lord allowed the hurt to fill my heart.  I allowed Him in fully, showing me the depth of the pain, the intense needs around us.  I allowed myself to feel the pain.  Despite my best attempts at comfort that night, the Lord made me completely uncomfortable.

We are privileged beyond belief in America.  Blessed beyond measure.  We know of the hurt in the world, but we don’t really know it until we live it.  We can’t possibly imagine the pain and scars until we’ve walked in their shoes along their road.

I began noticing things about myself that just made my skin crawl.  How much I love my comforts.  The temperature took its first real dip last week.  I walked right over to the thermostat and set it on an optimal temperature.  An hour later I still felt chilled, so I marched on over and hit it up a couple of degrees.  After making myself a cup of coffee to warm me instantly while I waited for the heat to kick in, I saw my actions and found myself completely uncomfortable despite my best attempts to feel just right.

How I take for granted the simple, simple elements of life that make life just right for me.  Turning up the hot water until it’s just right.  Unlimited supply of water at the turn of a handle.  A toilet that flushes, a door that closes and offers privacy.  A closet filled to the ceiling with 10 different styles of blankets providing exactly the comfort anyone could wish for.  A closet filled with nothing but coats, an average of 3 per person in this house.  One coat for each temperature range or weather condition.  Shoes that need an organization system to house them all.

As I lay in my warm, soft bed, I cried.  I cried for the children who can’t have what I am trying to give my own children.  What if it were Jacob?  What if it were Zachary?  What if it were Andrew?  Knowing and loving each of these boys, I would give anything for them.  What if we were to imagine the helpless children of the world as our own?  What if it were your own grandchild?  If we were to imagine the nameless faces of the world as our own, would we feel called to greater action?  Jesus sees them through the same eyes He sees us through.  He loves them as much as He loves us.  And He wants us to care for their needs.

The problems of the world are overwhelming.  When we look at them as the gigantic problem that they are, we can become frozen, feeling that we are only one person, wondering if anything we do could make a difference at all.

We can make a difference.  We might not solve world hunger.  And we can’t save every orphan in the world.  But what can we do for just one?  Or two?  Or one hundred?

What if you were that one who needed someone to help them?  Wouldn’t you want someone to do what they could even if for just one?

So here is a call to action.  What can we do beyond what we are doing?  Beyond what is comfortable for us?  What can we sacrifice in order to give a basic necessity to another?  Could I leave my thermostat lower, saving money on my bill, using that extra money to help provide blankets for the homeless?  The ways and ideas are limitless.

I believe if we experienced even just one day of what it’s like to live in poverty or a homeless situation, we would be willing to give just about anything.  Because we would understand the depth of the pain.

Let’s get uncomfortable.  Let’s get uncomfortable so that we can provide comfort to those who desperately, desperately need it.

Everyone wants to feel loved.  Everyone wants to feel special.  How can we create special moments for orphans, homeless, battered women, starving children in Africa?  Who is God laying on your heart today?

And the winner is…

Jessica To: “The $50 would help me to buy Christmas presents for my son for Christmas!”

Jessica please email me your name and mailing info to  Enjoy your $50 gift card!

10K Parent Training Plan and Another $50 Giveaway

Training for a race is not much different than walking the road of parenting.  To become a runner, to train for a race, requires planning, intentionality, priority setting, discipline, and perseverance.  You will shed blood, sweat, and tears.  It takes pushing through the cramps, wiping off the dirt, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other.  Even when all you want to do is throw in the towel.  Even when you wonder if each step is making a difference at all…….

To read the rest of this article,  click the link and join me over at The Better Mom  where I am contributing today!

I’m so excited about contributing over at The Better Mom that I thought a giveaway was in order.

Prize: $50 Amex gift card

How to enter:

  1. Leave a comment about how $50 could be useful to your family, a favorite fall activity or tradition, or anything you like!
  2. Like me on Facebook
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  7. Did you read this list and find yourself in the category of “I’ve already done #2-4?” Awesome!  Do #1, 5, and/or 6 and get credits for #2-4 as well!  Just a way to say thank you for your faithful support!

Not So Fine Print:  Winner will be chosen at random.  Giveaway closes Wednesday at 11:59 pm.  Winner will be announced here at Barefoot Walks on Thursday, so be sure to check back to see if you are the lucky winner.  You can have up to 6 chances to win.  Each item in “How to Enter” makes you eligible for one chance.  The more you do, the more chances you get.  

*****Updates made to Not so Fine Print Sunday, September 30th*************************