Sunday, November 9, 2008

Big Idea

I want to tell you about something I'm really excited about. It was just yesterday that I got it all worked out in my brain, but it's an idea that really started about a month ago, and now, in the words of Sid the Science kid, it's turned into my Super-duper-umper-shumper-BIG IDEA I'll start from the beginning.

Every once in a while I like to take the girls up to Barnes and Noble for story hour, and a few Tuesdays back this is where we found ourselves. Before it was time for the book, Marianna noticed a display with a tv set up next to it running a promotional for The Elf on the Shelf. I heard of it last year for the first time and thought it was a cute idea. If you haven't seen it yet, this is the concept in a nutshell: the book comes with a magic elf, and each day of December the parent hides the elf for the kiddos to find in the morning. The self-named elf cannot be touched (it's magical), and it is always watching so that he can tell Santa whether the children he keeps watch over are good or bad. It also comes with a book. Anyway, it's something exciting to do each day building up to Christmas, and I like that. Part of me wanted to buy it right then and there, but something -maybe the price tag- kept me from sealing the deal.

Since then, the idea has stuck with me, but over the weeks it morphed into a different concept, until it finally materialized into a game plan yesterday. Here it goes...

This year, starting on the first day of December and going all the way til Christmas day, I want to do something every single day to remember what Christmas is really about. I'm going to entitle my little operation Take Christmas Back, and I want our family to see what it is like to try and enjoy every single day of the season, not by seeing how much fun we can have by doing stuff for ourselves, but by seeing how much greater the joy is when we focus on trying to celebrate Jesus and everything He means. How is it going to happen? Well, I'm still piecing it all together, but whatever it is, I want to make sure Marianna can be involved. It hit me that right now she is going to start forming her ideas of what is important in life, and it is me and Nathan who are going to shape that for her. Without even realizing it, I can see how we can create a world that is all about getting, getting, getting, without ever teaching her to give. Having Marianna has opened my eyes in a new way to how Christmas is marketed to appeal to self. It's all about picking out the presents she wants, getting to see Santa, getting to make cookies, going out to see shows or lights, and the thing is, not one of those things is bad. But if that's all it's about, we're robbing her.

So this is what I'm thinking. How about trying to incorporate some of the things we would do anyway, but do them with a twist. For example, I want to make Christmas candy this year, but instead of keeping it all for ourselves, I thought maybe we could package it up and take it to one of the hospitals--maybe even a Children's hospital--to give to those who are sick and can't get out. When I was growing up my mom often made dough ornaments with me, and it's a tradition I would like to keep up. So maybe this year, we can make some for our family tree, and we can make a few extra and take them to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, and visit some people who don't get to see children often. I want to read the Christmas story every morning leading up to Christmas. I want to let Marianna "earn" some money so that she can buy a gift for a child who won't have many. Basically, I want to go about the whole season with a focused effort not to get lost in the lights and presents and pageantry, but rather to keep it in perspective. I love all of it, and I don't think it's bad. I just know how I am. Without thinking about it, planning on, and preparing for it, I'll find myself sliding into all the normal holiday chaos without doing any of these things that I'd really like to do.

So that's my plan. This morning our pastor preached out of Matthew 10, talking about the rich man who hoarded his wealth, and died rich with material possessions but empty of everything that really counted. We might not have a whole lot of financial wealth to hoard, but we do have other things--our time, our focus, our priorities-- that we can hoard without even realizing it. I hope this year it will be different!

I am aware that I'm putting this out there a little early, but I'm excited about it now, and I wanted to share the thought. This is my official invitation to ask you to jump on board with us on our Take Christmas Back adventure... I would love to get one of those buttons for my blog...maybe I'll figure out how before December 1st! I'd love to hear any suggestions or ideas if you have them!

36 comments:

MandieGirl said...

What a great idea! I don't have kids, but I'm going to put my own spin on this and challenge my hubby and myself to focus on the giving. Thanks for your idea!!! Love it!

Michelle said...

My son turned 4 this year and I have really been convicted of what we are teaching him about the season. Last year he cried cause he was tired of opening presents... that was a real eye opener to my whole family! (he is the 1st grandkid so we are learning by him ha). This year we are buying less and only for the 3grandchildren. We are giving to a charity instead of gift exchanges between the adults... it is new and different but exciting to spend the time and thought towards teaching my son about giving of our time and creativity to show Christs love, rather than shopping stress. All this to say... I am on board and love this post! Keep us posted! :)

Five Musgraves at Ten Oaks said...

Love it, love it, love it! You've really got my mind going as well . . . except with these older boys, I won't be able to do something every day, but perhaps once they're all out of school (2 in college-1 in a dorm, 1 in an apt), if I have my act together, we could have something planned each day! They could do some cool things at their ages and with their giftings! Now, to get them on board will be the challenge of the day :) I'll keep reading these comments for more ideas!

Megan said...

What a wonderful idea!! I like the ideas you have already. I think I'm going to have to Take Christmas Back at my home. I think I'll post about your idea on my blog as well. Here's a few more ideas you can add to the list if you'd like.
*Make a box for Operation Christmas Child
*Serve at a local homeless shelter
*Help out your local pregnancy resource center
*Donate items to a local food pantry

boltefamily said...

That is an AWESOME idea! We do something similar...we have an Advent toolbox...it is like a little box for organizing screws and such and we put a slip of paper in each one...there happen to be 25..sometimes we visit a nursing home, sometimes we take gifts to a hospital, sometimes we take a cake to a neighbor or take gifts to a shelter. Sometimes we just decorate cards and send them to random people in the phone book. It is awesome and has taught Luke so much! You are SO right, we need to TAKE CHRISTMAS BACK!

Stephanie D. said...

Time to de-lurk. It's a terrific idea, and one that we can all benefit by, whether kidlet, parent, grandparent, human being.

I'll link to you from my blog, too!

beccad said...

I love the idea! Noah and Eli were just looking through the toy magazine from Wal-Mart yesterday and naming everything that they wanted. Since John lost his job 2 weeks ago we have really been worried about Christmas. I want them to understand Christmas for what it really is and not just presents from Santa.

Jessica said...

I LOVE this idea! I'm totally in!

Jessica said...

Hey Angie!
Do you have a kid-friendly manger scene? Maybe instead of the elf, each week or day (depending on how many items you have and how long you want to stretch it) you could have someone from the nativity scene hidden for her to find. You could build it a little at a time and each person or animal that you add could add a little to the story.

Crystal said...

have you read Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noelle Piper? It is a quick read, and I read it online. I think you would appreciate some of her ideas. You could even just skip to her chapter on christmas.
Crystal

KingsLittleBlessings said...

I love the idea! We have 6 kids, and every year I'm wanting to make it more real and more about what it is, Jesus' birthday! Please keep us posted!

Peter and Kate said...

I love this idea. I'm going to start thinking and then send you some ideas. Amongst us all, I know we can come up with 25 days of celebrating the Reason for the Season. I like your name for it too.

TN Lizzie said...

Angie,
We love to go to the hospital on Christmas morning, especially when we get to show the girls a baby who was born the night before. We always take a gift for the new Mama who won't have any visitors (the nurses always know who to take it to!) It's fun to make the gift a special way of telling about Jesus: A candle - John 8:12, A baby blanket - John 14:16, A tangerine and peppermint sticks - Psalm 34:8...

Something fun for little ones is to have a Birthday party for Jesus! Cake for breakfast is a real treat around here!

Here are some other ideas:
-Wrap a baby doll in "swaddling clothes" and put it in a basket outside by the front door. This will remind you (and any visitors) that Jesus is really the focus of the holiday. We bring the manger in front of the fireplace on Christmas morning and sing Happy Birthday and read the Christmas Story before we open anything.

-Have a "Jesus Tree" that is decorated with ornaments that all focus on the names of Christ. You could use simple balls painted with the names of Christ. You could choose things like a little lamb representing the "Lamb of God", a bottle of rosemary, a King, a dove- "Prince of Peace", etc.

- We own an old set of Family Life's "Adornaments." They've been discontinued, but I searched and found some for sale. We either hang these special ornaments on the fireplace or on a special hanging rack.

-Bake bread for neighbors and give it to them with a small note reminding them of the "Bread of Life".

- Have a nativity set that the kids can touch/feel so they are up close and familiar with the story.
My favorites:
Little People Nativity Set
Playmobil Nativity Set

Merry Christmas, Angie, and Happy Thanksgiving before that. I know y'all have much for which to be thankful this year!

Tate Family said...

I'm totally on board! Great idea.

Melissa said...

Hi..I came to your blog from Moms Happy Handful, and LOVE your idea! I thought I would share something I found out...my son is in 1st grade (first time in public school) and we found out the school district has an "angel tree" that helps kids in the area. I don't know if your area has this, you can contact your local school and they should be able to help you. We are going to select an angel this year and my kids are going to use their money to purchase any toys that may be on the list and my husband and I will take care of the other items. We are hopeful that this will show our kids that it is not all about what you get at Christmas, but rather what you do to help others...

Jennifer said...

What a great idea! I am onboard and will definately put the button on my website if you get one!

Lori in South Dakota said...

Great idea! A few years back my side of the family quit buying presents except a few for the kids. Hey, us adults have everything we need. We do the crazy "draw a number, take a present game", and steal each others presents. And I love to bake so will bake Christmas goodies for all my family's elderly friends. My husband delivers them for me and he's quiet and they don't see as often as they do me, so it's funny for all of them. Christmas isn't about presents, and I although I love the music, lgihts, decorations--the presents are bottom of the list.

Emily said...

Oh, I love that idea! I have 3 little boys (4, almost 3 & 4 mos) & I was thinking the other day about how they (the 2 oldest) are already focused on what they want. It doesn't matter what it is, if it's for a boy they want it. I think that helping them form their opinions at this age will make them so much happier in the long run. I am on board!! I think you are so creative! I just love reading your blog!!
Emily in Mississippi

Kenzie said...

Angie-

Great BIG IDEA! I love all the thoughts and suggestions from people that have commented too. I think we will be pretty busy this December, but never so much so that we can't do this too! One thing that helps us control the amount of gifts is something our pastor brought up several years ago and we have done with Deacon since he was born. We give him 3 gift from mama and daddy... something he needs, something he wants, and something "spiritual"... just like Jesus got gifts from the 3 wise men. His stocking is the only thing that we fill from "Santa" and he really doesn't care that much about that right now :) Just trying to focus on the "reason for the season"... I am ALL for TAKE CHRISTMAS BACK and would totally put the button on my blog too. Maybe the girl that helped MckMama and Angie Smith could do one for you! Try and email either one of them...

Love ya and thanks for the "refocus"

Kenz

Kirsten said...

Awesome idea!!! I love it and want to be part of Take Christmas Back. This is a great antidote to the selfishness that is bringing down America. I'm excited to DO SOMETHING about it. Thanks for sharing the idea!

How can we share the idea? Link to your blog?

Rachel Marie said...

Ok, so this post made me de-lurk. I love this idea! I am still a newlywed with no kiddos yet, but I have been wanting to develop some new family traditions that we can carry on as our own. This one is great! All the ideas are good too. One we are going to do this year is serve at a soup kitchen on Christmas eve. I know with little ones it might be hard, but maybe you could do it for an hour or so.

Oh and if you need someone to help design a button, I can try to help. I'm not a professional at it, but I love designing stuff through scrapblog! Let me know!

happy gram said...

in our nativity scene the manger is empty. the baby jesus is moved closer and closer to the manger from dec 1 to dec 25. it can be hidden in any room in the house. on dec 25, it appears in the manger.

connie said...

Thank you, Angie; why am I pleasantly not surprised that you are helping us start thinking along the right lines, and this early in the season? I am getting excited about this. I guess I'm not all that creative, and needed some guidance.

Anonymous said...

I found out about your blog through a friend and really enjoy reading it! We have a little store where we live that didn't like the Elf on the Shelf concept so they wrote a little story about an elf that comes to live at your house on Dec. 1 and he comes to do nice things for you and teach you to do nice things for others. It talks about how presents are great and fun but the best present of all is Jesus! I would be happy to email you what they sell with their little elf if you are interested in reading it! GREAT idea! We love giving gifts at our house but want to make sure our children grow up knowing that the most important reason we celebrate Christmas is Jesus and teach them to serve others!

Stacey said...

time for me to de-lurk. we met you and your beautiful girls at story time a few months ago. i think this idea sounds wonderful. we do our best to focus on the reason for Christmas. any ideas like this help us to keep our focus on what it is really about. thank you for sharing. looking forward to the details to follow!

lelesgirl1962 said...

Angie,

"what God Wants for Christmas" is a Nativity set that is kid freindly. I got to see the prototype years ago through a friend you worked for Family Life and it was really a neat thing. It ends with YOU (a small mirror in a small box to be opened) as to what God really wants for Christmas.

It used to be sold at wal mart or k mart...don't know if it still is.

But you can find it on line at the family life site, amazon.com or www.whatgodwantsforchristmas.com. The latter site also has a downloadable ornamament template as well as some coloring pages on the "take home sheet" link.

Something I used to do with my niece starting when she was about Marianna's age was the shoe box ministry that many churchs have. Every other year when Elizabeth was in Memphis for Christmas, she and I would go to the dollar store, (after she would pick the age child she wanted to make a box for and of course she always wanted a girl) and I would give her a certain amount of money and let her pick the items for 1, 2 or 3 boxes (depending on the items she picked was how many boxes we could make). Then we would go back to my parents house and Elizabeth would get to pack the shoeboxes herself...no matter how messy or in what order she put things in. We would then seal the boxes and I would deliver them to the church after she went back to Baton Rouge.

Her little face used to light up when she was picking the items, keeping up with counting the items to match the money she had to spend and packing the boxes.

Too bad she is a teenager now and she doesn't get that much joy out of doing this anymore.

Lisa

Kara said...

Great idea Angie! I love to celebrate Christmas the way God intended. We do a little bit of Santa though, but we also incorporate so many of the aspects of Jesus birth. We talk quite a bit about the birth story. We have a small tree, from Hallmark I believe with ornaments (stuffed) that all represent a person or animal from the Christmas story. We read the story from the bible several times during the season, as well as a Max Lucado book about the story. WE also try to participate in Operation Christmas Child and other things to minister to others. Caden of course wants so many toys this year, but he is only 4 so we are hoping to continue to mold him...Great ideas from everyone! Thanks for bringing this up!

JMom said...

I love this idea and would LOVE to participate if you get a button made.
A couple of quick ideas of things that have worked with my 4 year old triplets: The Jesse Tree, only three presents from Santa, old fashioned Christmas caroling in the neighborhood (especially to shut ins), Hiding baby Jesus from our nativity and having him appear Christmas morning, our Advent calendar is a nativity scene so each day a magnet comes out that is a part of the scene, Christmas Eve at the local childrens shelter, Birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day, etc... I cannot wait to see what others come up with...

Inkling said...

That's a great idea, especially as your little girls watch and learn from you.

My husband and I can't afford to buy gifts for our whole family, so the first year of our marriage we decided to buy a few gifts in their honor. We pooled our gift money, chose a ministry and picked out a few gifts (outfitting a medical clinic, providing school supplies) that fit what our family members do as a vocation. As a tangible gift for each family member, we gave them a card saying what we had done in their honor, and then a jar of homemade jam I had made from berries we had picked in the summer.

Then last year that morphed into adding a Boxing Day celebration (something Canadians celebrate). I crocheted a bunch of scarves out of yarn I had on hand, putting them in the manger my dad had made for me years ago. (As a kid, we'd do something special for a family member in secret, put a piece of hay in the manger for each secret act, and by Christmas baby Jesus would have a soft bed.) Then the day after Christmas, we made cinnamon rolls and a big frittata casserole, wrapping up individual servings in foil. We put the scarves in gift bags with the food, some plastic forks, napkins, and a little card that shared Jesus' love, and then we drove around town giving them out to homeless people. We prayed the whole way, asking God to show us where to go and who to give each package to. The food was still piping hot by the last delivery, and our hearts were just as warm knowing that we had shared out of the little we had.

It is so fun to develop these traditions that cause us to be creative and generous. It is also really fun to be able to bless others like this even though we are not financially well off at all. As for my family, they loved the idea, and don't miss the traditional gifts of clothes/jewelry/consumable items at all.

Inkling said...

Oh, one last idea. When I was single and younger, the eight of us grandkids used to exchange names and spend $15 on a gift. That got to be kind of silly, so we decided to pool our money and go shopping to buy baby gear for a local pregnancy center in town. One of my aunts helped us get great deals to make our dollars stretch. It was so fun to have the eight of us deliver a trunk full of stuff that moms in crisis pregnancies could use. And none of us were disappointed to miss out on a new cd or book.

Emily said...

I have been reading your blog for sometime now.. and I pray for you and your family often! You are an amazing woman and I trully enjoy reading your blog! I lvoe your take back christmas idea and I cant wait to read more about it when you post more. I want to do something like this with my husband.... cant wait to hear more! I dont have kids yet but I cant wait for the day! God bless.. emily

tn_lizzie2000 said...

Angie,
I immediately thought of you and your challenge when I stumbled across THIS!

www.jesusisthegift.org

There are great ideas and resources there...

The Schwant Family said...

hey angie! what a GREAT idea! jack is just 18 months old but i think we will start early and take some of your ideas this year - i know it will be good for ALL of our hearts.

i design blogs and christmas cards and would be more than happy to do a button for you. email me (erin schwant @ hotmail) or leave me a comment on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Another reader "de-lurking" for this good idea! How about having a day that you and the kids make some Christmas cards for our wounded service men and women. I'm sure many of them would be charmed by the coloring and handwriting of a small child. One address I've used to send cards from my school children is: A Recovering American Soldier, Walter Reed Army Medical Center,
6900 George Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307-5001.
I've already pulled out a calendar to begin filling in ideas!

The Sanchez Family said...

I love this idea. I have wanted to wait to read this post until I had enough time to really think about it. We will be going you in the Operation: Take Christmas Back! I think this is a great tradition to start. My 6 year old will really benifit from this, I am sure. I am going to challenge my family and friends to join me also. I will let you know how it goes. I would love to be able to follow other readers journey somehow and maybe get some ideas from them also. I am not sure how, maybe an email exchange?

Melissa
sgtsgirl@bellsouth.net

MamaBear said...

I clicked on your button from A Look into Our Lives (Hilary) and am excited to read through the comments and your December posts. It's too late at night for me to remember anything so I'll be back tomorrow. Before I go though I wanted to say that I've been posting all week about the things our family is doing to celebrate Advent. If you visit my blog you can search under "advent traditions" or just scroll down since most of my recent posts are about Christmas.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!