Nerf guns and goats — both good stuff!

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I was going to be good this year, and not buy lots of stuff for the kids.  I’m struggling with, “Maybe we should just buy goats and cows and ducks and chickens through World Vision instead?”  I definitely want my children to be givers.  Not focus so much on materialism.  So should we even put gifts under the tree?  And then I went shopping!  Last night.  I came home with bags!

Not all “stuff” is bad, right?  See, I stopped first at the Homeschool Connection store, looking for… I can’t remember now.  EVERYTHING was 15% off, since they’re going out of business!  It’s all educational, so, it’s all good?  Stuff like puppets and wooden theatres, train sets, tons of Melissa and Doug toys, art supplies, castles and knights, dress-up clothes, science projects, math games, maps, charts, posters, and of course, any school books and teachers guides you would need for homeschooling!  Wow, it was fun!

I bought stuff.

At Kohls, I bought more stuff.  Hey, Nerf refills and Play-Dough restocking is a must!  And socks.  The Man needed socks.  (Which I gave to him the minute I got home, lest you think I’m one of those lousy “sock givers” at Christmas!)

At Target, I bought more stuff.  Well, just one thing.  For the baby!  Mustn’t let her feel left out, you know, in the ripping off of wrapping paper!  (And it was something I’ve had on my “replace” list…)  I rarely shop at Target, and now I’m convinced that’s a good thing.  Very good!  I would spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY if I visited Target on a regular basis.  There was a super cool Nerf shield/sword set that ended up in my hands several times.  But, I did set it back down.  For now.  Maybe I’ll sneak back.  (Cboy has a birthday right after Christmas, after all!)

I felt like sneaking all my bags into the house and into a closet when I got home.  But I didn’t!  I showed Dee my treasures, and he actually gave me hugs and kisses and said, “Good job, Baby!”

Whew!  Guess I didn’t do so bad after all!

My gut feeling on this issue of Christmas Presents is that it’s okay to bless our children with gifts.  Not overboard, but gift-giving is a Godly characteristic.

As far as giving to the rest of the world, and the orphans and widows in our own backyard, it doesn’t mean squat at Christmas if we’re not giving year-round!  God knows our heart.  If we’re “donating” at Christmas because we feel guilty, will He honor it?  I doubt it.  Sure, we can give goats and fresh water at Christmas, and fill shoeboxes with gifts for poor children, but what else are we doing?

Are we filling bottles with change for the crisis pregnancy center?  Or even writing a check?  Are we volunteering our time at public schools’ release time for kids?  Or the local relief center?  Are we passing bags of nice clothing on to someone in church instead of selling it?  (Me!  I’m guilty of this!)  Are we praying for and sending money to the missionaries we know, or that our church supports?  Are we giving to these people anonymously, or taking a tax write-off?  Are we paying some stranger’s grocery bill?  Or better yet, sending groceries to a family we know that’s struggling financially?  What about stopping to give the “lazy bum” at the Wal-Mart corner the rest of our cash?  Donating that $1 at the checkout counter?  Are we inviting the “unlovely” into our homes, to share a meal or just some friendship?  What about abused children?  Rape victims?  Pregnant teens?  Children and women trapped in the (United States!) sex-trade industry?  Are we bringing our family to the nursing homes and soup kitchens?  Can we offer to watch kids for free, so a mom and dad can “date?”  Buy huge boxes of diapers for a family with a new baby?

So many ways to give…

Giving has to be a way of life, not a once-a-year offering.

This fall, my family was here on a Sunday when a missionary was speaking at church, about life in Africa.  I didn’t want to stop at Starbucks on the way home, to pay $2.21 for a cup of coffee.  I knew that $2.21 could buy precious more than a cup of coffee in Africa!  I said something, about wanting to save the $2.21 that week, and not spend it on coffee.

My dad spoke up with words he’d heard from a long ago pastor.  The gist was,

“Don’t talk about ‘not spending’ money because of poor people in another country, unless you’re actually going to take and send that money to another country!”

So I think I will keep sending money to other countries!  And to families from here.  I think I will keep giving my kids presents at Christmas, and also buy goats and chickens for families in South America.  I know I’ll keep drinking coffee!  But I’m going to do my best to SAVE in order to GIVE all year long.

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11 responses »

  1. Wow Thank you Ruth! this is a really great reminder for us all about the importance of following Godly giving practices.

  2. almost my thoughts exactly this year! we have toned down the gift-giving a lot for our two girls, just 3 new things each. they’re so little, they won’t even notice other kids their age are getting dozens of new things. and besides. . their imaginations keep them busy much longer than their toys do!

  3. i had some similar thoughts about a food drive and donation drive at our office this year. it made me think – are folks doing this year round, or do they just do it this time of year? the whole commercialization of christmas and (is it guilt-motivated?) method of donating at this time of year. ugh. i just pray and know that His purpose is greater in all of these things. i want to be doing things according to His word and guidance all year round. not just now.

    • Amen! Of course the money and food (toys, coats, etc.) given at Christmas will be used! And it will be a blessing to people receiving it! God’s not going to throw our offerings away just because we gave with the wrong motive, but WE won’t be as blessed, and WE won’t have the same rewards in heaven when our hearts aren’t right about giving. We need to be givers all year long AND at Christmas!

      As a parent, I’m constantly thinking about my kids, too. I know if they didn’t see me giving all year, and then suddenly give their Christmas present money away to some strange kids across the ocean, they would be bitter. But, if they see me giving in tiny and big ways all year long, then just maybe THEY’LL be the ones to ask about creative ways they can give to other people at Christmas!

  4. You hit the nail right on the head. I totally agree, and I’m convicted and encouraged! (And excited about being in America to restock on good educational toys for next year!) Once again thrilled to read your thoughts and be reconnected! Keep writing!

    • I miss you already! Wish CA wasn’t so far away, so I could pop in at least a few times for a cup of tea before you head back to Kazakhstan! May you have an absolutely beautiful Christmas with your family, and some good time of rest. Love you!

  5. Yes I think giving is so important and so important to teach our little kiddos to be givers. I struggle with the balance as well. As an MK I sometimes want to give my kids all the things I didn’t have. At the same time I’m trying to be careful to make sure and teach them about all of the blessings that I DID have! Very thought provoking!

  6. Thanks so much for the reminder to be givers all year long. I, too love to give gifts to my children. Guess the challenge is when spending money on yourself and yours is the focus. Or when you don’t have money to do both (for gifts for your family and share with others) which will be priority? Most of us have had it good enough that we can give and keep both. But what if it hurt to give. Would we still be as eager to give? Or reluctant that it meant changing our usual spending pattern? In other words, can we give up coffee if that was the only spare change we had?

    Thanks,
    Gina

  7. Ouch, Gina! Did you have to mention coffee? Those are convicting words. Thank you. Yes, I would say that my family has never experienced sacrificial giving, not in the truest sense of the word. What would I do if we were in that place? I’d like to say make the right choice, but I just don’t know…

    In November, I thought about giving up coffee for a month or so, in order to send that money elsewhere. Sort of like a Lent thing? I didn’t though, because I didn’t feel like my heart was in the right place yet. Just sort of flippently saying, “Yeah, sure, I can give up drinking for a while… and pick it back up again later…” Know what I mean? I want my HEART to change! But God says, “Where your TREASURE is, there your heart will be also.” So maybe I need to just start doing, and watch my heart follow along.

  8. Ruth –
    Oh, I didn’t mean to step on toes. I only mentioned coffee because you did! And because I hate coffee so it was easy for me! But I have my own “don’t dare take that from me” and I truly know nothing at all about sacrificial giving. Maybe it is impossible in this country, at least when your husband still has a good job.

    I’ve been thinking more about your post this morning. My parents probably are an excellent example of what you are talking about. They always gave freely to us children. But nothing extravagant. I always knew that Christmas for us would be very special – but not like many of our friends. When I got older I was almost embarrassed at the question of “what did you get for Christmas” because my parents just didn’t “load us up”. With nine children, they couldn’t or that house wouldn’t have held it all. But they certainly weren’t stingy with giving to us.

    It was only when I was older that I found out how much money they gave yearly to missions. I was astounded. They had never made a big deal about it. Never acted like they were withholding from us so that they could give to others. I was so challenged to just live an ordinary simple blessed life and make giving a natural part of living.

    Did that make sense at all?
    Gina

    • Totally! Dee’s parents are like that too, and I admire them a lot. My family didn’t have extra money to give, but I remember growing up with examples of giving. Nursing home ministry, homeless people for Sunday dinner, Dad stopping to talk to people begging for money, to figure out what they really needed, Mom always volunteering to help — anybody!

      It wasn’t you, really, but the mention of COFFEE that sent a twinge of guilt my way! =) Because it was already something I’d been thinking about giving up. Not my home-brewed stuff, just my over-priced “outing” drinks at coffee shops. And not forever, because I don’t think that’s necessary, but just for a while. Until it’s not an such a normal, no-big-deal splurge, maybe? I think I just want to know, “COULD I give up something precious to me?” AND spend the money on someone else, the flip side, not just another box of diapers or an outing to Tony’s for our family.

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