Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My ministry starts at home

Lately I've been reading some articles and blog posts through my Facebook feed that have left me feeling really lousy about myself and the way in which my family celebrates the holidays during this time of year. There are all of these posts about not having a tree and not doing gifts for the kids and not buying anything (and instead doing handmade) and the no's just go on and on and on.

At first these messages started to get me down. I never felt convicted like God was trying to tell me that they were right and I was wrong. But of course that practical, ideal, do gooder inside of me always feels like crap around this time of year... right before I succumb to purchasing something at a Wal-mart or when I say I'm going to make a lot of handmade gifts and it never happens or I end up using wrapping paper with Disney characters instead of that lovely brown wrap which can be recycled or at least legally burned in your backyard. I always wrestle with myself and my inner consumer each year... and this year has been no different. The many posts about the topic have just made it that much worse. "You are so fake. You call yourself authentic but then you order the bulk of your gifts from Amazon and you wrap them in paper that will end up in a landfill. You suck!" And of course, "All of that money you spent on video games or Barbie stuff could have been spent to help a family in need. Why didn't you adopt an angel from the angel tree? You super duper suck."

But about a week ago, I heard a soft still voice reassuring me. It said, "Your ministry starts at home."

About five years ago, I was a young mom of two young children. I had recently given up my volunteer position at our local pregnancy support center and I felt like a big fat worthless slob. I had little money with which to help others. I had what seemed to be loads of down time but yet, because I was nursing one and at times two babes, there was just no way that I could DO anything with that time. I remember spending a lot of time online (ha! imagine that) and reading the website of Candace Cameron Bure. You know... from "Full House"... Kirk Cameron's sister? She seemed to have it all together. She was a mother, a wife, INSANELY GORGEOUS, and ministering to others about our Lord. How did she do it? I emailed her. I never dreamed she'd actually respond. I asked her for advice on how to give back, to volunteer, to create a ministry for myself while I also had two small children at home. Her response was precious. Priceless advice. She said a lot of things but the bottom line was this: "Your ministry IS your home. Your children and your husband... you minister to them first and foremost." Unfortunately I didn't believe her or I wasn't listening or something because shortly after I received her email, I started a nonprofit organization which took my focus off of God, off of my marriage, and off my children. It nearly landed me in a divorce. Wow. Candace had been right. If I wasn't putting the ministry in my home first then dang, nothing else mattered did it?

Fast forward a few years and in walks leukemia. Sure, I'd already given up the non profit and admitted that I had been a failure and an idiot. The leukemia thing further solidified in my mind that my kids and husband had to come first... only after God. I began to practice my new found belief. Everything extra stopped and I was able to truly focus on the things that matter. Since then I have taken this focus even further and I've limited our activities, created a schedule for our home, and I'm focusing on and ministering to my family.

What does this have to do with the winter holiday we celebrate, Christmas?

Well, I believe that part of my ministry to my children is to provide them with a wonderful Christmas. Life is short. You never know how long you have with your kids. This could be our last Christmas together as a family... and each one from now on could be our last one. Having a kid with a deadly illness sorta puts things in a different perspective. Creating sweet memories today, while I still can, is at the top of my priority list.

My kids enjoy a Christmas tree. They like getting new ornaments for the tree.
My kids enjoy receiving gifts. Ones from Amazon. Ones that they saw at a big box store.
My kids like watching Christmas movies. On TiVo. And we don't always fast forward through the commercials.

All of these things contribute to making the kind of Christmas that they want. Could they have a good Christmas without these things? Sure. Does it hurt them or make them less loving or giving for us to allow this type of "commercial" Christmas? I don't think so. My children's hearts are the most important hearts in the world to me. If I'm not filling their cup and giving them the Christmas of their dreams... the Christmases of their childhood memories... then everything else I do is really pointless, as far as I see it. And getting caught up in the details of whether our Christmas is green enough or lacking in commercialism enough is just gonna suck all of the fun out if it, if you ask me.

This doesn't mean that I don't make an effort to support local businesses and to adhere to my otherwise eco conscious and health conscious way of life. Absolutely, I do. But it's not my focus.

Of course we are doing and will continue to do something for others during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year but I won't tell you what those things are because that's not my style.

My kids have so much. Sometimes it's hard for me to think of them as children "in need". But the fact is, they are. They are emotionally traumatized by what they have been through this past year and a half. They are excited to be together as a family this holiday season. We all are. Leukemia or not, we all have kids who are in need. They are all in need of good, sweet memories. Of special time together as a family. Of believing that they are worth the spoiling and the doting that often comes with the Christmas holiday. And if that means a little commercialism and a little spoiling and a little tossing aside rigid standards in favor of fun and impracticality once in a while... well... then I say a big fat resounding "YES"!

What if you knew that this was your last Christmas together as a family? Would you do anything differently?

Happy Holidays (no matter what holiday you celebrate) and a Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

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  1. Oh Mandy. First, how cool that Candace Cameron Bure wrote back to you!! :)

    Second, do NOT, for even a second, let anyone else make you feel bad, or wrong, or not good enough because of how you choose to celebrate!! We too have a tree. We use wrapping paper. We order from Amazon AND shop at Walmart. We buy kids things that they don't need, but will really enjoy. We also give to a needy family every year. We give to a charitable organization. We donate time and/or money to someone who needs it. I don't believe for a second that Christmas has to be an either/or proposition... that you either have this commercialized, materialistic secular holiday that has nothing to do with Jesus OR you have a simple meaningful Christmas with no presents and no tree and everything handmade. If people want to choose one over the other, great! It's their choice. But it's not going to make me feel bad or someone inferior (no matter how hard some may try)

    Love you Mandy, and you are perfect the way you are. Don't let anyone tell you different.

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post! Thank you for sharing.

    This is especially good timing for me as I just starting thinking of what I will get our daughters this year. I started to feel a bit guilty and sucky about it.

    We're not rich and we give a hefty percentage of our income away. My girls have had a really tough year and I'm not going to slip into guilty feelings over buying a few gifts for them.

    May you and yours have a wonderful, beautiful Christmas! <3

  3. Don't let those messages get you down! You should absolutely celebrate the season in the way that makes you and your family the most joyful!! I like the idea that "your ministry starts at home". Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  4. Great thoughts! Loved it! And very true!


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