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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why my kids gave up their Christmas…

I’ve re-started writing this in my head over and over. How I was going to share our Holiday season, and each time I erase and start over.  I’m not a writer.  At all.  My grammar is poor, I lack creativity in writing, I ramble and it’s just downright boring. That’s why I fill my blog posts with pictures!  Beautiful images to distract the reader from the terrible and boring writing.  I write to inform.

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Why is this time different? Why can’t it just be a normal post full of cute pictures and me informing what went on in the picture?  Well, because this post is different.  This Christmas was different.  This Christmas changed my children.  Maybe not forever, but at least for the month of December, they were different.  I felt different.  And that’s why this post has to be different.  I don’t just want to tell people about what we did, I want them to FEEL it!  I want to be able to convey, in words, a tiny bit of what I felt as I and my children gave our Christmas.

It’s not a new concept.  People do it all the time, give away their Christmas, or provide a Christmas for another family. That was what my initial thought was.  My kids would give up their Christmas so we could help provide a great Christmas for a family who might not have much.  But what we ended up doing was so much more.

Joy.  Love.  Excitement. Family.  Smells that make you remember childhood.  Sights that make you giddy.  What do you feel as the Holiday’s creep up?  Often enough though, these emotions are mixed in with those I already mentioned



Pinterest Pressure

Traffic (streets and in stores)


I could go on, but that’s not my intention here.  The point though being, that with all the wonder of Christmas, often comes as well some other emotions and stresses that often cause people to let a huge sigh when it’s over and express gratitude that it’s done!   Again, not a new concept….people have been writing about this kind of stuff for years.  How to make the Holiday’s more enjoyable and more Christ centered.  But my thoughts, as December was drawing near were, How am I going to help my children?  Help them not spend every day wondering what presents they were going to get?  Help them think about others instead of themselves every day?  Help them remember on a daily basis what Christmas is all about?
When I was young my family took the opportunity a few times to give our Christmas away.  That’s right. We gave up OUR Christmas, the money we would have spent on ourselves, and used it to buy Christmas for a family who might be less fortunate.  I’ll admit, I remember those Christmases in a much different light, than the traditional ones where I would wake up all giddy and run down the stairs to see what Santa brought me.  Both were great. I have wonderful memories of both.  But the feeling was different. I wanted my kids to feel that.

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{Making Dessert to go in some food boxes}

One day I was driving to a distant ward that I was to speak in.  My talk was supposed to be on Thanksgiving, but in preparation I felt the desire to change my topic a bit and talk about giving.  It had been a busy week and I had pushed preparing for my talk until the day before.  Heavenly Father poured out his Tender Mercies for me that day and my talk easily came together.  Turns out I was certainly inspired as the other speaker, a member of their bishopric, also gave a very moving talk about giving!   But when I felt the presence of my savior the most that day wasn’t in sacrament meeting, or any other meetings, but it was on my drive to the meeting.  I had been wondering what to do about our Christmas. My kids didn’t like the idea of giving away their Christmas (of course, what kid would!?) and at that moment I wasn’t feeling full support of the idea from my husband.  I poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father, pleading, asking, wanting direction in what we were to do.  My talk came back to me in my mind.  Give.  Give selflessly.  I had a flood of ideas, visions of what we could do, and an outpouring of the spirit in that car on that 20 minute drive.  I knew what we needed to do.  I showed up to church that day an emotional wreck, and church hadn’t even started yet!  But what great emotions to feel.

When I came home I talked to Duck about my plan, and then we presented it to the kids.  We weren’t going to give a Christmas to a family.  Instead, the money and time that would normally be spent providing ourselves with a Christmas, was going to be spent on giving of ourselves.  Serving daily for the month of December.  I knew this was what we were supposed to do!  My oldest was still a little unsure of the idea, and a little emotional about not getting presents, but that to me was a sign that we needed to do it.  My 8 year old was very sweet. I could tell he was sad about not getting presents, but he was trying to hide his emotions and just be very supportive. The three littles were just happy to hear the words ‘you will get one small present.’   That was enough for them.

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I spent hours looking for ideas and compiling a list of giving ideas that we could do.  Activities that could include the kids and the whole family.  I found so many great blogs where people shared their families projects of giving kindness or service and was able to make up quite a long list!  I also was loving all the mormon messages (on the mormon messages youtube channel!) that I could share with the kids daily.  I started to get really excited!

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{Crisis Center}

The first Monday in December I presented my list to the kids during our devotional that morning.  As the first words about our project came out of my mouth, I looked up and saw sad eyes.  How pathetic.  Then I told them what I had been busy doing, finding all kinds of projects and activities to serve others.  They perked up a bit. I told them how I had planned out our first couple of days and how they were going to help me plan out the rest of the month.  Eyes got brighter (they love planning and helping).  Then I read to them the list. The 1 1/2 page long list that I had written up of ideas.  By the time I was done, they were bouncing in their seats, raising their hands and shouting out more ideas!  I could have cried.  My kids help me serve a lot, it’s nothing new to them, but to give up something in place of that service and to be excited about it was such an awesome sight!

We started right there, that day with our first project starting out with service in our home.  A service star that would be passed along with the service performed.  I also shared with them a mormon messages video about giving.  We had to watch it three times the kids loved it so much!  The kids couldn’t wait to get started.  I knew it was going to be a busy month, we would have to put some other things aside, no Christmas cards, no neighbor goodies, and really no presents to most of the family either.  I lightened their school load (which of course the kids didn’t mind!), but I knew what they would learn through this experience would far more benefit them than whatever they might learn in health or science this month.  Frequently throughout all our projects I would ask the kids how they felt, what they liked and would ask them what they though Jesus thought of their acts of giving.   The best was when Jayden’s smile would get so big he didn’t know what to do with it. He usually then would end up bursting out and giving me a big hug and saying I love you, because he felt so good!

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{Images from our Hunger Hero Playdate food drive}

Each day they were to keep a journal of the giving projects that we had done the day before.  I wish I could go into detail about all of our activities, but it’s just way too much. I’m still working on MY journal post for the month and all that we did!  Some projects were pretty involved and took days of planning, some were random little acts of kindness, but most of it was intentional and planned.

One of my favorites, and not planned was when we were at the car wash.  It’s one of those drive through car washes.  You know where you get to be lazy and sit there and let it do all the work? I love it. Those are the only kind I go to.  They have the attendants at the beginning scrub the really dirty parts of your car first (which is very important during the Klamath Summers and the green fur that grows on the front of your car) and take your payment. As I was waiting in line, I could see the attendant, a young man, maybe college age, scrubbing the car ahead of me.  He kept shaking his hand like it hurt. He must have seen me watching him because when I pulled up he had a question for me.  “Are you from here?”  he inquired.  I said yes because this is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere! Then he proceeded to describe to me the feeling of swelling and numbness in his hand and he wasn’t sure what it was.  I told him it’s cold!!  I laughed and said he needed to put some gloves on.  He laughed, blew it off and said that it was too late anyway and proceeded to ‘struggle’ to scrub my car. I felt bad for him.  He probably was a college student, here from some warm climate and he’s out scrubbing cars, in the cold without gloves on.  And if he didn’t bring gloves to work, he certainly couldn’t just leave to go get them at this point.

I couldn’t stop thinking about him. It was late for nap time, the kids hadn’t had lunch and I needed to get them home.  But this boy needed gloves.  I told the kids we needed to help him out.  We ran to Albertsons, grabbed some gloves and a little treat to stick inside each one and went back to the car wash.  The kids wanted to buy him pizza to, but I thought we better stick to the gloves.  I let Kyson and Maliyah go give him the bag.  I could see him from our car.  He looked in the bag, looked up at our car and had the biggest smile on his face.  He of course recognized our van (who wouldn’t remember a 12 seat passenger van) and he ran up to us to say thank you.  I don’t know if the gloves helped or not, but to see the look on his face was enough for me.  Getting my kids home for naps late was worth it.
But the best part happened the next day.  We had to drive to Lakeview for some Primary Training. My car got dirty. VERY dirty. When we got back, I commented to the kids “What a waste. We shouldn’t have gotten the car washed yesterday.”  Without missing a moment they both reminded me that if we hadn’t washed the car, then we couldn’t have helped that boy.  I was so touched that they had thought of that.  

They were right.  We were supposed to wash the car. 

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{Assembling birthday bags for kids at the crisis center}

Oh I could keep telling so many stories.  Times when my kids saw a need and filled it.  When they were exhausted after hours of putting together goodies in bags for the people who had to work at the hospital on Christmas Day, but they kept pressing forward because they wanted to brighten someone’s day.  That day, on Christmas Day, in the hospital before the kids had even opened any presents, Kyson told me it was the best Christmas ever.  And it was.  On Christmas morning, instead of ripping through presents and making a mess of my house, we were in the Hospital bringing cheer to all those who had to work that morning.  I don’t say this to get praise, or to brag about what we have done, but to share with you, the amazing Christmas spirit that my children were able to really get this year.  By giving of themselves, they were able to get so much in return.  It WAS a busy month.  And yet every day, I felt no stress.  At the end of the day I looked forward to the next.  I enjoyed my kids, I enjoyed the holiday and I enjoyed feeling so much joy and peace.  The peace of our Savior, who's birth we were celebrating.  Have you ever felt so good when you were serving that you weren’t sure if you were giving enough? That’s how I felt.  So good.  Every day. 

One night I was pretty tired.  I sat on the couch with the little girls and sang to them to help them get settled for bed.  I was falling asleep. So Maliyah picked up where I was drifting off and started singing soft Christmas songs to us.  All of us gathered around, listening to Maliyah sing. I fell asleep there. And so did the others. I woke up in the middle of the night to see that we were all still sleeping together in the family room. It was a good feeling.  My kids happy and content to be together, near the Christmas tree….feeling the peace that our Savior had given in our home that day.

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{Military and Missionary packages}

I’m not exactly sure what Christmas will be like next year.  Hopefully a lot like this year.  We’ll find some balance, because Santa is a little itching to come to my house and reward my children for their good deeds, but I think it will remain a little simpler, full of giving, and full of joy.  We didn’t finish all the projects on our list, but I’m kind of glad we didn’t.  Now we have more giving projects to look forward to doing even though December is over.  Maybe we’ll make sure to plan one a week for this year! 

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{Hot cocoa stand}

I hope everybody had a wonderful holiday too.  I know that as we remember Christ, and what He gave us, we can daily have more of a desire to give as well.  Sometimes it’s hard to make ourselves get out there and do something we aren’t comfortable with, but in the end I have never regretted it.
I would love to hear some of your ‘giving’ opportunities lately…

Here is a little video with the rest of our pictures and a couple videos from our giving activities:

Project Selfless | Giving


Unknown said...

Camille, I feel so humbled. Thank you for your incredible example of what one person, one family, can do with sacrifice and planning. My heart is pricked to change.

Amy said...

I came to your blog to re-read this post because I want to start thinking of ideas for service with my kids. I would love to do this next Christmas! I'm too excited though. I think I may have to devote a summer month to it too. You are so wonderful! Love you and your talents!

essays4me said...

All the actions are very cute and helpful to shape the kids' nature in a proper way! I believe that December will be stamped indelibly on their minds!