Monday, October 25, 2010

so this is Christ-mas?

question: how many of you think your child(ren) have too many toys? how often do you mutter to yourself as you pick up the living room that it’s gone too far? that we have too much? that it might just be possible that we have become more materialistic than we ever planned to be?

okay, so what are you doing about it? because it’s that time of year again. you know, that time when we go into a spending frenzy to get copious amounts of gifts for our family, friends, and even some acquaintances. oh yeah, i think it’s called “Christmastime”. hmmm. Christmas. i wonder if that means it is supposed to be about Christ and not gifts?

sometimes it feels like, as Christians, we fight so hard remind the world that this isn’t a holiday about santa, that we forget it’s not even a holiday about giving gifts. yes, the magi gave gifts to Jesus, but nowhere are we commanded to give everyone of our family members a gift on the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

to be clear, i don’t want to say that giving is bad. giving is loving. giving is modeled in Scripture. giving is Christ-like. but what are we giving, and why?

maybe this is the Christmas to make the change. maybe this is the time to start teaching our children compassion and empathy. maybe we need to stand up and say, “i’m going to give away more. i’m going to be a blessing to my neighbor. i’m going to be the ‘cheerful giver’ that the Lord says He loves and i’m going to teach my family to do the same.”

a man by the name of trent hamm wrote an article about 20 ways to donate to others even when you’re broke. it caught my eye because i’m a single mom who only works part-time, so i could really relate. the article can be found online here.

please take the time to read it because there are some fantastic ideas there. (thank you, shan, for that link!)

that article got me thinking. and since i know Christmas is coming and i know what we’re all programmed to do, i thought that i would put together a list of ways, not unlike mr. hamm, we can give to others. let’s decide as families this year that we’re going to forego the whole ‘gift exchange’ and give to those in need instead. here are some ideas:

*give to your local (church?) food pantry

*give a coat to a cold kid (

*give a Christmas tree to a soldier (

* give clean water to those without (

* give Christmas presents to children whose parent(s) are incarcerated (

* give a wish to a child with a terminal disease (

* give a Christmas meal, or clothing to those without (

* give food, water, and education (

* give shoes (

can you come up with some others? do you have an organization in mind that you would like to share with me?

since becoming employed, i’ve had the opportunity to sign up to sponsor a child’s education monthly through the organization i worked for in haiti. to me, it is a blessing to be able to give. i want to live on less so i can give away more. how about you?

what do you think? can this be the year that we make the change for our families? can we model selflessness and compassion for our children in this way? i know that it will be an adjustment for our children, but is that such a bad thing? because, as i read it, the bible says we are no longer to “conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (romans 12:2)

if you haven't heard about "advent conspiracy" yet, get on board! if you haven't watched this video, DO IT. i'm telling you i've seen it plenty of times but i always get emotional just thinking about those people getting clean water! praise Jesus!

Monday, October 4, 2010

my slice of americana: kitchen edition

this weekend, my family and i went further up into the mountains to visit my aunt and uncle and see the wonderful addition to their house. on saturday afternoon, my dad graciously watched judah for me while i joined the ladies in downtown sonora for some antiquing.
pretty much a one-street town, sonora is a tourist stop for those visiting the "mother lode" country. its main street has covered sidewalks and that old town feel that comes from being . . . well, an old town.

i wandered a bit, fussing with my camera because i can't seem to get the lens lint free, and took a few pictures.

and somewhere past the candy shop, i stumbled upon my dream kitchen in the window of antique store #18. it was breathtaking. from the porcelain-topped, expanding table (in red and white!) with red chairs, to the turquoise dishes with matching, intact, glass lids.
oh dear sweet kitchen heaven.
i became envious. and then i reminded myself that the Lord has commanded that we not covet. and there on the chair i saw a beautiful yellow, white and red cake tin.

it called to me, i heard it. i picked it up. visions of spice cake danced in my head.

it was reasonably priced. i considered the purchase. i glanced up to see the store retreated far behind me and realized i was having a hard time leaving the window display. i sent a hurried picture text to emily saying that i'd found my kitchen. she understood completely. with a deep breath, i moved on, still clutching the cake tin. i helped my mother find the perfect glass jar for her candy corn, tried on amazing vintage hats, exclaimed aloud over a turquoise, tiered, rolling kitchen shelf with removable top tray. i searched for "old fashioned girl" by louisa may alcott and for copies of "now we are six" and/or "when we were very young" by a.a. milne. i was unable to find any of these. i carried my cake tin past displays of vintage toys, racks of quilts, and shelves of old lighters. somehow i found myself right back in "my" kitchen. i sat on the red chair. and there i debated.

it's silly, really, to put so much thought into a cake tin. but here's what was behind my struggle, as i confessed it to my mother:
i could purchase the tin. but then when i got it home, it would most likely go into storage like the rest of my wonderful, valued kitcheny things. i dream, very often, of a place all my own. my own kitchen in which i prepare every meal for judah and myself. my own kitchen in my own home and i can have friends over for dinner parties whenever i fancy. this cake tin was not only a tin, it was a symbol of something i want. a life i miss and want to return to everyday. boxed up in the garage not 50 feet from where i now sit are kitchen treasures all my own, waiting. and somedays, that's exactly how i feel. like i'm just waiting for the day when i (like my kitchen aide so pretty and red, or my mixing bowls, porcelain and multi-colored) can be put to use again.

but my struggle doesn't end there. because the other side of me, the practical but also bleeding heart-ed side, says that none of this is necessary. it says that nicole doesn't even have a kitchen. it reminds me that mme valet is living in a tent. the other side of me pictures mama joassaint cooking over that charcoal fire all day to feed the hungry neighborhood children and never ever dreaming of a silly cake tin in which to carry a cake to a party.
how ridiculous. how superfluous.

i confessed these things to my mama and set the cake tin down. having said this aloud, i realized how unnecessary the tin was. beautiful, yes. desirable, of course. necessary? not in the least. and i have limited funds. they can be put to better use.
(did i mention i'm sponsoring a child?)

without a backwards glance, i lead the charge to the next store where my mother found a wonderful muffin top tin, thank you, jerry seinfeld. we had a delightful afternoon although we were unsuccessful in finding a whirley pop popcorn maker for my aunt.

returning to my aunt's house, i filled the evening with judah and family. i didn't think again about that silly (and perfect) cake tin. it wasn't until sunday when we were driving out of town and my mom asked that my dad stop the car for a moment, did i start to think about the tin again. but what she did next i did not expect.
my mother returned to the car carrying a paper bag. as she sat down, it made an unmistakeable tinny sound. she smiled as she turned and handed the bag to me.
"what did you do, mama?" was all i could ask.
and do you know what she said?

"it's a hope-tin for you. i'm praying for a kitchen to go around it. the Lord has a plan for you, sister. and i can't wait to see what He does."

and i cried just a bit.