December in America
Being back in the states with 3 kids during the month of December this year is something I can barely wrap my mind around. In 2014, Jess and I took a Christmas trip to New York to see the city during Christmas and watch a couple of shows. At that point in time, we had not even considered a domestic adoption and we were still praying about what to do with our adoption dossier in Ethiopia (a different and much longer story). Now, just 4 short years later, we are in the states again. This time, however, we have 3 children including our oldest (Sophie) who turned 3 less than a month ago, Elijah who will turn 2 in February, and Ezekyal who is 6 months old and has been with us for 5 weeks. Even as I type that I can barely believe that this is where we are right now. We are planning on returning to Haiti in January and we are really excited about that, but this is a much needed time of learning how to be a family of 5 in America and really focusing on our organization here.
There are so many things that run through my mind around Christmas. The most difficult for me is trying to think through how to celebrate it best with our 3 kids. For instance, how do we explain to them how different the Christmas season is in our 2 countries of residence? How do we make sure they enjoy Christmas but they never forget that Jesus coming to earth is the reason we celebrate? How do we teach them that giving (and I don’t mean giving gifts at Christmas) is much more valuable than anything they will find under the tree? How do we fight against the materialism and consumerism that attacks every American over every medium for 2 solid months?
In a lot of ways, being in Haiti for Christmas was easier and even with 30 kids it was quieter. I don’t mean that our kids are not loud because, and you know if you have come down, they are REALLY loud. I mean that the “noise” of the Christmas season does not really exist in Haiti like it does here. You don’t really have to ask those questions I mentioned because those issues don’t really exist there.
This year, I went to Target and Old Navy on Black Friday. Next to Kohl’s, these are probably the worst possible places to go, and especially alone in the rain like I did. In my defense, I went out at 10:00pm after the crowds had died down, and I had to do it for tradition’s sake. Every year, when we decorate our tree and house, we all get new pajamas to wear while we decorate. Not exactly all of us because I have worn the same “Gingerbread Man” pajama pants for 15 years in a row now, but it is a tradition that I did not want to give up. So I went out and bought Christmas pjs, but I quickly learned that I was not quite ready to go out Christmas shopping at a mall quite that soon after being in Haiti for a while.
It was difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that, and this is no exaggeration, thousands and thousands of people just at this one mall would spend millions and millions of dollars in one day. When I see people that are really hungry, that are dying for lack of quality health care, that cannot go to school because they cannot afford to pay $150 for a year, and then I go out and pay $30 for a few pairs of pajamas…It is hard to reconcile.
So what do you do? How do you handle these types of issues? How do you go out on Black Friday and then talk to your friends in Haiti whose lives could be changed by the amount of money that you spent on a nice meal?
I HAVE NO IDEA
I love buying gifts for Jess and the kids, I enjoy eating out and going to a movie, and I actually just like the month of December leading up to Christmas. But I absolutely do not know how to reconcile this with what I will return to in January. I think about it and I pray about it a lot, but it is just a really difficult part of trying to follow Christ in a fallen world.
What I do know is that we CANNOT ignore it. We cannot ignore the fact that Christmas is not about getting a great deal on a toy for our kids. We cannot ignore the fact that while we spend thousands of dollars on things that we will not use in 2 months, there are people less than a 2 hour plane ride away from us who will not make $1,000 in 5 years. We cannot ignore the fact that we are called to be generous, to give to the poor, to help those that cannot help themselves, and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone no matter what else we are doing.
Giving Tuesday was a great start. It is a perfect time to sit down with our kids and show them, in a very tangible way, what it looks like to give. To teach our kids that giving to people who may not even eat otherwise is far more important than the symbol that is on our shirt or the tag on the back of our boots.
My challenge to myself and to you is simple…Make giving, praying, and physically showing the love of Christ an even more important part of our November and December than eating and exchanging gifts have become. Let’s take the time to show our children what it really means to follow Christ and to give to those who desperately need us. Let’s figure out a way to make sure that our families spend more time worshipping Jesus than focusing on gifts.