Advent Conspiracy This Year

Many of you might have questions of what an Advent Conspiracy Christmas looks like. We spend less $$, give relationally, and give the $$ we would have spent on ourselves and our families to initiatives that will help the poor around the globe.

For us, it doesn't look much different than most of the Christmases that we have spent as a married couple. We've never had much extra income... in fact, we rarely have extra money floating about. So, we've always spent less money and more time. About 3 years ago, I began making the majority of gifts that we give. This year we made the majority of our gifts. We also decided that having a tree was a waste of money and time. We still decorated the house...but our focus was somewhere else.

Here's a breakdown of our Christmas spending:

Pair of mittens (Total price: $6)
Kitchen counter (Total price: $4)
Superhero masks (Total price: $5)
Recycled Nintendo DS (Total price: $0)
2 dresses and bows (Total price: $3)
Couch caddies (Total price: $5)
CD of pictures (Total price: $0)
Bible cover (Total price: $6)
Fandango certificate (Total price: $15)

Add postage and our total Christmas expense is around $50. Thinking that on average we would normally spend about $20/person - we spent around $250 less than the normal household...and I think that is a conservative estimate.

We were able to give much more than we thought possible to both our church and to the Advent conspiracy initiative. And at no point during the Christmas season did I miss pretty packages, a Christmas tree, or going to the mall.

Christmas Traditions

Matt and I had a great Christmas here in Portland. We enjoyed a few old traditions and made a few new ones. One really awesome thing that has come out of living 3,000 miles away from our family (and subsequently, our families' traditions) is that we had the opportunity to really look at our lil' twosome and decide which traditions we wanted to begin for ourselves and the children to come.

We started our Christmas before Christmas by celebrating the advent. We began this tradition last year. Here is our advent "wreath."

Several years ago our church here in Portland, Imago Dei, began a movement called Advent Conspiracy. Our Pastor Rick McKinley wrote a book on the subject. I would recommend that you all check it out - it's pretty amazing. This year, we tried to make all gifts that we gave fit into the model of being relational. I'll write another post that describes what we gave and how we went about it.

Christmas eve was filled with tradition. Matt decided that Christmas eve needed to begin with breakfast at 5am. So, we went to IHOP, ate breakfast, and just talked for hours. Granted, we talk everyday, but this was really amazing. We also made calls to Matt's family to participate in their tradition of "Christmas Eve gift." I spent the day making ginger cookies and finishing up some Christmas projects for my family. That evening, we read from Luke, prayed, and sang 12 days of Christmas...along with a ton of other Christmas carols. We then enjoyed coffee and cookies, as we opened our Christmas Eve gift from Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Sue.

Christmas morning we woke up, and proceeded to our pile of gifts. We then decided to open one gift, make our Christmas breakfast, and call the families. Christmas brunch has been a tradition for the past 4 years that we have been married. In Athens, we shared this time with our friends, Heather and Randy - we missed them a lot this year.

After Christmas breakfast we finished opening our pile of presents - we are continually humbled by the generosity of our families. We've tried to get them on board with Advent Conspiracy...we've succeeded with my sister and her family....but my momma's love language is gift-giving. For her, this is a relational act - and conservative compared to some past Christmases.

After breakfast we watched a few Christmas movies and enjoyed each others' company. We made a wonderful, vegetarian dinner (consisting of a lot of side dishes), watched more movies, had a wonderful time of prayer, and went to bed.


Catching Up

Now that school is out for Christmas - and after several hints from family and friends who read the blog - I've decided to catch up on everything that I've been doing during the Fall until now.

I've been sewing. In October, I finally got around to making my 5yo nephew and my 1yo niece their birthday presents - several months late. I set my heart on a super-hero cape for the newest big boy and a reversible, yet stylish smock for the lovely little miss.

I tend to always doubt my abilities - but I was pretty proud of these little projects. They helped take my mind off of everything was going on during those few days.

Side 1

Side 2

Detail of criss-cross back

Uncle M modeling Big Boy's Superhero cape.
Big Boy's name begins with an "S' too - so, we kept it.


Don't Cry

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much. ~Mother Teresa

Yesterday was a hard day. It didn't start out that way. It was a really great day. I woke up, felt pretty when I headed off to school, didn't spill coffee on myself in the car, enjoyed my students, went to a baby shower for a girl at worke, really enjoyed time with my colleagues, and went home to a GREAT husband.

Then I got this email. It stated that the pilot materials that I was told I would be using with my students this year were due - packed up, etc. in the office next Monday. Which means that starting next Monday, I will again be teaching with no materials. This sent me reeling. It shouldn't have. I should be more like the person who built his house on a rock....a little flooding shouldn't wreck my house. But it did.

I ran to the bathroom and sat in the bath and just cried. I mean CRIED. I think everything that has happened over the past year just came rushing back to me...and I was overwhelmed. I questioned God and cried to Him and asked Him "why?" several times. I asked about my babies, I asked about leaving my home, my friends, my family. I asked about why my husband still doesn't have a job. I pretty much interrogated God....and was met with silence.

In my heart, even as I yelled - I could see an image of my sweet heavenly Father holding me as I threw this tantrum. Hushing my cries and telling me it was okay. Eventually the still, soft voice whispered to me what I had known all along.

You were never promised comfort and "happiness."

You are extremely blessed.

You are being selfish.

God must love me a lot. He brought me to a place physically and emotionally where I could learn and grow...if I has stayed in Athens and been "happy" I don't think I would have ever been ready or willing for whatever God has in store for Matt and me. Praise be to God.