Not this year.
This year our Advent calender is not super cute. Its not hanging on a wall for all to see and admire. But, man oh man, it packs a punch and, though we have missed a few nights (and made them up later), we started Dec. 1st and will continue through Dec. 31st.
Advent for Orphans from Lifesong
Lifesong of Orphans is a rad organization that serves the fatherless well. They provide financial assistance for adopting families through matching grants, zero interest loans, and scholarships. They help churches establish and manage adoption funds. They are working hard in tons of countries to serve orphans and create programs for orphan prevention. AND they make these awesome "Advent for Orphans" calenders every year!
Each night (almost), Tim and the kids and I gather on our couch and open another box on our calender. On the inside of the flap are two scriptures: one that refers to the Christmas story and another that has to do with compassion/orphan care/serving others, etc. Then, in the little window thing are specific directions that involve counting and money. One night the directions read: "Give $.30 for every carpeted room in your house." Another night we gave $0.07 for every kitchen drawers and cabinet. We have a jar set out in our living room and the kiddos have loved counting out the coins and hearing them "plunk" into the jar. My favorite thing about "Advent for Orphans" is that the money we are putting into our jar will go directly to our church's adoption fund and help bring children into forever families.
The scriptures, paired with the directions, have made for some sweet conversations. As I have sat on our couch with my kids, talking about the reality that most of the kids in the world dont have carpeted bedrooms or 26 drawers and cabinets in their kitchens, a new level of compassion is growing in their hearts for children around the world.
December 5th's challenge was to give $0.20 for every coat in our house. I seriously thought we'd be putting maybe $2 in the jar. 2-3 coats per family member, right? As I walked around the house with Sawyer and Jane, opening closets and counting jackets, I was shocked. We counted 33 coats. THIRTY THREE. Snow coats, windbreakers, pea-coats, jean jackets, and so on. As the kids dropped $6.60 into the jar, I found myself feeling super embarrassed. Counting carpeted rooms and kitchen drawers made me feel thankful for what I have. Counting 33 coats made me feel like an excessive, materialistic, apathetic first world poster child. It's not like we live in Minnesota, folks! We are in Central CA, where the winters last maybe 3 months and the day time temp rarely drops below 40 degrees.
Needless to say, it was a wake up call. I like to think we aren't excessive and materialistic but this Advent for Orphans calender is making me redefine those terms and realize how relative they really are. A few Sundays ago, our Pastor preached an amazing sermon on money and storing up treasures in heaven. He talked about how making over $42,000 a year puts us in the bracket of the wealthiest 1% in the world. Shoot. I would never describe us as "wealthy" and yet, it is becoming very clear to me, this holiday season, that I need to get a new definition for that word.
A few days ago I was at Target and found myself drooling over the most adorable wool coat for Janie. It was on sale. It was her size. And she "needed" a cuter coat for church, right? As I began to really listen to myself, I immediately put the coat back on the rack and walked out of the clothes section. I truly believe that if I had seen that coat before Dec. 5th's challenge, I would have bought it without thinking twice. In fact, I would have been proud of myself for being so frugal and buying it at such a great price, meanwhile, having to idea that I had just put our coat count up to 34.
I love Christmas. I like shopping. I like buying things. I really like buying things on sale. But my prayer for our family this Christmas is that we would re-define words like "need," and "wealthy" to ensure that we are making wise purchases and teaching our kids about the reality of how much we have and, at the same time, how little others have. God loves to give good gifts to those in need. I want to model this type of giving for my kids and teach them to store up their treasures in heaven rather then on earth. I'm not totally sure how to do that effectively, especially since I struggle with it so much myself. I tend to over complicate things so I am super thankful for verses like this one which spell it out so simply: