CHRISTmas Lessons from a Shopaholic

Hi! My name is Laura and I am a shopaholic.  I love to shop.  Which is what led to this post, CHRISTmas Lessons from a Shopaholic!

By all accounts, the argument could be made that I am a “fashion” blogger of sorts.  Think about it.  I post a different outfit almost every Monday, not to mention the random pictures you occasionally see on my social media sites.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy offering options and examples on dressing modestly.  Have I mentioned I love to shop?


 

If you are unfamiliar with my path to modesty or just want a refresher, you can read it HERE, HERE and HERE.  In sharing my path, I briefly described Andrew’s (my oldest son) first Christmas.  Looking back, I think I wanted to make up for everything he was lacking.  How does a shopaholic give their child everything?  Shopping, of course!  So I bought him EVERYTHING.  He hadn’t turned one-year-old yet, and he had every toy you can imagine- I was a shopaholic!

 

In addition to the gifts from this shopaholic, he also received gifts from his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many of my friends.  It took half the day to unwrap everything.  I would like to tell you how many rolls of wrapping paper and tape it took to wrap these gifts, but I don’t remember.  I can say that it took A LOT!  Again, I was making up for what he was lacking.

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Before I continue, allow me to explain exactly what I thought Bookworm was lacking.  I had him before Clay, and I ever met.  I won’t get into the detail surrounding my pregnancy or the aftermath, but a father was someone Bookworm did not have.  I guess I was trying to make up for the lack of a Daddy with gifts, gifts and more gifts.

Exactly one month after Christmas is a month of birthdays for our family.  Want to take a guess what that means?  More shopping!   Come to think of it, I never had to look hard to find a reason to shop so much.  If it wasn’t Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or special occasions, it was easy to find an excuse.

A little over a month before Andrew turned two, Clay and I were married.  I was still living in my hometown briefly, and he was in Ohio on recruiting duty until all the paperwork was processed, and he found a place to live for all of us.  When he came down to celebrate Christmas with Andrew and me, he was in utter disbelief when he saw a number of gifts Bookworm had around the tree.

He and my dad spent hours assembling toys, a train table, and train tracks.  If you owned stock in the Thomas the Train company during this time, you could thank me for your hefty dividend.  Getting back to Clay, I didn’t understand why he was uncomfortable with a number of gifts for Bookworm.  He also didn’t understand why I was comfortable with the gifts.  I am a shopaholic, and he just needs to accept that.  He vowed to love me for better or worse, and that included my addiction to shopping. Right? RIIIGHT?

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The following year, Andrew had probably the same amount of gifts as the previous year, but this time I was also pregnant with Xander.  Does anyone want to take a guess what that meant?  More shopping!  I had to make sure Xander had gifts, too.  Besides, as a shopaholic, I didn’t mind.

I had another excuse to feed my addiction.  So, I continued to shop, shop, shop and shop for Christmas. Andrew would get so much stuff that he didn’t care about a lot of it.  He would rip it open, toss it to the side, and move on to the next package.

By this point, a sane person would assume the light bulb would finally light up and I would finally realize my addiction was ruining his respect for his belongings and also getting carried away with my shopaholic addiction.  But it didn’t.  For whatever reason, I felt like this was important.  I just couldn’t miss a gift he MAY want.

A couple of years later, Clay’s family came to our house for Christmas. Andrew was four, Xander was one and I was pregnant with Caleb.  Another reason to shop until I drop.  I had bought so many gifts that we could not see the Christmas tree.

The gifts surrounded the tree and were stacked incredibly high.  I could see my Mother-in-law’s face as she looked at all the “stuff.”  I didn’t have to look at my husband to see how uncomfortable he was; I could feel it.  As I think back on this Christmas, I can see now how inadequate they may have thought their gifts were.  They bought nice gifts, and they actually did try to buy things the boys would like.

But how can anyone compete with a number of toys already purchased?  I can not blame them for the awkwardness my shopaholic lifestyle caused.

Before and after every Christmas, Clay would talk to me and share how uncomfortable he was with the amount of money we were spending on gifts for the kids.  However, this particular Christmas, he seemed sterner than years past.  I could see that he was not budging on this anymore.

He wanted to cut the gifts and the spending down; WAY down.  I felt the anxiety take control of my body.  It began in the pit of my stomach, and I could feel my knees start to buckle.  Why did the thought of not giving my kids everything they could want freak me out so bad?

It was almost like grieving the loss of something.  I had NO idea how to cut down.  I didn’t know where to start.

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So what did I do?

I cried.  I got upset.  I worried about it.  I stewed.  I wondered how I could buy stuff and him not realize it was as much.  Maybe I could combine gifts and tell him they are all part of larger sets.

There had to be a way to manipulate the situation to get what I wanted!  All very Christ-like behaviors wouldn’t you say?  However, these horrible thoughts and actions were how I felt.

Shortly after listening to Clay ruin my future shopping plans, I started reading a book.  I enjoyed the first couple chapters of this book so much that I became angry and tossed it across the room.  I wanted no part of this propaganda and refused to read another word!  What made me so angry about this book?

Because it told me BIBLICALLY why I should listen to my husband about Christmas.  Well, technically, the book wasn’t about Christmas, per se.  It was about being a HelpMeet.  God said that it was not good for man to be alone SO He Created a Helpmeet for him.  I was there to be a helper to my husband.  Wait just a minute!   There has to be an exception to Christmas, yes?  Right?  Isn’t there?

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. 1 Peter 3:1 

Scroll back up and read that verse again.  I will wait…….

I had to read that verse more than once myself.  Isn’t there supposed to be a disclosure or exception for Christmas shopping?  BAM!!!  Then it hit me.  What is the meaning of Christmas?

Listen, I have attended church my entire life.  I have sung and acted (dressed as a lamb is still acting…lol) in numerous Christmas plays throughout the years.  I have read, listened to and shared Christmas Story more times than I can count.  I know that CHRISTmas is about Christ.

Although my parents tried their best always to give us a good Christmas, my mom kept Christ as the focus.  My brother and I received gifts, but my mom made sure the focus wasn’t on the gifts.

When I was a little, banks used to have a special savings program designed specifically for Christmas (not sure if all banks had this program, but my mom’s bank did).  Every month, she would deposit what she could afford to ensure my brother, and I had presents under the tree.  Needless to say, I didn’t use a Christmas account at our bank.  In fact, I didn’t use any account.

Instead, I just bought and bought and bought.  I didn’t care because my kids would have what I thought they needed to have.  I spent way too much on material items.  Somehow, in my path to be the perfect mother who gave her child everything (lol—NO that did NOT even make me close to the perfect mother!) I lost the importance of Christmas.  I discarded the reason for the season.

Listen below:

CHRISTmas isn’t about the plethora of gifts, the fluff, and all the over commercialized drama.  Christmas is about Christ because without the birth of Christ there is no CHRISTmas.  It was time for me to redirect my focus.  I began by reading 1 Peter 3:1.  Then I read the second chapter of Luke.  Then I returned to 1 Peter 3:1.  Finally, I swallowed my pride, dusted off Created to be a Helpmeet, and finished reading it.

**Disclosure-I know the Pearls can be controversial. I don’t agree with all their practices, but I did agree with this book and how it helped my marriage at the time.** 

I am happy to report that I did not throw the book across the room this time.  Instead, I read it with an open heart and a desire to refocus my attitude toward 1 Peter 3:1.  Deep down, I think I was also ready for a change.  However, that change did not come quickly.  The words of my husband were echoing in my ear as the words of Peter were running through my mind.

I was steadfast in prayer seeking God’s message, reading scriptures, allowing the Holy Spirit to have its way with me before I laid my pride and my personal desires to the side.  It was a hard road to travel.  Then it was time to really swallow my pride.  I went to Clay and I apologized.

I apologized for not seeing what he was seeing; I apologized for not being on the same page as him with the gifts and spending; I apologized for not seeking his guidance as the spiritual leader of our family; I apologized for not respecting him as the head of the house.  I also vowed to make some big changes next Christmas.

It was time to make good on my promise.  When Christmas came around, I struggled!  Maybe I should have taken baby steps and promised to cut down in increments of $10 or $20.  It was not easy for me to cut back.  I am a shopaholic, alone in the store, my mind wandering from one toy to the next, trying to talk myself into keeping with my promise while grabbing everything in sight.

I kept thinking of more items the boys would like.  I attempted to stretch the decision we had made.  In the end, I fell short.  However, I made an enormous stride in the right direction.  This Christmas was noticeably different from years past.  Clay even noticed and commended me on my efforts.

I continued submerging myself in the Word of God.  Along with the Advent studies and Christmas books we would read as a family, I continued with my studies and devotions.  Keeping CHRIST at the CENTER was a HUGE changing point.

He as always been at the center of our family, just slightly off-center during the Christmas season! 🙂  The second year of us cutting back I did an even better job.  Each year after I have made significant improvements with my promise to my husband.

I believe last year was the best year gift wise.  The boys did receive a lot of gifts.  Originally, when we decided (well, when I finally agreed that is) to cut back, the original plan was to buy the boys three gifts each.  We were also more involved in particular outreach ministries.

We were engaged in many activities at our church; we participated in several activities in the community, and we put more focus on giving to others.  We made cookies for the neighbors and opened our doors again to Soldiers to come and share the HOLYday with us.  We put a concentrated focus on being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Homeschooling is a pivotal point for my family in keeping Christ in Christmas.  Each year I piece together a Christmas Around the World study from materials I already have.  Along with our Advent study, we also studied the Jewish traditions by reading a fantastic book called A Family Guide to Biblical Holidays, lighting a menorah and playing dreidel.

We want our boys to know the traditions of the time when Jesus was born but also more rounded in their knowledge as well.  During the Advent season, instead of counting down to Santa (we don’t do Santa) we countdown to Jesus’ Birthday Celebration.  Whereas in years past, gifts were the center of our celebration.  Our renewed focus is on Faith, Family, Church, Service, and Food before gifts.

 

So how did I make the switch? Here are some tips

Talk to your husband.  Be ready to hear an answer to your questions you probably don’t want to hear.  Seriously ladies, speak heart to heart with him and come up with a plan.  You need to be in agreement with how much money is spent and how many gifts are bought.  Clay wasn’t as concerned about the dollar amount as he was the amount of gifts.  I’m not saying he was comfortable spending our life savings, but he was comfortable with a set dollar amount.  We did set a limit to ONLY three gifts.

 

Allow your husbands to have the final say.  Ladies, I could have avoided some uncomfortable moments if I would have submitted to my husband’s desires and feelings early on in our marriage.  I know, believe me, I know, how incredibly difficult it is to submit and allow someone else to have control.  Trust me, though, it will bless you.

 

STOP–JUST STOP spoiling your kids!  I say this more so to myself than anyone else.  Children do not need every single toy or game that they ask for.  The reality is that we must save and plan before making purchases.  Some things that we want and yearn for is simply out of reach and out of our budget constraints.  We can not win our kids over with “stuff” so stop trying.  Kids need to learn that Christmas is NOT about them, although commercials and advertisements will tell them otherwise.  Christmas is about Jesus.  Whether you decide to do a 3-gift Christmas or a 4-gift Christmas (something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read), set a limit.  This is for your sake as a parent, but it is also for your kids own good as well.  Teach them the importance of the season, but also show them the importance of budgeting.  It’s okay to purchase them a significant gift.  Teach them the importance of prioritizing their desires based on what can be afforded.

 

Kids will not die by missing out on that gift.

 

Remember, if you spoil now, your child will expect bigger and more expensive as they grow up.  Unfortunately, gifts get a lot more expensive as their interests change.

 

Focus on service.  Find some activities that you can do as a family to serve the community during Christmas.  Be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Ideas for this are baking cookies for a neighbor, serving in a soup kitchen, making goodie bags for the homeless, going to the Veterans home and visiting with them, taking food and candy to sick and shut ins, gifts for orphanages, serving at a food pantry, and the list goes on.  Pick a needy family to adopt and making their Christmas bright!  Take them food and gifts.

Those are some ways that we cut back.  We LOVE Christmas.  We love the lights, the sounds, the decorations and the season. However, we love it much more with less.  Giving to others warms my heart.  Teaching my kids to give to others warms my heart.

I am still a shopaholic, but now I’m a shopaholic with a renewed focus and a sense of purpose.  Instead of shopping with a blank sheet of paper, I prioritize my kids’ interests and put more thought into bringing Christ as our focal point.  I take a lot of effort to pick things they REALLY like and want.  Ultimately, they receive fewer gifts, but the gifts they receive are no longer chucked to the wayside.  Instead, they play with these gifts for years.

 

I have one more tip for keeping CHRIST in CHRISTmas.  SHOP early!  I have learned through shopping earlier the season is much more enjoyable.  You can get better deals, avoid the crazy crowds, avoid the long lines and can focus on your list.

As I write this, I am finished with my Christmas list, and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.  As December rolls around, we are entirely focused on the reason for the season.  We put our emphasis and focus on Christ, our Advent studies, our Christmas Around the World studies and our service to others without all the distractions.

Hi! My name is Laura, and I’m a shopaholic with a renewed focus!

How do you keep the amount of gifts down at your house? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

If you want to read more of my Christmas posts, click HERE.

In Awe,

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