I look on Face book and Instagram and see all these postings about Christmas—decorating, lights, parties, crying toddlers on Santa’s lap, stressed comments about shopping and “getting it all done”, cooking and baking and watching Elf. There is just so much to DO during this time of year. But in the Loy house, it is a very simple Christmas this year. A few poinsettias on the front porch, a toned down décor for the table and the mantel-- no Christmas lights, no tree, no shopping, no baking, no Christmas cards to send. There is something quite liberating about having a simplistic Christmas. While it may not seem very merry and jolly when you look at my house, the true meaning of Christmas is still very present in the hearts of each of us in the Loy household. Instead of stressing about shopping and parking and lines and finances, we are having family meals together and watching movies and playing basketball and snuggling with our dogs. Instead of making long grocery lists and stuffing our refrigerator full with unnecessary food and wine, we are eating quesadillas and grilled cheese and soup so as to not waste food in our cupboards. Instead of waking up with the anxiety of a “to do” list, I wake up to my journal, my Bible and a cup of tea. I read again about the humble birth of Jesus, who entered our world, not as a king, a rich man, or a politician, but simply lying as a babe in a manger. I think of the quiet joy of that night and the implications it had for our world. And I meditate on what it means that the Savior came, he taught, he died on a cross for you and me, He was resurrected and so He lives, and He will come again, making all things new.
We have gone simple this year because we have chosen to do something non traditional. Instead of packages, ribbons, and bows, we traded shopping and gifts in for a family cruise. Back in July when I was high on chemo drugs, I was in my “YOLO—let’s live life to the fullest” phase. Thinking ahead to when this cancer journey was over, I booked a “celebratory” cruise for our family. My good intentions had us travelling the Caribbean over Christmas to say goodbye to cancer and 2013. Though my intentions were normal for a cancer patient, my timing wasn’t perfect. What I didn’t know was that my recovery would be longer and harder than I expected, that I would be having a second surgery, and that I might have more chemotherapy after that. What I didn’t expect was that our medical bills would be extravagant even with the blessing of insurance, and even though the tumors are out, the journey is not over.
Now a cruise, mind you, is anything but simple. In fact, I have been on a cruise before and I have to admit—it is hard to watch the gluttony and the waste and the extravagant spending of some passengers. After going to Africa two years in a row, I vowed that we would never go on a cruise again—it just didn’t settle well with my value system and my use of money. But, family time is important, and with Noah’s sports schedule limiting our family vacations, and getting to more destinations in one week than just visiting one place, I went for it. I have had my share of regrets—can we afford it (no), is this the best time in my recovery (no), will we miss friends and family at Christmas (yes). But as we get closer, and we talk about the snorkeling we will do on Roatan, and the Land Rover and Cave expedition on Belize and the mopeds we will rent in Cozumel, I begin to think about the family times we will have, the experiences we will share together, and the memories we will create. Whenever I talk to my sons about their favorite holidays—they never mention a gift or a material item, but always start with…”Remember when we…..” did something as a family.
So, as we approach Christmas this year, I challenge you to make something a little simpler for yourself. Make your to do list a little shorter, your menu a little lighter, your commitments a little easier. Vow to ask yourself—“why am I really doing this?” Because I have to? Because it is “tradition”, because “we have always done it this way?”
While we will miss the neighborhood visits and going to church on Christmas eve, and the excitement of Christmas morning with a fire, and the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, we will be cruising—sun bathing, exploring, eating lobster on Isla Mahogany on Christmas Day, and being as non traditional as possible. My boys won’t be talking about the presents they got and they won’t be tossing aside a gadget that has no interest for them within a few weeks. But hopefully they will be talking about the “presence” they had with their family, the “presence” of Jesus in their hearts as their Savior, and the simple joys of creating lifetime memories.
Over the next week, I encourage you to put down the wrapping paper, skip that last minute trip to the store, and create some treasured moments with those you love. Whether it is around the family tree, in a cabin in the snow, in a hut in Uganda, at an orphanage in Haiti, or on a tropical island, focus on people and not presents. Set aside time to praise Jesus and thank him for the gift He gave us--Himself. Focus on why we really celebrate this season, for even though He came humbly-He is anything but simple—He is name above all names, wonderful counselor, prince of peace, and glorious King.