"Daniel?” I yelled upstairs to our oldest son as I put backpacks by the garage door—so the kids could grab them on the mad dash to school. “Yes, Mama?” Daniel called back.
“Could you please help Joshua find his shoes before we’re late?”
I stuck my head in the kitchen, where three of the children were finishing breakfast. “Hurry up, kids, it’s time to leave!” I grabbed the five lunches I had made earlier and hurried down the hall to put them with the backpacks. As I did, I heard the living room clock sound the top of the hour—it was our “red alert” indicator.
“We’ve gotta go NOW!” I yelled. I passed out the backpacks and scooted the kids out to the Suburban. The oldest four scrambled in, their paraphernalia filling the large vehicle to capacity.
“Where’s Joshua?” I asked. We were going to be late again. Joshua, our youngest at 6 years old, always seemed to be missing in action. Finally, Joshua made his appearance.
“Seatbelts on? Everyone have their jackets? Hair combed? Teeth brushed? Got your musical instruments? Backpacks? Lunches? Milk money? Gym clothes?”
By the time I finished our daily checklist, we’d driven the 20 miles to school. I pulled into the drop-off lane, and everyone bounded out of the car.
I needed to get to my women’s ministry board meeting, and we were 10 minutes behind schedule as it was. I looked at my normally very active little guy, sitting perfectly still.
“Joshua,” I said in my best “mom-means-business” voice, “why are you just sitting there?”
“You forgot to remind me,” he responded quietly in a “I-know-I’m-going-to-get-it-now” voice.
I glanced in my rearview mirror at the line of cars behind me. Hadn’t I thoroughly exhausted our reminder checklist? “What did I forget to remind you about?”
Joshua whispered, “My shoes.”
His shoes? How does a child forget his shoes? On the way back to get his shoes, I grumbled in the car, wondering how in the world a child could forget his shoes, when a small voice spoke to my heart. Sometimes you forget too—about Me.
Another thing to remember
Just as it seems obvious that shoes are important, so is walking with God every day. During the holiday season, it’s especially easy to remember the reason for the season while forgetting that He can help us through it. One of the times when many families are likely to “run off without shoes” is during holiday spending. It’s as if we say, “Hey, I’ve got to buy these gifts. I don’t have time to stick to a budget and shop for bargains!”
Did you know it takes the average American family five months to pay off holiday credit-card bills? Surely there’s a cheaper, better way to buy gifts without having to go barefoot.
Busy families should be able to run through the holidays in a way that doesn’t feel like the school-morning dash.
I have to admit that our holiday pace is usually so frenetic that I rarely even think about asking for God’s help. But when I do, it’s amazing how God delights in providing just what we need, just when we need it. Specific prayer gives God the opportunity to answer specifically, and our faith is increased. If our children see us model this principle, they’ll learn to trust God for provision, not only at Christmas, but year-round as well.
My hubby, Bob, and I had five babies in the first seven years of marriage and moved 11 times in 13 years. (He’s in the Air Force.) We had a hard time financially those first several years. I even made a cross-stitch wall hanging that said: “Blessed Are the Poor, For They Be Us.” That’s when we came up with the three-gift rule. We decided to model our gift-giving after the three gifts brought to the Christ child. We couldn’t afford the equivalent of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we could choose to limit our gifts to three simple, yet nice, presents per child. Even though God has blessed us financially in recent years, we still hold to this family tradition. Much to our surprise, we received additional benefits from this gift-giving standard:
- The children know what to expect, and the focus remains on Christ.
- The children decide what they really want rather than listing everything they see in the latest commercials.
- Our holiday gifts are paid for in December rather than the following May.
The tradition also gives our kids an opportunity to tell others about the Christ child and the three gifts He received.
Stick to your guns!
We all face the temptation to keep buying even when we’ve already conquered our lists. Merchandisers are so good at placing irresistible bargains right where they’ll catch our attention. Remember: You can go broke saving money. So make your list at home, where slick commercials, displays, starry-eyed children, or nostalgic Christmas carols cannot put you in a purchasing trance.
Okay, bear with me here. Save some money in your budget for the after-Christmas sales. You can often get all kinds of nonperishable gifts for next year’s list at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent off. Now that’s a steal!
Baking for busy moms
Some of us who have too few hours in our days automatically assume we can’t give homemade gifts for the holidays, but that’s not true! For several years now, I’ve started baking large batches of holiday breads early in the season and freezing them. Most quick breads can be baked in empty, greased coffee cans. Just bake them and let them cool for 10 minutes, and the bread will pop right out of the tins. When the time comes to give gifts to teachers or friends, we tie the breads with raffia, glue fresh cranberries on the wrapping, and—voilà! A gift that takes less time to prepare and costs about a quarter of the price of a store-bought gift.
The other day we were making our mad dash to school again. As usual, we were running late when the red-alert siren sounded. I stuffed all the kids and their essentials in the car and started the usual checklist. This time, as we were leaving the driveway, I had this mom’s intuition to ask one more question?
“Does everybody have their shoes?”
Do you think a family can get through the holidays and stay on a gift-giving budget? You bet your shoes they can!