Disclaimer: Again, I’d like to say that I’m not sharing details of my Christmas to pass judgment on yours; no need to get your tinsel tangled. I wish all that is merry and bright to you, no matter how you choose to celebrate. I’m writing because when Ellie is 15 and wonders why we do things a certain way, I want her to have this chronicle of all the thoughts and decisions that led us to whatever traditions we’re practicing at the time. Also, as a Christian, I’ve felt called to make changes. I’m sharing resources I’ve found helpful for anyone who may have experienced similar thoughts. If you’re completely happy with your Christmas, then just skip these posts. Love to all.
In my last Christmas post, I shared with you the beginnings of our attempts to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All as part of an Advent Conspiracy. I hoped to share our remaining Christmas changes, you know, by Dec. 25 or so, but deadlines are so overrated. Anyway…..
I’m not sure we necessarily spent less this season, but we did make efforts to spend differently in order to give more. I’m becoming increasingly aware that where we choose to spend our money can make a huge difference, and shopping wisely can be an act of charity. Here are some places I chose to spend money this year.
Shop for Change
This year, a dear friend of mine became an ambassador for Nooday, a company that provides opportunities for women in third-world countries to earn sustainable income by marketing their hand-made jewelry and other products. Founded by Jessica Honegger as a way to fund her Rwandan adoption, Noonday continues to support orphans by providing jobs to help families move out of poverty and helping others raise money for adoptions.
Here’s a video sharing more about the company:
I was thrilled to host a show earlier this year, and I bought several items for Christmas presents. What I love about Noonday is that each gift is also a story. Every item is connected to the person who made it, and the recipient gets a card with that individual’s story and how producing the item is helping to change a life.
I bought this necklace for my sister. It’s called “Kampala with Love” and is made in Uganda. It comes with this story:
I also purchased this beautiful bracelet for Shelby, Herdest’s girlfriend.
It’s made from tagua trees in Ecuador, and each seed takes three months to be made into a bead. Noonday has a range of items at all price-points, and while I could definitely get jewelry cheaper at Target, I’d prefer to spend the extra money and know that my purchase helps a mother send her child to school or keeps a family together.
While I’d like to know that all my purchases followed the honorable Fair Trade standards, I understand there are times we just need that blu-ray from Best Buy or that special eye-shadow from Sephora. And that’s okay. We can make those purchases count for good too. Pure Charity is an on-line network that allows one to fund a variety of philanthropy projects across the globe. You can enter your credit cards, and a percentage of purchases you make at participating stores (Target, Wal-mart, Gap, Lowes, the Apple Store, etc.) is donated to your on-line giving account. From there, you can choose projects to back based on your interests. Here’s a video:
I donated to the Legacy Project, a plan put together by a group of some of my favorite bloggers and Help One Now to construct, staff, and fully outfit a school at Yaveh Shamma, an orphanage in Petionville, Haiti. They completely funded the project in a matter of months, and now, 30 orphans and 120 children currently attending a tent school will have a safe place to get an education and hopefully find a way out of crushing poverty.
Freeset is a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in the sex trade of Kolkata, India. As a result of poverty, thousands of women are trapped in prostitution. Freeset allows these women to choose freedom by learning marketable skills, and their new lives include fair wages, health benefits, pension funds, literacy classes, and daycare for their children. I got this bag from Freeset when I attended the dotMom conference earlier this year; made of jute and sari fabric, it’s beautiful and highly functional. I carry it everywhere.
When I started dating Charlie, he had already assumed responsibility for a child sponsorship through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA). A picture of Jose, from Mexico, was one of the first things to go on our shared refrigerator. Recently, Jose aged out of the system, and we received a farewell letter and picture; Jose is married now and starting a family of his own. In his place, we started sponsoring Monica, also from Mexico.
Shortly after we married, we decided to sponsor another child through World Vision. Thus, we added Elvis Alex, from Peru, to our prayers and our refrigerator. (He’s quite a bit older now, but I just love this grumpy-face picture.)
Child sponsorship only costs about $30/month, but the money helps fight poverty and injustice in entire communities. World Vision, for instance, serves 100 million people in nearly 100 countries. Also, for those looking for a creative gift for the person who has everything, World Vision puts out a Christmas gift catalogue each year offering givers the chance to choose from various livestock, job-training programs, newborn care kits, fruit trees, and other gifts to help make a lasting difference in the lives of those living in poverty.
For instance, when Ellie turned a year old, a dear friend donated food aid for the Horn of Africa in her honor, and we got this card.
One of my favorite bloggers includes “something to give” as a Christmas present for each of her kids. She gives them an amount of money, but they have to spend the money on someone less fortunate. I hope to begin this tradition in my own family in hopes of cultivating a spirit of giving.
I hope to continue making changes in the coming years and find more ways to spend money that make a difference in the lives of others. I think looking for fair trade companies and attempting to funnel other purchases through Pure Charity is a place to start, but I know I’ve still got a long way to go.
Also, we definitely need to work on spending less overall. We added Herdest and Ian this year, which added to the spending, but it was SO much fun getting presents for them. We were conservative by most standards (sorry guys, no new iPads or Beats headphones), but they were both in need of some basics. These guys haven’t enjoyed the extravagant largesse of typical American gift-giving (Ian has never had a tree), so I wanted to spoil them a little bit, though.
We did make progress in other areas. This year, my side of the family agreed to draw names for the adults, and though some of us cheated just a little (ahem….my mother), I feel like we definitely made positive strides in cutting down on the excess. Also, since I only had one person to focus on, I was able to really enjoy shopping for my sister. I even threw in some hand-made, semi-craftiness for her and some of the neighbors.
Charlie and I also basically skipped shopping for one another this year, and that relieved a significant amount of stress and wrapping. We are supposed to start building a house in the near future (whole other post, y’all), so that will pretty much be our Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday/Happy Valentine’s Day/etc. for the foreseeable future. Here’s some lumber babe! Love you so much! We had pretty much reached the point where I’d buy a sweater, wrap it, and tell him to sign the card anyway. We did hire a sitter and go catch dinner and a movie last night, and those of you with kids know that an uninterrupted meal is pretty much the best gift ever.
I’d still like to see Christmas stress reduced by several notches, and I’m still striving for simplicity and a clearer focus on Jesus, but I at least feel as though we’re moving in the right direction.
How was your Christmas? Did you make any changes or start any new traditions this year?