The common cultural expressions and representations of Christmas are everywhere you look. From the tinsel and tidings, carols and cookies and the ribbons and reindeer, the Christmas spirit is certainly in the air. But we wanted to dust off some of the snowflakes and glitter and share some stories that might be easy to miss during this season of all things shiny and sparkly. We invite you to join us for this blog series as we share An Uncommon Christmas. (Articles: How To Buy A Cow, Finding Joy When Grief Is Heavy, Raising Uncommon Kids, Unwrapping Change, Christmas On The Mission Field)
You might think it strange that a family with no land, barn, hay, ranching skills or experience in the dairy industry would purchase a cow. Yet, our family thought it was one of the best decisions we made in The Year: The Year of the Cow. You, your family or your friends could buy a cow too, and you’d make a bigger difference than you might ever imagine.
Inspired by a sermon series from our church, one Christmas we committed to buying a cow. We knew we’d never pet the cow, but a family in an impoverished country would. One cow can dramatically change, if not save, the lives of an entire family. We committed to saving $500 in order to buy it. The organization we chose would do the footwork. (At least two organizations whom I know do this: See http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm and http://www.heifer.org.) They’d get the cow to the family and teach them how to care for it. The family would be able to drink its milk (one cow can provide 120,000 cups of milk in a lifetime), sell the extra milk, and obtain lots of fertilizer. The family can also sell or give away offspring of the cow to another family in need. It’s a beautiful thing.
Our challenge was to figure out how to save $500. At the time, we budgeted $120 a week on grocery items for our family of six (which included items for our infant). We usually eat out at least once a week as a family ($25-$35), and Beth and I each buy a couple of lunches during the week (about $20).
We committed to not eating out for several weeks, as well as slashing our grocery bill. By the way, we talked to our kids about this, explaining that we wanted to love people like Jesus did. We told them that we could make a difference, but it would require their sacrifice. They wholeheartedly supported our adventure. Here are the details:
Week 1: Other than baby items, we purchased no new items. We lived off the fat of our pantry for that entire week. It was amazing what we found in there. We ate some unusual concoctions, but we survived.
Week 2: We only bought milk, fruit, beans, rice and stuff for PBJ sandwiches. Not needing to buy our normal groceries for two weeks saved us about $175. Not eating out brought our total to $285.
We offered a challenge for others to partner with us. Four families committed to join us in our cause. One friend gave up Starbucks coffee for several weeks. One family sacrificed eating out. Another sacrificed two weeks of any entertainment that would cost money. They all generously donated, not knowing what the others would give. And when we added it all up, we celebrated. The tally at the bottom of our notebook was almost exactly $500. Perfect!
Our family learned valuable lessons:
1. We should quit whining about food. We were so thankful for anything other than rice or peanut butter after two weeks. But even more valuable than this, we developed gratitude for having our stomachs filled.
2. Simple foods can sustain us. While we welcomed different foods after two weeks, we also acknowledged that we could survive with a very simple diet. Millions of people do just that.
3. A healthy mindset views food primarily as fuel for the body (sustenance), rather than indulgence. We thank God for the yummy food He gives us. We enjoy the creativity of a skilled cook. Enjoying food is great, but this should not replace the primary purpose of food.
4. We have extra, and it’s fun and good to give our extra to those who don’t have enough.
5. We really like rice, beans and bananas. We learned this Brazilian recipe from a friend. It cost us $4 to feed the whole family this meal. We still eat it often.
6. We give because God has given to us. We kept reminding ourselves of this Biblical principle.
In the end, we sacrificed very little, but we experienced profound joy. We learned, loved and gave an effective gift. If we do it again, we’ll probably keep it a secret, but we wanted to encourage others to develop a family plan to give in a special way. You may choose a different idea, but consider how your family can reflect Christ’s generosity this Christmas. This much I know, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
(The above is an excerpt from Brian Jennings’ book Lead Your Family: 12 ready-to-use ideas to spiritually lead your family.)
Additional Christmas resources from What’s In The Bible?
- Buck Denver Asks… Why Do We Call It Christmas?
- Who Is Santa Claus?
- 10 Best Christmas Coloring Pages
- Christmas Family Bible Reading Plan
- An Uncommon Christmas: How To Buy A Cow
- An Uncommon Christmas: Finding Joy When Grief Is Heavy
- An Uncommon Christmas: Raising Uncommon Kids
- An Uncommon Christmas: Unwrapping Change
- An Uncommon Christmas: Christmas On The Mission Field
- Creating Family Holiday Traditions
- Christmas Traditions Around The World
- Celebrating The Season Of Advent
- Understanding Hanukkah From A Christian Perspective
Brian and his wife, Beth, live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with their four children. He’d gladly regale you with stories of the time that they adopted, gave birth and waded through a significant job transition within the span of four months. Brian has served at Highland Park Christian Church ever since graduating with a Bachelors of Theology from Ozark Christian College in 1998. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for Blackbox International, which provides care for boys who are victims of sex trafficking. You can read his blog and purchase his new book, Lead Your Family, at www.leadyourfamily.net.
Your family can learn more about the history of Christmas, and how Santa Claus, Christmas Trees and many of our modern holiday traditions point back to Jesus in Phil Vischer’s Buck Denver Asks… Why Do We Call It Christmas? Now streaming on JellyTelly!