A few weeks ago, I shared my “Christmas Non-Negotiables,’ in other words things that make Christmas, Christmas for me. One of “my Non-Negotiables” was giving. I explained:

It is needed and important all year round, but as we celebrate a Holiday that our culture has made more and more about getting, we are finding it increasingly important to do the opposite. It is in our giving–not our receiving–that we are reminded of how much we are so blessed already. 

I then went on to say that I would give you an update on ways that my husband and I are giving this year. Today, I want to share about two of the organizations that we have decided to give to and why. We knew we wanted to give both locally and globally, as both are important to us; so, we chose a local and a global organization to give to.

Locally, we chose to support our Food Bank. With so many people experiencing tough times, food banks are helping feed families. But because there are so many in need, the needs of the food bank are growing. As many of us know, they are always looking for donations of canned goods and non-perishables, but they also can use monetary donations, as well as people to volunteer their time to sort food.

canned food

The global organization we decided to support is World Vision.  We both have had a lot of exposure to the organization through church events, and through sponsoring a child. The thing we like about World Vision is that they have so many ministries within their organization that help meet a variety of needs in communities all over the world. There are opportunities to change: the life of a child through sponsorship, a whole family by giving one person a small business loan (sometimes for as little as one hundred dollars you could change the future of an entire family), the life of a girl rescued from sex trafficking, and so much more. They also have this great Gift Guide that explains the many ways that you can give gifts in honor of a family member or friend.  Struggling to find what to give the person in your life who has everything?  Donate a goat and two chickens in their name, and feed a whole family!


Because I haven’t been working this past year, I have to admit that at times it feels like we don’t have much to spare.  But what I have found through our giving is that we have more than we realize, and that a little can go a long way.

If you want to give this Season, but don’t know if you will get to it before Christmas day,  know that those same needs will be there after the New Year, and that its never a bad time to give.

Are there any organizations you give to, that you would like to share?

Growing up, I can think of at least a few Christmases that I felt disappointed. All the presents had been given out and unwrapped, and I would look around the room, as if to say “thats it?”  Sounds selfish, I know.  But it was never that I didn’t feel grateful for what I was given, or that I was expecting some expensive piece of clothing or technology that my parents couldn’t afford.  Rather, it was that after a month of hype–shopping, wrapping presents, baking, preparing–it was all over.

This past week, I have been talking about how I want to let go of some of the hype, the expectation that Christmas brings–not so I can say “Bah! Humbug,” but rather in hopes of experiencing less stress and more of the actual Christmas Spirit. It is my hope that through doing this, I will actually be able to savor the holiday, rather than just trying to survive it.  In order to do this, I feel I have to start by making sure that I define what is important to me at Christmas time, so as holiday opportunities arise, I can measure them against my true “season must haves.”

So today, I want to share with you what my husband and I are not letting go of this Christmas–what we want to most celebrate. Some may be obvious, yet I think there are times when we take them for granted.

Here are Our Christmas Non-negotiables:

Family:  With both of our families being out of state, my husband and I really appreciate when we can get home to be with family. We don’t need to do anything extravagant with them–its actually the really simple things that mean the most (like when we’re having a meal together, playing a game, or just catching up over our morning coffee). There is something very powerful about being seen and loved by those who share our blood, last name, and longest memories.

Friends: Living far from our families, there are friends here in Pennsylvania who have become our family. Whether over a cup of coffee (yeah, me and my coffee!), having them over for dinner, or seeing them at a Christmas party–time with friends around this Season and all year round, is really important.

Giving: It is needed and important all year round, but as we celebrate a Holiday that our culture has made more and more about getting, we are finding it increasingly important to do the opposite. It is in our giving–not our receiving–that we are reminded of how much we are so blessed already. We are still figuring out what giving looks like for us this year, but we know want this to be an important part. (I will post with an update)

A Desire to be Spiritually aware: It may sound new-age, but I am not talking about crystals or ghosts of Christmas past. Rather, we want to remember that the reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus came to Earth to literally give up His life for us. It is because of His gift that we give gifts at Christmas. It’s because of His gift, that we are able to experience hope even in our darkest times. And, it’s because of His gift, that we are able to give to others.  We want to be aware of these things as we enter the Christmas Season, not what sales or deals we can take advantage of at the mall.

What are your Christmas Non-negotiables?


It was the middle of July, yet I was dressed like an eskimo. I was wearing more layers inside, than I would normally wear outside in December.  And when I talked, my breath became an icy cloud.

It was winter in Chile, and I was there–with my husband, some friends, and a team of incredibly great Jr. and Sr. High students. We were partnering with a church in a suburb of Santiago to reach out to kids in a poor neighborhood. For a week, we would provide art lessons, dramatic readings, and help host a skateboarding competition. We were there to give, only we were to be given so much more.

But, I am getting ahead of myself.

We arrived on a Saturday, so the second day we were there was church day.  We were staying in pairs with families from the congregation. Two by two with our Chilean families, our US team arrived bleary eyed to church, that Sunday morning. We sat with our hosts, waving to each other from our pews. We joined the congregation in singing worships songs that we knew from home; singing in English, as they sang in Spanish.  Then, we listened to the message the best we could, most of us having only a limited Spanish vocabulary. From what I could tell from the congregation’s faces and body language, it was a meaningful service. However, when “church” was over, it was then that I was able to see the real Church in action.

My host family was one of the few from the congregation to have a car, which meant many others walked miles in the cold winter weather to get there for service.  After church, we walked out to the car, only to find our host dad piling us, another family, and a few others, into the car (read that car, not minivan). The Chileans are an incredibly giving people–forget seat belts, people needed a ride home. When everyone was in, and the doors securely closed, off we went. I sat up against the car door, with a person on my lap, trying not to squish the person to my left. We dropped a few people off and then headed to the next home.

From the front seat, our host mom was talking excitedly to her friend in the back, and every now and then, our host sister would translate.  “They are going to join us for…how do you say?… supper?”  (every now and then, she would apologize to me that her English was bad, yet it was much better than my Spanish). The car stopped in front of a row of homes, and everyone in the back seat shifted a little so that our host mom’s friend could get out.  We waited, parked with the engine running.  A few minutes went by, then the woman emerged from her house with a cooking pot and a bag of potatoes in hand. We shifted again, she got back in the car, and off we went, this time to our host home.

When we arrived, we sat in the living/dining room, as our host mom and her friend started cooking lunch.  Amazing aromas began making their way from the kitchen, and before we knew it, lunch was served. These two beautiful women had joined together the food that they had to serve their families and us, a wonderful Sunday meal. Their dinning room table wasn’t huge, but everyone squeezed around it. They didn’t have a lot to give, yet they gave fully.  And what we continued to discover, is that everyone we met in Chile treated us this way.

As we approach Thanksgiving next week, and then the Christmas season, I am reminded of our wonderful Chilean friends. Because we have been in a recession here in the US, we could easily fall into believing that we have little to give to those in need around us. But, from being given to so fully by people who have less material possessions–people who had just met us–I know that even in this difficult time, we have so much to give.  Before we enter the chaotic season of shopping and Christmas parties, I want to ask:

What do you have to give?

Though we can get caught up in getting new “stuff” for the Holiday’s, sometimes what people most need, is what we already have. Do you have time? Can goods in your pantry? A meal that you could share with a family in need? Often, we are the greatest gift we can give to others.