Questions answered about "When we changed the way we do Christmas"

I was SO excited about your response to last week's post about how we cut out excess at Christmas! Six years in and we're still loving how we're doing it.

I received loads of texts, messages, and emails with questions about Santa, Grandparent's gifts, and so much more. I thought I'd share some of them... in case you were wondering, too!

Q: Does Santa still bring gifts for your kids in addition to the Four Gifts?

A: The only gifts Santa brings is what fits inside their stocking.

They do however, receive one (family) present on Christmas eve, which is typically matching PJ's and something to do that night after our church service: board game, movie, that sort of thing!

Q. What do you do about gifts from aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc?

A: This shocks people, but we're very firm with our families on both sides. It has been THE hardest part about making a transition to doing gifts this way. 

We tell our families to please either give a Family Gift (we've gotten things like: a ping pong table, board games, movie tickets in the past) OR one gift per child. ONE.

In the beginning, some family members thought we were being ridiculous so they still gave a massive amount of gifts per kid. We had warned them to please not do this...if they didn't respect our wishes, we would give some of the gifts away. And that's exactly what we did. The kids still opened one...and we donated the rest. They weren't even unwrapped (it would have been tempting to keep them if we had!). Feelings were certainly hurt, but they got the idea we were serious.

It's not always easy...but a lot of parenting isn't. Especially when you're going against cultural norm.

Q. How do you get your older kids on board?

A: It's shocking to see such gross entitlement in our children sometimes, isn't it? Internationally adopted kids are no's crazy how fast they forget about their past life of great need (even just for shoes or food!) and ask, ask, ask for things!

This isn't just a cute little tradition for Christmastime. As parents we need to realize this is an every day of the year kind of counter-cultural decision.

There is no way our older kids will get on board and realize the benefits, reasons, and impact on their own lives if they don't see it played out through the rest of the year. Children should not be given everything they want. We know this in theory, but need to make sure we live it.

When you're out and at Target (for example) and they ask for a random toy you pass, do you purchase it?

I'm not talking about the one they're saving up for...or the one they've been talking about for the past four months and you decide to surprise them with, just because. It's ok to purchase treats for them. But how often do we buy things on a whim, because they're whining or say they "need" it.

One of our kids said he needed pants the other day. When looking in his closet, I found eight pairs of perfectly fine pants that fit him well. He did not need pants. He wanted some. So I obviously said, "no" and told him why. He understood and even chuckled at himself as I pulled each of them out and showed him the large stack!

Helping our children comprehend gift giving as an act of love and not obligation, is huge. This Christmastime Four Gift thing is just a tiny portion of it.

Q: Ok but honestly, do the kids actually like this? Do they wish you did Christmas like everyone else?

What kid doesn't want more gifts? You and I are no's fun receiving things!!

But when the excess gets to the point where you can't remember who gave what gifts, or they have so many presents that they play with something for five minutes before they move on (rarely to touch it again), my question is why?

Why are you doing that to yourself, to them, and to your bank account?

We've been doing this enough years that the kids get excited wondering what one "Want" item they'll get. They try guessing every day and jump up and down with excitement. They know the "Wear" item won't be something boring like underwear or socks (although one of our kids LOVES goofy socks, so they'd be thrilled if we did). We'll purchase a favorite player's jersey, glittery shoes that make the girls squeal, that sort of thing.

It truly helps us know our kids better and what they want more than anything at the moment. What are their greatest loves and interests? What's their favorite book series or what's new by their favorite author? What "Something we'll do" gift would take their breath away with excitement?

They know each of these things is coming and are thrilled with anticipation. So yes. Yes, they truly do love the way we do things.

Yours will too, even if there's complaining the first year or two (and there certainly may be in the beginning).

We don't want to be a "normal" family anyway...let's teach our children that the concept of living out of the ordinary and counter-culturally is absolutely ok.

Q: We're not going to do this, though I think it's cool. Will you be judging me?

A: Ohmygosh are you kidding? No! Of course not!! You may not be doing this exact thing, and that's ok! Don't worry...I'm not going to look at what's under your tree and get all lame and up on my high-horse!

This is meant to be an encouragement to those who are tired of all the excess. That's it. Zero judgements here. Promise.


Want to read the post When we changed the way we do Christmas again? Click here!

Take Joy,


P.S. The photos do not show items we're getting the little ones...because I don't want them to accidentally figure any of their gifts out! Just FYI ; )

a bunch of fun random

fun random

I leave this morning for a weekend away. So weird to be traveling without a troop of kids clipping my heals as we walk. Hopping on a plane to Hope Spoken gives me butterflies, I'm so excited.

If you want to read about my time last year, click here!


Let's talk about Target's dollar section for a minute.

orange juice

How fun are these little tags?! Ombre may not be everywhere like it was a few summers ago, but I still haven't gotten enough. And the other two-toned ones are actually wood!

Target, you've done it again. I can think of about 100 projects for these little guys.

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I am so obsessed with this gown. I mean, ok...technically it's a prom dress. But I'm not above pretending I'm still young enough for prom.

I think it'd be perfect for one of my girlie parties. I am, after all, planning a spring soiree. I guess it's not overly garden-partish...but I'm sure I could come up with SOME sort of party around it. Would that be weird? Planning a party around a crazy-cute dress??

It had me at pockets.


Ok, all you Downton Abbey fans, I've got a new show for you!

The Paradise.

The Paradise 1

Fair warning, sadly it only lasted two seasons (wish I'd known that when obsessively getting into it) but nonetheless, it's so worth tuning in.

The Paradise 2


Denise Lovett may look the part of a country bumpkin when she arrives penniless and in search of work at the doors of The Paradise, Britain's glamorous first department store. But before long, intoxicated by the potential of the modern world, she will turn her ambitious and inspired eye to the store's ladieswear department, meanwhile catching the eye of the shop's dashing and reckless owner, John Moray, a grieving widower with a secret.

The Paradise 3


 Enigmatic and shrewd, Moray embodies the modern era that he is ushering into the bustling Northern town in the form of petticoats and perfume. But what remains to be seen is whether those around him – the pampered heiress who mistakes hooks for heart, the sinister store detective whose loyalty knows no bounds, or the demure Denise herself, fighting to keep her ideas and her love from brimming over – will help or hinder the fulfillment of his grand ambition.

the paradise

 The story is fun and intriguing and the ambiance of the show, WOW. I mean, look at that set!! It's so beautiful. The cast is captivating and fascinating, each character so well-played. And best of all? My husband even got into it.


I just finished Orphan Train for my neighborhood book club.

I didn't think I'd like it since it was about kids without parents loaded onto a train and basically given out to whomever decided they wanted them, as they stopped from train station to train station. That sounded horrible and I didn't think my heart could handle the story.

Orphan Train

But I was wrong. The story was SO much more than that and I highly recommend adding it to your list!

Orphan Train

(click here for more info on the book + to order)

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Another book I'm really excited about is Savor, my Shauna Niequist.


Shauna is my favorite author, her writings are so full of imagery and texture.

This book is different than her others though, being a 365 day devotional.

This book is likely the most beautiful (non vintage) book I've ever held in my hands. The linen-bound hardback, Lindsey Letters lettering on the cover and throughout, the navy lined pages, and most certainly the message.

I loved this review:

To say that Shauna is a gifted writer is an understatement. From her first words she makes you feel as though you two are friends, sitting down over tea and coffee, as she gently and colorfully coaxes you in to living a life filled with Jesus and inspired by the everyday. I am busy busy busy - like most of us. I don't have a ton of time for intense devotionals and homework. BUT I do have time for friendly, life-giving words, starting my day with acknowledging that I am here because of a big and beautiful God, and yummy recipes. That, I have time for. And shouldn't we all make time for that? Life can be tough and beautiful. Shauna has first-hand experienced both parallels, and speaks with authority, humanness, and love. I dare you not to be blessed by this devotional. 

I will say however, that the book is full of similar things we read about in Bread and Wine, etc. but I'm definitely a fan, nevertheless.

And shameless plug for my precious friend Meredith (my editor!), who was one of the editors on this project. Way to go, girl. Major love.

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What about you? Any randomness or obsessions you'd like to share??

take joy-signature-new-pink