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I’ve had a lot of comments about my post last week – the 12 Compliments of Christmas, so I thought I ought to give everyone an update. Let’s just say, last week was the best week I’ve had with my handsome teenage boys in about as long as I can remember. Yes, it is as simple as saying “Oh you look good today! ” as they walk in the kitchen in the morning. All of a sudden they are more willing to help me make breakfast, and talking to me about their friends and their day. It’s like putting an ice cube on a heater. Positive comments thaw them, and soon it is running over all of us!

There’s something else I have been working to be more positive about this year as well. It’s Christmas. In years past I’ve been telling everyone that I am just a Scrooge. I don’t like shopping, I don’t want the stress of buying presents, and I don’t like what Christmas is turning into. As I talk with people, they echo my thoughts. No one seems to like the commercialism of today’s Christmas season. So instead of just complaining about it, I decided to do something about it (novel thought!).

It started with an argument between Luke and Liza. I told them they were getting four presents this year (see more info below), and that I needed their list. They agonized over what to put on the list, and Luke especially was struggling with getting his list perfect. Liza was getting frustrated and said “Luke, Christmas isn’t just about the presents you know!” Luke looked shocked that she would say that. “Yes it is!” he yelled. Back and forth it went until Liza told him to ask me. He said “Mom, the most important thing in Christmas is the presents, right?” Sigh…these are the times you wonder why you talk to your children at all. Evidently Luke had not heard a word I had been saying all month. Thankfully my assistant Kim had given me a book and nativity set called “A Christ Centered Christmas” by Emily Freeman.

The book has seven figures in the nativity set, and you choose a day to talk about each of the figures and do a related activity. It’s been a great way to reconnect with what the season is about. So some of the things that have really helped me this year:

1. I’ve vowed not to shop in stores this year. I had a horrible experience. I went to Walmart to buy a birthday gift for Liza’s friend. I quickly got the gift, then saw something I was sure Liza would like for Christmas. Before I knew it, I had filled my cart with $100 of stuff for her. As I walked toward the groceries, out loud I exclaimed, “What am I doing??”. I put all of it back. I started walking again and saw a cool art set and jewelry maker. I put those in the cart. Whoa! I put those back. I knew I had to run before anything else jumped into my cart against my will. I was telling this story to a patient, and he said the stores have spent millions of dollars in research to find out how to set things up so you will impulse buy – exactly what I just did. I can’t win against Walmart’s millions! So I am just going to stay away. I’ve been shopping online and on ksl. Unfortunately, I have to buy a suit for my boys, and can’t figure out how to do that online. I may have to venture into a clothing store, heaven help me…!

2. We are going to help our kids help others. This is an idea from Fabian, the guy that keeps my arms and hands working (he gives me an incredibly painful deep tissue massage every two weeks.) Because I’m wincing in pain while he works, I talk to distract myself, and yesterday this is what he shared. He told me he gives his kids $300 for Christmas. They are required to give away $150 of it, and it has to be to someone outside the family. They give to sub for santa, toys for tots, people in their neighborhood, etc. With the other $150 they can write a list and he buys them gifts, or they can just have the money. I loved it. I love the idea of the kids giving their money, instead of just mom and dads money. We are going to try this and see how it helps all of our Christmas spirits. One of my favorite Christmas memories is from when I was about 12. We packed up presents and a big Christmas dinner, put it in a huge box with a big bow, and left it on the porch of a family that really needed the help. We all hid to see their faces. I don’t remember what presents I got that year, but I remember the way I felt when they opened that door. Even if it’s just putting extra coins in the United Way bucket, giving feels better than getting any day, and especially on Christmas.

3. Going along with that, Emily Freeman’s book gives ideas for gift giving. She patterns her gifts after the gifts Christ received. The gold was a Joyful gift reflecting royalty, Frankincense is a Meaningful gift, because it was used in religious ceremonies, and Myrrh is Needful, because it was often used to prepare bodies for burial. She suggests having one Santa gift, then giving only three others – Joyful, Meaningful and Needful. Some examples – the joyful gift for my daughter is a porcelain doll. She has been asking for months and will be overjoyed to get it (thank you nice lady from ksl!). Meaningful gifts for all the kids are warm slippers and a new book. It’s meaningful because it celebrates the simply joy of being at home with our family and relaxing. The needful gift is actually the easiest – it’s a suit for all of my boys because flood pants aren’t really in style right now!

As I’ve opened me heart to embrace rather than shun this season, I’ve found wonderful ideas from people around me that are ready to share. I hope these help you come up with your own ways to remember what this season is about, and to find joy in celebrating. If you would like to share your ideas, I’d love to hear them! Merry Christmas!

Dr. Michelle Jorgensen

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