>All sorts of thoughts are swirling in my head today.

“I wonder if my parents have electricity yet.”

“I wonder if my grandma, the one who lives alone, is ok. I wish I could get in touch with her.”

“I wish I could get all the cookies baked and delivered, but between cleaning my kitchen (it needed it! Being sick has put me way behind on everything) and two little people needing an endless list of everything and all my attention, I doubt that will happen.”

This is turning out to be a tougher Christmas season that I had anticipated. For starters, I quit my part-time retail job at the end of October so I could train for some work-from-home stuff. But then we didn’t have the money to buy equipment I would need, so here I am, having paid for the training, but not training.

Another reason I quit was because I wanted to be able to enjoy Christmas this year. Last year was crazy; I worked 5 and 6 days a week. Last year, I had more money but little time. This year, I had more time but little money. We knew it would be tight but thought we’d be able to do everything we always have.

But then the furnace went out. And the tire nearly completely came off the car when a ball bearing broke. And those two hiccups in November made a big difference for December. Then Paul’s bonus was less than last year’s. Couple those things with us trying to be REALLY faithful and good stewarts, not spending beyond our means, thanks to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University… and this year is nothing like years past. No Christmas cards. No gifts for our parents or grandparents. Or each other. Fewer stocking stuffers for the girls. (A year or two ago, we started getting them 3 toys each, plus a bag of clothes, puzzles and books, so the gift part has been cut back for a while.) Everything is… less.

In my head and heart, I know that Christmas isn’t about the presents. I know the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas, which is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

But this year, it feels different because it’s by necessity and not a choice. Though we had previously tried to cut out the excess of Christmas, this year, we are cutting back because we have to.

For a person who LOVES giving gifts, that is REALLY hard.

Our pastor has been doing a fantastic sermon series about, in part, just enjoying the season and not overextending ourselves. I’m sure there are thousands of people who are in the same shape we are, and thousands more in situations worse. I know that. And I’m grateful for what we have, because it could be much, much worse.

Last week an incredible snow storm came through. We had to reschedule Hannah’s birthday party. My entire family back home is without electricity. My parents, one grandma and my brother have no phone service. It’s very likely that their power won’t be restored until midnight on Christmas. I’m sure they’ve lost a refrigerator full of groceries, as Mom just went on Thursday before the storm hit. Trees are still down everywhere, so they can’t get out and we can’t get in. It’s very possible I won’t be with my first family during Christmas.

I’m trying to not lose sight of the holiday’s purpose. I’m trying to figure out what I need to get at the grocery store to somehow recreate what we’d normally do at Mom’s. It’s not the same, but the kids deserve more than a Mommy who’s completely bummed out.

But not only for their sake, I don’t want to miss Christmas. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to really stop and reflect on how much God loves us that He sent His SON for us. For me. I don’t want December 26th to roll around and feel like I just missed the train. That awful feeling of missing out and regret is something I don’t ever want to feel when it comes to Christmas. Or really, life in general.

I hope to be able to bake some cookies and possibly listen to those great sermons again to help refocus and shift my attention on what I have, right here in this little house. I am looking forward to Family Communion tonight at church; it is always a holy experience. Maybe I need just a little more Jesus in my heart.