Today’s blog is written by ROOM’s Executive Director, Amanda Stafford. Amanda works out of our international headquarters (a spare office at Epworth United Methodist Church) in Concord, North Carolina. Amanda dislikes “Christmas nonsense” but loves Jesus a whole lot. Today’s blog demonstrates her desire to weave Scripture throughout her day to shift focus away from this season’s empty business and toward reverence for Christ and His word.
Earlier this week, I went to Staples because ROOM was out of printer ink. Unfortunately, the Staples closest to our office shares a parking lot with a small shopping mall. I was not prepared for the Battle-Royale-Smackdown-Demolition-Derby-Death-match that is going on anywhere near any mall during the week of Christmas. It took a tremendous amount of time to find a parking spot. When I finally saw someone backing up (…very far away from the office supply store entrance…) a woman in a fancy green mom-van honked at me and stole the spot I had been politely waiting for with my blinker on. My weird, unplanned response to this Christmas-pirate was to smile and wave like I knew her. She glared back at me meanly. This was around 6:30pm on Monday. ROOM just needed ink.
I hate Christmas. Christmas is not my favorite season. I get overwhelmed by all the commercialism and extra “have-tos” piled on top of my already-busy schedule. The holidays give me grumpy feelings, like:
- I feel uncomfortable when everyone overeats at holiday parties and then complains about how full they are. 795 million people worldwide (that’s one in nine) suffer from chronic undernourishment (source: World Hunger).
- I feel pressure to spend outside my budget on gifts for friends and family; often on things they don’t really want or need. 41% of Americans feel obligated to buy gifts they can’t afford (source: Experian Consumer Services).
- I feel happy to see the tremendous focus on volunteerism and charitable giving, but I also feel snarky because it seems like these values are only practiced when Santa is sitting on his mall-throne. Poverty persists year-round; charities operate every day of the year; but, over one-third of contributions to nonprofits are made during the holiday season (source: Blackbaud).
…and all the readers collectively say: “Oh, Amanda, I bet you’re really fun at parties.”
I am extremely fun. (Want proof? I literally have vocabulary flashcards in my purse right now if you want to play a word game with me.)
While it is true that my best friends recently compared me to Grumpy Cat in the movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. I think, maybe, the reason all this shopping-spending-crafting-driving-overeating-Santa-Claus-consumerist nonsense doesn’t resonate with my heart is because this man-made garbage is nothing compared with the indescribable, holy happiness and wonder stemming from the truth of our Lord, Jesus Christ’s humble birth.
I’m trying to fix my eyes on Jesus’ coming, instead of cookies shaped like an old bearded-man. When I do this, I take comfort in Biblical truths. I am reminded what this season should be about. I am less likely to stress-eat gas station doughnuts in my car because ROOM’s year-end-fundraising-revenue is not as high as I would like. I am less likely to overreact when the cheese straws I bake don’t meet my perfectionist expectations. I am more likely to respond to others’ holiday stress (like the parking lot situation) with grace and compassion. Why? Because Christmas is nothing compared with the actual miracle of Jesus.
Today, with Christmas Eve only three days away, I am trying to balance a long workday, family responsibilities and holiday errands. I am doing my best to hold these have-tos and want-tos and to-dos together by weaving in Biblical truth. In my mind, it looks something like this:
(Pro tip: Imagine reading the “to-dos” in my voice and the Bible verses in Morgan Freeman’s voice)
To do: Answer emails. Return voicemails. Write a @roomtolove blog post. December financials. 2016 year-end bookkeeping.
“The Lord himself will give you a sign; the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”-Isaiah 7:14
To do: Christmas fundraising follow-ups. End-of-year fundraising. Donor thank-you notes and Christmas cards.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” -Galatians 4:4-5
To do: Work on 2017 ministry plans and preparations. Follow-up with ROOM’s Board of Directors on the 2017 budget.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, but what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'” -Matthew 18:20-21
To do: Reach out to ROOM volunteers. Work on looming pile of tedious paperwork I have been avoiding.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from at time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” -Isaiah 9:6-7
To do: Check the PO Box. Process mail and donations. Make bank deposit. Thank donors.
“At one time we were too foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kids of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Then the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:3-7
To do: File financials. Check and confirm Honduras year-end paperwork from 2016. Check and confirm India year-end financials from 2016.
“Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave bight to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:4-7
To do: Visit Grandma after work. Take Grandma grocery shopping or to run Christmas errands. Eat dinner together and go to Wednesday night church service together.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby laying wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us all about.”- Luke 2:9-15
To do: Try to find some time to go Christmas shopping (??) and locate perfect gifts for family members. Bake seasonal treats; pack them cuter than any pinterest page. Make Christmas crafts. Wrap gifts.
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:16-20
To do: Take time to be still. Thank God for the tremendous blessings I am quick to complain about every day behind a tall fence of privilege. Say my evening prayers under the glow of my quiet Christmas tree.
Most of the blog articles I write end with either a direct or implied request for fundraising support. This one doesn’t really (…okay, if you insist… please visit http://www.makeroom.org/donate.php and make a donation to support our amazing children and life-changing programs), instead I ask that you consider spending more time reading the Bible this holiday season.
Fixing your eyes on Jesus and on His word will help you feel whole. When we feel whole we can best fulfill our ministry call, like my call to serve children who are orphaned and abandoned in developing nations through Reach Out Orphanage Ministries.
God’s word will remind you to give your time, energy, resources and dollars generously. Scripture tells us truths about our responsibilities to help people who are poor, orphaned, widowed and immigrants; and then it empowers us to be part of God’s solutions for these vulnerable populations.
From Scripture we learn that the first will be last and last will be first (Matthew 20:16). In response, we take one more lap around the mall parking lot while pondering if this verse is actually applicable in our current situation.
To learn how you can help your family focus on giving, not just receiving, this holiday season read Christmas Giving and Christmas Receiving by Cassie Murray.
For more information about ROOM and how you can get involved, check out: our website.