For the past five months we have been striving for a simpler life, one in which we consume less, make more goods instead of purchasing them, and donate what we don’t use or need. We are feeling the graces and fruits of our changed lifestyle in a particular way during this Christmas season. Due to the lifestyle changes we have made over the past six months, we are more intentional with our time and with one another, and increasingly focused on Christ and His Incarnation.
Two events took place this summer that have led us to seek a lifestyle that is simpler and more intentional. The first thing that happened occurred when Mike, Peter, and I went on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, Italy this past July. It was in Assisi that the lives of Saints Francis and Clare – two of the poorest, simplest Saints in the history of the Church, planted the seeds for our lifestyle change. It was my sixth time visiting this holy place, but this trip – the first time there in my new role as wife and mother – was completely different.
During this trip we encountered Saint Francis and Saint Clare in a beautiful, peaceful way. Through different stories we heard about these two Saints and through prayer and reflection, we saw how a life lived for Christ is the most beautiful life. Francis and Clare lived completely for God. They gave away all their possessions and offered their entire being to serve Jesus in the poorest of the poor. How beautiful it is when the poor serve the poor and the sick serve the sick. What a calling for us! Free from worldly possessions, they were able to love Christ more fully. We returned from our pilgrimage desiring that same simplicity and freedom that we had witnessed in Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
The second event that took place occurred right after returning from Assisi. We watched a documentary called, ‘The True Cost‘ on Netflix. This was one of the most pivotal turning points in our life. In this documentary, we watched the poor fight for their lives as they support our excessive materialistic society. We truly were shaken to the very core of our beliefs about our world, our society, and about our material goods. We realized how disconnected we had been for our entire life to the people who make our clothes – people who often work in inhumane conditions and who do not receive a fair living wage. ‘The True Cost’ taught us the importance of speaking for those whose voices are left unheard and ignored, as well as the importance of consuming less, and using and reusing what we already own.
Since experiencing these two events this past summer, we have been faithful to our ethical, sustainable, and intentional lifestyle. There are of course, more changes our family can and should be making. It has been challenging finding ethically made clothing and goods, yet it is one of the best challenges we have ever faced. After finding so much goodness and joy in helping people who are stuck in the fast fashion industry, there is no going back. We can confidently say that we never desire the lifestyle we lived prior to our change.
We are sharing three things that we are doing as a family to have a simpler Christmas. Our goal this Christmas is to become closer to Christ and lead our son Peter closer to Christ. We want to be free from any excessive distractions so that we may be among those who cry out, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him!”
1.) Want, Need, Wear, Read Gifting: A few years ago I read about a mother who was getting overwhelmed with all the Christmas gifts she was purchasing for her husband and children. She wrote about how she decided to buy only four gifts for each person in her family: one gift they want, one gift they need, one piece of clothing (wear), and one book (read). I love this idea! Purchasing only four gifts each for Mike and Peter has forced me to be incredibly intentional in what I am purchasing. I have put such thought, care, and consideration into each of their four gifts. Instead of purchasing a bunch of gifts for them, I am using that money to purchase good quality, ethically made, sustainable, made to last gifts! This has dramatically simplified our gift giving.
2.) Spend Quality Time With Others: It can be so easy to get caught up in the material during this season. It seems that it is increasingly hard to just be present with each other. This Christmas, we are putting our phones down and being present to each other. Christ wants a relationship with us – one of the ways we do this is by engaging in relationships with each other. Another way to do this is by making homemade gifts. Homemade gifts have a personal touch, and often require more time than money. It communicates to the gift receiver that you spent time and took care to craft something for them. We love using our creative sides to make homemade gifts, and we also love the time we get to spend with each other while we make them!
3.) Reflect On The Holy Family: This Advent the image that keeps coming to my heart and mind is how many people missed Jesus’ coming that first Christmas evening because of their to-do list or the rush to complete their daily tasks. This Christmas I want to truly and fully invite the Holy Family into the home of my heart. I want to live with them, live like them, and live for them. The Holy Family worked hard, entrusted their lives to God the Father, and listened to the calling of the Holy Spirit. I pray that, through their intercession, I may always do the same.
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