Financially Free Christmas

“For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NIV)

The reality of our poor financial choices hit my husband and me one night just a few days before Christmas several years ago. What should have been a time of festivities and celebrating became just another cause for stress in our lives. We didn’t know how we were going to afford the expensive presents on oyr kids’ lists. We didn’t want to tell them no, yet to buy gifts meant adding to our already overwhelming debt load. We took God at His word when He said that nothing is impossible with Him. And yet, from where we sat, our financial situation looked impossible.

For years, we had been trying to do something to change our financial picture, to no avail. We desperately wanted to stop using credit cards, yet financial emergencies always cropped up that drove us back to credit card purchases. We wanted to begin tithing and saving, yet there was never any money leftover to do that. We wanted to begin chipping away at our debt, and yet we saw no way to do so. We felt trapped at every turn. We had gotten ourselves unwittingly into a financial mess. Never before had we felt so strongly about getting out of that mess than that night.

I watched from our parked car as the other shoppers “rushed home with their treasures” like the carol says. I vaguely wondered how many of them were slipping deeper into debt as they charged purchases they couldn’t really afford. Meanwhile, my husband and I sat in that parking lot for over an hour. We talked through what it would take for us to change our spending habits and take steps towards achieving our dream of being debt free. God met with us there and united our hearts with a purpose and a passion to see it through.

The plan we mapped out was not a quick and easy solution, but it was the real picture of what it would take. Though neither of us realized it then, that night was the beginning of a major change in our lives. We were embarking on a journey that would enable us to escape the bondage of debt and begin to enjoy financial freedom. It took us four and a half years but we are so glad we did what it took to change our family’s financial picture.

If you are approaching the Christmas season with that same sense of fear and dread, I urge you to not let another day go by without making a plan and committing to do whatever it takes to avoid debt. If you’re married, have this hard but necessary conversation with your spouse. By next Christmas your financial situation might not be 100% better, but it will be better than it is this year. And each Christmas, with perseverance, it will get better. It won’t be easy, but it will be the one of the best things you will ever do for your family. Ask me how I know.

Dear Lord, I want to honor You with my finances. I want to tithe and save and stop borrowing money. Please help me and my family to know what steps to take, and to seek out the wise counsel we need to change our financial picture. I trust You to do the impossible. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Marybeth’s blog

Living Financially Free: Hard Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Money and Your Marriage by Marybeth and Curt Whalen

A Recipe for Christmas Joy (E-Book) by Marybeth Whalen

Shop with us for Christmas!
When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you support the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase. Thank you!

Application Steps:
If you are already financially free, is there someone you can counsel who might need to know how to make wise decisions with money?

What one thing can I do today that is a step towards financial freedom?

Can I prayerfully set up a time to talk calmly with my spouse about what it would take to change our financial picture?

Is there a local church or organization that I can get counseling from to help me devise a plan?

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:25, “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” (NLT)

Psalm 34:9, “Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Unwrapping His Christmas Presence
Renee Swope

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call Him Immanuel, God with us." Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

Plans for the perfect Christmas danced across the stage of my mind. My mom, my brother and my husband’s parents were coming to see us. Plus my dad and his wife would be here Christmas day, and JJ's brother and family were coming too. Inviting our out-of-town families to our home for the holidays for the first time was a dream come true. The fact that they could all come at some point between Christmas and New Years was just short of a miracle.

I’m so embarrassed to admit this, but by the time everyone got here I couldn’t wait for them to leave.

In the midst of all the preparations, I’d gotten tangled up in Christmas lights and unrealistic expectations. It all started when my husband and sons petitioned for blinking colored lights on the tree. We don't do colored lights on the tree. I am a "white lights" kind of girl, I insisted. But then JJ suggested our decorating decisions should be a "family activity" that year. Who was this man and why had he not brought this up in pre-marriage counseling? I wondered.

The control freak in me started to freak out. Don't get in the way of my perfect Christmas with white lights that make me and my home feel peaceful.

Further attempts to have the perfect house, perfect menu and perfect table settings were stealing my holiday joy. This being my first time hosting a holiday dinner, I’d failed to notice that my Christmas place mats didn't coordinate with my everyday cloth napkins, and I didn't have festive napkin rings. Worst of all, I didn't know how to cook a turkey.

In the midst of all the holiday obligations I’d placed on myself, I experienced one of my worst Christmas days ever. I had a house full of people, but an oh-so-empty heart.

As I walked through my living room picking up wrapping paper, I wondered why my dreams of the "perfect Christmas" hadn't come true. Many of the elements seemed to be in place: kids running around with remote control cars, adults on the couch snoring to the tune of Jingle Bells, and grown men playing sidewalk hockey in the driveway. We'd lit Advent candles and set out the nativities. Still, something was missing.

Trying to escape the holiday noise, I went upstairs to my bedroom and sat down on the floor in my walk-in closet. Taking a deep breath, I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. Slowly, I let each word remind me of that first Christmas night and God’s promise that came true in Bethlehem. “She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger…" Luke 2:7 (NIV).

A cross reference led me to Isaiah 7:14: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel, God with us."

Closing my eyes, I pictured Mary wrapping baby Jesus. Her hands carefully folding each corner of cloth. Like a beautiful bow on the perfect Christmas gift, she placed a kiss on his forehead.

That’s when I realized what had been missing. In the hustle and bustle of creating the perfect Christmas, I’d forgotten to unwrap the perfect gift, the most important gift of all, the gift of Immanuel, God with us.

Bowing my head, I opened my hands and my heart, and unwrapped God’s presence in my closet that day. I invited Jesus to bring calm to my anxious heart. To bring His perspective to my expectations and to help me enjoy the gifts of my family that were waiting downstairs. Simply pausing to acknowledge and thank Jesus for being with me brought peace to my heart unlike anything white lights and matching table settings could ever bestow.

It ended up being the perfect Christmas after all!

Dear Lord, no matter how busy life gets or how lonely I feel this Christmas, I want to unwrap the gift of Your presence each day. Help me to see You, hear Your voice speak to my heart, and pay attention when You lead me with Your peace and perspective. I seek Your purpose in all of my plans. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Immanuel, God with us?

Unwrapping His Presence, a Christmas Message on DVD by Renee Swope

Living and Leaving a Legacy – Two Session Conference on DVD by Renee Swope

Visit Renee’s Blog to download a free Christmas prayer that is guaranteed to prepare your heart and home for the holidays! And enter to win her Christ-Centered Christmas give-away worth over $35!

Visit Renee’s Facebook Page where she will be sharing ideas to keep Christ in Christmas every day in December!
When you buy Christmas gifts through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity! Your purchase supports the many areas of life-changing ministry we provide at no cost. Although we’d love to offer huge discounts, we simply can’t compete with online warehouses. So, we are extremely grateful when you shop with us. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

Application Steps:
Make a list of expectations and preparations that could steal your focus this Christmas. Place the list in a gift box and wrap it in a prayer, asking God to give you His perspective and peace for everything you listed. If you start getting anxious, remind yourself that each assignment and challenge is wrapped in God’s peace. Trust Jesus and thank Him that no matter what comes your way, He is with you!

What days might be most challenging this month? How can I plan time on those day to be with Jesus each morning, sitting with Him, soaking in His perspective and peace before my busy day starts.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 26:12, "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” (NIV)

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)

© 2010 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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