We arrived in the States just a few short days before Christmas. Thinking about buying gifts and decorating a house could have been an overwhelming task. The cultural shock of shopping in general can be rough enough when coming home on furlough. The grocery store in Brazil where I do most of my shopping has four short aisles. There's one brand of most things and most of the stuff sold in American grocery stores doesn't even exist. Transport yourself to a Walmart Super Center on Christmas Eve with all those aisles and all those people and all that stuff!
Thankfully my family is not materialistic. The week before Christmas was spent at my parents' house in Virginia with all our immediate family all around. We enjoyed good homecooking and simple gifts. Our boys got to spend quality time with grandparents and cousins.
Simple gifts are the best. Consider if your holiday celebrations are truly honoring to God. Do you spend money that you really don't have for things that no one really needs? On the mission field our presents are simple and practical but always full of love. The day before Christmas we went to one of the biggest malls around. The first store we went in was one of my favorites. I had a special discount coupon for 20% off my entire purchase. I began to think of all the things my boys needed. We came to the States rather "clothes poor." As I walked around I began to rationalize using my coupon right then and there to have lots of gifts under our tree. I found my arms getting fuller as I saw more good stuff. All around me people were standing in line to buy things.
Then I stopped, took a deep breathe, remembered how things are, and put down the stuff in my arms. Using that coupon would have saved lots of money but not making the purchase saved even more. I still need to buy some things for my boys but I'll go to Good Will and bide my time for a better sale day on which to use my coupon.