Offer: An Alternative Christmas List

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT, in the spirit of the holidays and in the spirit of giving, I offer the following.

Generally, I love gift exchange during the holidays. My goal in giving is always something akin to this:

However, God has given me and my husband a challenge. We’re calling it Attachment to STUFF. It’s one of those Testing Your Character challenges, complete with an almost total lack of desire to acquire anything new. Inconvenient, considering it’s Christmas time and we usually come home from Christmas with at least 2-3 boxes of new Stuff that we don’t usually buy for ourselves.

But Hurricane Sandy (the No. 2 Google search of 2012) happened, and over Thanksgiving we saw residual devastation. Then the horrific, terrifying Sandy Hook massacre broke our hearts as watched an entire community shatter to pieces.

In my prayers all yesterday and this morning, all I kept repeating was Psalm 61:2 – When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to a rock that is higher than I. Because I don’t know how to pray for mercy, for grace, for healing in a situation like this. I know God is there, loving His children. But I don’t know how to feel that love in the wake of such sadness. All I can do is stand on His promise of comfort and control, even when I don’t feel it.

Some people can’t bring themselves to make a material Christmas list. All they want is their home, their photo albums, their pet, all lost in a Super Storm. Or they want their marriage put back together, their lost child found, their loved one back from the edges of destruction, their child given back his innocence. In the midst of heartbreak and confusion and deep-seated frustration that we’re not sure how to move past, some things can seem quite futile.

So to that point, I offer alternatives to a material Christmas list: Water International – dedicated to helping communities around the world who have limited access to water. Donations can be made online. South Bronx – helping under-served urban communities learn to live sustainably. Donations can be made online. – Maggie’s Morning School – This is the pre-k program I taught for in Savannah. They are a non-profit educational facility with a wonderfully creative program for young children.
Donations can be sent to: Maggie’s Morning School, 6610 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31405 – Air1 (or – Christian radio stations that rely on donations rather than advertising or state funding to broadcast. I listen almost every day, and have heard many stories about the lives and hearts changed and saved from listening to the encouraging music played on both stations. Donations can be made online. – Heifer International – An international organization that helps poor communities learn self-sufficiency in order to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. Donations can be made online.

This doesn’t ‘fix’ the world. The nightmare Newton lived through on 12/14/12 is still a nightmare. People still don’t have their homes or photo albums or cherished childhood items after Hurricane Sandy. But we can comfort each other and we can help each other. We can focus on the relationship behind the gift exchange, rather than the exchange itself. We can forgive each other. We can forget the things that truly don’t matter, and fill our lives with purpose.

I am not discouraging gift giving this Christmas. Everyone reacts to tragedy differently, and some people need to continue their daily life as it was before. And I completely understand that, and I think that is completely appropriate. I am only offering an alternative if, like me, you find yourself this year wondering, “What’s this all for?”


You tell me:

What are your plans for Christmas? Did they stay the same or change after the Newton, CT news?


  1. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is all over the place when I think of these poor people. I love your prayer from Psalms 61:2. I pray for everyone that has been effected by these tragedies, but I find myself asking God right in the middle of my prayers, “Oh Lord, I don’t know how to pray for these people” 😦 So, honey thank you for reminding me of Ps 61:2. And thanks so much for the alternative Christmas List. Love it! Great Post, Elisa!! Love You! Mama

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