About the Guest
Ever wonder what Christmas at the Rainey household is really like? Join Dennis and Barbara Rainey as they walk down memory lane and answer listeners' questions about their best and worst Christmases ever.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Ever wonder what Christmas at the Rainey household is really like? Dennis and Barbara Rainey walk down memory lane and answer listeners’ questions about their best and worst Christmases ever.
Bob: It’s possible to get carried away with the wrong stuff at Christmas—at least Barbara Rainey says she’s had that experience.
Barbara: We get caught so often in the trap that more is better and that the more money we spend, then, our child or our children will know that we love them more. That’s just not what it’s about. The most important thing is that your children know that they are loved, and that Mom and Dad love each other, and that our family stands for something—that’s a far more valuable gift that you can give your kids than the latest greatest toy they may be tired of in two weeks.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Are you looking for a little Christmas season coaching? Well, Dennis and Barbara Rainey are here to help today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. This could be the end of FamilyLife Today right here—today. It could all be over after this.
Dennis: I’m still waiting for the punch line! [Laughter]
Bob: For the reason for that.
Dennis: You didn’t announce to me any earlier than this. You’re letting our listeners know before you let me know?
Bob: Here is the deal—we’ve gone out to social media. We have invited listeners to submit questions about the Christmas holidays that your wife is going to answer for us today, and I—
Dennis: Why would that result in the end of FamilyLife Today? She’s our most requested guest we have here on the broadcast.
Bob: That’s my point. It could be, at the end of all of this, they just say—
Dennis: They don’t want me anymore! [Laughter]
Bob: Exactly. [Laughter] No more FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: I get it.
Bob: The program will now be called Ask Barbara Rainey, and it’ll be—
Dennis: Like Dr. Laura; you know?
Bob: We’re done—well, I don’t know about that because I don’t know if I want to put your wife and Dr. Laura in the same boat. Barbara—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Barbara: Thanks for having me, Bob.
Bob: And we do have these questions—
Barbara: We do. We’ve got a bunch of them.
Bob: With Christmas coming, we thought, “Let’s ask listeners what they’d most like to have us ask you about the holiday season.” So, I think we are just going to dive into these. Are you ready to go through these?
Barbara: I’m ready to go through them.
Dennis: This first question, Bob—I don’t think we’ve ever answered this question. I know Barbara hasn’t.
Bob: The question that somebody asked—and I have to figure they are just snoops and gossips—the people who asked this question—[Laughter] —because they want to know, “What is the worst Christmas you recall?”
Barbara: And I know the answer to that without even having to think more than half a second—and Dennis does too.
Bob: You think it’s the same Christmas?
Dennis: I would be surprised if it’s not.
Barbara: I would be willing to bet money on it because I know we have the same Christmas—so, here is the answer to the question—
Dennis: And here—before we say,—
Dennis: —“It was the worst,” we have to have a little disclaimer. I don’t know how you are about to answer it—but what I would say is there were just some circumstances around this that just set it apart from any postcard or any movie—was beyond description.
Dennis: And to say that it was worse—really, I don’t know if that’s the right category for it. It was just the most challenging Christmas ever.
Barbara: That’s correct. That’s correct.
Bob: So, you are talking about the same Christmas.
Barbara: We are talking about the same Christmas. So, it was the first Christmas we had in our new house—new to us. We’ve now lived there for—I don’t know—
Dennis: Since 1983.
Barbara: 1983—we had just moved into this house. My mother was coming. She’d not seen the house. She was coming with my brother, who was, I think, a senior in college at the time. My other brother was coming with her. He was in the midst of a separation with his wife, but they decided to come together. We were really hopeful that we would be able to maybe help them; but it added a level of strain—
Bob: Sure it did.
Barbara: —because they were together, but they weren’t—anyway—
Bob: They were separated but together; okay?
Barbara: It was—yes. It was really complicated.
Dennis: And let me just say here, as she unpacks this story.
I think listeners need to hear this story because Christmas is a time of making memories; and sometimes, they don’t turn out—
Barbara: They aren’t happy memories always. [Laughter]
Dennis: —they don’t turn out exactly like you planned on them turning out. So, it’s good for you to know that all families are just families; okay?
Bob: Can have—
Dennis: Real people—
Dennis: —real family life.
Bob: Everybody can have an ugly Christmas; right?
Barbara: And you see that both of us remember the same one, instantly.
Barbara: It’s not because it was this happy, sweet lovey-dovey weekend—and that’s why. So, it does help us remember and realize that sometimes the most memorable aren’t always the most pleasant. We would like for them to be, but they are not always.
Dennis: It started out rocky; and then, it became cavernous. [Laughter]
Barbara: Well, and a couple of other factors—Dennis’s mother came, and my grandmother came. So, we had all these extend family attending. Even though our house had four bedrooms, that is a lot of extra people to put in the house in addition to our—at the time—five children. Then, we had on—
Dennis: Now, let me just interrupt you. Bob, what would you think would be the approved biblical temperature for the house with this range? You’ve got—
Barbara: That many people.
Dennis: You’ve got kids—ages one or two all the way to eight or nine; okay?
Bob: Given the fact that you and your wife can’t arrive on the right biblical temperature for the studio, I can’t think that the house would be any different. [Laughter]
Dennis: It was temperature wars from the beginning.
Bob: Everybody wanted it to be warmer or colder.
Barbara: Well, no—primarily, Dennis’s mother wanted it to be warmer—and she wanted it to be a lot warmer.
Dennis: About 95. [Laughter]
Barbara: It was even too warm for me, and Dennis wanted it to be a lot cooler. So, she’d bump it up—he’d bump it down. She’d bump it up—he’d bump it down. To make matters worse, we had this storm come through like four or five days before Christmas. For two weeks, it was not above freezing the whole time. We couldn’t go anywhere because everything was a sheet of ice.
So, here we were—all of this extended family, and us, and our five kids—in this house.
Literally, we could not go anywhere.
Dennis: It snowed six to eight inches—then, it sleeted.
Dennis: Then, it rained. So, it turned it into a semi-iceberg. I mean, it felt like Ernest Shackleton’s journey to the South Pole. [Laughter]
Bob: So, was that the last time that you had the extended family over for Christmas?
Barbara: I think it was the last time we had his mother—
Dennis: That number.
Barbara: —yes, that number of extended family—my parents have been / his mother came back. But I think it’s because we were in this new house—Dennis’s father hadn’t been dead but a few years—and he didn’t want her to spend Christmas alone. So, he drove all the way to get her and drove her back.
Barbara: So, no, we didn’t have that many people.
Bob: Okay, that’s the worst Christmas.
Bob: Do you remember a best Christmas?
Barbara: I don’t remember a best Christmas. I think we had a lot of good ones, but there isn’t one, to me, that stands out. Is there one to you that stands out?
Dennis: No, not really—not like you and I, looking at each other, on that one and nodding our heads.
Barbara: Yes, there was no question which was the worst one.
Dennis: No, I think just some great memories—of gathering around the Christmas tree, reading the Christmas story, building traditions from scratch with our family—and feeling like we could do that, as a couple. The whole idea of passing on the truth about Christmas and about Jesus Christ was there from the very start.
It was where I would have to say, though, Bob—it was where Barbara began to talk about developing resources for families because she was going, “Where are the resources to help us pass on these truths about Christmas to our kids in beautiful yet meaningful ways?”
Bob: Yes, and we ought to add—we’ve had a lot of listeners, who have been contacting us about the most recent set of ornaments that you’ve designed—the Adorenaments® that are His Savior names in the shape of a cross—a lot of folks who are pretty excited about those.
Barbara: Yes, they really are, which is fun—it’s gratifying.
Bob: And folks can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get more information about those ornaments if they’d like.
Alright, here is question number two: “Many children these days get so many gifts, not only from Santa Claus, but from grandparents, aunts, uncles. Were you ever concerned about this, and what would you say to the mom who is worried about the kids just drowning in stuff?”
Barbara: Well, I wasn’t terribly concerned about it because we were in a different era than today. I watched our kids and our grandkids, and they do get a lot of stuff. If I were raising kids today, I think I would be really concerned about that. But my parents got our children gifts, his mother got them gifts; but it wasn’t really excessive. We were pretty conservative about how much we bought them. We bought them each one gift. They got some things in their stockings, and they did things for each other. So, it wasn’t—from our perspective—it wasn’t excessive.
I think, though, if we did have that excessive volume of gifts—I think what we—
—one of the things that I would do is—we’d go ahead and receive those gifts from the aunts, and uncles, and whoever—and I think, afterward, I would probably try to pare some of it down and maybe put some of it in a closet and pull it out later. I think there is a way to keep the clutter down and to keep the volume from—I mean, kids are overwhelmed. They only play with one or two toys at a time anyway. They can’t play with 10 or 15 at once. And so, you can kind of help them by putting a few things away—maybe bringing it out in the middle of January—it’ll be brand-new to them—they won’t even remember. So, you can kind of monitor and control that volume.
Dennis: And I think one of the things that I see families doing today is they are looking for fresh ways to turn their families, externally, to other people’s needs. I’ve shared many times, here on the broadcast, how one of my favorite memories was going with my dad to deliver some Christmas hams to people who were less fortunate than our family. I’m talking about some people who were dirt poor—I mean, just really, really poor.
It was a great memory of my father, who was a very compassionate man, wanting to make sure Christmas was not just about our family—but reaching out to other people and helping them celebrate the holidays as well.
Bob: So, I don’t want to turn this into some kind of a formula—but would you say that for a child to get no more than five gifts on Christmas morning—is there a right number? Is there a point at which you’d go, “Now, it’s starting to feel like they are just drowning in stuff”?
Barbara: I don’t think there is a number. I think that’s a decision that the mom and dad make together—the couple talk. We talked about it, and we decided that we didn’t want them to just be inundated with gifts. So, we made a decision that they would get one gift from us. They would get their stocking gift, and we always did a book bag. That was kind of one of my things—is my kids got, at least, one—maybe, two books a year from us. Then, they got their gifts from their grandparents. So, I think you just kind of have to decide what fits right for your family.
Dennis: I’ve got to interrupt you at this point, Sweetheart.
Her idea of a stocking—when the stocking was full of stuff—
Dennis: —it was a treasure trove.
Bob: Good for you! I’m with you on that.
Barbara: I love stockings!
Bob: I do too. Mary Ann—
Barbara: They were so much fun—lots of little things.
Bob: Mary Ann always felt like, “Oh, you just go overboard on the stocking.” I said, “Yes, that’s what stockings are for—to go overboard on.” I also put goofy stuff in there that the kids would pull out and just kind of roll their eyes at, but I loved that! [Laughter] And Mary Ann would say, “Why did you waste that money on that goofy stuff you put in there? Why did you put silly string in their stockings?” I said, “Because I like silly string—
Barbara: That’s right. Yes.
Bob: —“that’s why I put it in their stockings.”
Barbara: But see, that’s so typical because I think couples have to figure that out. We’ve listened to our son and daughter-in-law about how different their values are when it comes to what they buy their kids for Christmas because one of them thinks it needs to be something they need—something that has some value, something that has some—
Bob: Underwear kind of stuff?
Barbara: And the other one says, “It’s not a Christmas gift if it’s not fun and purely frivolous.”
Barbara: So, they have this great tension every year between how they are going to spend their limited amount of money—because one of them wants to buy these really silly things and one wants to buy practical things.
Dennis: I guess, if I was going to kind of put a tension against the muscle on this issue, Bob, I would challenge parents to kind of pull back and say, “Are we training our kids to be little materialistic people?” I mean, Christmas can be all about me, as a child.
Barbara: Yes, for sure.
Dennis: And it’s okay, to a certain extent, to celebrate that; but when kids get really nice stuff / expensive stuff and they feel like they deserve it and they are entitled to it—you just have to go out 10/15 years and say: “What are they going to be like when they are teenagers?” Then, “What are they going to be like when they are in college and as adults?” Then, “What are they going to be like when they get married, where they may not be able to afford the standard of Christmas that you may be able to afford?”
I think, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And I think it ought to be a matter, truthfully, of parents really taking a step back and going, “What is an appropriate tension for our family when it comes to gift giving—the size of gifts / the amount of money we are spending?”—and just make sure we’re balancing it against the same Scriptures that tell the story of Christ becoming flesh, here at Christmastime.
Bob: Okay; that leads to the next question, which is about the budget: “Did you have a budget? Did you have a number in mind—how much you would spend for each child?”
Barbara: Yes, we did. I don’t remember what that number was; do you?
Dennis: I don’t.
Barbara: But we did have a budget—we had a limit. We would spend only approximately that much. If there was—because there were years when the toy we wanted to get, or the whatever, was more—
Barbara: —but it wasn’t a lot more.
So, yes, we tried to stay within some kind of boundaries. That was good for us—it was good for me. It was good for both of us to say: “Well, we could probably afford to buy that, but we’ve agreed that this is what we are going to do. So, we are going to stay in this budget.”
Dennis: I would say, in 29 years of doing stockings, though, Bob—I would say she never stayed within the budget on the stockings.
Bob: Stockings did not have budget.
Barbara: We didn’t have a specific budget for stockings! [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right—stockings are budget busters. [Laughter] That’s how it ought to work. Barbara, I’m with you on this stocking thing.
Dennis: We just need to get you to bankroll the stockings next time, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: Did you find yourself with a tension—wanting to make sure that you had spent the same amount for Child A that you spent for Child B and C?
Barbara: Well, I wasn’t that legalistic with it; but roughly, yes. I mean, I tried to stay within that range—whatever that price range was.
Barbara: But—I wasn’t legalistic about it. If there was something I knew one child really wanted, and it was an extra 10/15 bucks,—
—I would spend it because they’re not—they were not going to know, at that season of their life.
Bob: Did you ever have a Christmas where a child felt like they got short-shifted on gifts?
Barbara: There were some Christmases when our kids were disappointed with what they got. I remember that was so hard on me because I’d spent so much energy and time—because I was—I mean, let’s face it—most women are the ones that are behind all of this.
Barbara: And I’d spent so much time and energy, thinking through what they would really like. My goal was really to help them feel loved. So, then, when they were really disappointed, that—it was real hard for me—I didn’t like that at all.
Dennis: I can tell you one of the surprises that we had was—not the gifts that we gave our kids—but the gifts the kids gave one another. One year, one of the girls / maybe two of the girls gave the boys—and this was their gift to their brother—camouflage pencils. And that—
Barbara: And they were pretty young. Now, don’t—they weren’t teenagers. [Laughter] They were like five and six years old—
Dennis: Of course.
Barbara: —and they went to the little school store that the school set up. They spent their own money—
Dennis: But it just struck—
Barbara: —and yes.
Dennis: —but it just struck a wrong cord—
Barbara: Yes, the boys weren’t too thrilled about it—[Laughter]—their older brothers.
Dennis: It ended up being allowed to become a bigger deal than it should have been because it ended up hurting the feelings of—
Barbara: The girls, who were really excited about what they’d chosen.
Dennis: —yes, the girls who gave the gift. Because the boys were hunters, they thought the camouflage pencils were cool!
Bob: Pretty cool.
Dennis: Doesn’t matter that they only cost seven cents apiece.
Bob: I do know that I stumbled with one of our kids—buying the bargain brand stuff when what they child really wanted—
Barbara: —wanted was the name; yes.
Bob: So, the portable CD player that was not the Sony Walkman brand—but was the GXP—
Barbara: The knockoff.
Bob: —or whatever it was—that was not a hit when they opened that one up; yes.
Dennis: Well, you know, here again, though, Bob, I really fear, from an entitlement standpoint—
—if children always get what whatever they want, is that healthy?
Barbara: The answer is: “No, it’s not healthy,” if they get whatever they want.
Dennis: I don’t think it is. I remember Barbara and I scraped and saved, and we were able to buy a swing set for the kids that I set up late one Christmas Eve into Christmas morning—past midnight. I mean, it took forever. But those kinds of gifts came at sacrifice, on our end, and the kids—they had no idea what we’d spent on that. But I think some of the best Christmases we had were when we didn’t have a whole lot to be able to spread around. We really worked hard and thoughtfully about what we were giving one another.
Bob: There’s a question here about jealousy among kids. The listener says: “It seems like other parents are spending more on their kids than we spend on ours.
“Our kids don’t get the latest, greatest toys or clothes. How do I deal with jealousy with my kids?”
I remember that one of the rituals on the second half of Christmas Day is you get on the phone. You call your friends and say, “What did you get?—
Barbara: I know. Yes.
Bob: —“And what did you get?” You share what you got. At the end of that ritual, the kids come back—they were excited before they got on the phone and started talking to their friends—now, they are depressed.
Barbara: Yes, comparison is a trap; isn’t it?
Dennis: It really is. What I just want to say, at the beginning, as Barbara answers this question, is—this is a part of the boot camp that all kids go to. It’s guerilla training that they get to find out someone among their peers—who got something more, or bigger, or better than they got. Then, they throw it back at the parents to try and make you feel crummy.
Bob: Then, they turn whoever that one person is into—
Bob: —“All my friends.”
Dennis: “Everybody—all of them”! And so, you just have to spot the ploy, as a parent, and be very, very wise on this.
Barbara: Well, you also have to be real with your kids.
I think, deep down inside, your kids know it and they appreciate it when you say: “Look, I’m sorry if you’re disappointed; but your mom and I” or “…you dad and I worked really hard. We thought long and hard about it, and we didn’t do this to disappoint you. We did this to communicate to you that we love you; but we have a limited budget, and we can’t spend that much. There are six of you,”—or whatever it is—“and we can’t afford what those other families can afford.” But it is so easy to get caught up in that with the advertising and what you see other people buying for their kids. It can become a real competition to outdo somebody else, and that’s just not what it’s about.
The most important thing is that your children know that they are loved, and that Mom and Dad love each other, and that our family stands for something. That’s far more valuable a gift that you can give your kids than the latest greatest toy that they may be tired of in two weeks.
Dennis: Well, what happens with a lot of guys is—it becomes kind of a competitive thing of bagging the most popular gift.
Back when we were raising our kids, it was the Cabbage Patch [Kids]® doll. I mean, they were going for premium. People were lining up at stores when the truck would arrive overnight.
It’s just interesting, Bob, how that’s come and gone. I think our kids had Cabbage Patch dolls; and later on, they threw them away—didn’t keep them. So, you have to put it in perspective—that what is hot today, and what is rare, and seems like it is incredibly valuable—as Barbara said, needs to be put in proper perspective.
Bob: Well, and I think you’ve got to keep reminding yourself and your children about what this season is all about in the first place—so that, in the midst of the barrage of marketing that we all experience at Christmastime, we can remember we’re really here to celebrate the fact that light came into the world—that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And I know, Barbara, that’s why you have spent so many hours, over the last several years, designing the Adorenaments that people are putting on their Christmas trees—ornaments that focus on the names of Christ so that, in our homes and in our own hearts, we can be remembering what this season really is all about. It’s not about Cabbage Patch Kids—it’s about Jesus.
And I have to tell you, we had a ton of folks who went to your website—to EverThineHome.com—and ordered the new set of Adorenaments. These are the Savior names of Jesus, all in the shape of a cross—and they are beautiful. In fact, I’ve heard from some of our listeners—they’ve seen some of these showing up in Dillard’s Department Stores.
Go to EverThineHome.com. You’ll see, not only the Savior names set of Adorenaments, but also the royal names and Christmas names. You can order ornaments for your Christmas tree, or you can order ornaments to give as gifts to others if you’d like.
Once again, go to EverThineHome.com and order the ornaments that Barbara has created—or the Bright Morning Star tree-topper or any of the other resources you’ve been designing for Christmas—the website: EverThineHome.com.
Speaking of hearing from listeners, we’ve been encouraged, over the last couple of days, as some of our listeners are getting a jump on yearend gift giving. I know that because we’ve received some donations over the last week as folks are getting in touch with us to let us know that they want to make a yearend contribution in support of FamilyLife Today. That’s really important for us because more than 50 percent of the revenue that we need to operate, as a ministry, comes in, typically, during the month of December. What happens—this month sets the course for the coming year for us.
We have some friends of the ministry who are aware of that fact. They came to us and they said, “We’d like to provide matching funds to maybe encourage your listeners to join with us in giving to support FamilyLife Today.”
They have agreed, during the month of December, they will match any donation you make to FamilyLife Today, dollar for dollar. So, if you make a $50 donation, they’ll add $50 to it. If you make $100 donation, they’ll add $100 to it. Whatever you are able to give, they will match it, up to a total of $2,000,000. Of course, that is very generous on their part.
We would love to be able to take full advantage of that matching gift; but if we are going to do that, we need to hear from as many listeners as possible. Would you consider, today, going to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, click where it says, “I Care,” and make as generous a yearend contribution as you possibly can to support this ministry? We would appreciate it. We’re grateful for your partnership; and again, your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar. You can also call to make a donation. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue answering questions we’ve received from our FamilyLife Today listeners via Facebook®, and email, and Twitter®. I hope you can tune in as we tackle more of your questions tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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