Monday, November 30, 2009


By Tracey Bianchi

I scored a new handbag earlier this year. Or purse I guess you would call it. Somehow typing "I have a new purse" sounded more like something my late grandmother would say, great as she was. "I have a new handbag" sounds very Soho to me. So, I have a new handbag. It's made from cotton and jute, and it has been fun to tote it around these past few months. But this handbag, great as it is for carrying lip gloss, sparked a few thoughts in me that may intersect all of our holiday stories this time of year.

As we all know, and much to my chagrin, this time of year is known for sales and shopping as much as it is known for thoughtful reflection on Jesus. In this season of consumption, I thought I might offer a few thoughts that I gleaned from the bottom of my purse.

It is sort of ironic to be blogging about a handbag since part of my personal story is to become less of a consumer. But I like handbags. I normally wear the same black faded yoga pants with a hoodie and running shoes and I decided long ago that a girl has to have style somewhere. And since my clothing will not reveal that I have even an ounce of chic residing in my little heart, handbags are it for me.

This past March I was on vacation with my sister and we sauntered into a store in downtown Jackson, Wyoming. Staring at me from the shelf was my little purse. At first I scoffed at it. I was not about to fall prey to a cute little purple bag, trimmed in green. Not me. I am curbing my consumption. But I still had to look. I slid it over my shoulder. It matched the horrible lime green fleece I have been wearing for the better part of 8 years. Nothing matches that jacket.
I grabbed that little tote and raced for the counter. Ring me up Sir!

Now of course I did not need a new handbag but I was on vacation. I was wearing a lime green coat. What else could I do? Say no I suppose. This was one of those moments when the question “what would Jesus buy” popped into my head.

The answer to this query is almost always “nothing.”

When I stare at all the options for gift giving this time of year, I am reminded anew of the fact that I don’t really need anything, and most people on my gift list do not need much either. Our stories intersect because we are friends or co-workers, family members or neighbors. Our lives mesh together in a web of memories and photographs, e-mails or funny facebook stories.

We have shared meals, tears, and tales of dieting gone wrong. So why do I feel the need to wrap all that history up in a package every December? Of course it is to give to those I love. But sometimes giving of ourselves is simply enough. Is it really possible to simply be happy with what we already have? The answer is of course, a resounding yes.

So as I look at my little bag I find myself sitting with two emotions. One comes with a smug little smile that says "hey, I am a woman with a stellar handbag, and all my friends need one for Christmas." The other comes with a bit more angst. It says "ugh, I just spent money and resources on one more thing I do not need."

If we were all simply a little bit happier with who we were, we would not need so many things to prove to the world that we are somebody indeed. Perhaps Christmas might be more about celebrating the person rather than the purchases. And then, with a heart like Jesus, we might sit back next to the fireplace with a cup of tea and let out a long sigh. "You have got to be kidding," we would say, "you went shopping?" "Now why would you bother to do that, we love you just the way you are."

Tracey Bianchi serves as the Coordinator of Women’s Ministries at Christ Church of Oak Brook, a congregation of 2000+ located in the suburbs of Chicago. Prior to serving women she spent over 10 years with High School students and young adults. In addition to her ministry at Christ Church she is an author and speaker for several nationally known organizations. Her first book titled Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan) is due out in March of 2010. Tracey earned her BA from the University of Iowa and her MDIV from Denver Seminary.

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