This Christmas was hard for me. I had only started working part-time in November and at minimum wage, it was not much; certainly not enough to catch me up for the months of bills I was/am behind–let alone “do” Christmas. It made me look back at the earliest of years, when I only had three children, and then when I added a fourth. If I’m honest with myself, I never had enough to “do” Christmas; but thanks to many a Christmas angel, I did have gifts to place under the tree. This year was no different. I knew it was going to be tough, but not as tough as it actually was. I told my kids, that Christmas would be simple and I would make up for it when I got my tax refund. Flashback to years before, when I would make sure there was one gift for them to open on Christmas and then we would take a shopping day in early February where within reason, I didn’t say no. They could pick out the toy they really wanted, buy a new outfit and we would eat at a sit down restaurant, instead of just fast food. It was always a lot of fun and a good bonding time for us all. I imagined this year would be no different, but as Christmas grew closer, I realized that I may not have anything to put under the tree.
I had to replace the tree, as ours was eight years old and just wasn’t going to hold up one more Christmas. I was able to get a tree, but just didn’t feel excited about decorating it… so it stood merely lit for the days leading up to the kids returning home. As it became evident that I would not be purchasing gifts I decided that on Christmas Eve, instead of wrapping presents and getting ready for Christmas morning; I would decorate the tree and write a letter to each of my four children. Simple, but thoughtful; sharing with them a moment just between myself and each child.
As I set in the living room lit only from the tree and one small lamp, my heart filled with joy and I shed a few tears as I gave from my heart to each one of these beautiful gifts I myself received from the Lord above. Each unique and so special in their own way, each put into my life for a different purpose; to help shape me as a mom, but more importantly as a human being. The tree wasn’t bear; it was filled with their gifts for each other, as well as thoughtful gifts from dear friends from our church family. I hadn’t even thought about stockings, yet someone who knew my tradition of giving a favorite movie brought me the simple gift of four movies (one for myself and my younger three children) as well as some candy too. I was left speechless by their thoughtfulness and kind heart. So before going to bed, I filled the stockings and prepared the French Toast Casserole. This being one tradition I could do on my own and went to bed quietly pondering what He intended us to gain from this Christmas and smiling as I could still hear the laughter and voices of my children from the basement, their sounds carrying up through the vent into my room from where they were all settling down for the night.
Christmas morning came and I per usual for the last few years, was the first one up. I took the dog out (who promptly went back to bed with my youngest) and put the casserole in the oven and poured a cup of coffee. I enjoyed the quiet, thankful for all that I do have: a roof over our heads, warmth on these colder winter days, lights, water, food to eat… the basics. He as always was/is continuing to meet our basic needs. My oldest was up first, followed by her husband and my son. My youngest woke next, then she woke up her other sister so that all were accounted for. She had asked the night before if she could be “Santa” (each year, one of the kids dons the Santa hat and passes out the gifts to their siblings) so she put on the hat and began first with the stockings. They were of course surprised that there were stockings, I explained that someone who knew what I did for the stockings wanted to share with us and gave me the items just the day before. This moment really took me back to when they were all so young. Because we received free lunches, we also qualified for a Christmas program and each year that my three older children were still in elementary school; there would be gifts that I would be given to share with my children. It was mostly clothes, but that was nice as school shopping was generally done at the Goodwill or a thrift shop. New clothes at Christmas were always well received and brought many smiles. This then allowed me to use the small gifts of money that I often received anonymously to purchase a toy and stocking stuffers. Early on, my children knew who Santa was, that he was found in people all around us, those who felt led to share what they have with others; giving gifts without expecting more than a smile or a thank you in return.
She then began to hand out their gifts for each other. A few years ago instead of trying to divide up the small amount money I may or may not have had between the four kids so they could buy gifts for each other (often not being able to spend more than $5.00 per gift) we started the tradition of trading names between the four. This allowed them to get one really nice gift, something they knew the other really wanted. As time has passed we have added my oldest daughter’s husband and this year, my middle daughter’s boyfriend. There were a lot of smiles and laughter as they opened this years gifts and I felt such joy as we shared this time. When she handed out my letters the room became still and quiet as they all silently read my words. It was in those silent minutes that I truly felt His Presence and knew that this would be remembered by us all as a very special Christmas. Just days before we celebrated and shared the true Christmas story at church, here in my living room; I was living a similar moment… Simple, not a lot of bells and whistles–but a celebration none the less. We celebrated even thought we had little, we celebrated because we had each other; and most importantly because we had be given the best gift of all: Christ.
The magic of the moment slowly vanished and we continued on with our day. My oldest daughter and her husband went to spend the rest of the day with his family and my remaining children and I got ready to spend the day with our “adopted” family from church. This was the 5th year we would join their family and their very large extended family for dinner and fellowship; which includes lots of games and even more laughter. So as this morning with my children came to its close; to me, it was one of the most perfect of days, certainly one to tuck away and always ponder in my heart.
Christmas day was wonderful with good food and even better fellowship. From sharing the words of Luke before we ate, to the last hug goodbye as we headed back to our quiet home with its simple decorations. Simple has always been OK with me; but this year, simplicity gained new meaning. I will always look at the Christmas of 2015 as being one of simple reminders. Reminders of all that we have to be thankful for, the people in our lives–whom could have been so easily taken from us. For how God answers our prayers, or doesn’t answer them. Reminded of my purpose here on this earth… to be a mother to the children He has blessed me with. Ever reminded that he chose ME to be their mom, even when I felt unworthy, unable, and insignificant.
I am a better person because of the four children that He has allowed me to care for and teach, hopefully doing so in a way that pleases and honors Him. I can only hope that they know they can turn to Him in prayer; not just for the big things, but the little things too. And more importantly to praise Him for those big and little answered (and unanswered) prayers. That they would remember to constantly praise Him, even in the storms of life.
“And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm” (Casting Crowns)
Psalm 98:1a reads: Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things… Lord, may I always continue singing; no matter my circumstance.
Until the next moment,