Merry Christmas

Christmas growing up was not much about Christ’s birth as it was about spending time with family time. We had a small nativity set that was set out every year, and we knew the story so it is not as if we were blind to the season we were celebrating.

As an adult, the most important part of Christmas is the time spent with loved ones and the absolute joy of Christmas morning watching faces, young and old, light up around the room as their new treasures are uncovered.

The givers are just as joyous as the receivers, if not more so.

Not unlike that first Christmas so many years ago.

Everybody was gathered to see the new born King. They all brought gifts; gifts they anticipated being exactly what was wanted and needed, even if it was a little over the top.

In my family, we gather to see each other. The miles keep us so far apart; jobs, finances, and local obligations mean there is so little opportunity to spend time together. My parents have seven children, six whom no longer live at home. All six of us have children who live in four other cities (five including the city where my parents live). To have six of the seven kids home seems to be the norm, usually either the youngest (my sister in Saskatchewan) or myself (in Minnesota) are the one missing, this year it is my sister’s year as her husband’s days off work were changed last minute and they could not make it.

Even though our family was financially comfortable growing up our every whim was not indulged thought the year. How my mom kept track of the wants of all seven of us I will never know. I can hardly keep the boys and my daughter straight!

Christmas morning was filled with cheer and wonder because it seemed like we got everything we had ever asked for. Years later I asked my mom how they could afford to spoil us every year like they did and she laughed as she told me that we were very much not spoiled and that we generally only ever got two or three gifts each; one from Santa, and a couple smaller gifts.

She also said that buying things we wanted was pretty limited throughout the year and for the most part we only received wants on birthdays and Christmas. As fleeting as wants are, I can now see how this was a brilliant game plan.

My kids rarely get wants other than birthdays and Christmas as well, usually out of financial necessity but also because they are learning wants versus needs and budgeting. They can usually see beyond instant gratification and make smart spending decisions.

This year, I had planned to spoil a little bit. Gifts a little above the price range we can usually afford, things the kids would be super excited about.

Then life happened.

In November we went to spend two days with my niece in the hospital, an unexpected but well needed dip into the emergency fund and savings. Then a week later, the place we are moving to required the deposit paid immediately. There goes another $800 (of which I had to borrow some of). Suddenly Christmas is looking pretty bare again.

I was not too bothered though because I was going home for the holidays and it was going to be my first Christmas at home in about five years, we would make the most of our time off work and school no matter what gifts we had.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the parent of a child I coached two years ago (my first year) came up to me and wished me a Merry Christmas and as he hugged me, stuffed a  gift in my jacket pocket to, “…help with the holidays.”

He had no way of knowing that because of that, I was able to purchase my older son’s birthday gift before he came back to my house instead of making him wait until my payday which was six days after his birthday. I sent a thank you text and explained how he had been the answer to my prayer.

Two weeks later and I was shopping two days before we were set to leave town, trying to figure out exactly how I could still get a gift close to what I had been planning on getting plus still having enough gas money to drive the 600+ miles home.

While walking around the store trying to figure out how I was going to make it work, I received a message from a friend…she and her husband wanted to help with Christmas. I left the store because I was crying too hard to shop. As I am sitting in the parking lot of the store, trying to compose myself, another friend messages me that she needs to see me before I leave town. I tell her I’ll stop over after work and have coffee the next afternoon.

These three people answered my prayers to be able to give gifts to my daughter and her boyfriend’s three children (he brought two children into the relationship) and for my boys to not have to smile through their disappointment that they again did not get the latest greatest gifts. We al

Each time I asked the boys to make me a wish list I was met with barely perceptible, “Oh, I dunno. Maybe a movie.” Or some similar response. They know we are just getting back on our feet and that living in a one income household with an upcoming move we do not always get the things we want but God will always make sure we get everything we need.

My older boy received a drone that comes with a camera. He is still searching for his calling and I want to offer him every opportunity to explore various areas. Remote controlled vehicles may lead to electronics, remote controlled vehicles, models, movies…who knows. The younger boy received clothing from the hockey association we belong to. I had purchased them with the fall order. Santa brought the boys a set of “Battle Drones” it is a set of two smaller drones that actually battle each other…watching them learn how to control them through my parents busy house, clipping Uncle N in the ear once, slamming against the wall and sliding down to the floor other times.

The day before Christmas my mom had asked what they want and the older boy gave her some ver inexpensive options, like a gift card or a book. Then the younger one sheepishly giggled, “Haha, an xbox One.” We all laughed as it had been an ongoing joke because he knew it was a BIG ASK that was not ever going to happen.

Little man also got new hockey socks, hockey tape, tennis balls, a book, Hot Wheels, a MN Wild ornament, and a game controller.

My older boy got a book, Hot Wheels, a MN Twins ornament, a game, and a cast iron pan for cooking steaks.

After all their gifts were opened (minus the controller and game) it was time to open a gift with no name tag on it…with so many grandchildren missing and other siblings to come later in the day there were several unopened gifts so this gift had not stood out.

Everything was cleared away and I got ready with my video camera and they sat down together to open their final gift from Grandma and Grandpa…and Xbox One.

To  see them light up was amazing…they truly got everything they had asked for this year.

The day after Christmas my dad got these two old Yamaha Bravo snowmobiles running and the boys have free reign around the campground…their own private winter wonderland. I am so blessed to be home this holiday season. Tomorrow Grandpa is leading us on a longer ride.

Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God.

Each prayer that we prayed this year has been heard and answered. Every need has been met. Our faithfulness has been rewarded with grace and mercy.

God has spoken to those who surround us and they have listened and been the hands and feet of the Lord in answering each prayer.

Lord,

The amazing power of Your love is humbling. I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who trust You as I do. They trust when they hear you whisper and they follow your calling.

Thank you for putting each of us exactly where we needed to be and for giving us all the life lessons we have used to be better people.

It is such a blessing to be around such faithful men and women who are a wonderful example of your love.

Continue to speak Lord, we are listening!!

Amen

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