― Bob Hope
In 1979 I celebrated my first Christmas as a single mom. This was not a status I sought or ever dreamt I’d experience. But I had to make the best of it. In my care was a precious toddler son and a baby in my belly. I’d say that I had more time than money. But time wasn’t really that plentiful—to make ends meet I daily cared for five additional children in my tiny home. Time available still out-weighed the money, I guess. I took stock of materials I had and created gifts without spending a dime. I think I was most proud of placemats I made for my mom. I’d been given red calico fabric which I quilted and covered the edges with red bias tape. My mom loved them! It’s hard to imagine taking the time to do that today! I had embroidery thread and cloth to stitch so I made my dad a cross-stitched framed picture of a deer. Probably not the top of his wish list, but I’m sure he appreciated my effort! I remember making lots of ornaments from fabric remnants and baking treats, probably chocolate chip cookies. Those were difficult but memorable days. It’s funny when you think about what things are most important and the gifts that are most special.
Christmas season 2015 had me harkening back to the old days. Again, I decided to make all of our presents. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time creating with materials I had on hand. I think I had more fun than the recipients. Maybe not a stellar year for them, but fulfilling for me!
These days I almost don’t recognize myself. In years past, on December eighteenth, I would have been scurrying around, frantically shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on my list. This year I’m embracing imperfection in all of its glory. I’m not getting everything done that I’d like to do. Grace is what I’m giving myself. I’m savoring the moments and saying yes to things I would have avoided in earlier years, because they interrupted my progress. This year I’m counting my gifts–experiences that I wouldn’t have seen as gifts before. Here are some personal favorites:
- The annual Christmas Talent Show hosted by our daughter’s Group Home is my all time favorite gift. Dawn has autism and severe cognitive disabilities. Each year she wears a red shirt and refuses to wear a festive hat. Every year she holds bells in her hand because ringing them is her part in the show. Every year she carefully, systematically holds them still, so as not to ring them. We watch with raucous laughter and cheers. The Beethoven of the group plays four or five notes on the keys with one finger and spends more time taking his bow. The quartet “sings” with the biggest smiles you can imagine. Then, Santa appears! The folks jump up from their seats to give him the biggest hug ever. As you watch their interactions, you know Santa is real!
- Senior project presentations by the Occupational Prep class at a local high school. I’m amazed at the knack my daughter has with these kids. I was moved to tears by their stories and the hope I have for their future! And I almost said no to her request to come! It was cold and dark, it was on Market Street, I felt out of place and I wanted to stay home. I’m so grateful that she persisted!
- Spending time with our first grandchild. Pondering the significance and blessing of bearing children and knowing and enjoying our children’s children. What a gift.
- Going through all of our coats and blankets and donating extras to the homeless shelter.
- Making financial donations to people and ministries who are doing the work. They are truly the hands and feet of Jesus.
- Enjoying the new clients I’ve met in my Tranquiliving business during the holiday season. One lady is ready for her children to join her for Christmas because of my help. Another will be hosting a party for her friends since we conquered the paper piles together! Everyone has a story and they’re all important!
- Christmas music!
- Gratitude for our grown sons and the way they love their wives.
- Our daughter’s upcoming marriage to a great guy that God chose for her!
- All the notes and cards from my husband while he’s working in another city. And for our thirty-one years.
- Too many more “gifts” to count. Writing these stirs up my gratitude!
If you find yourself out of ideas and time, here are a few suggestions:
- Send a note with an offer to treat a friend to lunch or coffee after the holidays.
- Post your Christmas card on social media.
- Mail a card or send a text affirming your appreciation and love for a friend.
- Offer to babysit so a young couple can have a date.
- Pick up a gift of coffee, tea, a plant or candy at Trader Joe’s.
- Offer to help a friend wrap gifts.
- Help a friend with post Christmas clean up.
― Calvin Coolidge