My favorite Christmas gifts were in the leanest most painful years. There’s something special about gifts that you’ve put your heart and hands into, isn’t there?
In 1979 I celebrated my first Christmas as a single mom. I never imagined I’d be divorced. But I had to make the best of it. I had my precious toddler son and baby girl in my belly to nourish.
To make ends meet I cared daily for five additional children in my tiny home. Because money was tight, I took stock of materials I’d saved and created gifts without spending a dime. I think I was most proud of placemats I made. I’d been given red calico fabric which I quilted and then finished off with red bias tape. My mom loved them! It’s hard to imagine taking the time to do that now. With old embroidery thread and cloth I made my dad a cross-stitched picture of a deer and put it in a frame. 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 chocolate chip cookies. Those were very difficult but memorable days. It’s funny the things that warm my heart.
Christmas season 2015 had me harkening back to the old days. We were in job searching mode and again, I decided to make all of our presents. I had a wonderful time creating with materials I had on hand. I think I had more fun than the recipients. I painted old furniture, made marshmallows (for the first and last time), created canvas art, crafted ornaments, baked treats and more.
These days I’m still learning to embrace imperfection in all of its glory. There’s still a temptation to keep doing more. But I’m choosing to savor moments and say yes to things I would have avoided in earlier years, because they interrupted my progress. I’m counting my gifts–experiences that I wouldn’t have seen as gifts before. Here are some past and present 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. 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 then takes a lengthy bow. The quartet sings with huge smiles and lots of energy. Then, Santa appears! All the folks jump up from their seats to give him gigantic hugs. I watch the interactions, and I know Santa is real!
- Senior project presentations in a class (Occupational Preparation) our daughter teaches. I’m amazed at the knack Katherine has with these kids. I was moved to tears by their stories and I have such hope for their futures. I almost said no when she invited me. The weather was cold and dark and the downtown area high school is in a congested area. I felt out of place and I wanted to stay home. But, I went! And I’m glad I did.
- Spending time with our grandchildren. I ponder the miracle of bearing children; the miracle of life. The gift of knowing our children’s children. It’s as fun as everyone says.
- 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 kind of work Jesus would do.
- Serving Christmas dinner to enlisted military men and women at Victory Ranch.
- Giving gifts to families who need help to have a happy Christmas.
- Enjoying our new friends and acquaintances and knowing God has a purpose in changes and moves.
- Christmas music!
- Our family. How proud we are of our children.
- My dear husband who has put up with me and loved me for 34 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.
― Bob Hope