Christmas only exasperated an already financial strain that existed in our house. At eight years old, I knew that a very resourceful mother could only accomplish the reality of a Christmas tree, overflowing with gifts.

Dad would bring home our Charlie Brown Christmas tree and proceed to nail it to the floor; with hopes it would stand thru Christmas Eve and the early morning hours before his five children would sneak down from upstairs to try and catch Santa red handed.

We turned a blind eye to the bike that was repainted, the books with dog eared pages, and the Sandy Doll, instead of a Barbie that I so desperately wanted.

The constant in our chaotic Christmas was a Nativity set in the far corner of the room. I could count on Jesus being there–even if I couldn’t count on anything else.

When it was my turn to be a mother, I was determined to “do” Christmas differently. Too many gifts, too much food, too many activities. I exhausted myself and overwhelmed my children. As they grew into adulthood and with the addition of grandchildren, the piles of “stuff” only grew.

Funny thing is, the “stuff” never erased the etchings of my Christmas past. What had become clearer is how my mother and father did the very best they could, with what little they had. I confused things with how very much they loved us (unconditionally, just as Jesus loves us).

This year, my husband and I have informed each of our friends and family members that we no longer want stuff for Christmas. If they should choose to give a donation, to one of our favorite nonprofit ministries, we would feel overwhelmingly blessed.

For those whose love language is the giving of perishable gifts, this was a hard request.  But I am reminded of this scripture “it is not perishable things such as silver or gold by which we are redeemed…but with the precious blood of Jesus” (1 Peter 1:18-19) and He is our perfect gift.


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