Growing up, my mom and dad always reminded us Christmas is more. It is more than the gifts, food, and festivities. And I always looked forward to the moment on Christmas morning when Mom would find the little baby Jesus and place it in the Manger. As a kid it just meant there was now a baby in the manger and it was not weird that all the other statues were staring at nothing. But as I grew, it meant a completion. A completion of another year, a special time of celebration, and a plan starting. I could see the hope and expectation of what was ahead, around the corner. And this realization made Christmas more than the gifts under the tree.
Honestly the past few Christmas' have been really hard. Three years ago Brooke had her surgery and was waiting for her next one. Two years ago we were far from family and Tim lost his job. And last year, I had surgery and was in horrible pain. Financially all these years were hard too. We understood what the "true" meaning was. Our kids learned to be excited with golden books and little toys. They figured out it was more important to be together. Yet every Christmas I laid out plans in my mind for the next year. It would be better. I mean it had to be better, right? I even remember saying,"Well it can't get worse!" But it can, and normally it did. For 3 years, I kept begging God for this next year to be easier. And for 3 years my answer was no. Something in me kept asking though....holding out hope. Smiling through the heartache.
I do not always write or share the hardships we have faced. Part of it is probably pride. But part of it is my inner voice saying, "Suck it up you poor American girl! You have got it good compared to most of the world!" And I know this is true!! But that does not make the $5 bank account balance any less scary. It does not make deciding to have your daughter's cavity filled or groceries for the week easier. The reality is you either have or you do not. And most weeks I have to make crazy decisions and then live with that. It means when I go get my hair cut twice a year, I have guilt for days. It means when I buy healthy food I contemplate who is watching me and scolding me for over indulgence. Or if my Dr Pepper addiction costs our family more than it should. We kind of have a family joke about the revolving door in our home. We hold very loosely to possessions because when groceries, gas, or doctor bills need attention...I start selling off our stuff. The kids now think it is a game.
This Christmas approached like the last few. The added issue this year....I can barely grocery shop and have any strength leftover. How could I possibly deal with crowds and all that shopping? Just as it always does it all fell into place. Friends stepped in and shopped for me. Others gave us generous gift cards. One friend continues to show up with groceries for us. I received encouragement in notes and phone conversations. Aidan received his amazing Wishes Can Happen Wish that spilled over into Christmas gifts. An amazing church in the area adopted our fam and provided special things for the kiddos and our family. I was able to do a little online shopping and never leave the house for gift shopping! Thankfully I had enough strength to enjoy Christmas Eve at my parents. Christmas Day I was not feeling well, but I stayed home and was able to enjoy just being US. I was reminded over and over it is not the amount of gifts but the love.
I am continuing to pray for a more gentle year. I am continuing to hope for a small amount of peace and healing. One thing I do know is whatever the answer, we will figure it out. I am continually amazed by my husband and children...the way they adapt and take it all in stride. I am overwhelmed by the love of my parents, never stopping the care for their daughter. I am blessed by so many friends...friends I have known almost my whole life, and those I barely know outside of the internet. Some financially support us, some care for my babies, and many just send me so much love and encouragement. I wish I had the ability to thank everyone, one by one, with real words of gratitude. I am in awe at how many care for us year after year and continue to pray for us. A gift is so much more for us.....we have seen it in so many forms. Each form the gift takes in our life makes us realize how much we are loved, and it really does not matter if the answer is "yes" or "no".