Christmas is over. The house is quiet. My thoughts are running back over the last few days of celebrations, and I just felt like sharing some of my thoughts.
Since late September I have fretted and worried and prayed over how to manage Christmas this year. So many little issues ...
*It was our first as a blended family.
*Jon was hospitalized last Christmas and was sick for much of the year, and as a result we have enormous medical bills and very little extra cash flow. There was no way we could do for our 5 children what we used to do for them prior to our marriage.
*And how could we ever blend all of our traditions into something that worked for all of us?! I knew that as the mom it would mostly fall to me to figure it all out, and I really wanted this first Christmas to be meaningful and special and good for us all.
*Mostly I wanted our focus to be on Christ. If Jesus is the reason for the season, then I wanted our Christmas to show it.
I had come up with a budget of about $300 total for Christmas. It wasn't much, considering that we needed to buy for 5 kids, plus several others. But by mid-November I seemed to have a plan coming together. It must have been a God-inspired idea for I don't know where else it would have come from.
I put together 5 boxes to be opened on Christmas Eve after we read the Bible story ... one for each child to open. Inside each box was a small surprise to be given to everyone. After I planned out what to put in each of the boxes, I created 4 or 5 Bible verse clues so that before opening the gift and sharing the contents, the child had to read the verses and then try to figure out what was inside each box.
Candy Canes ... really nice, big, thick ones and a candy cane ornament for our tree (We read a short version of the Candy cane legend, while enjoying the candy canes.)
a Bible bookmark for each child, and a bag of M&Ms with a card attached telling how you could remember the nativity story as you turned the M&M around.
CDs ... Seeds Family Worship (which is Bible Verses put to contemporary music). There are 6 or 7 different volumes based on a type of verse (verses for courage or faith or encouragement, etc), so we got a different volume for each child.
Word Cloud mini-posters that I created for each child with their name and lots of their special traits and qualities and dreams. I laminated them so that they can hang them on their bedroom walls.
a Christmas tree ornament ... one for each child representing something special that happened to them the past year.
The kids loved it (the mini word cloud posters were a big hit), and they had a terrific time with the guessing part of our gift opening.
Afterwards, we read An Orange for Frankie and shared a chocolate orange. Then we sang carols.
On Christmas morning, the kids opened their stockings, which were mostly filled with candy from the dollar store, toiletries but did contain one special $10-$15 gift ... A nutcracker for Maddie's collection, a book on Christian athletes for Joel, a magazine subscription for Nate, an very inexpensive MP3 player for Meg, and a tiny fish aquarium with a promise of a beta fish for Julia.
Everyone was thrilled, and not one complained or asked about where were the other presents. Jon and I were thrilled because it seemed to help us focus on Jesus and not on the Christmas extras.
Our first Christmas was different ... and so very special. We won't forget it. I can't help but ponder of the wonder of it. This time last year, I was worried over my soon-to-be husband's life. I can't tell you how many times during the first 6 months of 2011 that I wondered why on earth God would allow me to fall in love and marry a man only to take him to heaven. Even now, I constantly question why we had to go through such difficulty, and why we must still deal with ramifications of the experience even to this day.
But during the last 6 months of 2011, God has shown me over and over that because of that lengthy illness and the "problems" which resulted, our blended family has been forced to bond and forge in an amazing way. I am beginning to see how truly Jon's illness was God's mercy to our family, and we will forever be changed as a result.
This is Emmanuel ... God with me. God working in my life, in trials and grief and tough times. God working all things for my good, even when it hurts and doesn't make sense. God in me. God with me. God for me. This is Christmas. This is Emmanuel.
I know that so many are going through tough times .... many of you are facing things that are so much harder than the things I face. I am praying that somehow you too will find gold and silver linings throughout the problems, along with the fingerprints of God all over your life as you begin this new year!