Christmas is my favorite holiday. Every year I joyfully decorated the inside and outside of my home to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but for the past two years, I’ve not done that, and my tree usually went up a week or a few days before Christmas.
When our household size began increasing and the recession hit at the same time, all our money went on bills and food, and for the first time since my husband and I have been married, a few of our bills have been late, as I’ve been trying to re-work our budget and get caught up. Long story short, all of this trouble has left me feeling down in dumps and uninspired to continue my joyful tradition. Lord knows it shouldn’t be that way, because the true meaning of Christmas is about giving and sharing; however, we’ve not been able to give much to our children and the few we buy for each year, and I can’t give as much to the needy like I use to. All of this is why I can’t seem to get in the mood that I use to. That is until Thanksgiving Eve.
As I headed to bed the night before Thanksgiving, I began to talk to the Lord. I told him what I was thankful for. I began by letting him know that although we (my husband and I) are having a hard time right now, I am still thankful for His many blessings, my children, my husband, more time on this Earth and another year with my parents (mom’s a breast cancer survivor and dad’s currently battling Lymphoma and Leukemia).
“I know I’ve been stressing about the bills and wondering how I’ll come up with the money to buy the kids and everyone else Christmas, as well as how I’m going to get the $104.00 to get the certified birth certificates that we have to have within the next seven days, but despite these problems, I’m truly thankful for the roof over our heads, the food that we do have, the new clients you’ve given me and for the many other blessings you’ve given us this year, because, Heavenly Father, I realize that there are others out there a whole lot worse off than we are,” I told the Lord.
Somehow, that prayer comforted me, and I was able to lie down and actually drift right off to sleep with no further worries. Then when I woke at 8:00am on Thanksgiving morning to put the turkey in the oven, I felt at peace with everything. Even as the day went on and we gathered with family at moms, I was still at peace and our financial struggles weren’t even on my mind.
Later that night, I visited Debbie Macomber’s website, and I read an excerpt from One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity, one of her upcoming books. Actually, I ended up reading her entire Web page, because the things she said there fit my prayers the night before, and her words also fit my current situation. Needless to say, it all inspired me. In fact, I’m going to follow her advice and start my gratitude journal, which she recommends writing in every day. My gratitude journal won’t be private, though, because I’ll be sharing it with you, and I’ll do my best to write and share the five things I’m grateful for each day.
As for my joyful Christmas tradition, God has blessed me with a son who loves Christmas and decorating just as much as I do, and this year, he’s asked me to help him decorate the inside and outside of our house. That said, I WILL help my son as he asked, and I know, despite all our troubles, it will be just as joyful as it use to be.
Not only did Debbie’s words about gratitude inspire me, but the short stories she included on the page also lifted my spirits. Each short story was about someone who performed an act of kindness, and his or her acts reminded me of my own last year…
… At this same time last year, my husband was working a lot of overtime and I took on extra clients just to pay our bills and hopefully save enough for Christmas… just like we’re doing again. Anyway, I still wanted to be able to help during the holiday season, and every year I’ve always tried to put at least $5.00 in the red kettles for the Salvation Army. Last year I worked hard to not only pay the bills and gain Christmas money, but to keep a personal goal to come up with at least $20.00 for the red kettle this time.
Approximately two weeks before Christmas 2008, I headed to the grocery store to buy groceries. As I started to get out of my van, I saw the bell ringer, and my throat began to hurt as I struggled to hold back the tears.
“What’s wrong?” Mom asked me.
“I wanted to be able to put $20.00 in the kettle this year, but I can’t, because I don’t even have all the money we need for Christmas, and these groceries are going to take what’s left.”
“It’s okay. God will understand,” she told me.
“No it’s not,” I said softly as I rummaged through my purse for spare money (sometimes I stash a few dollars in my purse and forget about it).
“It’s all I have but it’ll work,” I told mom when I pulled out a dollar bill and a little bit of extra change.”
She just smiled as I walked up to the door and dropped the dollar and spare change into the kettle.
“Merry Christmas!” the bell ringer called out.
“Merry Christmas and God bless you,” I replied.
Although the dollar and change may not have been much, it proved that God does bless those who try, because two days before Christmas day I was able to get the rest of the Christmas money my husband and I needed.
I realize this blog post was rather long, but I wrote with the hopes that my story will inspire others in my situation to do what I did on Thanksgiving Eve and what the verse Debbie Macomber quoted on her Web page suggested that we do. The verse she quoted says this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Stay tuned for my gratitude journal, and feel free to share your own acts of kindness and blessings in the comments section.