That year was a memorable one in our lives as a family and not for reasons I was proud of. As a newly divorced single mother, only two months into the realities of single parenting, I had zero dollars to spend on Christmas and four kids who had been accustomed to very generous Christmases up until that year.
I was depressed. Not only was I grieving the loss of my marriage, but the thought of Christmas was sending me over the edge. I didn't want my kids to be on the receiving end of any further losses. The break up of our family had forced me to sell our home, move the kids into a tiny apartment, get rid of our family pet, since the apartment wouldn't allow dogs, and forced me to take a job that took me out of the home and left the kids as “latch key” kids for the first time in their lives. Now, Christmas was chasing me down and I was dreading telling my four children they shouldn't expect gifts this Christmas. I was broker than broke and feeling pretty miserable about it all. I was wishing, if there were any way possible, could we just skip Christmas that year?
But, sometimes, our kids surprise us in the most amazing ways. And that was the case that year. I sat them all down and laid the cards on the table. We didn't have any money for Christmas. Period. Just that simple. Sorry, but, that was the reality. No way to fix it. Or so I thought.
In the middle of my explanation of why we would have to cancel Christmas, my youngest son, then only ten years old, smiled at me with a grin that spread across his face from ear to ear and said he didn't see why we couldn't still exchange gifts. He suggested that we pull names from a hat and buy a gift for the person whose name we had pulled, limiting the gift to no more than five dollars. I wasn't too big on the idea but the enthusiasm he had for the plan was contagious. All the kids jumped on the band wagon and playfully embraced Matt's plan, all pretending it would be the best Christmas they had ever experienced.
They sat and mulled it over for quite awhile, as if it were a master plan requiring hours of thoughtful, strategic planning. I marveled at these kids – so willing to accept,with grace and love for each other, the hand that had been dealt to them that year – the worst they had ever experienced in their young lives.
I could not have imagined the care that these kids put into their shopping that year. On the smallest of budgets, they shopped for just the right gift for each other, chosen to tickle the heart of the one on the receiving end of the gift. The entire month before Christmas was a ritual of playful teasing and guessing who had who and what had they purchased. I'm not sure they ever had more fun with Christmas.
I could not tell you today what any one of those gifts was that night. As their mom, I sat and watched the love of these kids so beautifully on display as they wished each other a Merry Christmas, ending a year of heartache and pain that none of us would ever forget. The little five dollar gifts we gave each other that year were just cover! Wrapped over and under and in between those silly little gifts was the priceless message “I love you – no matter what...”
As I watched my kids celebrate Christmas that year, I realized God had used my children to teach me the meaning of real love. It cannot be broken - not by divorce, not by hardship, not by the experience of “poverty” that we found ourselves in that Christmas. 'Love never fails!'
Christmas was simply never sweeter...
Christmas was simply never sweeter...
Scripture Reference: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 NKJV
“Love suffers long and is kind;
love does not envy;
love does not parade itself,
is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity,
but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails...!”