The tree is trimmed, turkey defrosting, presents wrapped and under the tree. It was a long list, but I think I remembered everything and everyone. Today I promised myself I would stop for a moment and think about the important things. I would put aside the menu plan and leave the cookbook recipes for a moment to think about Christmas and what it means to me. Of course I find myself remembering family and friends and all that has happened during the past busy year. I think back to all the “presents” Jesus has given me.
Last Christmas our house was stuffed with family, friends, grown children, in-laws, and grandchildren. All of our eight children were with us for the first time in five years. Though I have been separated from some of them at times, I am so thankful for the loving bond we have. Just as our heavenly Father’s unconditional love causes us to love Him all the more, so the difficulties we’ve gone through as a family have drawn us closer. Whenever one of us has needed some extra tender loving care, the others have been there to provide it.
The past year was intensely difficult for my family health-wise—including cancer and a life-threatening aneurysm. Some miracles of healing have already taken place. Others are miracles in progress. We’ve shared many requests for prayer and have seen many answers to prayer. I count high on my list of blessings the faith I was taught as a child—faith that has seen me through the bad times as well as the good.
I think about moments with my 10-year-old granddaughter, Jackie, who had come down with a mysterious virus that left this usually spunky, funny, witty child lying helplessly in a hospital bed, barely able to speak. I remember leaning over her and asking if she wanted me to pray for her, and her mouthing, “Yes, please.” And I remember the answer coming so quickly. Her mom phoned only a few weeks later to tell me that Jackie was playing “The Moonlight Sonata” on the piano again.
I remember the joy when one of my sons fell in love and we rejoiced as a wonderful young woman became a part of our family. I remember too the sadness of hearing that she had breast cancer and that their first year together was to be marred by surgery and chemotherapy. But even these difficulties and disappointments have been blessings in disguise by bringing us all closer as we have trusted the Lord together for her complete healing.
I remember the faces of young mothers-to-be whom I was able to help at a pregnancy crisis center where I volunteer once a week as a counselor. I remember giving them clothing and food, helping them find the resources they need, and teaching them that the Lord has answers to all their questions and supply for all their needs. Some of the young women were at wits’ end. Some needed a friend to listen to and cry with them. Some needed a little encouragement. Some needed a first gift for their baby—some small thing that they could hold in their hand to make them feel loved and to help them relate to the new life growing within them.
I remember the horror of Hurricane Katrina as it unfolded before our eyes on TV—the traumatized faces of survivors as they sought refuge in other cities, including ours. I also remember the glimmer of hope in the eyes of evacuees in the shelters where I worked as a volunteer. How thankful they were for a listening ear, a prayer, and a personal word of sympathy and encouragement!
I remember cuddle times with grandkids. I am Mom #2 for a six-year-old grandson who lives with us, along with Mom #1, our daughter. It takes more than one person to raise a child, and for all of us, our special situation has turned out to be another of God’s special blessings.
I remember a good change that took place in the homeschooling of my teenage son, for whom studying had been getting more difficult and boring. Who would have thought that inviting other boys from the neighborhood to come for home schooling would make both teaching and learning easier, but that’s exactly what happened—another of the Lord’s surprises.
It has been a full year with fuller schedules than some years past, but in our “busyness” we have learned to take time for ourselves and extra time with God. I remember learning that quiet walks in our neighborhood helped me in several ways. They provided the exercise I needed, as well as moments of calm in the midst of otherwise chaotic days—moments spent praying for loved ones and drawing peace and assurance from God.
As I look at all the presents beneath my tree this year, I thank Him for all of His gifts of the past year and look forward to all He has for me in the coming year—365 gifts, each handpicked and lovingly wrapped, each containing another treasure from His heart to mine. I nearly always know what I want, and I sometimes think I know what’s best, but only He always knows what’s truly best. I am so very blessed!