I've always been one that believes charity begins at home. Each year, I try to participate in at least one charitable event. I have made baby quilts for the children's hospital. I've worked on Habitat Homes. I walked in the JDRF walk and the Race for the Cure and Relay for Life. I've decorated trees for various Christmas auctions that go to benefit the children's hospital or the domestic violence shelter. And there have been many Christmases in which my children and I have selected a family from an "Angel Tree" and anonymously provided Christmas for them. I do believe that Charity begins at home. I just never wanted to be the one to receive the charity in my home.
Being a single mom of 3 and working in an industry that has hit rock-bottom, saying things have been "tight" this past year is an under-statement. I've had to learn to accept the "C" word; Charity. I wanna be the giver - not the receiver. I hate the feeling of not being able to give my kids the things they would love for Christmas. It's a feeling of failure; of inadequacy. That's the only way I can think of how to explain it.
Then October came. I knew that the day after Halloween the stores would get all of their holiday decor out for Christmas. I was not in the mood. I told my friends that I have felt like just crawling into bed, pulling the covers up over my head and not coming out until January. "Can't we just skip Christmas this year?" I asked myself. "No. Can't skip. I have 3 kids who love Christmas, who want Christmas, who need Christmas; and this year more than ever before," I chastised.
I stressed about it. I have ALWAYS had ALL of my Holiday Shopping done BEFORE THANKSGIVING! And this year I hadn't even started.
I sat my kids down one Sunday and told them that we would be having a very small Christmas this year. And that they would still get a few things from their grandparents and from some of their cousins, and then perhaps one or two things from me. PrettyPrettyPrincess asked if they would still get their traditional New Pjs, New Socks, and New Ornament this year like they do every Christmas Eve. I honestly had to tell her, "I don't know yet. We'll have to wait and see."
Then last month someone approached me and asked if she could help make sure my family had a good Christmas. I didn't want to say yes. It was embarrassing. But I knew it would be the only way for my kids to have Christmas. I accepted her offer. She collected a list of the things my kids desired. I was hopeful that they could each get a few things from the list.
Then I got the call the other night to come and pick up the gifts. They would let me wrap them myself, so my kids wouldn't know they came from someone else, and also so I would get to see what they would be getting ahead of time. And even though I was grateful, being able to wrap them myself just felt more like a consolation prize. I wanted to shop for my own children. I wanted to be the one to give them Christmas. This was a lot harder for me to handle than I initially thought it would be. I figured there would be a few shopping bags to pick up. Boy was I wrong. More like 4 big boxes - full of gifts. Additionally, there were bulk household items that we go through like crazy (toilet paper, toothpaste, etc) and two gift cards waiting for me "in case anything else was needed for the holidays". I was resorted to tears.
I knew I had to wrap everything that night. There was no place big enough to hide it all. So I stayed up till 3 am wrapping and writing names on tags and finding a place for each gift under the tree. By the end, I was excited for my children. They would not have the meager simple Christmas I had promised; but a Christmas far beyond their expectations. I cried again.
I had also received a few other gift cards from other wonderful families over the last month. I used those to pick out the new pj's, the new ornaments, candy for the stockings, their mini cereal boxes and juice boxes for their stocking (for their "personalized" Christmas Breakfast) and a few items that I thought they would enjoy. I even had enough to get PrettyPrettyPrincess her stuff her for her upcoming January Birthday.
I have felt renewed. I no longer feel sorry for myself. True, I still feel a bit inadequate. But more so I feel the Christmas Spirit; I feel loved.
The Bible says that Charity is the pure love of Christ. Christians talk all the time about trying to live Christ-Centered lives. This is HOW; To live a life full of love and Charity. This is probably the number one way to become most like Christ; to have charity - the pure love of Christ, and then to pass it on to others.
As I write this post, through little hiccups and lots of tears, I have thought about all of the Christmas love my family has received thus far. From the warm wishes, to fun cards and letters, to the "elves" that are bringing us 12 days of Christmas Joy, to the wonderful family in my community who is making Christmas morning possible for me and my children. All of it.
I know 2 things to be true from this experience:
1) Charity - the pure love of Christ - IS the gift that keeps on giving. My children and I are sure to never forget this Christmas.
2) Being on the receiving end has humbled me and has helped me find out what I am made of and who I am and that I can do Hard things. I can't wait for the day when I can pay it forward., and become a "giver" once again.
I am truly grateful to the Lord for kind and loving people who have crossed my path and who are in my life. This truly is a blessed Christmas.
These pics do not do the amount of gifts we received justice. The tree is packed underneath and all the way around.