Friday, December 19, 2008

Charity Begins at Home

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.


leannewitney said...

Thank you for this post. You don't know me, but I was so moved by your experience. We have also been on the receiving end of charity this year, and it has really taught me about humility. I didn't want to be on the Angel Tree. We could figure it out- our kids are only 2 & 3, what would they even remember? I didn't want food from the food drive. I could live on rice and beans if needed. I didn't want any help. BUT- as I have accepted it, it makes me realize the wonder of Christmas. Not from the things you get, but from what someone was willing to give. Love, time, hope, CHARITY, and friendship. I hope that I can be on the giving end more than I'll ever be on the receiving end, but I know how important it is for others to learn about charity; how it really is the pure love of Christ. Thank you again, and I pray that you have an amazing Christmas.

Cindy said...

You receive as you have given. You're a wonderful woman and you are loved.

Dianne said...

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three,but the greatest of these is charity. First Corinthians 13:13. Merry Christmas in the truest sense. May God continue to bless you and show His love to you.

debilyn said...

that was a beautiful post, em.
we've been where you are right now...more than once since our family was established over 18 years ago. it IS humbling, but the magic of being humbled is that we become so much more teachable.

i'm so happy for your's a testament to you and the kind of mother you are that you're giving your children the gift of so much more than presents under the tree this year. they will always remember this, and somewhere down the road it WILL be a great blessing to others when it is payed forward. i firmly believe that as we learn to become humble receivers, it makes us better givers.

much love!

RhondaLue said...




You and your family deserve a kind gesture like that. Like you said, so humbling, so Christlike. I'm very thankful your family will enjoy a wonderful Christmas.

We too, are having a tough time financially, but somehow we've been able to manage a decent Christmas for the kids. It seems that every year that we sit the kids down and tell them we won't have much...something happens and we have plenty. They're not ever going to believe us again!

andrea said...

You are not alone, as you can see from the comments and thoughts brought to you through your sharing. Many of us have been there, and some of us will be there again. These defining moments will not only make you stronger, they will impact upon your children a life lesson that will bless them with more empathy, love, kindness, and charity than you could have imagined. Blessings to you.

Jennifer Rae said...

Someday you will be able to do the same for another family...and you will know the humble feeling that they have in receiving your charity.

The Lord is merciful

lilianril said...

Your post ALMOST made me cry. But Bobby would make fun of me so I didn't. So glad you and the kids are going to have a nice Christmas!

pinkelephant said...

Thank you Emma for posting this. I was very moved and humbled by reading it.

Merry Christmas to you.
I will never forget this post.

The Willeyes said...

Thanks Leanne and Emma for your post and comments. This is what Christmas is all about!

You are blessed and those who give are blessed by your acceptance!

Merry deserve it:)

Megan said...

Merry Christmas! I'm so happy that your family will have the Christmas you hoped you could give them. You're very deserving of such a gift.

Thank you for sharing with us. =)

okeydokeyifine said...

I used to think our Christmases were kind of meager...only one gift per person and a stocking of candy and a stuffer. Then came the Christmas that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law could only afford one candy cane for each of their children. That caused me to realize how richly WE had been blessed with family and friends, good health and strength, and the gospel in our lives. Watching that family celebrate Christmas with food and family and playing games truly humbled me.

Sounds like Christmas this year will be very merry, made possible by the kindness of others. I am glad that you have seen the humbling joy that can come by way of others who are giving because as the hymn says, "Because I Have Been Given Much I Too Must Give."

Merry Christmas to you,
Love, MOM

ann said...

I need to dry the tears!!!

Thank you!

Ruthykins said...

yeah, nursemom. i feel like i've totally splurged because my kids are getting about four gifts each from us this year. emma, i've decided that your christmas theme song needs to be "we need a little christmas" from the broadway musical Mame. you could play that song all year long, but especially right around halloween and thanksgiving time. that's immediately what i thought of when you said that you just wanted to hide under then covers til new year's time.

purplehaze said...

Well Emma I had to get out the tissue again! That is a beautiful story and to know that the Lord is always there for us it such a blessing. I felt a little like you in a different way I didn't want to do Christmas and wanted it just to pass on by, but I knew I had to go on for my children. God bless you and your family and a Merry Christmas.

Amy said...

Emma, wow, the tears are still coming as I try to type this. Thank you for sharing, you don't know how blessed I am just by hearing your story. You are an amazing woman and mom! I feel like you have given me (and the blogging world) a Christmas gift every day just by your story's and blogging! Thank You!

Also, you need to go to Blog around the world, she is looking for the best post of the year, please forward this post to her!! I would love for others to read it, you just don't know how encouraging you are to others!!

Merry Christmas,
Love, Amy

Charity Childs-Gevero said...

Here from BPOTW...

..Hey, I'm Charity, and I still like receiving presents! :P

Brenda said...

That was great, very transparent. thanks for the important reminder

Two Blessings From Above said...

What a beautiful post.
God Bless you and your family.

Jenners said...

Visiting from BPOTW...

This was a beautiful post and I am happy for you and your family. You know, you have given for so many years that it is simply your turn to have a chance to receive. As beautiful as it feels to give, I am glad that you had the chance to receive this year and let others have the good feeling of being there for your family.

Merry Christmas and God Bless.

Vickie said...

What a wonderful post. The Angels are smiling down on you. You gave to the community and it boomerang back to you. I think that is awesome.

We also have a Giving Tree in our church. My family every year picks a few tags and shops for kids. We are all part of a community.

I hope you have a good Christmas and I hope your 2009 picks up.

NV said...

Hi! Visiting from BPOTW.

As someone who has had the joy of playing Santa this week through our annual program at work, I hope you know that you, too, are helping others. I've always found paying it forward to be a wonderful way to return some of the many blessings that I have received.

I'm glad the actions of others have made you feel loved. That is exactly what they were intended to do. (You know this. Think of your own donations in past years.)

I hope that this is indeed a very bright and merry holiday for you and your children. God bless.

"The Queen in Residence" said...

I am so glad that you are loved by so many. I think the hardest thing we as humans expereince is the challenge of truly accepting charity. It is so hard to do, but so good for us in the end. Enjoy the holidays knowing that your acceptance also made someone elses christmas.
Merry Christmas!!

hollibilly said...

This is one of my favorite posts you have done. You are such a wonderful person!

Maven said...

I too have been on the receiving end and will never forget the feeling of being acknowledged, and cared about.

Thankyou for sharing this.

I popped in via "best post of the week" and am very glad I did.

Merry Christmas!

~ Maven at A Fabulously good Life

Oh2122 said...

Came over from BPotW - great post.

As hard as it is to accept help sometimes, we can do so knowing that when WE are able, we will because someone helped us.