Nights in BethlehemThis Christmas season was beautiful… we spent two different nights in costume celebrating Christ's birth- one for the stake and one for the ward. I already wrote about these nights in previous posts, but they truly brought the spirit of Christ into our hearts.
Anonymous GenerosityOn Thursday before Christmas, the Bishop asked Abe to come meet with him. Our Bishop handed him a gift card to Target with the message that a generous member of the ward wanted our family to receive this gift for Christmas. My heart was filled with gratitude as I pondered the things I could still buy for the children. Then… of course I began to wonder who would be so loving and generous toward our family… lots of wonderful people came to my mind… and that's the point, right? Receiving gifts anonymously makes us see Christ's goodness in everyone around us.
Selfless Giving from the HeartOn the Friday before Christmas, I still had a list of some things I knew the kids wanted/needed for Christmas. I prayed about how to get it for them with the money we had left. Jordan really wanted a scout uniform. I prayed about how to get that for him, and the thought came to me to call a sweet family in our ward who had older sons. She, a single mother with her own financial struggles, offered to pass her sons' shirts down to Jordan for free. I knew that she could use the money for her 5 children for Christmas, so we met in the middle. I paid her a small amount, and she gave us more than we bargained for… 2 scout shirts, 2 scout kerchiefs, and scout shorts.
After talking to her, I called the scout leader to ask her if she had any extra scout books. The scout leader said that a young man had quietly approached her several weeks back wanting to give Jordan his book when he saw that Jordan was reaching of age to join the scouts…. that young man was the son of the same single mother who gave us the scout clothes. I cried as I called this single mother back to tell her how much both she and her son had blessed our family… separately and selflessly. She said she tried to raise her children that way. She was doing a GREAT job.
This family didn't stop there… this woman's daughter decided to give a nice selection of her toy pets to Mariah for Christmas. She wrapped her best pets and gave them to Mariah on Sunday. ALL three of our younger children pulled the small pets out with great excitement. (The only thing Mariah had been requesting for Christmas was toy pets/animals.)
This would be this sweet family's first Christmas without their father and mother together; and instead of dwelling on their disappointments, this family chose to give what they had to give. Our hearts were deeply touched at their selfless hearts. They shared the love of Christ.
Sunday SantaOn Sunday after church, I had sent all the children out to the car. By the time I arrived, the children were already squealing with excitement shouting, "Santa visited us!!" On our car sat 6 wrapped presents… one for each child. Each gifted had their own name imprinted on top with a message of love from "Santa." Again I wondered who would take the time to shop for each of our children individually with so much love. Our hearts were filled with the love of Christ.
Love in the Nursing Home
Dressed in Santa hats and red, some friends joined us on Monday night as we visited a local nursing home. We sang Christmas carols accompanied by the children's trumpets, bells, guitars, and violins. My favorite part was when the residents boisterously joined in singing the carols with us. They gave us kisses and hugs afterward. Three-year old Juliana approached each resident to say Merry Christmas. She also very generously stuck out her hand for them to kiss it. :-) Tyson said another lady pulled him down in a chair right next to him and spoke in Portuguese with all kinds of animation. Tyson sweetly nodded his head to all that she told him.
As I spoke with each resident, one lady especially touched my heart. She was hunched over and seemed distressed. I stroked her arm and spoke to her. I could hardly see her face because she was hunched over so far. Drool fell from her mouth, but her hand was extended. I finally reached out and held her hand… the moment I touched her hand, her whole body relaxed so much that she looked as if she were going to sleep. I don't know why I waited so long to hold her hand; but as I held it, the feeling that rushed through into my heart was priceless… it was Christ's love.
Sister Missionaries Serving ValiantlyOn Tuesday afternoon, Christmas Eve day, the sister missionaries and another sister from the ward asked if they could come caroling to our home. There happened to be 4 of our children's neighborhood football buddies over at our house. Once the sister missionaries began singing, these tough football players looked over at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, "Wow! That's really beautiful." After the missionaries finished singing, they shared a sweet message about Christ. Guess what? Three of those four football buddies came to church with us today… I KNOW they felt Christ's love in their hearts.
The sisters asked if there were any neighbors to whom they could sing. Without hesitation, Jackson said they needed to visit our neighbor across the street. (Our neighbor had been crying that her children were far away this Christmas.) I accompanied them and crossed the street. There was a repair van in their driveway. We waved to the man and woman working and rang the doorbell. As the sisters began to sing, tears rolled down her face. She hugged me so tightly thanking me for sending them over. I looked over and one of the workers was standing off to the side of her van recording the Christmas carol on her phone. We motioned her over and teary-eyed hugs were shared amongst all of us. Jesus Christ's love filled our hearts... helping us to forget our troubles for just a moment. (Those sister missionaries took the time to return to our neighbor's house on Christmas day to sing more songs of Christ… touching her heart once again.)
Santa's Helper… Jesus' HelperAfter we gave our goodbyes to our neighbor and the lovely lady doing repairs on her house, we crossed the street to see a stranger carrying 6 big Christmas gift bags and a big turkey in his hands. He wore a santa hat and very seriously asked my husband if his name was Abe. My husband affirmed that he was. Then Santa's helper set the bags down, handed Abe the turkey, turned around, and walked away without saying another word. I crossed the street more quickly and shouted out: "Thank you!! Who are you? We're so grateful!!" He didn't answer… he didn't even turn around. Then I shouted again, "Merry Christmas!!" to which he turned around, waved with a smile, turned back around, and continued to walk. The gifts brought to our family couldn't have been more perfect… On Christmas day those gifts from the anonymous givers were treated with extra special gratitude in our hearts. Santa had come twice even before Christmas. We always teach our children that Santa is Jesus' helper. It's the spirit of giving. It's the spirit of Jesus' love for all of us.
Caroling Guided by GodTuesday night, Christmas Eve, a sister from church accompanied our family as we caroled to more families nearby. We arrived at people's doorsteps with a balloon flower, chocolate chip cookies, and a bunch of us belting out Christmas carols with a guitar and trumpet included. We were received with loving hugs and occasional gifts! We visited 8 families.
Let me tell you about 2 of those visits:
We decided to go to one of the homes of our boys' football buddies. The two boys were all alone on Christmas eve in their home. Another one of the boys (a 9-year old) was with them. His parents were also gone for the night. I wish you could have seen those three boys jumping up and down at our Christmas carols. They went back inside; but when we turned our van around, they burst out their door again waving vigorously. The day after Christmas, I met these boys' mother. She, a single mother, had to work until late on Christmas Eve in order to pay the bills. Her birthday was on Christmas day, and her only gift was that balloon flower. Such a simple little gift meant so much to her. These boys have spent the last several days at our house while their mother works. They came to our house this morning ready to go to church an hour early!! My heart was definitely filled with Christ's love at church as I looked down our row of 9 children dressed in their Sunday best.
The other visit was to a woman whom I had just met at the park the day before. She and her husband and 2 kids were visiting from New York for the holidays. They were staying with her husband's aunt and uncle. We had hit it off, so we exchanged phone numbers. I had this thought to go visit their family as well. Then I had this other thought… "She's going to think you're stalking her if you ask her for her address as well!!" I decided to chance it. She gave me the address, and we sang our carols at their home. Her in-laws welcomed us very generously. They gave each of our children a special gift from Disney World. We exchanged big hugs and felt grateful to develop our new friendship even more.
Later that night, this new friend sent me a text. She said that our visit with Christmas carols was the best part of their Christmas. She further explained that they were needing something more spiritual in their Christmas because her in-laws, as wonderful as they are, are not Christians. All they needed was a little Christmas cheer from Christians singing of our dear, Savior's birth. God is definitely in charge!
The Spirit of GivingChristmas day was filled with beautiful giving. Abe's parents and sister and brother-in-law sacrificed greatly and gave our children wonderful gifts. The children had spent every penny of their birthday money on presents for each other. My mother taped extra money onto each of the children's gifts, so that they wouldn't give away ALL their money. Well… The Christmas spirit of giving just can't be stopped! When Jackson found his money taped to his present, the first thing he said was, "Yeah! Now I can buy gifts for others for Valentines Day!"
Diapers and Pull-UpsThe day after Christmas, this sweet new friend from New York called me to offer us lots of diapers and pull-ups that she wouldn't be able to fit into her luggage. Guess what the only thing I had forgotten to buy Jayden for Christmas??? ...PULL-UPS! I was going to start him in pull-ups after Christmas. :-)
Of course the blessings and miracles from God continue even after Christmas because God never stops loving us and guiding us… I know that we all have discouraging thoughts at times… recognizing God's miracles reminds us that we have a perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, who understands every one of those painful moments. HE wants us to open our hearts to HIM and give HIM all our discouragement, so that HE may carry those burdens instead of us.