Christmas is coming. What should be a season of excitement is, in far too many circumstances, a season of stress for parents who can afford little for their children. Having been in that situation for so long myself, I can easily identify the longing in these parent’s eyes. You see the moms stare at, then turn away from, what they long to buy but can’t possibly afford; the dads distracting their children, suggesting items much smaller, cheaper. The older children in these families are often resolute, knowing that the shiny thing they want will never be under their tree. The younger children simply fail to understand. But, soon enough, they will. How the parents handle the situation will make the difference between encouraging bitterness or contentment in their children.
My daughter wants a bike and crafting items. My son, a Wii U. Another son, games for the Wii U. I’d love to find a way to give them to them but such a thing is impossible. Knowing upfront that they can’t have these things helps them to be prepared for the things that they will get. My older children have let me know that they will be satisfied with anything–or, if need be, nothing. Christmas wish lists, as they have been for so many years now, will be guided by me towards things I’ve already managed to pick up or know that I can get cheaply. It wasn’t always like this. Though money was always tight, we used to have enough. I once bought toys for underprivileged children. Now my children could be counted among them.
Christmastime, or any time of celebration, is hard when poverty is a constant companion. Being poor doesn’t take away the desire to buy your children things they want but knowing you’ve done everything you can do, both to make things financially better and to bring them a bit of happiness, helps. Like so many others, our family faces poverty due to circumstances beyond my, or my children’s, control. Fighting against it is all I can do. I stretch every dime as far as it can be stretched and do everything that I can to bring in additional dimes and dollars. Still, as far behind as we are, it is never enough. Earlier this year, we came close to being evicted due to being behind on our rent. Our van remains unusable because I simply can’t afford to repair it. Two children, and possibly a third, need braces. Things that break or wear out simply aren’t replaced. Our needs pile up and sometimes the pile topples over. But the Lord is our Helper, our Provider. His blessings are sometimes financial. Other times, they come in the form of teaching us to be utterly dependent upon Him. Of learning to trust Him in total darkness.
No matter how broke one is, life still must be lived. And birthdays, Christmas, and other days meant for celebration, won’t wait. Months ago, I came up with a plan to provide a kinda-sorta nice Christmas for my children: Taking five dollars or so a week, I’d hit a yard sale or two to look for things they’d be sure to love. But many weeks, even that small amount was out of my reach. Then we came down with mononucleosis and for several weeks I was too sick, or my children were, for me to go anywhere. Still other weeks, my husband needed the car on Saturday or it was pouring rain. I ended up able to go to yard sales once.
Christmas presents this year will mostly be thrift stores finds and a few carefully chosen items from on-line. In place of a bike will be a bracelet, a pretty scarf, and a small but lovely keepsake for my daughter. In place of my son’s Wii U will be some sketching pencils, a book on sunken ships, and a small knife. Instead of the games my youngest wanted, he will receive a movie found on sale and an action figure or two. When Christmas morning comes, they, like in so many other years, will be happy with what they’ve been given. They are really great children, children who have learned what it means to find joy in the little things. They want things at times but they don’t brood over what they can’t have. I’m so proud of them. Sometimes I think it’s harder on me wanting things for them and not being able to afford them, than it is for them not getting them.
Our family has been blessed in so many ways and this year, like others, we’ll thank the Lord for those blessings. Instead of having a big celebration, we’ll focus in on the little things. Instead of the roast beef that I want to cook for them, I’ll prepare a well-loved chicken casserole. Instead of over-flowing stockings, there will be candy canes and chocolates. We’ll focus on being happy for what we have rather than on being sad for what we don’t. We’ll sing Christmas carols together and bake some Christmas cookies. We’ll make a paper chain for over the door, and put on the old Andy Griffith Christmas special as we decorate our tree. We’ll laugh. We’ll love. And, little as we have, we’ll celebrate the most important gifts of all: the gift of the Son of God who died to save us, and the gift of one another.
Our Christmas, like the old Magoo Christmas special proclaimed, will truly be a Christmas that’s far more glorious than grand.
Merry Christmas, y’all!
Soli Deo gloria!