Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Day Thoughts

This morning on Meet the Press the theme was on giving. Brenda has been writing a series of thoughtful posts on the ways and means of giving and helping others. It has reminded me of a time in my life when very little was a lot.

Twenty years ago, my family found itself without job or home. We had been through some very difficult family times and ended up losing a business and three homes (mine, my previous husband's (God rest his soul), and our beach house) as well as 10 acres of undeveloped land. He had lost his pharmacist license and we had four children to feed and clothe.

On faith, we had moved to another state to begin again. He was unable to work, so I had three part-time jobs and had returned to college as I believed I would have to become the major bread winner for our family. It wasn't easy. We lived in 900 square feet; we stood in free food lines; we had food stamps; the children and I collected firewood in our little wagon every day. Yet, we were happy because we made up our mind that we would make it an adventure for the children and never let them know how tough it really was.

For that Christmas I had $30 to spend for all the children's Christmas. Now, in 1988 $30 still wasn't a lot of money, so I had to be very creative. I shopped yard sales and thrift stores. I made little doll outfits and matching dresses for the girls. I made the boy's shirts and quilts. While we didn't have much money, the spread looked impressive because each piece was wrapped, regardless of how tiny it was.

The night before Christmas we went to a beautiful love feast at the Moravin church. We walked home because we didn't have enough gas money to ride. It was magic -- as Brenda says -- Narnia magic. We lit a fire, made hot cocoa, and read "The Night Before Christmas" and then everyone went to bed to wait for Santa.

The next morning there were squeals and giggles as each child opened presents and shared it with their siblings. No one was disappointed. No one cried. No one fussed. It was a lovely day. The best we ever had, I dare say.

Those days are long gone; yet, the warmth of that day still fills my eyes with tears. The simplicity of that day will never be matched by huge shopping trips or over the top decorations. It was the simplicity of knowing, truly knowing, that the Baby came so that we might live forever with our Father. It was the simplicity of laughter and hot cocoa in front of a fire we had built with our own hands. It was the joy of gifts lovingly made and the choice of joy over defeat.

As you begin your holiday planning, won't you think a few minutes about others and share a little of what you have with them? It needn't be much; even a smile is a gift that lasts. Rick Warren said in his interview this morning that the gift of time was the best we could give. Share that with someone who needs it without thinking of what you might get in return. Knit hats, tie quilts, bake a goodie, serve in a community event, give away what you most want. You will find that you are blessed in ways you cannot imagine.


  1. Dear Matty,
    Thank you so much for sharing that story--it truly warmed my heart and the love you feel for your family was so evident in each word. We all need these reminders to return to a simpler time and to focus on the Christ child.

  2. Thanks for such a wonderful message and reminder, Matty.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Matty, wanted to add a suggestion for a Christmas movie to your list. We absolutely love The Bishop's Wife with David Niven, Loretta Young and Cary Grant.

  4. Thanks! We were just talking about adding it to our list!

  5. Hi Matty- Suzanne asked me to read this post of yours...I am a fellow commentor of hers on another blog and shared last night about just how difficult this Christmas is for my family. It did help my state of mind to read this post, so thanks for that.

    The short of it is that my husband lost a well paying job in March and it has been a nightmare ever since. He is employed now, but in a job paying about 1/5 of what he was making before. In between, we have been blessed mightily with love gifts from friends & church, but bills have also been piling up and we are in danger of losing our home & car. We do get food stamps, so that's one area I don't have to worry about- feeding my 4 kids.

    My kids are by no means spoiled. Even when we had a lot more money, we never just arbitrarily bought them things. The younger ones each have 1 rubbermaid tote for their toys and the older ones each have 2 dresser drawers for their belongings. My youngest are 2 and 5, and for them , it's easy to get away with small cheap gifts, but the older boys (11 and 14) don't take the prospect of a paltry Christmas morning so well. They're good boys, they love Jesus...but kids that age are especially sensitive to feeling deprived I'm afraid, no matter how much care we as parents put into keeping Jesus the main focus, as we ARE trying hard to do. I vividly remember being 12 and being told that we were only getting 1 present each that year. I went to school with a lot of rich kids and it stung. We even applied to get toys for our kids through Salvation Army but were told that my husband's income exceeded the allowable limit.

    Meantime I have found a lot of support and encouragement from online friends- when I am at home and not in the presence of IRL friends, it has really been a help.

    Bless you.

  6. I was so touched by your story which i read from Suzannes blog... i can relate so much to your story. This year we are in a hard place with little money, no jobs etc... I am hand making gifts this year as we even had to barrow a Christmas tree from my Mom. We will make this season a creative one that will be filled with little sentiments, traditions and food. this year we have been blessed with $200.00 worth of canned goods from a food drive held by the Seminary my hubby attends, and thank God for the hands he has given me since i know how to sew and paint.. i will be able to make gifts. It will be simple and sweet... i am just blessed to have my little family with me...that is precious. thank you again for sharing your heart felt story. blessings...Mica/The Child's paper

  7. Dear Matty, I just read your post at Suzanne and commented there. I am awed by you. Love Clarice


Thanks for dropping in on the farm today! I enjoy your comments!