It’s a long story how we came to be in the old farmhouse in Ireland realizing our dream. We, little nobodies, had helped stage a Christian camp for youngsters. They’d come, some eager, some confused. and some rebellious. We loved them, pulled our hair out at their antics and prayed (oh how we prayed!) Now it was over. They’d returned, tiny flames of love kindling in their hearts, to their domains, leaving a great joy of satisfaction in their wake.
There was just one problem. It was almost Christmas and while we had food aplenty and a roof over our heads, we had no money left, zilch, nothing, and there were children there, mine included. We explained there’d be no presents that year, no tree or decorations. They were such troopers, not a single complaint.
We made our own décor, holly and fir branches from the forest. Silvery yogurt tops, kept from the camp, were cut into snow flakes and suspended from fallen branches dabbed white with left over emulsion. It looked wonderful!
Christmas Eve was still special. We read old Christmas stories by candle light, and I sang my guys to sleep with childhood carols.
I came down to see the two teenage boys who’d helped with the renovations were gone.
“They went to look for a tree.” My eldest whispered. Due to a lot of boggy ground fallen trees were common in the surrounding forest.
Our Texan builder/handyman was heading out too. It was he who first dreamt up the project. His tiny 5ft 6 frame harboring a personality that somehow gave the impression of a 6 footer.
I joined my daughter and the other teenage girl who’d stayed to help clear up the aftermath of the camp etc. We’d almost done when the boys dragged in an enormous tree. I restrained myself from checking for axe marks (their hearts were surely right and the forest was common ground I reasoned.)
They set it up in a bucket which the girls artfully draped and we went about gleaning all the décor we could find, painted fir cones, odd bits of tinsel yogurt top snowflakes. It looked beautiful even without lights.
I was just drifting off to sleep when I was roughly wakened.
“Come on mum. We need you to help wrap.”
Our Texan angel had been to see a friend who owned a small toy factory. He’d been hoping there might be a few “old line” bits and pieces for the kids. But the Irish heart never gives by half and the little van was crammed with toys, enough for several presents for each child and lots left over to pass on to others, there were even fairy lights for the tree.
Imagine the wonder next morning when the children were awoken by Christmas angels (my daughter and friend had raided the prop box) and brought down to the old living room. There they saw a huge tree blazing with lights and an immense pile of presents.
They didn’t think it was Santa. They knew who to thank, and their happy praises sounded all day long. The presents were special because they knew Jesus had sent them and that made His birthday “magic”.
We adults of course didn’t get presents, or did we? The gifts of joy, love, peace and intense gratitude filled our hearts in a way presents never could. Jesus’ love for these precious children and the hearts that had given so freely of time, goods and sleep were more than enough!
A debate is being played out on my private face book page regarding the shaming of rich, high salaried, MPs who voted for a 30% cut in benefit payments for the disabled.(You can guess which side I’m on lol!)
I’ve always had an “out of the box” type view of life. Many concepts that are widely accepted never made sense to me. For example the concept that the gifted in society (whether by background, inheritance, or talent) are entitled to a better life style than their “inferiors”. To me the more talented/endowed you are the greater your responsibility to use those gifts to help the less fortunate. For that matter the whole economic system under which we live has always seemed evil to me.
God put enough food/resources etc. for everyone to live a good life, but when some get greedy others lack. (And yes it is that simple)!I’ve heard all the excuses, why it is the way it is, but the basic bottom line is, it’s that way because we accept the concept. We can’t see out of the box!
Don’t get me wrong I believe everyone should work (I’d even say it’s a human need)and I have little time for lazy folks, but why the assumption that that work should generate money or be profitable, which perpetuates the system? Some of the most needed work does not generate income.
I guess I was a born “hippy” and have lived too close to Jesus to renounce the old Bible teaching, “he that is greatest among you, let him be servant of all.”
I sat with my mouth open totally taken back. Before me lay two beautiful “tokens” which my mind told me did not exist. Finally my brain kicked in that my daughter had created them specially for me. You see my kids had decided to push me into starting my retirement right! (Technically I’ve been retired a while but was taking my grandson back and forth to school which drastically hindered my making trips etc.) Knowing how I’ve developed a tendency to procrastinate on things in my later years they plotted to help me along by clubbing together (and I suspect using air miles) to make possible the “vouchers” for a flight anywhere in Europe for two plus some spending money. I didn’t know whether to cry, whoop for joy, or insist it was too much, instead I sat speechless.
I’ve already invited a friend (her 60th birthday is close to my 65th) who was likewise flabbergasted and touched that my kids (most of who know her) were very enthusiastic about my choice. (She’s very practical, reliable, but still great company and lots of fun, a real sweetheart). Now it just remains to chose time and place. I’m thinking soon and Sicily where the sun lingers longer, the countryside is breathtaking, sea deep Med. blue and the pace chilled, but nothing is settled yet – exciting!
The sun is shining, my back is a little stiff from allotment digging, and there are trays of pansies and viola bedding plants waiting in the kitchen to go in the border outside my door. My lilies and roses still frangance the downstairs rooms and now the hyacinth ( both mother’s day gifts) wafts sweet perfume across the keys of my laptop as I type. Spring is here and everyone is wearing a smile!
Christmas approaches, its warm fuzzy feeling felt afar off, first presents have been bought and boxed decorations stand really for commission. Yet along with this dawns a slight apprehension. I know food, decor, and Christmas presents alone are not enough. Not even family gatherings and parties, pleasant though they are, are enough to satisfy the ache for Christmas that surfaces in my heart at this time of year.
I recall an incident with my youngest daughter the Christmas we returned from the Far East. In spite of finally having a Christmas in England where it was celebrated (and there was at least the possibility of snow) we all felt something missing. We were pretty hard up and knew presents would be small but that didn’t worry us at all we were a happy thankful crowd. We were invited to my eldest daughter’s house where Christmas would be celebrated in style with perfect decor, and expert cooking, nothing missing to welcome her family back to London, yet still something didn’t feel right.
We were by the shopping mall when it happened. We saw a homeless guy looking dejected, his cardboard sign showing signs of much use.
“Can we give him some money mum?” she asked. I hesitated wondering if he might just spend it on drink or drugs (the UK has a good welfare system so the homeless often tend to have some problem). Then I had an idea. Going to a nearby snack shop I helped her choose a sandwich and hot drink which she gave with an encouraging smile, telling him.
“We thought you must be cold so we bought you a present.”
The man beamed and thanked us profusely. I guess the food showed more concern and was more personal than a dropped coin.
As she walked away she whispered, “Now it feels like Christmas.”
Last year I donated to “Crisis” to sponser a homeless person to spend Christmas at one of their centers and to get help and advice. My check is once more in the post but this year I want to do something more. What? I’m not sure but I’m looking out for it.
So what makes this special? A close look will reveal that it’s entirely made of fragile shells.
“Definitely not the kind of thing one could lug back from a hectic trip to Mexico,” I thought admiring its delicacy in a gift shop adjoining the pyramids we’d been visiting.
Imagine my surprise when it appeared on my hall way table a few days after my birthday. Observing my interest (and knowing my practical nature) my son had secretly carried it back despite two delays, and a finally cancelled flight causing a stressful 24 hour stay over in Mexico City.
It is pretty and a nice memento but the thing that touches my heart when I look at it is the love and care it must have taken to get it safely through all that (they didn’t give boxes in the shop.)