A Christmas Reflection

Presents-Under-Tree

Reflection: 1. What one sees when one looks in a mirror. 2. Fixing one’s thoughts on something. 3. Being contemplative.

Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experiences, think about them, mull over them and evaluate them.

As I sit here and reflect on Christmas 2012, I’m amazed at how different things looked for our family last year.

In the days leading up to Christmas we told our kids that there would be no exchanging of presents between each of us or with our extended family that year. There would be no presents waiting under the tree. We were beyond rock bottom. We were in a pit. We were $75,000+ in debt on our credit cards and personal loans and had 6 months of unpaid mortgage payments hanging over our head. There was no way a ‘typical’ Christmas was going to happen for our family that year.

The ironic funny sad embarrassing thing is, the week before Christmas 2011 our family had just returned from an all-expenses-paid missions trip to Thailand and I’m sure it looked to everyone like we didn’t have a care in the world! “Financial difficulties? Really? I don’t think so!” This is what I’m sure everyone must have whispered behind our backs.

When the trip was in the planning stages I didn’t even want to go. To this day, I haven’t allowed myself the chance to enjoy the memories of our time away due to the overwhelming guilt I feel about the seemingly over-indulgent nature of this family trip that was taken in the middle of our darkest season of financial, emotional and spiritual difficulties.

We were unable to pay the mortgage, the school fees, the utilities. There were even days when we were unable to pay for food. The lowest point came (not just once) when we exhausted every avenue and resorted to borrowing their saved ‘birthday’ money from our children just to buy groceries and petrol. And yet there we were, planning an overseas “holiday”.

Unbeknownst to everyone, we were also planning an empty Christmas Day, devoid of presents or a big family meal.

I remember feeling so embarrassed when I returned from this supposedly ‘amazing overseas experience’ with nothing but a bad taste in my mouth that had little to do with the food and water I had consumed. I couldn’t even afford the market-place “bargains”. As other family members loaded their suitcases with (fake) Nikes, Tiffany & Co. jewellery, and Ray Bans, I loaded my case with nothing but memories. And I threw some bitterness, anger, hurt, unforgiveness, guilt and disappointment into my bag too. It’s a wonder my suitcase wasn’t marked “Caution: Heavy baggage: Handle with care”.

I felt so guilty. And ashamed. The people we helped on the mission field had so little and we had everything they didn’t have. And yet I still wanted more. I wanted presents waiting under the tree for my children on Christmas Day. I wanted turkey and ham and all the trimmings. And I didn’t want anyone to know how much the dichotomy of our situation was eating me up. How could I explain what was going through my head without sounding totally ungrateful towards the people who had funded the whole trip?

But God knew what I was going through. He knew my heart.

And He chose to bless me with exceedingly abundantly (infinitely) more than I could ever ask or wish for, think of, dream about, imagine or hope for. (Ephesians 4:20)

Two days before Christmas one friend told us God prompted him to give us some money. It was enough to buy food for two weeks, including food for Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve another friend (also unprompted) gave us enough money to buy presents for our kids and Tim and I delighted in shopping until K-Mart closed (it was all that was open) purchasing enough presents to put under the tree to make Christmas memorable for our kids.

This year, as I was surrounded by the exceeding (sickening) over-abundance of gifts under our tree I felt guilty and ashamed and embarrassed for another reason.

We have so too much. And others have so too little. I thought my kids needed to have presents under the tree so they wouldn’t feel like they had missed out but I realised they don’t. This year the buying of presents became mechanical for all of us. It was a chore. It was hard to decide what to give each other or to give to other family members who already have everything they need. It was hard to sit down to bulging table and eat a Christmas meal when others, even in our own City had nothing.

Last year when I had nothing, I wanted something. This year I needed nothing and I had too much…of everything.

So next year, I won’t be excitedly asking my friends: “What did you get for Christmas?” And I won’t be showing off my latest bracelet, or watch, or purse, or bag, or shoes…Next year the best gift I will receive won’t be found under the Christmas tree. Because next year we’re going to do things a whole lot differently.

And I’m already counting down the days.

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14 thoughts on “A Christmas Reflection

  1. Nicki,

    It’s amazing what a year’s difference can make. Overindulgence seems to be “the cry” of Christmas. I’m anxious to hear about your new Christmas plans.

    Blessings,
    Catherine

      1. Nicki this year I blogged some of it but need to do another. We were remodeling and the carpet was installed on Fri before Christmas. We spent Sat and Sun getting boxes out of the bathrooms so our kids could sleep upstairs. There was no time for a tree and very little for shopping. Few gifts this year but what they got was special along with gift cards. We started Christmas morning with a non-traditional breakfast. We then proceeded to our back den and I talked about the real meaning and showed them what our tree was this year – a kneeling Santa I purchased and placed on the fire place. I then tried to read the nail poem and started crying so my husband read it. Then I pointed to the single stocking hanging this year (because I could not get to theirs) and I laid a tabled and pen on the table and asked them to give a gift to Jesus this year (something they would do, improve etc) and place it in the stocking for their eyes only. The focus this year was totally on Him and I blogged about it twice but need to finish up if I can get time between unpacking boxes. Debbie Williams (OBS)

  2. Thank you for your gut-wrenching honesty, Nicki. I believe you’ve expressed what I’ve felt; that we truly need to feel the depth of absence to experience the treasure of Christ’s arrival, and the promise He delivers. Please share your new approach, I know I will be blessed with a new attitude, too!

  3. Thanks for your transparency. I have struggled with the guilt and dissatisfaction of the material side of the holiday as well. This year, although we still lavished on our grandkids, my husband and I bought each other nothing. We don’t need anything. Instead, we chose to sponsor a child through Compassion who has little. My Christmas present now hangs on my refrigerator door in the form of a picture of a four year old little girl from Ghana. It blesses my heart every time I look at her.
    May God bless you in this New Year! Judie

  4. Nicki,
    What an amazing example of trusting God. Your story touched my heart and I look forward to your plan for 2013. Your story is a perfect example of Romans 8. 28.
    Blessings,
    Debbie

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