Christmas, A Soul Searching Journey
Christmas, A Soul Searching Journey
I was asked to write a letter about what we did for Christmas ‘pay it forward‘. I have postponed this task not only because I have been overwhelmed with the typical hustle and bustle of the holiday but also delayed as I worked through my own thoughts and feelings. Coming from such a strict religious background, we were taught that we should help our fellowman, be our brother’s keeper however if you brag about what you do here on earth then you have already reaped your reward/blessing for it. On the other hand I was asked to do this as a Christmas gift for a man who has instilled these values in his children over the years. So therefore this is my Christmas gift to him, his daughter and anyone that it may touch, may it inspire you somehow to continue to ‘pay it forward’ and put others before yourself throughout the year not only at Christmas.
I have been struggling with my own tribulations. The past two years have been very difficult on me emotionally and financially, this latter year being one of the toughest I’ve ever faced and very few only know most of it. I have continued to look towards the positives in life, I’ve tried to force myself to ignore anything that could become a negative influence in my life. However I have made some bad choices myself and have suffered the consequences of the sins of others as well as my own.
I began the month of November determined to list something I was thankful for everyday. I pushed myself hard to look for the good in life. I got approximately two weeks into the month when I really had trouble with this. Once I listed my girls, family, friends, home, etc everything seemed to be going wrong. On a daily basis I found myself fighting everything from flat tires and broken phones to leaking toilets and my last pair of contacts ripping in half. I felt someone must have had it out for me and I gave up on the list. I was wrong, I lost the meaning of being a Christian. I lost the feeling of how it felt to “love thy neighbor“, to put people before myself, I fell victim to self involvement. Worse yet I saw my children had forgotten also, which brought me to search for someone for my children and I to help.
One thing I have learned from my mother is it is truly better to give than receive. There is no feeling like being able to give of yourself to help someone else, to bring a smile to another soul’s heart. Over the years my mom has been a true role model, always helping others and always doing it with a pure heart of love never expecting anything in return and often times given anonymously. This isn’t something that she really taught me as much as I witnessed her living it. When she would buy a gift for a child or throw an extra twenty in the offering plate at church I saw the joy it brought her, the excitement on her face, her eyes would light up like a child’s at Christmas. I followed her example, I’ve always done the angel tree gifts, donated to worthy causes, volunteered whenever and wherever I was needed and I felt that joy. I have experienced the feeling deep in my heart of being able to lift up a fellow human being, that weightless, antigravity feeling that makes you feel like your are going to just float right on up to heaven. That’s what I was searching for this Christmas. That was the gift I held among all the material things under our tree, that feeling was what I wanted to wrap up and give to my girls.
Drudging through a separation after twenty years of marriage and the fear of finally facing filing the paperwork for divorce, I realized that I’m not the only one feeling the effects of such life changing events, my children were also. I felt like I had failed my children. I have not been successful in finding them a new church that we all feel comfortable in and I have failed to continue to teach them God’s love daily. I tell them several times a day how much they mean to me but I have forgot in all my distress to make sure they know how much they mean to God as well.
So my facebook friend, Nicki, posted that she was collecting coats and blankets for the homeless. I saw a door open and sent her a message that I wanted to help. With that simple first message my arms lined with chill bumps and my heart began to race. I explained to her that I wanted my children to have the opportunity to help someone. I wanted them to be hands on with it, I didn’t want them to just collect items to send off I wanted to them to see and feel what we were doing. So Nicki made some calls and discovered a local shelter very close to our own home that had several children and had been offered no help from anyone yet. Butterflies filled my stomach as I learned the task at hand was maybe a wee bit larger that I had expected to bite off and chew. However I felt that God would not have led me to this open door if He wouldn’t pull me through it.
I am grateful once again to my mom and step-dad as they really stood up and answered the call. I am so thankful to have someone with such a tender heart to call, mom. She told me she didn’t want me to let my bills go to do this project, ooops, sorry mom, too late but again I have faith that God will provide! A few good friends also pitched in and did what they could and I believe with all the fibers of my being that God will bless them, if with nothing else may He bless them with His sweet spirit of comfort, peace and joy.
So here I am, in spite of the charitable work we were now involved in I was still wrestling with my own emotions and my daily trials didn‘t seem to be easing up. I was still feeling like I had not met my children’s needs of teaching them the meaning of Christmas. I looked at the piles of gifts in my living room and thinking it’s not enough. I want to be able to give them more. Then the tragedy in Connecticut occurred. I tried to avoid the news coverage, I tried to scroll quickly by all the posts on facebook, I just didn’t think my heart could handle anymore grief. Then I saw a picture of Santa crying in his sleigh full of gifts in front of the school that could not protect those little bodies. Images rushed my mind, little fingers that will never hold their mother‘s hand again, soft round cheeks that will no longer know their mother’s kiss.
Tears rush down my cheeks as I read about the teacher that hid her students in cabinets and closets around the room while she stood her ground to face the monster that ultimately took her life. As my eyes saw the words and photo of this beautiful young woman my mind played back images of my own children. My beautiful 12 yr old flipping her brown shoulder length hair with highlights in the air and my baby face beauty framed with curls of gold. That could have been my girls. I saw my 7 year old's teacher, her face in such detail and I think to myself; what would she have done? Would she have gone to such extreme to squeeze her entire class in a bathroom or hide them away in cabinets leaving herself exposed to the danger? I honestly believe she would have but then the fear struck they don't have that kind of space in their class, so... well I won't give the devil the satisfaction of me even entertaining that thought. Then I pictured the parents falling to their knees in front of their Christmas trees as they cry over the gifts their child will never open. I feel guilty. I feel blessed. I thank God my girls are safe but cry for those sweet little hands that will never play with those toys.
I take another look over the gifts we have gathered for those who are spending the holidays in a local shelter. I became so very grateful and the gifts that lay there magically become enough. It’s enough that they know someone loves them, it’s enough that they have some gift to open, it’s enough that their precious souls are members of our community. My heart is thankful for those children in our local shelter as it could have just as easily been them as it could have been mine. I weep greatly for the unspeakable, unjustly loss of those innocent children, but makes me recognize how blessed we are that these children we are helping are still apart of our town.
Unlike any other charitable work I have done before, although I always feel blessed and happy when I have helped in the past, this time has been an emotional, spiritual and soul searching journey for me. I believe my oldest daughter also felt the touch of God’s gratitude for what we have done. However what I set out on as a path to teach my children a lesson in life I have become more enlightened and reminded of who I am and who I want to be. I’m sure I will continue to make mistakes and bad choices but I will try to remember to strive everyday to be more “Christ-like” and carry the true meaning of Christmas in my heart year long.
Thank you Nicki for opening that door.