Each year around this time, Christmas, I try to think of something special to create a memory for my family. When the kids were younger I didn’t think about making memories but as they grew they would often say “remember when”. So I started to think of ways to make those memories special.
Yes we made the Christmas cookies, my kitchen was a massive mess; we would have to make a ton of cookie dough so they each would have “lots” to cut out and decorate. Kory would always end up feeling sick with his lips and tongue green from eating too much frosting. As I look back at time in my life, I realize I thought of it as more of a chore to make such a mess, but now, I would love to have my kitchen filled with voices of my family making Christmas cookies.
As they grew older I tried to instill the true meaning of Christmas, which it wasn’t about presents or Florida trips (like their friends got to do) but the birth of our savior. We would go to Christmas Eve service, and then home to watch a Christmas movie. One of my favorite Christmas movies to watch was; “It Is A Wonderful Life,” and the kids always enjoyed “Home Alone I & II,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Frosty The Snowman.”
One year I read a Christmas story to them over the weeks leading up to December 25; each night we would they would sit in the living room with the lights of the Christmas tree glowing and I would read.
Another year I decided to make Christmas cookie packages for our neighbors with a card attached and sent them out to deliver them. Hoping that they would see how much joy a simple package out of the ordinary would bring, especially to the older neighbors. Of course the only thing that they remember about that year was the fact mom sent out in the sub zero conditions to deliver the cookies in the middle of the night.
To my defense, it wasn’t really “that cold” and I didn’t think it would take them that long.
As they grew older they would make plans of their own, Christmas parties with friends is a lot more entertaining than going to Christmas Eve service and then staying at home with dad and mom, decorating cookies, reading a Christmas story, or watching; It’s A Wonderful Life. I just wasn’t as important to them anymore.
One year my husband Bob and I went to Christmas Eve service alone, in fact I was pretty much alone because he had to play the bongo drums with the worship team and he had to stay on stage the entire service. I just cried, I wanted my children to know how special this time really is, to take a moment in their business to acknowledge that Christ is the reason for the season. Yeah, I felt lonely too.
During the service I tried to keep my thoughts on the “true” meaning of Christmas and not on the fact that I was by myself.
Once the congregation took communion the pastor asked us all to hold hands, even with the stranger next to us, once the whole church was holding hands, Pastor asked us to bow our heads and pray for the person we were holding hands with. I followed his instructions and prayed for my friend on the left and then prayed for the young man on my right. I just prayed that this young man would enjoy his family over the holidays.
When Pastor closed with a final prayer I looked up at the young man (Eric) and wished him a Merry Christmas and asked if he was going to be with family that evening. He told me that he was not able to, that his family was 5 hours away and that he was a private pilot for a company here in Elkhart and he was on call and couldn’t leave to be with his family.
Of course I’m thinking to myself; “now what do I do?”
I felt a nudge to ask him to come to our house, so I did. I told him he was more than welcome to spend the evening with us, and that we didn’t do much now that the kids have their own agenda; but he could join us for a bowl chili that has been cooking all day in the slow cooker and watch movies. To my surprise he took me up on my offer. I introduced him to Bob and gave him our phone number so that I could give him driving directions to our house. Again I didn’t really think that he would come over, I figured he would just called me to cancel and say; “thanks but no thanks”.
Once I got home from church I found that Ashley was home and I told her what I did, she agreed to stay for “a little while”. I then called Kory and told him that I had company and would like it if he was home; he too said he would be home for a little bit to meet this stranger that I had invited.
I was relieved, I didn’t want to have to carry the evening conversations by myself, Bob was somewhat tired and I think at first he was aggravated with me for inviting a stranger, especially a “young” stranger to our house.
Needless to say it was a fun evening; Eric shared funny stories with us about his mom, dad, brothers, and sisters and the kids shared funny stories of ours. At some points of the evening we were laughing hysterically. We didn’t even turn on a movie; we just laughed and shared our memories with each other. The night flew by and he didn’t leave until 11:30!
But before he left he told us that it was really neat how things worked out for him this Holiday, he was really missing his brothers in sisters and really wanted to be at home. He went on to say that God had filled a void for him, and that it was purely a last minute decision to go to the church for Christmas Eve service, so that it would fill part of his lonely evening but ended up with a night of laughter with us.
He was truly touched by our hospitality and was blessed by our family. But really, Eric was a blessing to me, because with him being at the house the kids decided to stay home that year and hang out with Dad and Mom. God not only filled an emptiness in Eric’s evening, HE filled an emptiness in mine.
I sometimes tease the kids and say; “I wonder who I will invite this year on Christmas Eve to get you to hang out with mom and dad.”
But with all kidding aside, don’t get caught up with all the chores of making cookies, buying and wrapping presents, the cold snow, and the many parties to attend. Slow down and take time to remember that it is about the birth of our Savior. Also remember you are making memories!! Make them special ones.