I sit here this morning and I think about Christmas. I think about the real meaning of Christmas. The celebration of the birth of our Jesus ... Saviour ... Lord ... Prince of Peace ... Emmanuel ... Jesus ...
And I think about what Christmas seems to be - more than the celebration of Jesus' birth and life ... a rushing about and worrying so - schedules full, check books empty, and credit cards maxed out. Now, don't get me wrong - we have had our share of those times ... and on some level what I would give to have that kind of Christmas this year.
But then again ... I think it is good to just slow down, do without, and find that REAL Christmas once again. It's not easy. Probably one of the hardest things EVER to do. It hurts. It is a struggle. And it is not fun. Sigh. But necessary at times I suppose. God has brought us to this place ... and surely, He will see us thru it!
To share a little of our Christmas with you ... Christmas past ... --WAY past ...
I grew up in a home where Daddy worked and Momma stayed at home. Daddy never made over $2.00 an hour, so we never had that much. Christmas time then began in January. Momma would buy one grandkid a present each month. Wrap it and put their name on it, put it in the quilt box under all the quilts. And many times she would quilt a quilt for the kids thru the year. Then, in October, we would clean out the deep-freeze. She would see how many fruitcakes she had left, and how many pecans we had put away that season. October began the time of baking ... fruitcakes and plum cakes. November was finishing up the cakes and beginning the pies. December was pies, pies, and more pies. People from near and far came to Momma to buy their Christmas cakes and pies.
Momma's Christmas dinner was ALWAYS the Saturday night before Christmas. We would put a tree up a day or so before that Saturday night. Decorate it as we could. Presents were taken out of the quilt box, bows were added, name tags were filled out, and they were stacked under the tree. Cakes and pies were taken out of the freezer and frig - set about to thaw. The ham was put in the oven the Friday before Christmas, and cooked all night long, and well into the day on Saturday. The family would begin to gather in early after lunch. We laughed, we played. And Momma would holler at anyone who got near the cakes and pies! LOL
After every one had eaten their fill of supper, the grandkids would all gather around the tree, sitting as close as they could. Someone - usually Gilbert or Bettie - would be Santa, and hand out the presents. When the grandkids had opened all their gifts, then Daddy and Momma got theirs. My presents were left under the tree so that I could have something to open on Christmas morning.
Daddy and Momma were never able to get me much ... and usually it was more along the lines of what I needed - shoes, socks, underwear. Perhaps a toy or two. Oranges and nuts.
As soon as the last present was opened on Christmas morning, Momma was ready for the tree to come down. She always said that the saddest sight to her was a Christmas tree with no presents under it.
--one year, there was no money. No money at all for presents. I was 12 years old. Daddy and Momma said that since there was no money, there was no need to put up a tree. We had always had a real tree, and daddy had been sick that fall so he didn't feel like going and cutting one anyway. Momma told the boys that we weren't going to have a tree - so they didn't go get one. I cried. That is a lonely, lonely, lonely feeling - to be 12 years old, and not to even have a Christmas tree. But ... there was an angel. Bill Cline, a family friend, a brother to me. He came by one afternoon and found me in tears. He asked, "Baby sister - what are all the tears for?" I told him that we weren't going to have a Christmas tree, because there were no presents to go under it. He said - oh I forgot to do something! Tell Momma I will be back in a little bit. OK ...
About an hour or so later, Bill came back. He got out of the car - called to me, and handed me a couple of sacks to take to the house. Then, he got this box out of the back of his car and brought it into the house. Opened it up, and put together the most beautiful artificial Christmas tree in the world! It was 5 ft. tall and had 150 tips! I loved that tree! We used that tree until I got married and left home at 19 ... and when I left home, that tree went with me. Rick and I used that same tree for years afterwards.
Christmas morning, there were presents under the tree. With me not knowing, he had given Momma $100 to buy Christmas. I still love Bill Cline for what he did for me that year - a sad and lonely 12 year old girl.
Christmas past ... with Rick ... We got married in September of 1980 ... I was excited to have my own home. I thought and planned on how to "do" Christmas, yes, even in September. Like I said - Christmas with Momma was a little all year long. So ... I baked ... I cooked ... I decorated ... the tree went up 2 weeks before Christmas. And on Christmas Day, I sat in front of the tree - ALL day, alone. Because Rick had to work. Oh he got holiday pay - 2 1/2 times. But ... it was the loneliest Christmas!
By the next Christmas, we had a little one. Mandy was born November 28. So that first Christmas with her was precious to this momma. Mostly spent rocking her and looking at the tree - thinking about all the Christmases to come as a family. Then, 16 months later, Joshua was born April 14. That Christmas was interesting! LOL Joshua saw the bright lights in the window - those big and old-fashioned Christmas lights ... and he decided to just take a bite of one! Oh my! A fast trip in cold weather to momma's so that I could call the hospital ... and then watch him closely for the next 48 hours. No blood showing ... no broken glass found in his mouth. But the grey hairs started!!! LOL
The Christmases of all those years are a flood of memories --The baking - cookies, cakes, pies, breads ... the cooking - hams and turkeys, veggies, casseroles ... the decorating - trees up, ornaments made and bought, tinsel thrown to the disapproving looks of daddy, garlands stretched, lights untangled and strung only to find that they don't work anymore ... presents bought and wrapped, and torn into ...
Some of those trees had lots and lots of presents under them ... for lots and lots of money. And some of those trees just didn't have so much ... But every year there was the anticipation of the kids ... and the waking daddy and momma up just moments after midnight because Santa had come!
When the kids grew up and moved away -- Rick and I had moved to Idaho for his work. Those were long and lonely Christmas seasons. To be so far from my kids ... and then when the grandkids came. It was hard then, and hard now, not to feel like life had cheated me out of the holidays. Oh I tried to make the best of the holidays. Still decorating the house (rv). Still baking a few things ... still cooking Christmas dinner. But oh so different.
Rick has never been a big Christmas fan. He respects the holiday - for what it is, a celebration of Jesus' birth. But for all the commercialization? No. And the older he has gotten, the more irritated he has become at it all. For all those years of the kids growing up at home - he didn't say much. He allowed me to "do" Christmas however I wanted to, as much as what we could afford each year. But now that the kids weren't at home, and we were far from the grandkids ... well, Christmas just kinda fizzled for us. We still watch some of the Christmas movies - Scrooge with Alistair Sims, It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. We still listen to some of the Christmas songs - but Rick still likes to wait until Christmas week for that. We will hang a few lights. Put up a small tree. Decorate a little.
Christmas present ... This year is one of the most difficult Christmases yet. This is a culmination of the last 2 years.
--2 years ago I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Had 2 surgeries. Was left with a good prognosis. But due to Obamacare, I have no health coverage at all. No way to go in for my check ups to make sure that I am still good.
--2 years ago Rick was hurt at work, had to have shoulder surgery ... and his kidney's failed sending him onto dialysis.
--Now, the accidental occupational insurance has stopped ... disability has started ... the realization that he will not work again has hit him hard these last few weeks.
And the learning to live on a disability check - with no other help or means of income ... difficult to say the least. Especially considering that our bills per month are greater than the disability check. And that isn't counting the cost of medications, nor the fuel in the car, nor the groceries for the table.
--Rick is really struggling with the feelings of failure. That he has somehow let me down. That he has somehow failed to provide for us. And no amount of my words or tears can convince him that I am still proud of him, that he is still a good man, a good husband. No amount of encouraging that God is our Provider.
--the pains of the injury, as well as of the disability, are ... what's the right word? Frustrating. Discouraging. Depressing.
--it's hard to see my husband going thru this valley. Hard to know that no matter what I say or do - he still struggles.
I listen to others talk about their worries in Christmas this year - finding that just right present for someone they love, having the money to pay all the Christmas bills after the holidays, making it to all the different functions and services ... And I sit here. Thinking. Remembering. Sad.
My worries this Christmas?
--Getting Rick's insulin.
--Getting the rest of his medications.
--Getting my medications - I have one more refill, and then I have to see a doctor to get them again.
--A toothache that has lasted for over 3 weeks now, and no money to go to the dentist - even for a round of antibiotics.
--An earache that I just cannot get rid of. 3 weeks and still going. Some days a little better - and then BAM! Back all over again.
--Wondering how I am going to pay all the bills next week, when I know that the bills are more than the check.
--do I have enough groceries to last from now until ??? Cause the bills are more than the disability check - which means no grocery money.
--will we have fuel to take us where we have to go? And the thought of staying home more and more because of no money for the fuel.
--we are out of propane. Need propane so that we can hot water to wash dishes and take showers.
--there will be no presents bought for the grandkids - and I know that is hard for them to understand. I wish I had the words to help make it easier for them. Hopefully one day they will understand - but I just pray not from experience! For I pray God's richest and best blessings on our kids and grandkids - that although they may never be rich, they will never again be "in need".
And then I think of those less-fortunate than we are.
--dads and moms with little ones at home, but with no money for presents or food. --dads and moms who have the money to give a good Christmas to their children, but with drinking and smoking and drugging - well, the children must do without.
--dads without the moms now.
--moms without the dads.
--dads and moms without the kids.
--kids without dad and mom.
--parents with children in the cancer hospitals.
--parents with children in the morgues, the funeral homes, the graves.
--families torn apart by violence, or tragedy.
Yes, I am thankful that as much as we are struggling, we are blessed.
--my husband, tho struggling, is still alive, and he is well enough to feel the pain. And he is by my side thru all this.
--our kids are healthy. For the most part they are happy. They are good kids. An honorable woman and man - yes, I am very proud of both of them!
--our grandkids are healthy. They may not think so at times, but they are so blessed, and they are such a blessing to this Grannee!
--we have much family ... and many friends.
--we are living at Coffee Creek RV park - surrounded by a lot of good and faithful friends, who do all that they can to not only help us, but to encourage and support us.
And when I think of these others ... when I hear a story on the news, or I read an article - I pray. I pray that the God of all comfort will wrap His strong arms around each person and love them to the Cross, love them to a better time.
And Christmas future ... I sit here this morning and I wonder what our Christmas to come will be ...Will Rick be here another year? Will the dialysis continue to work? Will he give up? Or will he go on? Will the cancer come back this year? Without being able to go to the doctor for check ups, will I even know? Will I have time to fight it if it does come back? Will there be a time that we will have a tree, with all the decorations, with food cooking in the oven, and the sound of laughter from our kids and grandkids ... again???
Only God knows what the Christmas to come will be ... God has promised that He has plans for us - Jeremiah 29:11 ... so for today, if only for today - I will trust Him. I will praise Him.
One day at a time Sweet Jesus ... just one day at a time!
So for this Christmas - Merry Christmas to us all ... and God bless us everyone!