Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: When love is the only thing under the tree

Thursday, December 17, 2015

When love is the only thing under the tree

Today I read a post from a mom who just wanted to turn off her computer and stay offline until the new year. The joy and expectation of Christmas had simply become too much for her to handle when her own family was broke and there was no money to spend on gifts for the kids.

Her post was only one of dozens of similar threads I saw on Facebook this week, and they broke my heart because this time last year, I could have written the same thing myself.

At the beginning of last December, my husband lost his job. He is an engineer, and had been working in the hard hit oil and gas industry. It was the beginning of a long, hard time for us, as it was for many in the same industry. Christmas came just weeks after he cleared out his desk. With uncertainty looming, we had no money to spend on gifts whatsoever.

Like so many families, at one time or another in their lives, we had to face a not-so-merry Christmas, where the only thing under our tree and in our stockings was the love we had for one another. But we were fortunate, because we still had our home, the power was still on, and our kids had coats that fit and food to eat. We knew some families had things much worse than ours.

At the time, though, I was terribly depressed, and I will admit I had a hard time getting over the feeling that we were unable to give our kids a "good Christmas" because we couldn't afford to give them gifts. But looking back, I realize that they might have received the best gifts we could have possibly given them, even though things weren't working out at all the way any of us had wanted.

The gift of fortitude

By pulling together during our greatest financial struggle, and leaning on one another, we drew strength. We worked hard to find my husband a new job and to stay on track with the kids' schooling, all while scrimping and saving in whatever ways we could. We got through the hard time together, and if later in their lives, our kids face struggles of their own, they will know they can make it, too.

The gift of humility

Our kids saw us reach out to our bank to save our home. They saw us apply for assistance when my husband's unemployment lasted longer than a few weeks. They learned that humbly and graciously accepting help from those who love you can be hard to do, but is a blessing not only to your own need, but to the ones who give you aid.

The gift of faith

As the weeks of unemployment stretched into months - something we'd never experienced before - and it became tempting to give in to feelings of despair, our children watched as we continued to place our faith in God to see us through. We continued to be thankful that we never went hungry, we never became homeless, and although many wants were unfulfilled, our basic needs were always met.

The gift of perspective

There are much worse things than not getting the toys on your Christmas list. Our kids were never really greedy, and we'd done our best to teach them the difference between wants and needs over the years. But going through a Christmas of financial hardship taught them in a very concrete way that missing out on the things you want is not the end of the world.

This year, we're doing much better. My husband returned to work a few months ago, and this Christmas, although our belts are still tightened, there are a few packages under the Christmas tree. But the best gift this year is the renewed spirit of gratitude and helpfulness that each of my children are filled with, having spent a Christmas with nothing under the tree but love.

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