So segue from magical Christmases in the 1960s to 1970s to now the time spans from about 2000 – 2010. Life wasn’t very much fun for quite a while – about 10ish years. I was a single mother of 7 (#awesome) children. From about 2003 – 2007ish?? on any given month I worried about paying the mortgage. My home had been in and out of foreclosure. My ex-husband was not able to pay child support due to some medical issues he was dealing with. I was initially working at a county government job that morphed into another job that paid more, but not much. It was a door, though, for improvement to my then salary, and I prayed that the day would come that I could earn enough every month to pay the bills without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
My Mom and Dad tried to help. About once a year, sometimes twice, a check would come in the mail that would seem like the biggest blessing of that year. It would help with critical living expenses and extend the budget by a hundred or so dollars. Thanks, Dad!
Christmases were a nightmare. Seven children – all pretty much deprived of everything during the year except the necessities, and me, wanting, wishing, hoping that I can pull off that “Santa” gift that would make Christmas worth something for them.
During the year they heard: no vacations, no movies at the theater, no cell phone, no music lessons (unless you take band in school and grab the free instrument), no sports (fees cost too much), no name brand clothes or toys and be grateful for “pretty intact” hand-me-downs from other siblings, no TV (couldn’t afford cable and no “air” TV where we lived), and no name brand food (thank you church welfare and Food Stamps for feeding my children). I didn’t even have money to buy my medication and remember getting yelled at by my primary care doctor because I couldn’t afford to purchase it (see below) and the list of what we went without goes on. The dread of wondering if there would be any extra money or any extra leeway on the credit card (how much can I buy before I max it out….again).
I always thanked the Lord daily for the blessings we received, because I KNEW it could be worse and it wasn’t. I had a monthly paycheck (although insufficient) that we could survive off of it, we weren’t homeless…yet, opportunities for growth at work (tick, tock, tick, tock – when will someone leave so I can apply for their job???), health and dental insurance (I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during this time), a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes for the kids, a car (sort of – #clowncar #howmanydidwegothroughkids????), and our health (except of course dealing with diabetes).
And yet, when I think back to all of the Christmases the kids and I spent together, I believe the kids had great Christmases. Someone or some organization would get a hold of our names (again – thank you Food Stamps for the Free and Reduced Lunch program which put our names out there at Christmas time) and a few of the wish list items would get ticked off the list. An unbelievable sale would happen on a Santa gift so I could afford it and more items ticked off the list. A family member would give a generous, unexpected gift of cash and more items ticked off the list. A friend would hear of our need and their family would sponsor us for Christmas and more items ticked off the list.
Every Christmas these were the experiences that I went through. Every Thanksgiving looking at the budget and realizing there was NO way the kids were getting what they wanted or needed and every Christmas Eve thanking the Lord that once again, His tender mercies pulled us through to have a great holiday.
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m not giving credit where credit is due. There are so many people, named and unnamed, who will never know how in need I was and will never know how they made Christmas special due to their sacrifices.
But – I don’t believe it was by coincidence that year after year when things looked the bleakest, everything would always turn out alright. I truly believe it was Heavenly Father looking out for us. I considered all the help we got as help HE sent our way.
Those feelings of being forgotten, or passed over, or not good enough, or to poor to mingle with others in their realms was forgotten. In its place was an overwhelming sense of gratitude to know that I MATTERED to my Heavenly Father. ME. MY CHILDREN. Out of all of mankind on the face of the earth….I mattered too! I mattered enough to Him that He made sure we were always taken care of.
I knew He loved me. I knew He was aware of me and our situation. I knew that one day it’d all work out and we’d get through the rough years because I knew I mattered to God. I knew that if I had nothing else, I had my children and my relationship with a loving Heavenly Father and That. Was. Enough.