My memories of Christmases growing up are of Spam sandwiches at Grandpa's house, Charlie Brown Christmas trees, oranges in the toe of my stocking, Mom's homemade fudge and divinity, Christmas Eve parties with my extended family, and lots of love and laughter.
My memories also consist of doing Sub For Santa projects, and leaving anonymous gifts at the doors of those in need; of caroling at the convalescent center, and of witnessing the goodness of my parents as they reached out to others.
If there is one good thing I learned from my parents, it's the need to love and give to those around me. I have spent my life trying to follow their examples.
Not too long ago when I posted about my lack of Christmas spirit, someone kindly suggested that if I wanted to feel the spirit of Christmas I needed to serve those around me. I believe in those words, and not just at Christmas time. I have learned over and over again that reaching out to others makes everything in my world a little bit better and brighter.
I talked with my mom about the comment left on my blog, and this principle of reaching out to others, and I cried just a little bit. I have spent the last 4 months giving everything I have, and then some, to my little Emily, and there have been times where I have felt that I simply had nothing left to give. I have a page full of names of people I need to write thank you notes to, others I need to call; birthdays have come and gone; I have notes of promises I've made, even just little ones, and during the day when I find two spare minutes, I do everything I can to cross something off of my list.
My grandma told my mom once, when my mom was deep in the trenches of taking care of newborn triplets, "There is a time and a place. Your time and place right now is to let others serve you. Someday you will be able to return the favor."
I have never before been on the receiving end of service...of secret acts of kindness...until now.
All of it leaves me feeling very humbled and overwhelmed.
One night last week I came home later than usual from the hospital and found a note on the door saying a package had been left for us at our neighbor's house.
The package was a flower arrangement made out of fruit, and attached to it was a balloon and stuffed animal for Emily.
In the mail box the same day I found a gift card to Target with a note that said "Emily is going to need a lot more diapers."
Another package revealed a hand made doll for Emily from a friend we've never met who lives in Canada, and yet another package delivered Emily's first Christmas ornament.
The next day a neighbor brought us dinner, and a best friend spent hours with me at the hospital.
This same best friend left a stocking for Emily, and in that stocking was a gift more generous than anything we have ever seen.
I have felt the true meaning of Christmas more this year than any other year.
And I am often reduced to tears as I send my quiet thank you heavenward.
This experience with Emily has exposed all of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
It has shown me the areas in which I am lacking...it has tested my grit and determination.
My faith has been tested, my heart has been broken, and my prayers have become more sincere.
And yet, through it all, I have learned that God's love is real.
I have learned that from so many of you.
You have been instruments in God's hands.
If there was one thing I could wish for this Christmas, it would be that everyone, everywhere, could also feel of that love.
My favorite Christmas song talks about that love, and it's message touches my heart every time I listen to it. My hope and prayer is that it will touch your heart as well.
As my grandma taught my mom, there will be a time and a place and I will return the favor.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless your way.