Being gracious and thankful at Christmas

If I’m being honest, I love and dread Christmas time. It’s such a beautiful time of year but there are a million and one things to do. There’s all the cooking that needs to get done, as well as getting all the perfect gifts to purchase. And, oh yeah! All of those activities to attend. It can all feel so overwhelming!

Christmas several years ago

I was thinking about all of this the other day, and the LORD brought back a few memories for me. Several years ago, we had decided to leave Korea (we had lived there for several years and worked at an International Christian School) and were wanting to relocate our family. Initially we were hoping to stay overseas but after not really finding anything (which school in their right mind would want to hire a family with almost 7 kids at the time?), we figured the good ole’ USA would work too.

But low and behold, an overseas opportunity presented itself! We were so excited. It seemed perfect. We would be helping to start up a school in England, close to Cambridge. We had almost all of our possessions shipped from America over to England. As I intimated above, I was pregnant but I was fine with the move. We were thrilled about having a little English baby in just a few months!

Something’s up

From the start, we knew something was off, but hoped it was just because this was a start-up. But no, unfortunately, it was not just that. Long story short, we were there for barely 3 months and had to leave because we initially had come with only a holiday visa rather than a working visa that was more appropriate (among many other things). When we first got there we thought we’d make it work and just cross over to France or something because of the holiday visa. But we ended up flying back to the United States and shipping all of our things back across the Atlantic home again. All our plans fell apart. And where “home” was, we weren’t sure. But thankfully we didn’t have to give more specific addresses immediately.

So we landed back in the States, in guess what time of year? That would be Thanksgiving. Just, OUCH. And shortly after, Christmas. Clearly, we had very little money since everything we had saved in our 9 years in Korea had gone into shipping all of our things back and forth to Europe. But we scraped together a few gifts, got through the holidays, and started a new job in the NorthEast. By the grace of God, my husband was able to find a job which he started in January. Our baby came in February.

A difficult holiday

As you can imagine, that time was rough. Beyond rough. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. But one memory stood out to me during that crazy time. I remember talking to someone a couple weeks before Christmas, who proceeded to complain about how much shopping she still had to do. The holidays were just such a strain since, you know, all that shopping that needed to get done.

At that moment, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s amazing how short sided we can be. There I was, not sure how in the world our family was going to make ends meet. And there she was, stressed because of all the time it was going to take her to buy a few gifts.

I walked away from that conversation convicted of a few things. First, I would never complain about shopping for gifts to anyone (especially if we had the money to do it). And second, I would try my best not to be blind about what may be going on in someone else’s life.

Christmas in America

As Believers, we know this time is a sacred holiday where we celebrate the birth of our Savior. But as Americans, we also know this is a special time of gift-giving and time with family. This can be wonderful or it can be a nightmare, depending on the situation.

We may never know what is going on in someone else’s life, especially during the holidays. More often than not, that other person you’re talking to is struggling in one way or another. Whether it’s financially, or emotionally, or spiritually, we need remember to extend a gracious and thankful heart towards those around us.

We can actually be the hands and feet of Jesus or the first bible that someone reads by how we treat others and how we manage ourselves during this season. Just like in “A Christmas Carol,” we rarely, if ever, know what is going on in someone else’s life. But unlike the book, we don’t have the advantage of having various spirits of Christmas to allows us to be a fly on the wall to show us.

Grace upon grace

Life happens, and sometimes we can end up in incredibly difficult situations through no fault of our own. For some reason, the holidays seem to accentuate all of this. But in short, my point in sharing my crazy story is that there may be more to that quick temper or grumpy attitude than we think. We may perceive things one way or the other, but I would argue it’s much better to be charitable in our assessments than not (and FYI, I’m talking to myself here too).

Ultimately, I pray we can extend His love to those around us this Christmas, regardless of what stress we may be going through ourselves. And I also pray we continue to have a spirit of thankfulness. Even in all the activities and gift buying and endless cooking/baking. Praise the LORD, we don’t HAVE to do these things; we GET to.

Amen? God is good!

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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