I asked the kids, about a month ago what they wanted to make sure we did for the holidays. I have been pretty sick since October, and since that doesn't look like it is going to change very quickly, I needed to find out what was most important to them, so that I didn't waste energy on things they don't really care about. So, it turns out that these are the things the kids definitely wanted to have/do this year:
1) Have a Christmas Tree
2) Adopt a family for Christmas
3) Make Cookies with friends
4) Make home-made hot chocolate on Christmas Eve, and have Baby Jesus Birthday cake (Baby Jesus Birthday cake is angel food cake with frozen strawberries and home-made whipped cream)
5) Go shopping with Michael for a present for me (this has become a tradition that the kids love, and Michael is learning to love)
Those requests seemed reasonable. The cookie making is set up for the 23rd. The Hot Chocolate and Baby Jesus Birthday Cake can be done Christmas Eve, and we are shopping for the tree this weekend. I am not sure when Michael is going to take the kids shopping, but I put aside the money for them to do it in our budget. Until about a week ago, I was really waffling about whether to adopt a family this year.
Things have been so tight for us, and then we found out that Michael's new employer pays differently than his old one, and so for the first 6 weeks, we will only get paid for 2 weeks worth of work. After that, we will be okay, but it means we are having to be even more creative. Since I do most of our holiday shopping throughout the year, and I got the rest of the stuff on Black Friday by ordering stuff online, there will be some presents under the tree, and we already sent the presents to my sister's family (who we have in the family gift rotation this year). I have gifts that still need to be mailed to a few family members on Michael's side, but no one will be forgotten this year, even if the gifts are fairly inexpensive.
Which brings me back to my dilemma about what to do this year. I always wanted to have adopting another family as part of our family's holiday tradition, and I am thrilled that the kids consider it an important part of our holiday. Even last year, when we were so broke we weren't sure how we were going to pay for my medication, we were still able to help another family. The help came from our food storage, for the most part, and by passing on a Christmas tree that we had gotten for free. I remember praying that the Lord would help us find a family that we could help, so that we wouldn't have to break the tradition of adopting another family. The Lord provided a family we could help, and I am grateful that we were listening to the whisperings of the Spirit, so that we would know who to help.
Which brings me to several nights ago, when I prayed that Heavenly Father would help me to know what His will was for our family this year. I asked Him to help me know if we should focus on our family, or try to find another family to help. I told Him that I would need His help, since I didn't have as much energy as usual, and I have been trapped in the house and didn't really know of any families that we could help. I fell asleep after that prayer, only to be awakened two hours later, with the distinct impression that if I wanted to be worthy of the blessings that the Lord wanted to bless my family with, that I needed to be ready to adopt a family.
I got on Craigslist, typed in "Christmas" in the wanted section, and there was an ad that had been posted half an hour before asking for help for a woman, her daughter, and two of her granddaughters for Christmas. The girls were the right ages that we could give them some of our hand-me-down toys and clothes. I emailed the woman, and asked if she would be okay with used things, and if so, could we bring her some Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. I left it up to her whether she was willing to have the kids bring the gifts wrapped, or if she would prefer to wrap them herself to give to the kids. She emailed me right back and told me she would love to have the kids come and deliver the gifts, and that they would be very happy to have used things, as most of their clothes and toys come from Goodwill. She also told me that she had received four emails before me, and all of them had been very negative, telling her she shouldn't have even asked for help. She was about to take the posting off, in despair, when she got my email. She said it made her cry. Which, of course, made me cry when I read it.
We have emailed back and forth several times to make sure we are providing them with things that will be meaningful for their kids. My kids are sorting through the toys and clothes in their room, finding toys that are still in good shape and have all of the pieces. They are talking about how they are looking forward to wrapping all the presents on the Monday before Christmas for our Family Home Evening activity. It has been wonderful to see my children focus on how they are going to help someone else this holiday season. I am so glad I woke up, and followed the prompting to look for a family NOW to adopt.
The Lord reminded me that there is nothing good that we do that He won't turn around and bless us for. The evening after we had "adopted" our family for the holidays, I got a call from a woman I have never met. She is in charge of a bible study group at another church. She called because one of my children's teachers had nominated our family to be "adopted" for Christmas. She was calling to get sizes for the kids and to find out what they were interested in. She had lots of questions, and to be honest, I was so stunned that she had called that I answered her questions, but it didn't really sink in until a few hours after she called. I considered calling her and telling her that she should find another family, that we were okay, and that we didn't "need" any help. As I knelt to pray that night, I asked Heavenly Father what I should do. I felt this sweet peace that this was what Heavenly Father wanted for our family, that by accepting this help, we would not be depriving anyone else, and that if our family felt good in helping another family, that those who were serving us would be equally blesses in their lives.
So, I did call back, but to invite the group to come and share some holiday cookies and carols with all of our family when they drop the gifts off. They are coming the same day that we are baking our Christmas goodies, so we will be able to send each family home with a plate of goodies. My children will learn about giving generously and receiving graciously. And my heart will be stronger as I face the medical challenges, because I will have given and received love this holiday season. Isn't that the true Spirit of Christmas?