Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Memories—The Best Gift of All

Amusing ourselves with
what little we had
Growing up in a family of nine gives me a different perspective than many folks. Large families were the norm in my parents’ generation but not in mine and not so much since. Unless you count the Duggars. Although I wouldn’t really consider them the norm.

My mother made our clothes. We got store-bought clothes on special occasions—like Christmas. I looked forward to new clothes, especially since being the fifth child I wore hand-me-downs most of the time. My dad owned a cleaning and landscape company, and I worked some from the time I was about eight years old.
Matching coats Mom made
As a teen, I earned enough to buy clothes at the end of the summer for school. Now I appreciate my mom's hard work sewing our clothes, but at the time, I was happy not to wear any more polyester and cotton pantsuits.

Among our Christmas traditions were dining at Pizza Hut and then attending a Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. Given the nature of our fast-food society, this might not seem like a big deal.  But we didn’t eat out the rest of the year unless you count an occasional stop at the Krystal where burgers cost a quarter as did the fries. We usually got either or, not both. Occasionally we got a milkshake instead. There were no debit or credit cards to make purchases, so we had what we had and nothing more. Funny thing is we never considered ourselves poor. So many people were worse off than we were. 

Another tradition was the church Christmas party after the children’s Christmas program. Santa waited in the fellowship hall to hand out red mesh stockings filled with assorted candy. Just holding that stocking, rich with its sugary contents, thrilled us. Again, treats weren’t readily available as they are today, so we anticipated this event and made the candy stretch through the following week.

I look at kids now with their smartphones and designer clothes, many with debit cards given to them by their parents, and I pity them. I wouldn’t trade my humble upbringing for theirs—not in a million years. The more you have, the more you want, and the more you cling to what you have.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

I have no idea what my parents put in the offering plate each Sunday because it was enclosed in an envelope, but I know they were faithful in giving. No matter what, that offering envelope went in the plate. I’m sure at times this was very sacrificial for them regardless of the amount it contained. My parents’ generosity extended outside our family to friends that we considered family. And my dad often gave his loose change or a dollar bill, if he had one in his pocket, to homeless people who approached him.

My parents instilled many solid, traditional values in my siblings and me, and I look back on the good memories and treasure the simple traditions like Christmas Eve. I wonder if, in the hurried commercialism of our society, the most important values have been lost amongst the department store sales, credit cards, unlimited electronic gadgets, piles of gifts under the tree, and mountains of food that Americans feel they need to celebrate Christmas. Maybe we’d all be better off taking the widow’s perspective and, instead of participating in the mad rush to the 25th, we concentrated on giving our all to Christ and those around us instead. This has to do more with our hearts than our checking accounts.

As I count down to Christmas this year and celebrate traditions with my children, I hope my actions honor the Jesus that my parents took the time to teach me about—the One who loves me, no matter what. He gave his all so one day, I could enter into the gates of heaven and reside with Him through eternity.

Is there any gift under the tree that could compare?

Praise report from Courtney: She had her two-month follow-up MRI on Tuesday. It was clear like the last several have been. This is especially significant as the doctors have begun to wean her off chemo. Please continue to lift her and her family up in prayer as she continues this battle. If you're new to the blog and don't know about Courtney's journey with an aggressive brain cancer, glioblastoma, please click on her name to read her story. 

If you have a prayer request, please share it in the comments or e-mail me confidential requests. While you’re here, take a moment to pray for others’ requests. Thanks! J

God bless,

©Laura Hodges Poole


  1. Laura - I grew up with humble beginnings and wouldn't trade it for anything. Your post resonated with me in many ways. We didn't eat out, except for special occasions and those were few and far between. My parents didn't have a lot of money, but they were generous. And I'm grateful for what they taught me.

    Blessings to you this Christmas season and throughout the coming year.

    1. Thanks, Joan. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. God bless you, as well.