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Just dropping by ... Gratitude gifts at Christmas

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 December 2017

As the tinsel and the garlands begin to grace the trees and the glitter of Christmas fills the stores, I remember Christmases past when the children were home. It was never the perfect Hallmark Christmas where smells of cinnamon and spice permeate a spotless kitchen, and the pies and decorative breads line the counters.

The popcorn and candy stacked nicely, tied up in red and green bows to give to our wonderful neighbors. Christmas music playing softly in the background. Ah, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” What a sweet dream.

It turned out more like a nightmare. Flour and sugar stuck to the floor, burned pie crust and decorative breads with pieces missing. The Christmas music was drowned out with Drill Sergeant Tenney giving everyone instructions on how everything should look and be. “No, you don’t need hot chocolate for breakfast. You can’t wear that to school. Clean up your bedroom; it looks like a hurricane hit it.

Turn off the TV. Come on! Get those dishes done. You have been at it for an hour. Turn the Christmas lights on. Turn down the music. We can’t hear ourselves think. Clean up your bedroom. I want it clean for Christmas. I told you to watch the pies; now they are burned. Clean up the flour off the floor. Get those dishes done.” In the middle of all of it, I would shop for and wrap trinkets for the kids to open on Christmas Day.

Each year, in the middle of crumpled wrapping paper, crushed boxes, broken and scattered trinkets, I starting thinking of next year’s Christmas. I dreamed next Christmas would be awesome. The children would jump with glee at the stack of presents under the tree; it would be magical. They would give me hugs of appreciation and make me feel all the effort was worth it. It would be like the Christmases I knew as a child.

Everyone seemed so happy, and everyone gave gifts to each other and appreciated the gifts that were given. That’s how I remembered it, anyway. Side note: After reading Mom’s journals about how much I showed appreciation, I wonder about my sugar-coated memories. It probably wasn’t as romantic and wonderful as I remember.

When I married Reg, his family had a tradition of opening one gift at a time. It would start with the youngest and go to the oldest. Each person had the limelight for a few minutes. Since I was in charge of getting, wrapping and making sure everyone had an equal number of gifts to open, I normally had fewer gifts to open.

Children don’t think of anything but the gifts they will open. I certainly didn’t want to suggest they buy me gifts because I didn’t want them to do that with other people.

Many times, I felt awkward and unappreciated as the gift opening went on. I simply said, “I am done.” And the limelight went to the next person. I was embarrassed. That kind of a situation is a double-edged sword.

You don’t want anyone to notice and feel bad you don’t have as many gifts as they do, but you don’t want to show your disappointment at not being appreciated. After all, I was the one who made all those presents possible.

There were a few Christmases that went by before I solved the problem. No, I did not buy myself presents. I sat down and wrote slips of paper with a gift I had received during the year.

When it came my turn to open a present, and I was out of material gifts, I unfolded a piece of paper and read the special gift I had previously received.

Now that my children are adults, my stack of gifts is far more than I deserve. They shower me with gifts that are thoughtful and worth more than money can buy, so I don’t open my gifts of gratitude anymore, but I would like to share some with you today.

I am grateful for the gift of the Savior’s birth in Bethlehem so long ago. I would like to have been there with the shepherds and wise men, to have the heard the angels fill the heaven with glorious anthems of praise on that holy night, but I know, just as surely as if I had been there, that He was born.

His birth has made the most powerful impact on my life. No writer, statesman or professor has changed my life more than my testimony of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ grew up and lived in a place not much bigger than the place I grew up, but His influence has changed the world. He opened the eyes of the blind, not just in physical ways but in spiritual ways. His followers could see with new eyes of hope. They could look to a future beyond the grave and a more abundant life here.

Were their lives free of adversity and sorrow? No, but with Jesus, they had an eternal friend and a path to follow that would lead them to eternal rest and joy.

I am glad Jesus taught me to pray. I have witnessed many miracles because of the power of prayer. I am getting to know Jesus personally because of prayer. This year has been a year when I have needed prayer more than ever before. I lost my dear father and, less than a month later, my last daughter, Angel, and Tim, her husband, lost their infant son, Gabriel Dale, born Nov. 1, 2017, at 6:58 a.m. and passed away Nov. 1, 2017, at 8 a.m.

Gabriel had anencephaly, a condition where major portions of the brain, skull and scalp do not develop, usually occurring during the early stages of embryonic development. The medical world has not determined the cause, and often parents are given the choice to continue with the pregnancy knowing the outcome or have an abortion.

Angel and Tim were devastated at the news but chose to give the baby a chance to live. After the baby passed away, they were asked if they felt they had made the right choice considering the circumstances. The answer was a resounding, “Yes.” They were able to meet him, hold him and show their love to a little guy who will be waiting for them to come and be with him eternally.

We had prayed for a miracle, but sometimes God says “No.” Jesus didn’t promise life without sorrow; he promised eternal life filled with joy. I am grateful for those “no” answers because a loving Father in Heaven knows the end from the beginning. I have never been disappointed in the long run. Someday we will know why little Gabriel was not allowed to stay on earth.

I am grateful for the knowledge I have that there is life after this one, and I believe families are God’s plan, and everything we have lost to His will shall be given back to us in eternity, if we learn to trust him. I wrote my feelings in a poem for Angel and Tim.

My Little Feet

My little feet will not
walk upon the earth
But you gave me feet
to walk in eternal worlds.
You let me come to fill
your world with love
Just for a little while.
You carried me next to your heart
and gave me love
That will live on through millennia.
Sometimes when you are still,
I will kiss you
And you will know that I yet live.
You will hear the whisper of my spirit
In the quiet morning light.
For God gave me to you,
to love and to cherish
Until that perfect day
when we will walk together
My little hand in yours
As you see me grow into a man.
You see, Our Father never takes away,
but he will give it back again
Pressed down and overflowing with heaven’s blessed joy.

Christmas will come and Christmas will go. Even the most perfect Hallmark Christmas and the giving of gifts will never compare to the glorious gift the Father gave on that first Christmas night.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
—John 3:16 end mark

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