Sitting up at the top of a quiet rocky hill, stood our home. We had a perfect view of lit up house tops that peaked over the beautiful snowy town of Prescott, Arizona. Unlike what people usually imagine Arizona to be, gorgeous mountains painted a beautiful green landscape around us against a crisp blue sky. We'd only been there a few weeks, but to us, it was home.
A used plastic Christmas tree someone had graciously given us, stood glistening in the corner next to a real wood fireplace, our only heating downstairs. A couple from church started bringing us wood each week. I have no idea what we would have done without them. It was cold!
We were at a moment in our lives where we were without a job and wondering what God had for us next. Emptying our savings account, we had warned our kids they wouldn't be receiving any gifts that year. Instead, we could make cards for each other. All four were quick to say that they didn't care and that being together was all that mattered (they knew of people in much harder situations than what we were in and we were very thankful).
I admit, I was excited for the opportunity to teach our kids the lesson of appreciating Christmas for what it is and not for the gifts.
How could God have a different plan than that one!?
Christmas Eve I received a call from someone I didn't know, informing me there were toys left over from a toy drive. They asked if we wanted them. Confused, I said sure and drove over. A lady I had never met gave me three huge black garbage bags full of something. I drove home.
What I found in them that evening were all the things that the kids had been wanting, and all new: scooters, trains, teddy bears, diaries, and so much more. I wasn't sure whether to cry with thankfulness or get angry at God for ruining my plan.
Christmas morning, our kids were confused. "You said we weren't going to have any presents!" they exclaimed. We shared with them what had happened the night before and then all sat in a circle on the floor before opening our presents to thank God for them. It really did feel that Jesus himself had brought them to us instead of Santa. We did not deserve them, didn't need them, ... and I didn't even want them! We actually had so many toys that we took a bunch of them to another family that we knew that same day.
That Christmas turned into one of the many memories our kids are collecting of how much God loves to give occasional surprises, just for fun. Even when it's not necessary.
I can't explain why, but amidst the harshest of storms we've been through, God has always provided gifts. A friend, an encouraging word, peace in turmoil, joy in pain, or just plain presents we don't deserve.
We had the choice of being upset about not having heat, or being thankful for the wood. We had the option of feeling depressed over no presents, or thankful for all that God had given us already. I wonder if sometimes we are too busy being angry at the storm, that we miss the special things he gives us.
A few years before that, we had just moved into a little missionary house that a church owned on it's property. Our girls were both under the age of 3. We had just moved to the States from Sweden, barely had enough to survive, and certainly didn't have any toys. I gathered the girls around me and asked them to pray with me. This time I did want a toy for two to keep them busy (and out of my hair).
"Let's ask God to give us some presents!" I told them. I We held hands and asked God that he would give us something to play with while we lived there. I was actually excited to see what God would do when I buckled them into their car seats and started driving around the neighborhood checking out garbage cans and hoping someone would have thrown out some toys.
Two streets down from us, we drove by a closing garage sale. The family was filling their trash cans with all the toys that I assumed hadn't been sold that day. I shamelessly peaked my head out the window and asked them if they were throwing them away. The dad looked up with a smile and said: "Yes! Please take anything you want!"
The girls watched from the van as I got out, and picked out toy after toy from the trash cans and pilled them into the back of the van. My heart was beating fast. Still in a bit of shock, I yelled out a thank you and we drove home.
Looking through our treasures, we found several amazing toys perfect for the age of our girls, including a large toy train still in it's box with batteries in it. We didn't even need to buy batteries!
Again, like so many times throughout our life, we sat on the floor in a circle, held hands, and each thanked God.
Another time, when we were homeless for a few months, a couple we had never met invited us to stay for a couple of weeks in their large beautiful home. We didn't need a large home! In the heat of Arizona, I would have been fine with a small air conditioned shack.
The stories I could tell you are endless. I wish I could share them all.
Why did God give us gifts?! And nice ones! I don't know. I don't have the answer. We sure don't deserve them! The only thing I can think of is that he delights in giving gifts to his children, just like I do. We have a God that loves giving gifts.
I admit, I've often missed gifts He's given me because I'm too busy complaining about something I didn't get. I've often missed to realize how much he loves and delights in me. Do you ever do that? I wonder. If we fully realized how much he really delights in us, like a good daddy over his child (and even more), maybe we'd view him differently. Maybe we'd even live differently.
Have you ever focused on all the gifts you weren't given and forgotten to notice something God chose to give you instead?
What could you be focusing on this Christmas that's making you miss the gifts God is giving you?
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
Born and raised in Spain to American parents, Becky left home when she was fourteen to attend a Canadian boarding school in Germany. Since then, she has traveled over thirty countries and lived in four of them. Becky met her Swedish husband while working on a ship in Mexico, got engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, married in Spain, moved to Sweden, and now lives in North Carolina with her husband and their four children. She invites you to travel with her through the journeys life has taken her.
We caught our 2 year old singing away and being thankful!
The First Christmas
A video I made once, performed and narrated by the kids from a church we were part of in Arizona.