Friday, December 7, 2012

The Missing Element

The thing missing from this year's Christmas plans is a way in which to provide for others who are not as fortunate or as hopeful as we are.  I feel badly about this.

In the past, this season has marked extra efforts on our part to make a difference in other people's lives.  We have done Operation Christmas Child; I have baked cookies for groups that distributed them to the homeless on Christmas Eve; we have prepared and delivered Christmas hampers; I have bought mitts and scarves and balaclavas for the men who sit on the street hoping for a little Christmas cheer; we have contributed goats and sheep and business loans for families in countries where these things provide a means of existence; we have donated money and attended fund-raising banquets to help provide for others; we have designated money for our church's work in the community; and on and on.

I am more than a little ashamed that I have planned nothing like that this year, for the first time our almost-eighteen years of married life.

Even as we continue to move forward into this season of festivities, I know that there are families amongst our friends and community for whom this is not an easy year in which to celebrate Christmas.  Families we know have suffered loss and pain in these very days and they're hurting.  In addition, my head tells me that there are a lot of people out there who cannot afford this time of year, who have no home in which to celebrate Christmas, who have suffered more than I ever have; but my heart is not fully engaged.  I am stuck in a state of self-centeredness. 

Even armed with the knowledge that there is great need beyond my walls, I have been so/too focused on the relief and sense of thanksgiving for being where we're at.  In the years of trying to build our family, times such as Christmas were entered with such mixed feelings; I haven't always looked forward to Christmas with anywhere close to the enthusiasm that I bring to this year's Christmas season.  When Matthew was born, we began to build traditions and to celebrate a little more consciously, and found ways in which to give within our community, but all of this was with the knowledge that our long-time desire and efforts to complete our family were hanging over us.  

Infertility, the not-knowing, the endless waiting, the never-ending roller coaster of circumstance and emotion...these things take a toll on one's heart over time.  Even last year, with our kids home and family complete, I wasn't ready for the joy of Christmas.  I was struggling with moving on from the previous decade of waiting and hoping and being disappointed; I was working to understand my own depression following the coming home of our younger children; it was just plain hard.

This year feels a bit like the emotional shackles have finally dropped off.  The weight of life is so much less.  So it's interesting to me that this is the year that I have all but ignored the fortunes of others in favour of concentrating on my own.

In celebrating our reasons for thanksgiving this year, I am determined yet to find a way in which we can participate in something bigger than ourselves in the coming weeks.  Maybe that will be the way in which to truly express our own gratitude.


  1. First and foremost, I assure you that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Cut yourself some slack, your heart may not be in it right now because your heart has been in raising three children who will be able to give back ten-fold one day. It sounds like you have a very giving heart and you'll find the right way to give at a time that's right for your family. I don't think that anyone reading this blog would doubt that. You may not make some grand gesture during this particular season, but that's more than okay. You have a family with little people who could make some extraordinary little gestures. It's as easy as adding a bit to your next grocery shopping trip. Each child picks two or three items that they'd like and you donate them. If that doesn't suit, you have eleven other months coming before the next Christmas season that will work just fine. I have younger cousins who worked on a giving project where they did something based around giving thanks and giving to others on the 25th of each month. Some months were on a larger scale and some were just simple tokens to acknowledge that we're very fortunate and need to share with those who are less so. Just a thought. You're likely not looking for ideas and suggestions, so I won't ramble on. I just thought you should know that there is no shame in having a period of time that is a bit more about your family than others. It's not self-centered at all. In fact, you likely feel the way you do because you've had such a whirlwind the last couple of years that your self hasn't got to be that centered. :) The center has been everything but you and looks like it's paying off!

    Okay, that sounds a bit like I'm try to social work you, honest I'm not. I likely shouldn't respond to your blog from my desk or I'll be writing you a support plan next. :) Have a good day!

  2. Maybe you & the kids could do some random acts of kindness? I know mine LOVE it, and it opens their eyes - they start looking at the people around them. REALLY looking! Returning a grocery cart for an eldery lady, lifting a frozen chicken out of a cart, saying 'thank you' & giving a coffee card to a war vet, shoveling the neighbor's driveway in stealth mode...they come up with some great ideas.

  3. OK, so a support plan is actually sounding pretty good to me Janelle!!

    BUt seriously, thank you for your words of encouragement and grace - you have this way of bringing out strong emotions in me...maybe YOU should be the one doing the writing, Janelle!

    You've both given me some great ideas to think about too...I liked each and every idea. Mrs. Changstein, I know what you mean about the random acts of kindness - my kiddos also LOVE when we do this and you're right - it does have a way of having us start to really look at people around us a little differently. Janelle, I've never heard of that idea of doing something on the 25th of every month - awesome idea!

    Thank you both very much. You've given me both encouragement and ideas and I think I needed both!!