At church Sunday our message was on the Christmas Experience. We all remember what it was like being a little kid and the excitement that Christmas would bring. The trying to stay good to insure making it on Santa’s Nice list, the waking up early to run to the tree to see what Santa and our parents had blessed us with, the going to grandma’s on Christmas eve, the Christmas cookies and the Christmas lights…..oh the lights. As the pastor delivered the message my mind drifted back to those wonderful childhood memories. Precious memories.
The message went on to talk about how we as adults have lost that Christmas Experience. We get overwhelmed with buying the gifts, while still paying the monthly bills, working overtime to afford said gifts,making all the party plans, the gift exchanges at our children’s schools, and countless other stressful things. Christmas is just not as fun as it use to be. It was definitely much more magical when we were kids. And that part of the message hit me.
I started thinking about all the children we have had in foster care over the years. I remember the first set of girls we had and the look on the oldest ones face when I told them they were going on vacation with us. They were so excited. They had never been out of state let alone been on a vacation. Another set of siblings, also girls, had never had birthday party’s before living with us. They were placed with us the night before the oldest girls birthday, so after everyone was tucked safe in their beds I made a late night run to Walmart to buy her gifts. The next day while we celebrated our soon to be adopted sons birthday’s ( they are both now our forever sons) we also celebrated hers. I will never forget her smile as she ate that cake. Definitely worth the midnight run to Walmart.
However to a child not getting to go on vacation and not having a cake on one’s birthday can’t compare to the heartbreak of having no gifts to open on Christmas morning. I remember a few of our placements talking about just that. One young boy told us ” We never put up a tree cause Santa don’t visit bad kids” One told us that “Mom and daddy need their money to buy their drugs” and that “they(the parent) say toys are a waste of money anyways” The sad truth is many children that come into foster care don’t have a normal lifestyle so things like Christmas traditions do not exist. We have had children at our home on Christmas morning watching as our own children start to open up gift look at us with puzzling eyes (and in many cases joyful tears) as we hand them thier own gifts to open. We said from the beginning that every child that God placed in our homes would become our child. Meaning, what we do for our kids we will do for them. If we go on vacation they go, if we go out for ice cream they go, if I buy 10 gifts for our child at Christmas then you better beleive they get 10 gifts also. While they are with us they are our children, they become a full part of our beautiful chaos.
I can’t imagine a child waking up Christmas morning and not having gifts to open. I know it’s not all about the presents, it’s all about Jesus, however to a child a simple gift is one way they know they are loved. Our first placement came to us just a few weeks before Christmas. He was so small and he would not have even noticed if he received gifts or not. His case worker came out a week after bringing him to us and she brought two small gifts to place under our tree. She said they were from the department. They try to make sure all the kids in state care have at least a gift or two under the tree for Christmas morning. She was surprised that little guy had just as many gifts as our own children did under the tree. When she asked me why we had done so I simply replied, “He will be ours while he is here. God has blessed us to allow us to be part of his life and we want him to know he will always be loved here” She left with tears in her eyes. And said “if only all foster parents were like this. I’ve not had this happen in a long time” Little man left the week before Christmas. They found his siblings in another foster home and they were willing to take him in. All of his gifts went with him along with a piece of my heart.
Our foster/foster to adopt support group has an annual Christmas party for the kids in our region that are in state care or who have been adopted through foster care. All the kids and their parents/foster parents come together for one wonderfully amazing night. We have a big dinner complete with turkey, and all the sides and countless desserts. The food is always tasty and the joyful noise of laugher fills the halls. I am blessed to have parents who Love playing Santa and Mrs Claus. The last few years we have been able to have them show up at the dinner. All the parents bring a small gift (around ten to fifteen dollars) and place it under the Christmas tree. Santa and Mrs Claus make their entrance while the children and parents sing a song , usually Jingle Bells, and they make their way around the room shaking hands and hugging everyone. Then Santa finds his way to his seat in front of the tree and Mrs Claus starts passing out the gifts. The gifts are all labeled so Santa can “easily” tell who gets what gift. As their name is called one by one they go up and seat on his lap. Here they get to tell Santa their wish list and if they have been naughty or nice. Santa gives them their gift and a photo is taken. For some this is the first time they have ever had their picture taken with Santa. The smiles that fill the room is something I look forward to year after year. I honestly have the best parents around. Not only do they make Christmas memorable for my children but they do so for so many more.
Photos of our kids with Santa and Mrs Claus aka my parents from last year’s Foster/Foster to adopt Support Group Christmas Party
Here at our home we start Christmas morning off with the reading of the birth of Jesus. We all gather in the living room as our oldest daughter reads how Christmas came to be straight out of the Bible. No gifts are opened until we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. After the reading we all shout out “Happy Birthday Jesus” Then we head over to the tree. We use this as an opportunity not only to share our love for Christmas but also to share the true reason for the season with those God has saw fit to be with us.
Happy birthday Jesus
I'm so glad it's Christmas All the tinsel and lights And the presents are nice But the real gift is You Happy birthday, Jesus I'm so glad it's Christmas All the carols and bells Make the holiday swell And it's all about You Happy birthday, Jesus Jesus I love You Happy birthday, Jesus I'm so glad it's Christmas All the tinsel and lights And the presents are nice But the real gift is You Happy birthday, Jesus I'm so glad it's Christmas All the carols and bells Make the holiday swell And it's all about You Happy birthday, Jesus Jesus I love You I love You Jesus
The truth of the matter is Christmas is not about the gifts. It’s all about the love and the people we are with. It’s about the birth of Jesus and His wonderful story, it’s about laughter and excitement, and about giving. For children in foster care not getting gifts could be a normal thing. But I beleive there is something magical about Christmas. For every child that comes through our doors there will always be gifts under the tree. A simple little way to show a child, who may have no hope, that someone loves them, that someone beleive in them, that there is hope in their dark situation. Kids in foster care are just that kids. They did not ask to be placed in the situation. And unfortunately not all foster care homes are good homes. Not all foster care homes love and protect the kids as they should. Many of the children in state care are in group homes because there are simply no homes available. So I ask you this….
If you have ever thought about becoming a foster parent why not step out in faith this holiday season and become a child’s ultimate gift…a loving home. If you feel you can’t become a foster parent but still want to help then find a group home and donate a few gifts or volunteer to help cook them dinner to make sure every child has a great Christmas.
The gifts under our tree may be store bought, some may be homemade, some may be elaborate and yet others may be simple but they are all filled with love. And that is the greatest gift of all. Give the gift that never runs out, give love this Christmas season. God will bless you for it.
From our beautiful chaos to yours this holiday season don’t focus on the stressful parts of the season instead focus on what really matters, faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.