When I Consider Thy Heavens

ShipwreckWriter Blog

This Humble Christmas

Posted by ShipwreckWriter - Lynn Pettigrew Norris on December 23, 2014 at 7:55 AM

By Lynn Pettigrew Norris

Our income was cut in more than half this year, something we all experience several times in a lifetime. Our recently chopped cedar tree from our farm still has no decorations & sits as empty as the space beneath it that is reserve for gifts for our beloved family.

My favorite Christmas includes two. One we were stuck in a motel on our way back from NC to visit for Christmas. We were near OKC due to a sheet of ice on the highways. Our kids found out that Santa does come to motels. The other one was when we got out of the USAF (the 1st time) & moved home to KS. No jobs. No money to shop for Christmas. I got two gifts, some socks & a hair brush. I borrowed the money from my mom to buy my husband a sweater. Funny thing – my mother got him the exact same sweater that I purchased. By the time we attended her Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchange, I realized that I had nothing to give him for Christmas the next day except a re-run sweater.

Christmas is about Christ and about being with family. It never was about shopping, the lights, the hustle & bustle. This past year has been one of many losses. It’s a good reminder to focus on the things that really matter in life. Our income has been cut by more than half. But our love, joy, and peace has nearly doubled it seems.

My greatest joy has come from reaching out to others this season. Although I have little funds to share or to purchase gifts this year, there are still some simple things that I can do to show God’s love and spread some Christmas cheer. I have been reminded of the simple joy of receiving a homemade gift that someone has taken his or her time to craft especially for me. I have treasured the gift of a home-made Christmas card from a child this year.


It has been my pleasure to volunteer full-time in my local community for the past several months at Lighthouse Library in Dexter, Kansas. Along-side me have been several wonderful people who also use their own time to volunteer. They receive nothing for their efforts beyond knowing that they are helping to set up something for families and children in our community. We have worked as co-workers although there was no paycheck involved. We have reported to work and worked hard and gone home as tired as anyone who has put in a day’s work in a paying job.


I woke up the other morning wishing I could throw a Christmas party for this group of volunteers. I wished I could provide a gift card for each one of them (I cannot). I mainly wanted to make sure that they know that they are appreciated by me and by their community where they volunteer. I want to thank them for stepping up and help me carry the load of running a nonprofit where there is little to no funding for much of the time. I want to thank them for their faith that each month when the utility bills roll in, somehow we will get them paid and keep our work going in our community to help make it a little better place for children on this earth.


This week I will honor these volunteers with a Christmas-themed brunch. The food will be simple and the decorations even more so. But my gratitude will be huge and I hope they realize this.


This has been a year of huge adjustments for me. Not having the income from a professional job has been the hardest one to master. I have not had the funds to donate as we’ve been able to in years past. For me, all I can offer is my time. I fell after tripping off a curb in a pair of high heels this year and lost part of the use of my right hand when it was broken. I also injured my right knee which will need follow-up. This has made it difficult to carry out the work that has been started. Much of the work is physical in nature – carrying boxes of books and such. Everyone has something that presents a challenge in life.


This has been a melancholy year for certain. The loss of both of my in-law parents within a year along with a serious illness and surgery in our family and with other unspoken challenges in our lives. But life has brought us all to the season of Christmas where blessings along with sorrows are amplified.


I want to reach out to everyone this season. I want the person who (like me) has lost the employment which was counted on for decades to keep the faith. Keep looking up and reaching out to others. By doing whatever you can right where you are, you will know that life continues moving us all on down the road to the tomorrows that we have not even imagined yet. Isn’t it ironic that my very favorite Christmas involves one where we had no income at all? I think that fact speaks volumes and offers hope. That year, when we left our rented home to once again seek employment, when we returned to our home, our cupboards had been filled to the brim by someone who to this day was never identified. They even put the exact brand and kind of baby formula that we needed to feed one of our children that year.


This has been a wonderful year full of enumerable blessings. It has been my pleasure to serve in our local church where recently we dedicated some beautiful stained glass windows that a former pastor’s wife created and donated. No other church on earth has windows just like these. They represent a lot of time and talent that was shared. Our Christmas pageant this year was darling, another one-of-a-kind nativity was created by children whose eyes still twinkle at the wonder of this thing called life. It was sweet to see one little girl who has participated for several years to move up from playing the part of an angle to that of being Mary. Her part was a good reminder that life marches on, children grow up, and our part in that moment of time is done. How sobering to know that in a wink, this same little girl will sit out in the audience and observe first her children and then her grandchildren play the perspective parts in the Christmas play. What a reminder for us all to remember to life in the present, treasure this day that the Lord has given us. (Psalm 118:24).


I wish you could see our humble scraggly cedar tree we recently cut down. It is a rather sad spectacle for sure. But I am quite certain that it will be one of my favorite things as I recall it in the years ahead. It is a great symbol of all things we have had that were blessings and all things lost that we grieve all wrapped up in the branches of this little tree. One thing that is constant is the wonderful smell of a Kansas cedar tree. Nothing makes it seem like Christmas more than that aroma. I have lived long enough on this earth to understand that Christmas is not about the tinsel and the gifts. It is about the people you surround yourself with and about those you reach out to in your life. Merry Christmas to everyone.


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