This year was by far the strangest Christmas I’ve ever had.
For starters, it was 90+ degrees outside. I spent Christmas in shorts and a t-shirt, and even still I was continuously drenched in sweat. Such is daily life for me here!
I was far away from my family. There was no racing downstairs and prying Matthew out of bed to open our stockings. No snooping through my presents ahead of time. I didn’t sing Christmas carols with my family on Christmas Eve- although I did get to participate in putting baby Jesus in the manger via skype!
Somewhere between last Christmas and this Christmas I became a “mom” to 16 beautiful kids. And that changes everything…especially at Christmas!
16 stockings to fill. 16 new outfits to pick out (who knew boys could be so picky about the size and color of their clothes?!). 16 gifts to wrap. 16 precious lives who have never had a real Christmas before.
So we read the Christmas story multiple times leading up to Christmas day. They are now little experts on Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and baby Jesus. You should see their drawings of the stable! We prepared and excited them as best as we could for the big day that was coming for them!
On Christmas Eve at midnight we went out to Divisoria (the town center where the kids live, play, and sleep). The streets were completely empty except for our kids. Where normally there are hundreds of people every night, instead it was just us. We walked up to the square at exactly midnight to screams of “Merry Christmas Ate!” and some of the biggest hugs I’ve ever received from them. It was a moment I will never forget.
It was in those hugs that God reassured my heart- Leah, this is your family now. These are your kids- I’ve entrusted them to you. This is Christmas.
So we welcomed in Christmas Day at midnight with fireworks, laughing and dancing in the rain. It made me chuckle to think about all the kids tucked away in bed sound asleep waiting for Santa to come while we were dancing in the streets and lighting off fireworks.
One day that will be our kids sound asleep waiting on Santa. Well..maybe they’ll be asleep. But they will have beds, a home, and a safe place to go to sleep on Christmas Eve instead of hiding on the street. One day. But for now, this is how our family celebrates. And we made the best of it!
Christmas Day was a day I will never forget. I knew it would be special from the moment we started planning. Each kid got a new outfit- a jersey and new shorts for the boys, and shirts and skirts for the girls. We filled their stockings with all their favorite snacks, headbands, combs, and a fruit drink for each of them.
Our budget was small and it may not even sound like very much to you but it meant the WORLD to our kids! Their smiles were bigger than I’ve ever seen. The majority of these kids have never opened their own gift on Christmas day. They’ve never heard about the true reason for Christmas. They probably spent the past years alone. Or high on rugby. But not this year!
This Christmas was the strangest Christmas I’ve ever had, BUT it was also one of the best. I’m so thankful for God’s love for me and these kids. I’m so blessed by the new family He’s given to me.
I pray you and your family will find way to be grateful for both the big and the small things this holiday season. Fancy new gifts are great, but every day these kids teach me that there is so much JOY to be found in the small things too. And that ultimately, there’s no greater gift than each other…