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Best. Christmas. Ever. (and it technically hasn't happened yet)

And it's not because my husband got me the best gift ever (and let me open it early), or even because Oliver is now potty trained (more on that later, it's a pretty amusing story), which is potentially an even better gift than the one mentioned above. Nor is it because of some super plans we have for the impending holiday- we have no plans. We don't even get to be with our families this year (weather and work have interfered, even though we're closer to our families than we were before we moved). I've had this feeling all month that I just can't explain, possibly because I have been on top of it, so to speak, this year and haven't been stressed at all about shopping or anything else holiday related. This feeling of real, true, holiday spirit. I guess the relevance of this requires a tiny bit of back story. I'll try to keep this brief.

This is no sob story, BTW. We weren't super poor growing up (just kind of poor- to the best of my knowledge my parents never had a hard time keeping us clothed or fed), we never had to have a Christmas without presents, and no seriously tragic event ever happened at or around Christmas to mar the holiday for me. What happened? Well, like 98% of children, I was selfish and self involved, and Christmas was about presents. But the thing is, as hard as she tried and as good of a mom as she was in all other ways, my Mom was a terrible gift chooser. Usually we got most of what we wanted, but more often than not it wasn't quite right, or she forgot to buy batteries, or whatever (I'm mildly ashamed just writing this, but it's essential to illustrate my self growth). By the time I was a teenager (and still selfish and self involved) I was pretty jaded towards Christmas.

Then, in college, I met my husband. My husband is ALL ABOUT Christmas. If he had made a list, back then, of his life's ambitions I think one of the things on the list would be to have a Griswold type Christmas, complete with lights stapled to the entire house. He was the only man in his fraternity to all out decorate his room for Christmas with garland, lights, and cinnamon scented candles. Every year that we've lived in a house since we got married he has come as close as we can afford to the Griswold house (minus the staple gun...). The first Christmas we were together I attempted to keep up my jaded facade, but I just couldn't do it. Because his Christmas spirit was contagious. And his family is the same way. Of course, it may be because his mom is a far better gift giver... (I know I know, Christmas isn't about gifts, but all children feel that way for at least part of their childhood).

Then I became an adult and, even more important, I had children. Now I realize that Christmas is not about gifts. The past few Christmases, with financial times a little harder and with our siblings either still in school or new homeowners (read- strapped for cash), gifts haven't been the focus of Christmas (except for the kids...). And that's great. In fact, I always tell my mom that she was the one who taught me that gifts aren't important because she rarely gave us gifts that were that exciting:) (my poor mom, she gets so much abuse from us!). So many other things about the Holiday are exciting- listening to Christmas music, making cookies with your family, teaching your children the story of Jesus's birth, and my favorite Christmas tradition- giving to those in need. I try to give all year, because people are in need all year, but at Christmas I try to give a little more. And this year, to be quite frank, I had not given as much as I usually like to. I had given some toys to Toys for Tots, put some money in the red pot, and given food donations to the food bank. That is, until yesterday. Yesterday someone posted this link on Facebook:

Enlarged Heart

(go ahead, read the link before you go on... or at least read the last update at the bottom of the post)

That's right- a giveaway that started with 20 gift cards to families in need (with no questions asked) ended up giving 900 gift cards. In a week. Completely unplanned. This, my friends, is a story that shows the true spirit of Christmas. Out of nowhere, in one week, almost 900 people came forward to willingly give to those who are struggling this Christmas. I, of course, joined in.

My only regret is that this is now closed and you can't get in on the giving. After coordinating this for an entire week the blogger has closed it. But that doesn't mean it's too late for you to give to someone. Is there someone you know in your community who is struggling right now? What about your church or your local food pantry? Food pantry donations are way low this year- and you don't have to give them food. They accept monetary donations as well. Are you yourself struggling with money? Give your time if you can. Everyone has something to give, and I feel that those who give are rewarded tenfold. I mean, look at me. I am so filled with the holiday spirit right now I could burst. First, from reading the above post. Second, from joining in the holiday giving. And then, to push it over the top, I got this email this morning:

"You are an angel beyond anything I could possibly explain.

I wish you a year to come of beauty, love, and happiness. And I hope that, ever you find a moment you are struggling, that someone just as generous is there to catch you. I wish that you find a million and more reasons to smile every moment. Thank you from the very depths of my heart.

All my heart,
Of course, the best way to give is to give anonymously. I wasn't looking for props. But this email warmed my heart even more. I cried (and for those of you who know me, I am not a crier).

So don't worry about what you will or won't receive this Christmas. Be thankful for what you do have- your family, the food on your table, a roof over your head. And give to those who may not have these things.

And if you are truly in need, don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

Merry Christmas t0 everyone- I can only wish that you all are as filled with warmth and spirit as I am right now!

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