When Junk Brought Joy

 

God delights in the one whose heart is in his gift. –2 Corinthians 9:7 AMP

It was late fall, 1978. My husband worked at the local scrapyard—his hours dependent on the weather—I was a stay-at-home mom, and we were poor.

We wanted to put some nice presents under the tree for our two-year-old son, but, with Dean bringing home around $100 a week, how could we afford even one? Putting food on the table and paying the bills on time were higher priorities.

Then someone dumped a load of junk at the scrapyard—a load that included a couple of well-used, rusty, but still sturdy, Tonka toys. Dean brought them home to our second-story apartment and set up Santa’s workshop in our unheated attic.

When Christmas morning dawned, a refurbished dump truck and front-end loader sat under our tree.

Over the next few years, my husband repurposed other toys that had been discarded at the junkyard, including a motorhome and a three-wheeled pedal tractor.

When our second child, a daughter, came along, we were still poor. I put my sewing machine to use and made her a Raggedy Ann doll. Another year I crocheted her a stuffed panda from Dazzleaire yarn. That panda grew up with her, and I presented it to her—minus the stuffing because she’d plucked it all out—on her wedding day.

After nearly 40 years, those Christmases are the ones that warm my heart the most.

Back then Christmas wasn’t about the money because we had none. But somehow we found a way to give. And it was more than a Tonka toy or homemade stuffed doll under the tree. It was something intangible—the gift of time, talent, and love—a piece of our hearts.

We may have been poor in money, poor in worldly possessions, but we were rich in love.

Our hearts overflowed with it. It infused our handmade gifts, gave energy to every swipe of sandpaper, every stroke of the paintbrush, every stitch of thread and yarn—and multiplied back to us on Christmas morning when our children exclaimed in delight as they opened their gifts.

One of the afghans I made for a Christmas gift

This year I organized my crochet supplies, bought a cartful of yarn, and got to work. Since mid-October, I’ve made eight granny-square Christmas stockings, two afghans, two messy bun hats with matching headbands and infinity scarves, and one pair of boot cuffs. When I couldn’t find a pattern to match what I envisioned for a reticule (a small purse), I crafted one of my own.

And a long-lost, deep-rooted, almost forgotten joy fills my heart and overflows onto everything around me.

You see, the joy of giving explodes when the heart is in the gift. Joy, like love, doesn’t divide. It multiplies.

Thank You, Lord God, for helping me to rediscover true joy. Amen.

Read and meditate on Luke 2:1–20 and Matthew 2:1–12 

© 2017, Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

TO MY READERS: May God’s peace, joy, and love fill your hearts and homes this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Savoring the Season

 

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” –Jesus, as quoted in Luke 10:41–42 NLT

“Are you ready for Christmas?” someone asked me this past week.

“Yes!” I answered.

She looked surprised and began to commend me, but I stopped her.

“I don’t have a single Christmas card written,” I confessed. “Most of the presents are waiting to be wrapped, and I’m still crocheting an afghan for my son. I should have it done by Christmas Eve. And I don’t have a single thing baked. But I’m ready for Christmas.”

She looked puzzled, so I explained.

“I’m not stressed this year because I’m savoring the unfolding of the season.”

This is, truly, “the most wonderful time of the year.” Anticipation fills the air. Kindness and compassion abound. Joy bubbles. Love spills over. Peace pervades the atmosphere. And I don’t want to miss it by letting the Martha in me overrule the Mary in me.

Over the years of exhausting myself so much that I couldn’t truly enjoy Christmas, I’ve learned a few things.

First, I’ve learned that I don’t have to do it all myself. I’ve learned to let others help.

My son, his girlfriend, and her parents will be with us Christmas Eve. I planned an easy menu that doesn’t require hours upon hours in the kitchen preparing food. Soup, sandwiches, veggies, and dessert. Simple. I’ll provide the soup and sandwiches, and David and Kristin will bring the veggie tray and dessert.

The focus, I’ve come to realize, is not on the food but on family. Time with them is precious and more important than a feast that leaves me wiped out after preparing.

I’ve learned to say “yes” when someone asks if they could do something. Set the table, put out the food trays, light the candles, fill the ice bucket. I know how good it makes me feel when I can help. Allowing my guests—even children—to lend a hand gives them a feeling of being accepted, valued, and needed. More than welcome. Not so much a guest as a cherished friend or a beloved family member. You can’t put a ribbon or a price tag on a gift like that.

Second, I’ve learned that I don’t have to do everything. I’ve learned to let some things on the to-do list go.

I’ve learned that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. I used to strive for a spotless, sparkling, picture-perfect house. I was worried how it would reflect on me if my home didn’t look like a scene from House Beautiful or Good Housekeeping. But I’ve learned that no one looks at the baseboards.

What’s more important than a perfect house or a feast fit for a king is the Spirit of the Babe born in Bethlehem that cold night so long ago filling my home with love, joy, and peace like the fragrance from a scented candle.

I don’t need things done to be ready for Christmas. My heart, mind, and spirit are already celebrating.

What about you—are you ready for Christmas?

As I light the third Advent candle, remind me, Father, that it isn’t so important that my home is ready but that my heart is. Amen.

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.