I recently went through my stacks of loose photos that I had stashed away in a small wood chest, putting them in photo albums so that some day I will actually take the time to go back and look at them. They were taken back in the earlier days of our marriage, when we still used real "film" and developed them. Now I rarely develop the pictures I take on my digital camera--I just look at them on the computer and share them with family and friends via Facebook.
It reminded me of holidays in the past, and how much our family has grown up--now I have grandchildren the same age as when Nathan, Amy, Hannah, and Jenny were growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico. We were missionaries living on a shoestring budget, and we had to be creative and resourceful to make ends meet.
I remember one particular Christmas feeling homesick for our relatives, and way of life in the states. I wanted so badly to decorate the house with some pine greenery as a reminder of Ohio and my parent's flower shop I grew up working in--but didn't know where I could get it in our part of Mexico. One day we were driving by a Christmas tree stand--they imported pine trees from Canada--and the workmen cut off the bottom limbs to shape the tree, or sometimes they just broke off accidentally. My eyes spotted the collection of pine limbs all over the ground--and I asked my husband if he could find out what they were going to do with them. Sure enough they were just going to throw them away, and they said we could have them--so we bundled up as much as we could load into our van. It was a treasure for me!
What fun we had turning our pine greenery into garlands, swags, and wreaths! God had given me the desire of my heart, and it didn't cost us anything!
People often say that when they look back at their life, sometimes the leanest years were the best, as they saw the hand of God supply every need. My kids didn't wear designer clothes or tennis shoes, but they had plenty. They enjoyed the second hand toys that were either given to them or purchased at garage sales. It taught them how to be content with what they had. They used their imagination and learned to be creative. They used to set up the dining room chairs in a row, and Nathan would preach to his sisters as they "played" church. It was their favorite pastime.
We didn't have a TV, VCR, DVD, or computer to "entertain" them. They found better things to do. We also didn't have to worry about paying off credit card debt after Christmas--because we didn't even have a credit card! Talk about living by faith--when the van broke down, we had to pray for God to supply the money to fix it--and sometimes we rode the bus--but God was faithful and someone sent us a gift of $500--and we never told anyone we needed it--we knew it was the hand of God supplying our needs.
Someone recently said that it seems that the children with the most "stuff" seem to be the least happy or content with what they do have. As parents we have to be careful not to indulge our children with every whim that suits their fancy, even if you can afford it. As they grow older, they will appreciate the values that you instilled in them, in teaching them gratefulness and contentment, and that it truly is more blessed to give than recieve.