After Karen, Lisa, and David left, Diane and the kids got dressed to go to church. There was a special Christmas Service and they did not want to miss it. Diane and the kids had so much to be grateful. This day, everyone was gathered in the main church. The pastor wanted everyone to attend the main service. The nursery was closed. The children’s church was closed, too. Diane was part of the choir, so a few of the ladies in the church sat with her children.
Diane headed to her place in the choir and there was an envelope. Just like all the last few weeks. This one read, “Merry Christmas, Diane.” She looked in the envelope and there were $100.00. The note continued, “This is for you. Even moms get presents at Christmas.”
Diane scoped the church. She had no idea where it came from. She was thankful. She thanked God in silence. A few moments later, the choir stood up and they sang the first song of the service. Diane’s voice could be heard throughout the church. It was melodic, soft, angelic, and beautiful. She sang that day with her heart, her soul, and her faith. The service that day was about the birth of Jesus, the true meaning of Christmas, and the gift of faith. It could not be any better fitting.
Shortly before Pastor Blake dismissed the church, he called Diane and the children to the pulpit. Once they were all there, he proceeded.
“Diane, the day you joined this church, little did we know you or your family. We saw you and Allen walk in with your four children, day after day. Your belly continued to grow. We remember the day you brought Anita to church for the first time. She was three days old. Your family never missed a service. Here we are today, celebrating our third Christmas with you. Diane, you are an inspiration to many. The last three months, you have held your family together, you have remained strong in your faith, and you have managed to inspire many, including me. Because of all that, the church family has come together. By the stirring of the Holy Spirit, we have all put together a few things for you and the children. The Women’s group will start.”
Pastor Blake stood there in the pulpit while he called each group to bring their presents up to them. There was the women’s group, the choir, the children’s church, the church leaders, the different families, and finally, Pastor Blake and his wife.
After every group and family presented their gifts, not one gift was duplicated. Each person had picked something different. None were aware that others were doing the same. There were bicycles, tricycles, dolls, train tracks, racetracks, stuffed animals, games, school supplies, coloring books, clothes, and much more. Diane saw the spread of gifts and all she could do was smile. That day, the church, the families, the different groups, and Diane witnessed the gift of over abundant joy. They witness the power of prayer, the answer to prayers, and the joy that Faith, Hope, and Love brings.
It wasn’t about the presents, she thought. It was about the way God had provided a spirit of giving. It wasn’t about the presents she thought. It was about the way God had tested her faith. It wasn’t about the presents, she thought. It was about the answers to prayers. It wasn’t about the presents, she thought. It was about how God had used her children, her situation, and her circumstances to instill a spirit of Christmas that had been forgotten. It wasn’t about the presents, she thought. It was about the lesson learned by so many that year.
Once Diane arrived at home, she called Allen. In between tears and sobs, she related the whole story to him. Allen heard each word. He struggled to keep himself from crying, but was not successful. Soon, both Diane and Allen were crying, not out of self-pity, but out of ever-grateful joy. They knew that this was a blessing from God, which they would never take for granted. The two made a promise that day. Every Christmas, they would pay forward all that was given to them.
Three months later, Allen was home. A new man emerged. He was stronger in his faith. He was clean, sober, and ready to be the husband and father his family deserved. The children were filled with excitement. Their daddy was home. They had missed him so much. Amber and Anita would follow him wherever he went. Sarah, Elliot, and William continued to hug him. The family was together again.
The children were too young to understand what had happened that Christmas, but Allen and Diane were not. Their faith was tested and strengthened at the same time. Years later, they told the story to the kids, once they were old enough to understand. When the kids heard all that had happened, they all understood why at Christmas, their parents made a point of buying presents for so many others that were not family.
In the years to come, and many thereafter, Allen and Diane, made a point of doing for others what had been done for them. They gave to everyone that came across their path. They gave to the Salvation Army, to relief funds, they picked names of trees (they made sure that all siblings were included), they sent gifts to the schools, they gave food to the hungry on the streets, and they gave back to their church. Allen and Diane paid back everything given to their family for many years, thereafter. They both learned one big lesson that year.
“When God is with us, we shall never lack. When situations seem impossible, just take a walk in the park, for he is right by our side. He is standing with us in our most difficult moments. He is holding our hand and not letting us fail. He is working on our situation, before we even know is heading our way.”
That September, two families started a journey that neither knew would be joining in the end. Neither knew that God was in the midst of it working his miracle, looking out for each other, and answering prayers before the need arose.
Karen, Lisa, and David continued to do the same thing each year. That year, a new tradition began. Karen says that year after year, whatever size family she chose, God made sure that there was always enough. Karen wanted to teach her children a lesson of what the true meaning of Christmas was, but what she taught them, and what she learned herself, was beyond what she imagined. She learned that to listen with our hearts, pray fervently, and allow God to speak to us, was the greatest gift one could ever give or one could ever receive.
Pastor Blake and his parishioners were blessed beyond what they thought could be possible. The following year, church attendance was up, new members joined, and each Christmas, a new miracle was experienced.
All involved in this story experienced a renewal of faith, received the gift of hope, and developed a love for each other that bonded them for years on end.
Merry Christmas to all! May God bless each of you and fill your life with Faith, Hope, and Love.
Note: This story is based on true events that transpired Christmas 1991. All names were changed to protect the privacy of those involved in this inspiring story filled with Faith, Hope, and Love.