“We’ve got to move. You need to find some boxes and start packing”.

The statement and demand had become familiar.

I hated the emptiness of it. I hated hearing it. But this one was really awful, the timing couldn’t have been worse. We had less than six weeks before Christmas. Our children were ages eleven and nine, they didn’t deserve another disruption. With each move, even with moving out of the school district, I had insisted they stay enrolled in their school. It meant getting up earlier, arriving home later, driving them to and from, and changing my work schedule to make it happen. But that was better than the alternative… a frequent upheaval in their curriculum. It was my attempt at keeping things normal.

Then he said, “We have to be out of here by tomorrow. I’ve rented a trailer.”

I didn’t see the place for myself, until we began moving in. It was a single-wide mobile home. Old and rusty. Parked at an odd angle in the landlord’s yard, it looked like it was on its last leg.

A few years prior, we had built a 5,000 square foot, five bedroom home. Most recently, we had been living in a large log cabin on the Etowah River. How would we get all of our stuff in the trailer?

How had we managed to lose so much?

The odor in the single-wide assaulted me as soon as I stepped inside. It smelled of wet dogs and mildew.

“Did you come in here before you signed the lease?” I asked.

The floors sagged. Cold air seeped past loose window seals. Holes in the bathroom floor had been carelessly patched with old linoleum. The toilet wobbled and “gave” a bit when used. I was always afraid of going through the floor.

There was one bathroom and two bedrooms. The largest bedroom was barely big enough for a set of bunk beds; the kids shared that room.The smaller bedroom substituted for a closet. Our bed had to go into the living room.

The whole place was dark and gloomy.

My children accepted the move without complaining. And that broke my heart more than anything. They were good kids. They never asked for toys, they never asked for candy when we were in a store. They didn’t have tantrums in the checkout line. And here they were, accepting this situation without grumbling. It was life as usual by then.

I felt they had a right to complain about the chaos in their lives. But they didn’t. And that was heartbreaking.

Every time I looked at a new house, visited a possible rental, or viewed houseplans in a magazine, I looked for the best spot for a Christmas Tree. (Still do.) A quick walk through the narrow trailer, and I knew there would be no Christmas Tree that year. We would be packed into that place like sardines in a can. There was no room for a tree.

But in years past, no matter how bad things had gotten, we had always had a Christmas Tree. The kids loved them and I did as well. This would be more heartache for my children. More guilt for me.

On the morning of the last day of school before Christmas Break, Garrett said to me: “Mom, I’m going to have a surprise for you after school today. But first I have to go into the woods. Ok? Don’t be worried when you see me going into the woods with a saw. I promise you’re going to love my surprise.”

I don’t think I found words, my throat was too tight. I just hugged him. And felt like the worst mom in the world. Undeserving of my two beautiful children.

That afternoon, he was very excited on the way home from school. As soon as his backpack was put away, he announced he was going for the surprise. “I won’t be long, I already know where it is.”

Watching that little boy enter the woods, wearing a navy blue stocking cap on his head, carrying a saw half his size… I was filled with gratitude for God’s blessings. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.

Before long he emerged from the woods, dragging a Cedar Tree behind him. His saw was in the other hand, and a smile brighter than the Georgia sun on his face.

Our ornaments were in storage, so we decorated the tree with ornaments he and Lindsey had made in school that year. I had rounded up a couple strands of lights, so those went on the tree as well.

I declared it the best tree we had ever had. And it was.

But Garrett said it needed one more thing to be perfect. Our tree needed a Star.

So he gathered some supplies: an empty toilet paper holder, aluminum foil, and a piece of cardboard… and he made a Star for the top of the tree.

(✨update: I have a tree in 2019… the Star is in the photo above.)

I still use his homemade Star to top my tree. (I would post a photo, but I don’t have a tree this year).

On that Christmas morning, there weren’t many gifts under the tree. It never occurred to me that there might be a gift with my name on it beneath the tree. After both kids had opened their presents, Lindsey went to the tree. She leaned in, then stood up holding a small, sweetly wrapped package. I could tell her little hands had done the wrapping.

She held the gift forward, toward me. And in the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard, she said, “Here Mom, this is for you.”

She waited patiently while I opened the gift she had for me. I could see from her expression, that whatever was in the box, it was something she had put a lot of thought into.

Inside the wrappings, was a beautiful “diamond” angel pin.

“I wanted you to have this mom. So you’ll always have an angel watching over you.”

I hugged her, thanked her, and wept silently.

How was it that I had been blessed with these two thoughtful,caring children? How could they both be so good and kind, when their lives were in a perpetual state of instability?

I wore the angel pin daily. Until I was afraid it was too fragile, then I put it up for safe keeping. I still have it though, and tonight I unwrapped it once again.

I remembered the gentle determination of both little ones. And wondered again, why God had loaned me such wonderful gifts.

I pray you have a

Merry Christmas. 🎄