This morning my mind went back to a little house on Beale Avenue in Leechburg, Pennsylvania, where I grew up. I was a six or 7-year-old Candy and was sneaking down the steps one Christmas morning to see if Santa Claus had stopped at our house last night. As I came to the bottom of the steps, I saw brightly colored and deliciously attractive packages under the tree. In glancing toward the table by the fireplace, there were some cookies gone from Santa’s plate. There was even a cookie with a bite taken out of it! Also, much to my surprise, there were bites taken off the carrots that we had left for Rudolph! A reindeer would get hungry, too, on such a busy night.
My eyes went back to the tree with the presents underneath. By then, Mom and Dad were coming down the stairs to begin this exciting day! ‘Mom, he was here!’ I yelled. The surprise in my Mom and Dad’s eyes were as bright as mine when they looked at the tree! “Can I open the presents?” “Sure!”.
We all got down on the floor and were picking through the brightly colored packages with bows on them, looking for a little tag that had our names on it. We didn’t just jump in, and all unwrap at the same time. Mom had us do it with some control. At that time, it was only the three of us. My sister hadn’t yet come into this world.
There were several with my name on it, and I opened the biggest one first. It was a red fuzzy housecoat, and it just matched my slippers that I had on my feet! How did he know that I had red fuzzy slippers, and this would match! He always knew just what I needed. A beautiful baby doll appeared beneath the wrapping paper, along with underwear, socks, and a new outfit. There might have been color-forms in my stocking. Those were the little plastic figures that would stick to the book, and you could dress up the girl and boy figures with different outfits and accessories. How fun that would be! New crayons may have been in my stocking, too, that year, along with an orange. The box of crayons was the one that had the crayon sharpener on the side. How did he know I needed new crayons? I don’t think I told him that. I loved to color.
There were packages for Mom and Dad, and I was even surprised that a couple of them were marked from me! Santa thinks of everything.
It was a light, happy morning, and we were all smiles and talking about what was under the tree. “Hey…. wait a minute,” I said. “I asked Santa Clause for ice skates, and they’re not here! He said if I was a good girl, I might find them under the tree!”
Mom said we should look around the tree again, so we did. There, behind the tree in the corner, was another wrapped box with my name on it. ‘Oh, I hope they’re the ice skates I asked for!” “I’ve been good this year, right, Mommy?” I hurriedly unwrapped the paper on the box, and it was just about the right size for ice skates to be in the box. I can’t wait, I thought as I took the lid off. Once I tore back the tissue paper inside, there they were, beautiful, uh roller skates???” What? That’s not what was on my Santa list!
I remember being way more than just disappointed and almost to my fiery redhead stage. “Why would he leave me roller skates when I said that I wanted ice skates?” Couldn’t he get it right? He always just knew what I wanted. There has to be a mistake. Does the North Pole and Santa Clause have an exchange policy? Nope…
I’m ashamed of myself as I think back to that Christmas morning when I was so disappointed and almost irritated at Santa. I couldn’t hide my feelings as tears ran down my cheeks. I poured my heart out to my Mom that Santa shattered my dreams of sliding across the ice at the ice rink. I wouldn’t be skating over to that shack along the ice pond that served hot chocolate and a fire to get warm. That old Santa Clause didn’t get it right this year. My disappointment turned very quickly into a dislike for my new roller skates.
Mom was always the right one to talk with about these kinds of disappointments. She explained that the ice skates could only be used for a short time during the winter months at the outside skating rink outside Leechburg. However, the good thing about roller skates is that I could use them all year in the basement and even at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They had a big paved driveway, and we had a sidewalk in front of our home. I could use the roller skates more than ice skates. They were rather pretty, and there was this shiny key to adjust them on a long string that I could put over my head as a necklace. The other good thing about them was that they could be adjusted to fit over my shoes as my feet grew, and ice skates wouldn’t do that. I slowly became grateful for the roller skates because I had so much fun with them as I skated around in the basement and would grab onto the pole and go around and around. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with ice skates.
Yes, I got a precious gift that Christmas, and it didn’t have anything to do with the skates at all. I learned that we don’t always get what we want, but it may be what we need that would be better for us. After a while, I told Mom that I was sorry that I got mad at Santa and for not liking the roller skates.
That experience prepared me for other situations in my life when things didn’t go according to how I thought they should. Many disappointments have turned into areas of extreme gratitude, and deep joy as new experiences and different outcomes took their place.
Through the years, I’ve grown to understand and accept that God’s will for my life is right where I long to be. My life choices are not always what I want now, but where God’s direction is leading me.
The rough, lonely valley of divorce years ago strengthened me to emerge into a pathway that answered to Jesus saying “come and follow me” and say ‘I do’ to John and partner with him in Ministry. That experience has allowed us to share the love of Christ with many, many people and walk with them through life experiences that are both hard and joyful. Many meaningful relationships have blessed us as we’ve walked through life with them. We’ve celebrated weddings and births together, watched families expand. There also have been crippling crises, where we’ve held hands in hospitals or at deathbeds. We’ve prayed together, cried together, and laughed exuberantly together.
“Come and follow me” is asked of all of us when we least expect it, in different ways for all of us, and in the ordinary decisions in our days. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic life-changing turn of events. It can be as simple as thinking of someone and picking up the phone, sending a card, making a meal, or texting ‘how are you.’
I read a devotion yesterday that touched me. ‘God Calling’ edited by Lacie Stevens and Patty Valesquez is a book I’ve had for years.
“Not our wills but Yours, O Lord (adapted from Luke 22:42).
Man has so often misunderstood what I meant by this. I do not want anyone to lay their will on My altar grudgingly. I want you to desire and love My will, because that is where both your happiness and rest for your spirit lie.
Stevens, Lacie; Velasquez, Patti. God Calling: A Timeless Classic Updated in Today’s Language . Whitecaps Media. Kindle Edition”
‘Thy Will Be Done’… We say that in the Lord’s Prayer, but do we understand what that means? That doesn’t mean that we ask God to bless and pass a magic wand over what we want to do or manipulate things to arrive at our planned outcome. It means that we gratefully lay our lives and decisions at His altar and trust that He will direct us to do what is best. What a relief that is. Much needless pain of indecision we bear when we don’t leave it with Him. “I want you to desire and love my will because that is where both your happiness and rest for your spirit lie.”
I was so happy with my roller skates that year. Also, I am still grateful for the lesson that our needs and wants are not always aligned; but when God gives us what we need, true happiness and peace reside.
Be Blessed to Bless Others,