My kids are teenagers, yet they still get great joy from writing out their Christmas wish lists each year. They decorate their lists with different colored inks and put stars and underline the items they really want. The lists hang on the refrigerator as a constant reminder of what they are wishing for this year.
I walk past their wish lists and, as their parent, I want to grant all their hearts’ desires– even the live animals that almost always appear on my youngest daughter's list. I want my children to be happy. My joy comes from giving them gifts that make them happy.
The desire of mine to give my kids good gifts reminds me of this verse:
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11)
I have certainly spent a good deal of time over these last two years asking for good gifts. As a single mom raising two daughters in a small apartment, my biggest wish has been for the chance to buy a home for my kids to live in as they complete their high school years.
I searched nearly a year for a house: ideally, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with a fenced-in backyard that could give us a feeling of stability. I put in offers on multiple homes, only to be outbid each time. The one time my offer was accepted, an inspection revealed major problems with the house so I had to withdraw my offer.
This thing that I was asking God for just wasn't panning out. The answer kept coming up “no.”
Eventually, in the summer of 2020, I gave up the search for a house. I surrendered to what I had and where I was at the moment. I accepted that maybe the time wasn't right for me to buy a home.
Two months later my life suddenly took on a whole new reality when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at 41 years old. I had always been perfectly healthy with no family history of any type of cancer. Sometimes, I still can't believe it happened.
However, during this nightmare, I was given so many good gifts from my Heavenly Father.
Gifts showed up in the form of His people: a close friend organized a prayer meeting before my treatment began. I couldn't believe how many people arrived at a moment's notice to pray over me.
I was given financial gifts in the form of a fundraiser that covered my out-of-pocket medical expenses for treatment.
I was given the gift of food showing up on my doorstep to feed my children.
A friend from out of state gifted me a professional house cleaning.
I was given the gift of a mentor who had gone through this journey before, and she walked with me every step, cheering me on and driving me to all my chemotherapy appointments.
And I can’t leave off mention of the gifts of doctors, science and medicine that gave me hope for recovery.
I heard nothing but positive affirmations from God through my friends’ words to me: "You're not going to like this, but you're going to be okay." "You are worthy." "You are loved." "We will get you through this." "Don't be afraid."
Perhaps the greatest gift to date is the gift of perspective. Before my diagnosis, I was just surviving life. I was rushing through the motions of working full-time, raising kids, and keeping up. I was flying under the radar - which is where I like to hang out as a natural introvert. I had no idea how many people cared about me.
The community that showed up for me blew me away. It seemed like people came out of the woodwork–people from my past and my childhood. What a gift to know you are loved.
The past couple of years have been tough for a lot of us. Years of loss. A time of fear and canceled plans. But no matter what we have faced recently, we know we have a good, loving Father that Jesus describes for us in Matthew 7:11. We may not get everything we put on our Christmas list….but we can trust that God will give us just what we need.
Back to those Christmas wish lists; my daughters didn’t get that pony they wanted. I didn’t get the house I was looking for. God said “no” to my biggest wish knowing before I did what was ahead of me. He met me in my darkest moment, with exactly what I needed, when I needed it. No matter what we have all faced recently, we can trust that we have a good, loving Father with our best interests in His heart. He wants to give us good gifts. We may not get everything on our wish lists, but God has taught me that I can trust Him to provide for my needs at just the right time.