Blog by Jackie Thompson
I have a confession to make. I celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving. Like the day after Halloween before Thanksgiving. It truly is my favorite time of the year. My friends roll their eyes and my family are just used to it. So of course I would create a special tradition for my family on Thanksgiving that incorporates Christmas, and thus “Family Thankful Ornament Exchange” was born. The exchange happens when we draw names and the next year you come back with a letter of why you are thankful for that person and gift a Christmas ornament personally chosen for that person. By the time the kiddos are older, they will have a great set of childhood ornaments and letters to know why they are so special in our family.
Our family celebrates Thanksgiving the day after so that all “in-law/other traditions” get the actual Thanksgiving day and we don’t end up with a no-hungry dinner or grumpy little ones Thanksgiving night. So on the special Friday after Thanksgiving our family gets together for the day and we love every bit of it.
In 2016 this day became a little more special. A few months prior to the ornament day, I started a journey that has proven to be the most challenging, yet all the more rewarding path in my life. In June 2016 I took full guardianship over my beautiful 9 year old niece and most awesome 8 year old nephew. I went from being a never married, no kids and living with a roommate woman, to a single working guardian in a matter of several weeks. Some thought it was such a great act, but honestly I was so grateful that I was in a place to take the journey. I had been attending Wave Church since 2004 and the core of their heart is saving the lost and building up the community they live in and here was an opportunity to do that in my own family. Wave fostered my heart way before I decided to do the same with these wonderful kids.
So ornament day came and my younger but so much wiser sister had drawn my name the year before. She read her letter and of course we cried through it and presented me with an ornament that said “Our first Christmas” with three stockings that each read our name. In the letter she speaks of gratefulness, grace and unselfishness when describing me and I remember being so thankful that day, that I almost couldn’t keep my composure. I was more in awe of the work God was doing in my own life through the journey than in the kiddos. Mainly because I knew I could not do it without God and of course all those surrounding me. It reminded me of the verse…
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV
It was because of His Grace that I was sitting in my living room on that crisp November day, receiving a gift that was so much more than an ornament to hang on the tree. I was receiving a small reminder that God had orchestrated the journey I was on and His grace led me to this very day. A day that without His first Christmas gift to the world, which came before Thanksgiving, would allow me to continue celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving, and even allow me to keep that Christmas spirit celebration all year. I’m so excited to see what ornaments come this year! “Give thanks with a grateful heart”—1 Thess. 5:18