The Paper Fireplace

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We are a mere few weeks away from bringing our first baby into the world. While she may miss Christmas day, I have a new found respect for what parents face each year to ensure their little families have a magical holiday. I see dads on ladders hanging Christmas lights and moms baking in the kitchen. I understand the pressure to buy just the right gifts and the chaos of parties, programs and hosting family. As a child you do not always see the bills, the exhaustion, and the pressure to produce a Hallmark experience for your loved ones. You just see the sparkle.

One Christmas that I look back on with such warmth, was when our family was very young. My parents could not afford gifts that holiday. As a matter-of-fact, the only present my two sisters and I received, was a new dress to wear to our church's Christmas service. There were no packages delivered or tinsel and garland to behold. All that mom was able to produce that year was a small, paper fireplace. I can see the image clearly in my mind's eye. She sat on the floor of our tiny living room and rolled out a large piece of white paper. Using colored pencils, she carefully shaded in orange and yellow flames atop brown logs. Each brick was hand-drawn and meticulously placed. Using tacks, she pinned the finished image to our wall and hung small stockings from the paper mantle. On Christmas day, instead of opening presents, we found candy inside the tiny stockings. I still remember their tangy, sweet flavor.

That year, while my parents may have witnessed lack, I only saw the magic. It was not until I was much older that I even realized there were no gifts that December. All I honestly remembered was the most beautiful picture of a fireplace and the excitement of getting candy on Christmas morning from our very own little stockings.

As I bring my own daughter into the world, I want to always remember the innocent spirit of a child. I want to remember to see the holidays though her eyes. If the tree is crooked and the presents are sparse, maybe it is only I who will notice. Truth be told, I do not remember many of the Christmas presents I have received through the years. What I remember are the dinners with family, walks through the snow, laughter, games played, and one paper fireplace crafted with the love of a mother.

Take a deep breath newlywed. Let your heart rest, tired mommy. Let your spirit be content my anxious friend. Use gift-bags this year. Buy your hot chocolate pre-made. Do not put so much pressure on your fragile soul. I promise, no one will notice. Your secret is safe with me. Give yourself a break and give yourself a chance to feel the joy. They may not remember what you bought them, but they will remember the experience you create. Do not let them see your furrowed brow over homemade cookies. Let them see a mess, but a twinkle in your eye. That is what Christmas is all about.

Luke 2: 11-14

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.