Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why My Christmas is Better in 2008 Despite 3 Jobs

I was taking a moment to reflect on how less chaotic this Christmas is for me. The tree is casting twinkling lights in the living room. A small assortment of presents sit underneath. Presents for the church members of my husband are mostly wrapped. The house is warm and inviting. I can't believe I have time to type!

Last year, was one of the most chaotic Christmas seasons that I can remember. Trying to get us out of a financial bind found me working three different jobs. My charity job does not pay. So to compensate, I went to work as a pizza delivery driver. My ever present health was an issue but my terrific boss was very understanding. Plus, I mystery shopped for two companies.

This year, I am again working three jobs. (Blog readers know we picked up some additional hospital bills a few weeks ago.). Two opportunities to make a little bit of money on the internet have come my way. They can both be done from home in between coughing fits.

All this should mean a chaotic Christmas. It's not. As I have time to sit and reflect I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the blessing shown to me this season. It's not that we have won the lottery or anything like that. But this Christmas the focus is on our family. It is not on just surviving but on togetherness - a profound change over last year.

Christmas 2007 will go down as one of the more hectic in my life. With my three temporary jobs we were beginning to make progress paying off the bills. Then, my husband got a phone call in the second week of December.. He had been selected to go on a job-related missions trip - in February. John was thrilled to have been invited! But there was a lot to do.

My husband is a pastor. Advent is a special, but busy, season. To attend to the spiritual needs of his flock during the Christmas season he was doing a special Sunday morning prayer service at 8:30 am. He spent a lot of time in preparation for this special prayer service. Plus he had to plan regular services, special Christmas Eve services an outing and was involved in the cantata and other Christmas church activities.

On top of his duties all we would need to do for the trip was:

Get several hundred dollars together, (Ouch! I was already working 3 jobs!)
Fill out some forms, (Its the government. Is anything easy?)
Scramble to get his passport, (We had to go to DC.)
Arrange for his VISA, (We had to go to DC.)
Arrange for coverage for the church services he would miss, (Guess who?)
Get through Christmas, (Presents and services.)
Convince his church to support him, (Only a few did.)
Ask his church for financial assistance, (They declined but did allow him to designate his tithe to pay for his trip.)
Do all the things you do for International travel. (Whatever that is. He'd never done it before.)
And then he was ready go to. (Except he needed clothes etc.)

Oh, and there was this thing about spending two job-related weekends in Gatlinburg in January and a major fundraiser for my charity work during the first weekend of February. Plus, my daughter who was away at college was dealing with a stalker. We were just glad to have her home - and safe.

Not only was the church not supportive (as a whole) of my husband's trip but several complained that the Christmas tree was not put up during Christmas! Only one family ever asked if they could help of if we needed anything that holiday. To this day, I am grateful for that family and probably always will be.

So as I sip on my hot cocoa and type, I realize just how much richer this Christmas is than last year. Not financially more extravagant, never that but richer in the more meaningful ways.

The stalker who was fixated on my daughter has now been removed permanently from campus. My husband, (who's life was forever changed on that missions trip) is having a blast as his new appointment this year. There are beautiful friends both locally and around the globe who touch my life as I touch theirs.

Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Christ. It is not just about putting up a Christmas tree or decorating a building. It is about a nativity and telling others about the joy contained therein. There is just a lot to be thankful for and I am.

May you and your family have a Merry Christmas this year and always!

Gayle