Monday, December 12, 2011

Give Christmas Away - Part 1

As Christmas approaches and I keep wondering whether or not I should send Christmas cards and how I’ll do it and if I’ll ever get the perfect family photo in Cambodia, and... you know all that stuff, I can’t help but think how much has changed since last year.

Really though, could that much have changed in a year?



Last year my whole world was different. The biggest difference I remember about Christmas itself was that my husband was in Afghanistan serving with the US Army. The rest was beginning to unfold in last year’s letter here.

But since I keep finding myself reflecting on that time of deployment and my years as a military wife, I think my “Give Christmas Away” theme (which I do plan to have another part to but may or may not actually do) should start with the military.

And this time, I’m not just talking about our soldiers.

See, I’ve been there. And it wasn’t so long ago at all. I miss the military life sometimes. I miss the fun, the friends, the Bunco nights, the book clubs, the wives clubs, all of the social stuff. Most of all I miss the “family” that grows out of every relocation, every move, every deployment. I miss the other moms and dads who grow to know my kids well enough to correct them when they need it and hug and kiss them when they need love. I always found that relationships grew deep quickly because they had to. People were always coming and going so we didn’t have time to waste with small talk. We got close, we got real, and we became family. I miss my family. But the good thing about family is they always love you. Now I have family all over the world.

I don’t miss the deployments, though. The deployments that any of my “family” goes through. Because we are all in it together. I didn’t like watching my husband have to see his kids wake up on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought via a broken Skype connection. I didn’t like having to send the Christmas presents a month early only to find out they made it late. It’s just not really fun at all to celebrate any holiday when half the family is away.

But it’s important, nonetheless. We all know freedom isn’t free. And this time of year, those of us who are not military families are likely to forget that we’re fighting a war over there. I mean, we get so busy shopping and attending parties, and taking exams for school that we don’t even remember Jesus, so of course we forget the soldiers. For the families, though, it’s pretty much all they think about.

I can sit here and see on my facebook page so many of my friends- my “family”- who have the greatest Christmas gift of all coming in on a plane this year. That brings me tears of joy. I can’t imagine that time of reunion coming at a better season. How can Santa Claus or a new iPad compete with Dad stepping off that plane? I pray they make it on time and safe and sound.

But then I see others who celebrated the holidays in October or November because they knew that by December their soldier would be long gone.

Let’s try to think about them a little this Christmas. Because even if they go visit family for the holiday, chances are they are coming home to a big empty house after Christmas, where only one parent will be cleaning up all the new toys, only one parent will be taking down the holiday decorations, and two people half a world away from each other will wake up each day with some sort of countdown to how many days are left until they see each other again.

How can we Give Christmas Away to these families?

Here are some ideas I’ve read online or thought of from my struggles in the past.

Invite a family into your home for a meal or party

Buy gifts and give anonymously to the children

Give money or gift cards to an enlisted family struggling to make ends meet

Offer to help decorate the house for Christmas, as many women will choose not to decorate because they don’t want to ask for help.

Babysit the children so Mom can go shopping for gifts or just have a break

If mom is travelling, pack a “travel kit” for the kids with books, games, toys, and snacks to make the trip easier for everyone.

Hire a cleaning service so the parent has to do less cleaning is family is coming to visit

Take digital family pictures for them to send to their soldier

Leave a bag of groceries on the doorstep anonymously

If the family doesn’t have a webcam, buy them one and teach them how to use skype so they can see their loved ones on Christmas

Make a movie of the family and help them send it to their loved one overseas

Pray. Always pray for these dear men, women, and children, who are living a life unique and special. A life we are all grateful to them for. Thank them and pray for them all.

My soldier and my son the day he left in 2010

Please use the comment form to add some more ideas on helping the families of deployed soldiers at Christmas and throughout the year.


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