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I have always loved all the excitement, activity and tradition that leads up to Christmas. Mama and Daddy would take us walking through the woods on our family land in mid-December to pick out a tree. We always got a pretty cedar, and to this day, a cedar tree smells like Christmas to me.

My aunt Bet took me to see Santa every year at Sears at Friendly Center. I was never bothered by his obviously fake beard. Seemed legit.

santa

The TV shows, oh how I loved them — Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the Grinch. If you missed them, you had to wait until the next year to catch them again. It was happiest time of year for me.

Christmas Eve was the one night my parents didn’t have to make me go to bed. You remember it, right? Desperately trying to go to sleep because the sooner you could, the sooner Christmas morning would be here?

My brother and I had a plan. Whoever woke up first would go wake the other, and together we’d rush into the living room. Even if the first one woke up at 3:00 am, we’d still get up! Mama and Daddy would leave the tree lit all night on Christmas Eve, and we loved opening our gifts by only the light of the tree.

When I was 10 years old, I simply couldn’t stand waiting several more days to see what I was getting for Christmas. Finding myself alone in the house, temptation overcame me. I carefully unwrapped all my gifts — just enough to see what they were, and taped them back up again. After I’d seen all my gifts, there was no turning back. Might as well see what my brother Dean was getting too! It felt good!! For the moment anyway . . . .

When the relief of not getting caught wore off, I immediately felt the letdown. Guilt and shame flooded my heart. What had I done!? All the anticipation of Christmas morning was gone for me. What is seen cannot be unseen, and now I had nothing to look forward to AT ALL.

Christmas of 1975 was the single most disappointing Christmas of my childhood. Oh I got what I had asked for — a Cher doll (of “Sonny and” fame), a Kodak Instamatic camera and a roll of film, a purple sweater, a hip leather belt and some bell bottom velour pants. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my presents. I loved them! The problem was that I had wasted my Christmas a couple of weeks beforehand, all alone. It’s funny that I don’t remember exactly what I got for Christmas on any other year. That one year is burned in my mind.

It was too late to save the Christmas of ’75, but I was determined to save the rest of my Christmases. Never again did I want to experience that kind of pain. After that, they could have laid a Kleenex over each of my gifts and I still wouldn’t have looked!! I’d learned my lesson because pain is an excellent teacher.

That same year, I remember my 5th grade teacher telling us a story about a boy who didn’t experience pain. The boy had some sort of nerve dysfunction. He could fall down and scrape his knees and it didn’t hurt! He could eat candy for dinner and never get a stomach ache; mash his finger in the door, stump his toe on the couch, or get stung by a bee — no pain!

As she told the story, I remember thinking the inability to feel pain was a pretty good problem to have! What a lucky boy! But Mrs. Wray was trying to teach us a lesson about the PURPOSE OF PAIN. Eventually the boy died from injuries and infections. He didn’t know to take his hand off the hot burner because it didn’t hurt him to get burned. He didn’t know to tell his parents something was causing him pain, so they didn’t take him to the hospital until it was too late.

Pain is a gift that saves our lives. It’s nature’s way of making us stop doing something unhealthy for us.

Is something hurting you? Are you in a painful place in your life? Lonely at Christmas? Take a close look at it. Is that pain trying to tell you something? Maybe it’s time to make a change!

Do you have habits and addictions that are not only hurting you, but causing your family great heartache?

Are you sick and unhealthy because of poor eating and exercise habits?

Do you keep losing relationship after relationship because of some behavior of yours?

Maybe the problem isn’t everyone else. Maybe YOU need to change — even if that change is to stop going after the same dysfunctional relationship time and time again!

Does it finally hurt bad enough to do something different? This is a wise slogan:

Until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, most people never change.

We are given the gift of pain to force us to change. If something is bad for us, it’s GOOD for it to hurt so we will STOP IT. God Himself might be speaking to you through your pain.

One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes:

We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

My husband has asked me not to look at the American Express bill online until after Christmas. He knows I look at it every day because I update our expenses on an Excel spreadsheet (I’m a tad bit obsessive about finances!). It’s not easy to skip looking at the finances for a few days, but I don’t want to know what he’s getting me. I learned my lesson 40 years ago. All Christmases are safe because of the painful Christmas of 1975.

Merry Christmas to you, one and all! God’s richest blessings on you and your family as we celebrate the birth of Christ. May we all have the love of family surrounding us, may relationships be healed, and our hearts be filled with joy! And may God give us the wisdom to change any harmful behaviors before pain forces us to! May your hearts be filled with love, hope and peace. I love you all!

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