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Our Best Simple Christmas Ever

This Christmas will be simple. Yes, only two of our five children will be around, but it will be uncomplicated for other reasons.  We haven’t lived in a roofed house for months; instead, we've been living out of our nineteen-foot-trailer (or caravan) parked inside of our third son’s Trayvax factory.  Parental squatters here! Meanwhile, we work on renovating our first son’s mobile home nearby. Simplification happens when you have less space in which to habitat.

This downsizing has made me grow mentally.  I’ve become aware of “living small,” which is a trend now in America with the advent of "Tiny Homes."   When we lived in Belgium in the 1990s, we learned first-hand that most people in the world live with a lot less than we do in America. Also, generations now live longer and spend money on items as they age, such as more comfortable anything, nicer clothes, more shoes, fancier cars, a bigger mortgage, faster skis, larger collections, just more. Then you get to retirement age, and most of us say to ourselves, "Why do I have so many _______?" You can fill in the blank. Because the real problem with “more stuff” is that you have to have a place to put it: Thus, the advent of storage units.  But with downsizing, truly, life becomes simpler. And paring down is part of American history, with pioneers throwing heavy possessions from their covered wagons to get across this vast and varied America. So this Christmas, since we all live in either trailers or mobile homes, practicing simplicity is prudent, and it is wise to look to our best PAST King Christmas for what SIMPLE really matters.

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We were all living in Connecticut that December 1993, where Michael was Captain of a fast-attack submarine. He was gone 70% of the time, and I homeschooled and raised the four children (at that time) all by myself since no relatives were near.  During that Christmas month, I became very ill with the flu and wasn’t even able to purchase gifts for the children.  And remember, too, back then, no internet shopping existed, for we were getting into word processors, not personal computers.  So I did the only thing I knew I could handle. I gave them each $20 in hard cash and sent them into Big Lots Discount Store to buy their own $20 worth of Christmas presents while I stayed in the parking lot with my tissues. Then we came home, and all four wrapped their own gifts with newspaper and laid them under our $5 artificial three-foot Christmas tree named "Humble," which I had found at a neighborhood thrift store. Then I somehow stumbled back into bed.

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That Christmas morning, they awoke me around 6 AM, and we all followed our old family tradition of lighting a candle at the top of the stairs and saying a prayer of thanks before walking down with the lighted candle.  I collapsed on the nearest couch while my four opened their presents with squeals of delight.  The rest of the day was a blur, and how they fed themselves and got back in bed that evening escaped my notice.  That lit Christmas candle was the only bright spot in my day, but in their little minds, they each had hit the jackpot with their gifts which they'd purchased and wrapped by themselves.

So this story's bottom line is Christmas is meant to be simple yet amazing.  It is the story of a loving Father giving His children a path to find salvation through the supreme gift of His Son, Jesus.  And it is a truthful tale of how we should live, in simplicity with wonder at our many undeserved gifts.  We are blessed to be a blessing.


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Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author

The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.

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