2008 was a horrible year.
That spring, I found myself a divorced father of my two children. I felt like a failure, and I also felt embarrassed and humbled being a divorced Christian. Becoming a one income household forced me to simplify my life drastically as well. And now I’m facing Christmas and I had been frustrated with materialism for a long time
After the divorce, not only was my family torn apart, our extended family and friends that were near and dear to my heart were torn apart as well. So, when the holiday season rolled around that year, it was a huge adjustment – mentally, socially, emotionally, and financially.
The blessing in all this was that because the divorce was so painful, I sought God more than I ever had before. He and I had a LOT of conversations during this season! He provided me with acceptance, love and comfort. Christian family support was big as well.
Despite having to adjust to all the new changes, a part of me embraced the opportunity to get to do Christmas my way. I’ve always loved the Christmas season - decorating, listening to carols, watching Christmas shows and movies, buying gifts, and most importantly reflecting on the true meaning of the season: Jesus’ birth.
Yet, I had been frustrated with the materialism of Christmas for a long time. So now, I desired to make Christmas more meaningful for my children and me. I knew there was a connection between Santa Claus and St. Nicholas, so when I started reading more and more about St. Nick, wow, not only was he a real person, but he had a fascinating life story!
His parents died of the plague when he was young. He inherited his parents’ vast fortune, and yet he felt called by God to simplify his life and use his fortune to help the poor, sick, and suffering. Nicholas went on to become a priest and bishop and was persecuted for his faith, yet despite persecution and prison, he persevered and continued to be joyful and generous.
His life became a movie in my head that I eventually had to get onto paper for my kids to read someday.
Nicholas’ story was a game-changer for me. Rather than focus on my circumstances, I realized I had two choices: be bitter or get better. I chose better like Nicholas did. Maybe I didn’t choose to simplify my life initially like Nicholas did, but due to circumstances, I needed to simplify my life materialistically. And you know what? I liked it!
I sat my kids down and told them we’ll be doing Christmas at my place differently. First, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, so let’s focus on that.
Then, I told them I’m more about doing than having. I would much rather do things with them and have fun and make memories than buy a bunch of presents that are hardly going to be acknowledged or used in three months, so this year let’s just exchange only a few presents.
What happened? Only the best Christmas ever. That Christmas included a lot of cuddle time watching Christmas shows, baking together, having more meaningful conversations, and talking about how we could be a blessing to others.
As for the gifts, being on a limited budget, that made us put more thought into what the others would want, making giving and receiving more meaningful. And because I didn’t have anything big to give them, I told them that I would save up and take them on a trip the next summer.
Ever since, our Christmases became simpler...and they also became less stressful and more joyful.
Most importantly, by making Jesus and His love, joy, peace and hope the focal point of Christmas, the season became that much more special and meaningful.
Over time, as I was writing this book, I shared the story with friends and family. The response I received was an overwhelming, 'Wow, Nicholas’ story is amazing, we want to read it when you’re done!' With that, I realized that this story can help more than just my kids and me, it can help many others who want to make the Christmas season a deeper and more meaningful experience for themselves, as well.