I can still remember vividly the last Christmas I had with my dad. The year was 1991. I did not know it would be our last until he died suddenly in 1992 in a plane crash when I was only 12 years old. That first Christmas without him was the first time that something wrapped in shiny packaging and a big bow felt void and empty. It was from that moment I think my heart began to shift into a season of learning (for me) what a real gift truly was.
Through the following years, I took great joy in designing and installing exterior illumination that even Clark W. Griswald would have been proud of. Surely I would have been given a key to the city of Whoville! Gifts grew big and held all the magic and wonder of Saint Nick. Then something happened, a Grinch if you will, came into my life on Christmas morning. My firstborn daughter was only 6 months old and was just 3 months pregnant with my son when domestic violence sent me to the hospital and my then husband to jail for our first Christmas. The presents that were bought and under the tree meant absolutely nothing when all I wanted to hear was the heartbeat of my unborn baby. With my daughter beside me and my eyes filled with tears, hearing his heart had me clinging to every beat. The gifts that were under the tree that year meant absolutely nothing me.
The years following that first Christmas were filled with the financial burdens of four years in divorce court, welfare, and the struggle of trying to get on my feet while being 2000 miles away from any family. The years following brought one more reconciliation and attempt to salvage what was. God somehow knew I needed my third and youngest child in my life.
We live in a world that delivers clever polished marketing campaigns that pressures parents to deliver the perfect gift and pushes long lists of wants onto our children that give the impression of finding actual joy. As a single mother of three, you learn quickly what budgeting means. You realize what things are a luxury and what you actually need to survive.
This year will be the fifth Christmas that I will not buy my children anything. Yes, you read that correctly. Not. One. Thing. At first, this was difficult as most people believed it was due to a lack of funds, but the real heart of the matter was learned by a simple lesson from the Grinch and the gifts of poverty and divorce that he bought. When you have nothing, you start to focus on what you truly need in your life.

Christmases quickly became adventures with my children. One Christmas it was snow sledding, the next it was a devotional book we read together every day up to Christmas Day. Two years ago we stayed in a train car and rode in a horse-drawn carriage. Last year it was a movie at The Palace Theatre to see “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Last week, my oldest who is now 9, said she could not wait to see what adventure we would go on this Christmas. It finally dawned on me, this is how WE do Christmas. We adventure together as a family. Sometimes big or sometimes very small but it’s always perfect for us. Christmas isn’t defined by the lists of wants that we create, instead, it is trusting the road ahead and all of its wondrous tales that we will find.

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On this, our fifth Christmas, we are looking forward to our next adventure and I am hoping that you can help us this time. @thebucketlistfamily is having a contest and surprising three families across the United States with Christmas adventures on Christmas. Well, it happens that this is exactly what the kids and I do, and it also happens to be the year the kids will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with me. (The joys and pains of divorce every other year)
If you could take a moment and visit www.thebucketlistfamily.com/tblf-is-coming-to-town to nominate us and then simply forward and share this blog on social media to help this get back to @thebucketlistfamily I would be so grateful.
Thank you for your support! If we are not one of the families chosen, rest assured the kids and I will still be off on a wild adventure somewhere.
Until then, remember A Lesson From the Grinch:
“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags… What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more”
– Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Love,
Marissa
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