The Year We Cancelled Christmas

by Sue Badeau

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. Jeremiah 31:25 (NIV)

“You have HOW MANY children?”  Upon hearing that the answer is 22; 2 by birth, and 20 adopted, the next statement many people make is “Christmas must be amazing in your house!”

Truly, Christmas IS amazing in our house.  Our traditions include doing something special on each day of advent to allow the anticipation to build, as the light and joy of the season grow day by day. The whole month of December became a magnificent, chaotic cacophony of joyful noise and bustling energy. 

December in our house never included a moment of rest.

One year, things had been particularly stressful for months.  Bad news, seemingly insurmountable challenges, illnesses, and even deaths were piling up along with the endless stack of bills to be paid.  My husband and I reached our breaking point.  “That’s it!”  We declared that we were “cancelling Christmas.”  We held a family meeting and told the children that this year, there would be no Christmas.  No activities, no cookies and eggnog, no lights, no tree, no stockings hung from the bannister, and no gifts.

Three of our children – ages 11, 12 and 14 – had a different idea.  They had a small after school job helping to deliver firewood.  Secretly they decided to pool their money and buy gifts for the entire family.  Stealthily they accomplished their mission with no one, not even mom and dad, catching on.  Excitedly, they waited until after everyone had gone to bed on Christmas Eve and then tip-toed into the living room and filled every stocking and added a pile of wrapped gifts around the fireplace. 

The astonished faces and tears of joy that graced our home that Christmas morning have never left my mind, or heart.  It was only by accident that I discovered who the 3 secret elves were, and I have kept their secret. 

Like the very first Christmas-mother, I too have “treasured up all these things and pondered them in (my) heart.” (Luke 2:19). We learned a simple and profound lesson that year. Christmas simply cannot be cancelled.  Even in the darkest of times in our life and even in the darkest spaces in our world, the light of Christmas will not stay under the bushel-basket.  The light will burst forth, spilling and spreading and dancing brighter and brighter as it is shared.  The light of Christmas brings not only joy but refreshment and rest to the weary and satisfies those who are feeling faint. 

Are you feeling weary this season? Lean into the rest and refreshment that only Jesus can provide.

This article is brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sue Badeau is a Christian author, speaker and adoptive parent who trains, consults and speaks nationally and internationally on trauma, racial justice, family engagement and self-care .She and her husband, Hector are lifetime parents of 22; two by birth, 20 adopted, and have also been foster parents to 75 including refugees from Kosovo and Sudan. They have co-authored Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip, Adopting and Raising 22 Kids and Building Bridges of Hope: A Coloring Book for Adults Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma. Sue also has authored a 6-week devotional book based on Psalm 51 and her experiences living with and loving people with trauma histories, entitled Clean Heart, Renewed Joy and she has a collection of short stories with holiday themes entitled, Our Special Christmas Joy.

Join the conversation. What unusual Christmas have you experienced?

Reflections by the Christmas Tree

by Nancy Kay Grace

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Can you imagine what treasured memories Mary must have had? She witnessed her baby sleeping in hay, shepherds telling of the angels’ message, and Simeon and Anna in the temple prophesying over Jesus. Mary held baby Immanuel, God With Us, in the midst of her reflections.

Our personal reflections are not as dramatic. After Christmas, we see unwrapped gifts, empty stockings, and scraps of shiny paper on the floor. The twinkling tree remains, full of memories from Christmases now past.

Personal reflections on Christmas memories become new gifts under the tree.

Sitting by the tree with a cup of mocha mint coffee, I reflected on warm memories—laughter in the sparkling lights, the joy of a grandchild discovering special ornaments, and cuddles with the newest family member, too little to care about the excitement.

Life moments were shared around the table and tree. Grandpa’s reading of the nativity story was memorable. The once-scattered family enjoyed meals together for the first time in months.

Unfortunately, not all Christmas reflections bring happiness. Some carry sorrow from remembering our parents who have passed on and will not know their great grandchildren. Many folks have heartache from loneliness or a recent loss. Some can’t wait to pack Christmas away because of the pain, hoping for better year. I’ve had Christmases like that.

With the inconsistencies of life, it is a blessing to know that we are not abandoned, though sometimes we may feel that way. At those times, remember the gift in the manger—Immanuel has come. God is with us in the highs and lows of life.

Through Jesus’ birth, God gave us hope to endure any darkness, peace that does not depend on circumstances, unconditional love that covers any unworthiness, and joy that gives us another chance.

These are the Christmas reflections that we can carry in our hearts all year.

What are your reflections by the tree? If they are painful, may the peace and hope of the Lord redeem your memories. If they are cheerful, may the embers of love and joy remain in your heart.

Either way, look to Immanuel, who is always with us.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of peace in the face of turmoil. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. For relaxation, Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at

Join the conversation: What memories from Christmases past are most precious to you?

Let It Be Simply Christmas

by Tama Fortner

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Other people do things at Christmas that don’t work for my family. And I’m learning—a little reluctantly at times—that’s okay. Like those adorably cozy pictures of the smiling family, happily decorating the tree together.


Starting that very first Christmas when I became a mom, I dreamed of creating those moments with my own family—reminiscing over special ornaments, drinking hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, Christmas music playing in the background.

Yeah. No. Didn’t happen.

As it turns out, my family doesn’t like decorating the tree. Never has. Never will. Oh sure, they’re happy to help with one or two ornaments, but then—as my son recently admitted—“There are better things to do.” I still take the photos, of course. But I’m just going to confess it here: they’re a lie. They’re completely staged. Yes, (practically) every year there’s a picture of my three gathered around the tree, happily hanging an ornament. But I’m telling you right now, they’re smiling because they know that as soon as the pictures are snapped they get to leave and go do whatever they want.

As with all shattered dreams, it took some time (and a little grumbling) for me to come to grips with that. But now, I enjoy my alone time—just me and the tree and all the sappy Christmas movies no one else wants to watch. But it’s a lesson I took far too long to learn.

What is it about Christmas that brings out the comparisons and the competition? I don’t know about you, but it’s almost like there’s this nagging sort of little tape measure that creeps into my thoughts. It’s constantly whispering, “Do you measure up? If you don’t do that—or this, or the other—then you won’t!”

So I would rush and scurry and “add a little more to” until I was ready to drop—and my family was ready to drop me! Then, one day, I found myself asking, “What exactly am I trying to measure up to? And why? And what if I didn’t?”

That moment was when I began to reclaim the joy of Christmas. That’s when I decided that decorating the tree with a cheesy movie for company was okay. And that’s when I decided to refocus our holidays on the One who should be at the center of it all.

I love Luke 2:19. It’s the verse about Mary pondering and treasuring up in her heart all the miracles surrounding the birth of the One who was both her Son and her Savior. That image encourages me—as I’m pulling out ornaments and memories, decorating our tree—to do a bit of pondering and treasuring myself.

Because it never ceases to amaze me that Jesus chose to leave heaven and step into this world. Chose to be born a helpless infant. To grow up stubbing His toes and banging His thumb with a hammer in that carpenter’s workshop. To be spat upon and crucified. For me. For you. For all who would call Him Savior.

When I ponder those things, that pesky measuring snaps closed. Jesus didn’t come so that I could compare or compete or try to perfect. He came so that I could savor this season of celebration and the wonderful truth that He has saved me.

Will you join me this Christmas in setting all that nonsense of comparison and competition aside? Will join me in taking time to ponder and soak in holy moments with God and family and friends? This year, let’s let it be simply Christmas.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than forty titles to her credit. As a ghostwriter, she has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Christian publishing to create inspirational books for children, teens, and adults. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer.

Tama’s newest title, Simply Christmas, releases September 28th from Ink & Willow and is available for pre-order now. Catch up with Tama and all her latest book news at

Join the conversation: What things have you learned to do without at Christmastime?