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My Worst Christmas Ever

December 22, 2011

My parents would clean-up if they were on that PBS show Frontier House. They wouldn’t even have to go through the training session. The show could outfit them with some chickens, a few head of livestock, and a covered wagon filled with supplies, seeds, and tools; drop them off in the wilderness; and show up a year later to find a comfy homestead.

Honestly, you could probably send mom and dad into the wilderness with a Leatherman’s and some seeds, and they’d live like the Swiss Family Robinson family.

Growing up with these ultra-efficient parents, I was exposed to the reality of where food comes from at an early age. Mom’s second most popular saying was “An hour of work in the garden every day never hurt anybody.” (Her number one saying is a story for another day.) I tried to argue that my knees did hurt when I knelt in the dirt to pull weeds, but mom would go off subject and asked me if I liked eating. With her changing the subject like that, I knew I wasn’t going to win any arguments; so I’d put in my hour.

Finding out that bread, milk, eggs, vegetables, etc. came from the sweat of our brow wasn’t so bad; but there was no getting around the awfulness of butchering. Nobody enjoyed slaughtering, but it had to be done, and this leads into my “Worst Christmas Ever” story.

We’d raised a calf for meat, and some close acquaintances said they’d sure like to buy a quarter of that beef from us. Making things oh so convenient, they were going to be up our way during the holidays, and they’d pick up the meat from us a couple days after Christmas.

A good cold snap hit about five days before Christmas, and it was supposed to last all week. Large amounts of meat need to get cold but not frozen before you cut it up into steaks and roasts. According to my parents, things were working out perfectly for us to kill the fatted calf, let it hang, and then “as a family” cut and package it the day after Christmas.

Two things went wrong with the plan.

Number 1: The people who were going to take a quarter of the meat backed out; so we had to cut and wrap the whole beast.

Number 2: Christmas dawned warmer than the weatherman had predicted. We opened our presents, had a nice dinner and then headed out to the garage. Dad cut steaks and roasts for Ethan and Leigh to wrap. Mom ground the odd pieces into a huge mound of hamburger. My job was to scoop meal sized portions of this very cold future dinner onto butcher paper and wrap it tight. Amy kept busy cutting paper and running it around to all of the wrappers. I shivered and complained all afternoon. Sure didn’t feel warm enough to melt a cow to me.

When our parents grew weary of hearing us complain, they had us switch jobs.

My Parents - They can do anything!

I lost count of how many times my numb hands grabbed a hunk of cold beef, threw it onto some white butcher paper, wrapped it up, and finished by taping it tight. Picking up a black marker, I’d yell, “What kind of roast was this again mom?”

“Rump,” she’d holler over her shoulder, and I would duly record rump roast on the outside of the package.

At last we finished and returned to the warmth of the house.

When I say this was my worst Christmas ever, I say it tongue in cheek. Many people have told me, “Do you know how lucky you are, Laura? You have the greatest family.”

I know the only way I’ll have a “Worst Christmas Ever” will be if I’m unable to spend it with family, but not everyone has good Christmases. At this time of year many people suffer because of brokenness in their families, and they would welcome a job they could do in camaraderie with a family.

I have friends who didn’t grow up in an ideal family. My heart twisted recently when a friend told me, “Christmas has never been good for me – not even when I was a kid.”

Some are grieving. My friend’s mother lost her battle with cancer last week. She doesn’t even get one last Christmas with her mom.

I could remind you that Christians are all a part of the family of God, and we should take joy in that knowledge. And while it is true that the most important relationship we’ll ever have is with God, our humanness craves earthly family.

Leviticus 19 is a chapter full of commands God is giving to the Israelites. He covers respect of parents, keeping the Sabbath, righteous living, and how to treat the poor. Then in verse 34, He slips in a command for the treatment of strangers in the land. “But the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Those who don’t have family often feel like the strangers in the land at Christmas time.

As you celebrate this year, consider reaching out with compassion to someone who needs you to be family for them.

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