The Christmas tree was decorated with tiny lights and our favorite ornaments.

The mantel was beautifully adorned with another string of lights, a delicate glass manger set, and two matryoshka dolls.  A red candle arrangement graced our dining room table. Yes, it looked like we were ready for Christmas.

But was I really? It was so much easier to decorate a home than to prepare a heart.  The loss of my dear mother and my older brother this year had left a hole in my heart which was only just beginning to heal. I was well aware though that my two daughters needed to experience the joy of Christmas this year more than ever. It was up to me as a single parent to make it possible for Christmas to be experienced this year. But how could I do that? Where could I turn for what I didn't have? Yes, where does a single parent go? 

Gathering the boxes left empty from the decorations I happened to notice two small boxes somewhat hidden under the tree.

Hmm, I mused. One of my daughters must have remembered these.

I bent down and picked up the boxes mentally going back to that time last year when we started the tradition.  

Handing each daughter two white slips of paper and keeping two for myself I remember suggesting that we all give Jesus a gift.

"Think of what you would like to give Him and write it down on one slip of paper," I said. "And place it in the white box."

"Then think about what you would want to receive from Him and write that down on the other paper." Both girls giggled and squirmed as they quietly wrote. I remember sitting for a few minutes as I thought about what I would give Him.

To trust Him completely I had written and placed it in the green striped box. How I longed to develop a life of moment by moment trust in God.

What would I like to receive from the One Who had promised to meet all of my needs?  Without too much thought I had written it down and placed it in the white box. But now I couldn't recall what it was.

I was curious as I took the lid off the green striped box. Yes, there was my paper with the words to trust Him completely scrawled on it. Well, I will keep working on this I thought.  I then glanced at the other two small papers in the box. One had written all of my worries. And the other reading His Word.

My heart was deeply stirred. How wonderful that my children had given Jesus these gifts from their hearts.

But what had I received?  I wondered. My curiosity increased as I took off the lid of the white box. Three slips of paper lay in the box. Like experiencing the most sacred of moments I read the first slip.

The letters were bigger and definitely written by my youngest child.

A retionship with God. Oh, pumpkin, I thought.  Spelling didn't hinder at all the joy I felt as I read those simple words.  God certainly was pleased with her longing to receive this Gift which He has promised to all who come to Him in faith

I put that slip aside and reached for the other.

One simple word was on it. Faith. How true, I thought. Faith is a gift which He promises to give to those who ask for it. And through the year I was seeing continual indications of her growing faith in God.

One last paper remained in the box. I reached for it knowing that it contained the gift which I had asked to receive last Christmas. 

The words reached out to me as I read my own writing.

Joy overflowing and bubbling over.

Tears filled my eyes. Thank you Lord. That is just what I need to experience Christmas this year. You have promised to give good gifts to your children and like a little child I will continue to receive this year.  Thank you for this all important gift. Our Christmas need not be dimmed by any circumstance of life.

With a lighter heart and a joy-filled spirit I'm now really getting ready for Christmas. 

Sharon Beth Brani lives in Culpeper, VA..Her greatest treasures are her Lord and her two adopted daughters. She is a licensed professional counselor and a specialized adoption coach working with adoptive families. She helps the adoptive parent and their children to maximize the adoption process and to enjoy a lifetime of committed love and growth in a healthful family situation. Her website is www.heartprintsadoption.com. She can be reached at sharon@heartprintsadoption.com