The 25 Days of Christmas

The 25 Days of Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

The 25 Days of Christmas

She was an artist of the ordinary. . . . She painted with the colors of her heart.

Kent Nerburn

Christmas. A treasured family holiday, a time full of joy and love—and my husband Shawn was six thousand miles from home in Iraq. I felt no joy, and my heart ached for him. How could Christmas feel like Christmas this year? This would be the first Christmas we would spend apart in our six years of marriage. And something greater pulled at my heart. Our daughter Faith, six months old and born while Daddy was in Iraq, would have her first Christmas with Mommy . . . but no Daddy. My heart hurt, and my mood was gloomy.

I knew I had to quit focusing on what I couldn’t change. If not for my sake, for Faith’s. My heartache was killing the holiday, and I didn’t want that for any of us. I decided that a person can either have a pity-party or pick herself up and make the best of it.

I began racking my brain. How could I find joy in such an unhappy situation? How would I help it be Christmas for us? I knew it would be especially difficult for Shawn to get in the mood, being in a desert with no good-old North Dakota snow or traditional mistletoe. And, then, it hit me: Why couldn’t he have snow, or, at least, the mistletoe, over there?

I decided to send him a care package labeled, “The 25 days of Christmas.” There would be twenty-five gifts, each a reminder of our treasured holiday. However, there was a rule for the package: He could only open one gift each day until Christmas. That would be tough for him, I knew, but it would give him something to look forward to every day. Besides, isn’t torturous anticipation of opening gifts part of Christmas? That thought put a loving smirk on my face!

My excitement built as I began putting together his package full of Christmas touches: a pine-tree–scented air-freshener so he could have the smell of Christmas, a candy cane so he could have the taste of Christmas, a Christmas music CD so he could have the sounds of Christmas, some cotton balls so he could have some snow for Christmas, hot cocoa so he could have a sip of Christmas. . . . Well, maybe he’d have to make it chilled cocoa! And, of course, the mistletoe, with instructions pending his arrival home.

Putting together this package put the spirit of Christmas in my heart. When Shawn finally received the package and called to thank me, I could hear it in his voice, too. And I guess you could say Christmas for us was what it was supposed to be—full of joy and full of love.

I mentioned the rule that he could only open one gift at a time each day until Christmas. . . . Well, this year for Shawn we’ll have to mark “naughty” instead of “nice” for when Santa’s “making his list and checking it twice.”

Chanda Stelter

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