As I kneel down at the side of the beds in our kid’s room, all I hear now is the sound of the clockwork music box from my Grandad’s house. It’s dark and past their bedtime. “Take me home, country roads” chimes out loud enough that I can’t quite hear their soft sleepy breaths. This moment is one of the gifts that I got this Sinterklaas season.
The real Saint Nicholas was a kind and generous man who had inherited wealth at a young age. Legend holds that he dropped bags of gold down a chimney in order for a poor man to pay his daughters’ dowries. The sentiment of generosity and happiness in giving to others is something that we want to share with our kids. However, it is also something that we don’t want to get muddled up with the true and honest meaning of Christmas either.
On the 5th, we opened our Sinterklaas presents. Lark had picked out a wood craft for her brother, and Hart had settled on a wind chime craft for his sister. They were both very excited to give them to each other and to receive them from each other. Just like at Thanksgiving, we went around and asked everyone for what they were grateful. Hart is still learning how to speak so we got a very jumbled chain of garbles with a few Dad-dads thrown in here and there as he pointed enthusiastically at the decorations on our tree. Lark was more specific in that she was grateful for Grandma and Grandpa Alsum, especially for their food.
The 6th gave us opportunity for a Sinterklaas meal. We ventured to Daddy Alsum’s parents’ house to cook, serve and share with them a roast turkey dinner. Americans are extremely big on pie, but where I’m from dessert is typically not your main attraction when it comes to a big family dinner. We like the savory stuff. I put together three sorts of stuffing: two outside of the bird (orange and cranberry, and fresh sage and onion) and one stuffed under the skin of the breast (sage and pork). There was a twist on candied yams that included sweet potatoes, rutabaga/swede, and parsnips. I also made a mixed veg gratin which was topped with sweet potato slices. I cheated with the gravy by using a premade boxed kind as a base to which I added peppercorns, drippings and the giblets before straining it back off. I hope that the heart behind the dinner was felt (and I’m not talking about those turkey giblets anymore), even when some parts didn’t quite turn out how they were intended.
This year, I didn’t really want a lot of things for presents. I have seen some Christmas lists that are just dripping with excess. My list started to look more like the every-woman’s household shopping list. With so much this year that the Lord has given and taken away, I can firmly reiterate that He is working on hard parts and areas that we are growing.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
– James 1:17
With all the beautiful Christmas lights going up and this past weekend’s super moon, this Bible verse has kept coming to my mind. God is the ultimate gift-giver. He doesn’t change depending on the season. He is consistent. He is light, so He cannot be a shifting shadow. When I look at all the tension and struggles that people often impose upon themselves during the holidays, I know that it just doesn’t have to be that way. The best gifts are God-given, and not because we earned them or because we deserve them. These gifts come from who He is, not who we are.
What a relief that is to me. I am not always a good and perfect cook; I am not always a good and perfect mother; I am not always a good and perfect wife; I am not always a good and perfect person. But! God is good and perfect. He knows how to give to us. When we persevere in His strength through hard times, He knows how to give us life.
Let’s keep moving forward as we continue in this Advent season.
From mine to yours,