I grew up in a poor blue-collar neighborhood. Our home like other homes in the neighborhood was as small as a cracker box, each one bulging at the seams overrun with children. Each home had a stay-at-home mom and a father who, like the other men in the neighborhood, left early every weekday morning working as plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. Saturdays were spent grocery shopping and fishing. Sundays were spent at church worshipping God—well for everyone except for my family to which I frequently asked, “Mother, why don’t we attend church like everyone else?”
“God dwells in churches and is one place you may find Him, but God is much bigger than any church or any religion. He’s everywhere, and there are countless ways of finding Him and worshipping Him just as there are endless ways of finding your spiritual self. Your task throughout your lifetime is discovering your own spirituality and connection with God whether that be at church or somewhere else.”
So up until the time I ventured off to college, she and Dad guided me on my journey to find God and my spiritual self—each in his own way.
Dad taught me about God through the mystery and awe of nature. He taught me about faith, telling me about Caddi Ayo—the Caddo Indian’s name for the Creator—the unseen force from which we all came and to which we all return.
Mother, the master of biblical metaphors, guided me beyond the obvious meaning of many biblical verses and prayers. “The bread in the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t just refer to a loaf of bread. Bread is the opportunities and the challenges God gives us that feeds our souls, making us stronger.”
Although we didn’t attend church at Christmas, Christmas carried an important meaning—an awareness of the presence of a Being greater than those around me. That Presence filled my heart with such magic, a magic I didn’t comprehend until I was much older. What I did grasp was an air of great consequence because everyone seemed to be a bit kinder and more caring during the holidays.
The holiday season was also filled with delicious memories: Decorating the tree, writing letters to Santa, baking cookies, and constructing handcrafted gifts. Our scattered family gathered together putting aside our differences to break bread together, share our love for one another, and renew our faith—our belief that life was equally beautiful and magical the other 364 days of the year.
As I matured I understood that Christmas was the day the world celebrated Christ, God’s loving and faithful gift to man. With many days now gone by, the emotions attached to this special time of year have grown deeper and richer. Although Christmas is a time for celebrating and gift giving, the greatest gifts are not those wrapped in fine papers or dressed in colorful bows. They are those given with an open heart—a heart wrapped in the lovely ribbons of faith, hope, and love.