Christmastime is here . . . .
In a blog quite some time ago we addressed all the fall Holidays but given the time of year I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about Christmas here at Joy Ranch.
I think it goes without saying that this time of year can be difficult for our residents, and we work twice as hard at filling this particular season full of memories. We go to local Christmas parades and tree lightings, have our Live Nativity and Christmas in the Mountains, visit light displays and celebrations, bake cookies, make ornaments (by coloring, baking, melting mints or beads or crayons, gluing, printing and even ordering some online!), wrap gifts, play games and my favorite: putting up the tree.
Every year it gets me. The looks on their faces when we tell them they can hang their ornaments wherever they want. When one of the girls “claims” the right to place the star on top - though every year it falls off and we go without it. When they find their ornaments from the year, or years, before. When we hand them decorations and tell them they can put it up wherever they want in the house and they say, “Really? Anywhere?” and then run around shrieking.
Each year the kids fill out a wish list and this information is passed on to groups who call and would like to do something. Many churches, groups, businesses and individuals donate to us at Christmas time. We have a few parties where the kids open gifts but donations are often delivered all throughout the month - both personally and through the mail. There are individual gifts and cottage gifts, meant for the group to share.
(Some gifts we received this year - suitcases and duffel bags - thank you Bannertown Baptist!!)
Every child who is with us over Christmas itself has a stocking to open on Christmas Eve and three presents (because Jesus got three) to open Christmas morning. If there has been a last minute donation these gifts will also be added to what house-parents have purchased for Christmas day. We houseparents work hard to get individual gifts we know each child will love and often, as with all children, it is the simplest one, or even the packaging of it, that they love and play with the most.
Everyone on campus joins together for a Christmas meal and often we go to the movies in the evening.
For Gene and I this will be our seventh Christmas at Joy Ranch. For the first four, we did not have any residents on Christmas morning. Now, we have some who are with us for all the holidays. Like many things about what we do I cannot decide which is more difficult: sending them home for a few days/hours knowing they cannot stay or knowing that at this point in their life, they have nowhere to go. Which is harder for the child? I cannot say; and for each child, that choice may be different. What I do know is that Christmas is about, among many other things, redemption. And that is something we all need.
He came to die; and He died that we might live. What a gift.