Dear Santa, Thank You

Dear Santa,

This isn’t your ordinary Christmas letter. I’m not sending a long list of gizmos and gadgets that will unfurl across the workshop floor. In fact, I’m pretty well set with stuff this year. I just wanted to say thank you.

I don’t really know when I stopped believing in you. I can’t recall a traumatic scene where I saw dad unloading presents under the tree and I certainly never saw you plant a kiss on mom – I can’t imagine the confusion that would have caused. No, mine is the garden variety of unbelief. Somewhere along the way, I guess I got too old, too mature. I wanted to be all grown up. Looking back, I think when it happened, I lost myself, not you.

I began chasing what I thought was important and neglecting what you stand for: consistency, generosity, peace, love, joy. You can’t blame me, I was young. I didn’t know. It’s what everyone else was doing. But regardless of what I believed, or where I was, you showed up – year after year like clockwork. You relentlessly pursued me despite my rejection.

I married a woman who never forgot. She tried to bring me back around when we were newlyweds but I only saw price tags and expenses through the lens of a limited budget. I didn’t get it. I couldn’t see… until children came. Through their innocent eyes, I found you again.

 

All the while I thought you were there for them, but you were gently bringing me back into the fold, too. There was always something in your bag for me. Even though I stayed in the back and watched from a distance, I loved every minute of it. You had some rough encounters with number three. Your beard was a little much for her. But you patiently waited until she understood.

Little number four loved you from the start. She loved everything about Christmas and nothing more than you, Santa. The elves you entrusted her with made December special for many years. She truly loved you.

 

 

I use the past tense because we lost her to cancer almost four years ago. I think you know that, Santa, but I’m not completely positive because you still visit her here. Still, you show up. When that first Christmas came around, I didn’t think I wanted to see you – all that you stand for had departed with her and you could only bring memories. Yet there you were in your frumpy red suit, spreading joy that admittedly felt somewhat fake at the time. But nevertheless, you were there.

These last four Decembers have been hard. But lately I’m figuring something out that I should have learned long ago: it’s not about me. Santa always gives and never takes. And when I set my heavy bag down to lay things out for someone else, my burden is lighter. In doing for others, I somehow find peace and joy for me. That’s kind of what you’re about, isn’t it Santa? How did I not see that before?

And this year, you asked if you could meet us early… just to say “hi” to one of your biggest fans. It was only a minute. But you’ll never know what it meant to me. It was a reprieve from everything I feel like she is missing. It was sweet, and it was special. It was Christmas.

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I realize that for the rest of my life, Christmas have a hard edge because it makes me miss little number four. But from now on, I want you with me, Santa.

 

Thank you, Santa.

Thank you for not giving up on this poor old fool. I know it took a long time, but I believe again. And this time it’s for good.

 

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My Street

I live on a humble street.

Many years ago, a man bought some acreage in the middle of nowhere. I would come to know him as a man with a beautiful, dark-haired daughter who initially wanted nothing to do with me. But with persistence, I wore her down and the man became my father-in-law.

True story: I remember driving back to civilization after a date one late night thinking there had to be a girl who lived closer. There were no restaurants, gas stations, or stores anywhere nearby. My only companions on the trips home were cows, horses, and the occasional bear. But I kept coming back. She was worth the drive.

After a few years of marriage, we moved out here to the middle of nowhere – it had changed only slightly. There had been some road improvement and you could actually get groceries without driving 15 miles. It was still a quiet retreat from the noisy city – our little secret with an abundance of trees, dirt, and a creek winding through the side yard.

No one could have foreseen the changes soon to come. Metro Atlanta found our little secret and our county became one of the fastest growing in the country. But our little street stayed quiet and quant. Development threatened on every side – neighborhoods, shopping centers, fast food – but thankfully, only one house at the very top of the street sold out.

My street is still a quiet little retreat although if you drive to the top and need to turn left, you realize quickly that you are in a highly-developed area. We don’t get many solicitors because it would be a significant investment of time and energy for very little return. There are only about eighteen houses and the hill is steep. There is a stray Jehovah’s Witness who won’t give up on us, though. He comes every seven years, but the rest ignore my street.

My kids loved growing up here. It was like a nature study all the time. Deer, fox, owls, and hawks are common – as are turtles, frogs, lizards, and unfortunately, snakes. They played outside with plenty of room to roam and felt safe. They loved waking up on frosty mornings to see the horses frolicking on the neighboring farm.

Kylie loved living on our street. She lived here her entire life. Being the baby of our little clan, she always had a sister or cousin to play with and enjoy. We built play forts with sticks, sledded, and walked up the hill to the store together. She wondered about other houses and who was inside – we’d make up stories as we walked past. I remember taking her up to the top of the street to watch the sun rise and I will never forget her awe and wonder at God’s colorful display.

 

I watched the hearse take her up the same street on that cold, February morn and I wondered if my street would ever be the same. Could a history of good memories outweigh that one sight?

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and CURE has been selling gold bows to be put on mailboxes to raise awareness. Kylie’s aunt became a selling force and she contacted the people on our little street and told them about Kylie, about childhood cancer, and about a way to honor her.

And now I drive up and down my street and see gold bows on mailboxes. Gold bows for Kylie… resting on mailboxes of neighbors who knew her and some who didn’t; a few who didn’t even live here at the time.

And I feel safe, and warm, loved, and honored. And I remember. I remember how much she loved living on this street.

And I love my street even more.