Monday, December 27, 2010

Home-made With Love

 Looking back to the Christmases I had growing up,
 one stands out to me.

It was the year that I learned that presents,
although fun and not a bad thing in themselves,
aren't what make Christmas special.


We'd moved to Pennsylvania when I was 12 from a New England state.
My father became a born-again Christian when I was about 8,
after my mother had done the same 3 years earlier and spent those years in fervent prayer for his salvation.

I saw the verses on 3x5 cards that she wrote out and placed all over the house,
on the kitchen windowsill,
in the bathroom,
on the living room side tables.

They were everywhere, trying to attract my father's attention.

I remember thinking that there was no way that my father would ever become a Christian.
My father was, as I remember, a loud, drinking, sarcastic man.
He swore a lot,
mocked my mom, calling her names
because of her Christianity.

My mom was quiet and patient.
 She took his sarcasm like water off a duck's back.
I saw the drastic change that had occurred to her when she became a Christian;
before that, she drank and partied with my dad.

My Dad had been brought up Russian Orthodox and my Mom a Catholic,
but neither of them "practiced".

My Mom began searching for God; she felt there was no hope in the Catholic religion; she could never be good enough and had hated going to church as a child.
She felt that going to church should be more than something you hate doing.

My mom and her sister, who was also searching for the true God began studying with Jehovah's Witnesses.
  I remember going to their house for Bible study.
  The room where we played had a water bed and we were allowed to lie on it while they studied in the kitchen.
  I had never been on a water bed so it was great fun to me. 
But my mom and my aunt could not believe some of the things they taught;
they couldn't see how there was truth in what they believed, so they stopped.

My Mom in desperation one day prayed to God and said,
"If You are real, please, show me how to find You."

The next day or so, a neighbor stopped over and invited us to Vacation Bible School.
My older sister went and loved it.

My mother was intrigued and attended the church.  She found the truths taught in the Bible and found
"For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God,
not of works,
lest any man should boast." 
 (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Salvation is not of ourselves, not of works: the key she'd been searching for.

Seeing my mother's life and the change she exhibited, even as a child,
I knew that whatever she had found was real.

When my father came to the cross and received salvation,
it was the true for him also:
He was no longer the same man.
It changed him utterly and completely, and I liked what I saw.
He was, as I've heard the term "on fire".
He was not afraid to proclaim to every and all that he met the truth of what he'd found.
He lost friends, made people angry: those who he used to party with didn't like what my Dad had.

But he also made new friends,
a brotherhood in the church of other believers.
He attended a wonderful Bible study for a few years that was held in our basement.
I can remember hearing the discussions and laughter and drone of male voices as they read the Bible.
My mom and sister and I made lots of fun memories upstairs playing games.

Eventually, my father felt the desire to go to the mission field.  He wanted to go back to Russia, where his parents were from as he knew the language fluently,
but the rest of us didn't feel that was right for us.

My dad was not the type to drag us to his desires, so he prayed and waited and studied the Bible some more.
One day we got a call from my uncle who worked for a ministry for inner city kids.  They had a camp and needed a maintenance man (which ended up really being a need for a camp director, which was much more suited to my father's abilities and spiritual gifts).

We went and saw the place and altogether as a family felt it was the place God wanted us to be.

But the money was small.
The pay was less than what my father had figured out that we would need to subsist.
Faith is essential, but so is reality.

The founder of the ministry discussed it with my dad and raised the wage to what they could possibly afford: right around what my father had figured we'd needed.

We became poor; or so we were according to what anybody else would say.

That first year was really hard.
We'd moved 7 hours away from family and friends to a house that was little more than an enlarged old hunting cabin; we'd gone from attending a school that we loved to a school that we hated.
But we knew we were where God wanted us.  Dad was exactly what this ministry needed.
We were in the right place.

My sister and I knew as Christmas approached that the presents under the tree were not going to cascade in abundance.  We wondered if we'd get anything at all.  My mom had told us she didn't have much money and not to expect much this year.

The funny thing is, it didn't bother me.  I was surprised to find that a lack of presents did not make the mood less festive or the Christmas spirit less tangible.  My mom's sister and daughter came and my Dad's brother,
so it still felt like Christmas.

On Christmas morning, there were some presents under the tree.
It's funny because all of these years later, I can only remember one that I received that day,
because I knew the love that went into it.

When I opened the little package with my mom's writing on it,
I found an apron that she had made from some material she had
and she'd stenciled on the front of it.
I knew the time she'd spent on it,
just so that we'd have a Christmas present to open,
something fun that we could use.

Even though I no longer have that apron, the memory of it is still a treasure to me.

So now I try to make home-made gifts for my kids,
hoping that someday they'll look back and treasure the little things more than the big.

For Levi who loves his trains...
My Farmer measured the train height/width and built this tunnel.

Then I base-coated...

and painted stones...

and trees...

and the requested creatures:
a monster and a snake.

He also wanted an owl, so that's on the other side
with another monster, of course!

Violet's home-made gift started as this broken wind-up music ceramic.

I guess the tag tells you were I procured such a thing as this.
I have to admit, though, that I thought this price was too high for a broken item,
so I asked if they'd go down on the price.
I actually paid $1.97 for it.
I was willing to risk that to experiment with a clay head.

I fashioned and then had to let it dry for a few days.

Then the fun of the painting began.

Two days before Christmas, I finally finished the painting and added some snow texture.

They came out a little rough,
but I think Violet likes it.

And hopefully someday she'll think of it as
the treasure of home-made with love.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to make anything home-made for this one;
but she seemed intrigued by her brother's toys...

for this year.


  1. What a beautiful story about your family's conversion to Christ. And I loved reading about your Christmas memories and seeing the gifts of love you are giving to your children.

    There should be more Christmases like yours around!


  2. Great testimony! i thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. What a beautiful story and I love your idea for the gifts for the children, the true meaning of christmas to give of yourself and you certainly did a lovely job. I love going to blogs that tell a story and try to do the same on my site, try and have a look

  4. Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing. Oh, and love the tunnel!

  5. Tonya, I put your blog on and went to do stuff while it came up. Meanwhile I got busy and Dad came in here and was reading it. He was wiping tears away. I said what's it about? He asked me if I remembered the gift I made for you girls when we moved here. I thought it was a dress. I didn't remember making the aprons.
    The carolers came out great and the tunnel. I like how you changed the color of the hair on the mother and father and made the girls clothes purple. I need to get Lillie's handprint. I am so thankful that the Lord saved my 3 daughters too. And gave them godly husbands. Love you.

  6. What a beautiful story! I was raised in Indiana, PA so right away I was taken with your story, but I soon forgot that part as the salvation story drew me in. I also love that you shared your story while your parents could know how important it was to you.

    I, too, treasure homemade gifts. The tunnel and carolers will be treasured, I'm sure.

  7. What a wonderful story! It's a story of hope, hope that can only be found in the Lord Jesus. It's a story of encouragement ... to keep praying for my loved ones who remain unsaved and hard hearted. Mothers are wonderful ... my mother persevered in her faith under difficult circumstances as well, and she is the reason I love the Lord ... her cheerful example through years of hardship ... her love of unloveable people ...

    Thank you for sharing this story ... I needed the encouragement to keep praying for those I love ... for their hearts and their eyes to open wide to the truth ...

    Have a lovely week,

  8. I found your blog today and enjoyed it very much. Your talents include writing, as well as painting. Please stop by my blog-Frugalhomekeeping-and visit.

  9. I imagine it would be difficult to live in a home without Christian guidance. You wrote a wonderful story of your memories..

  10. What a beautiful story, I always think homemade presents add something special to Christmas!

  11. good job on the music box very creative

  12. Beautiful testimony. I need to keep in prayer for my family. This has been an encouragement to me. Thank you and have a blessed New Year!

  13. That is precious! :)

    A Truly Merry Christmas to you and your family!


  14. That story is so full of legacy...your dad's, your mom's and yours...
    I so love the gift of the apron and that you carry on the tradition.
    When my mom left this world 6 years ago, although the loss leveled my life, one aspect I didn't understand until later was that she would never make me anything again. The glass and jeweled windchime in my side garden started falling into disrepair a couple of years ago and I had the thought to get mom to make another...then I realized that she couldn't I treasure even more all that she made with such love over the years.
    You are doing such a good thing...
    All Things Heart and Home
    (Please come back next Wednesday when we'll continue the linky with All Things Inspired~)

  15. Thank you everyone for your very thoughtful comments. I wish I knew a way on here to comment under each one, but I'm not sure how to do that. You all are encouragement to me! It's good to go back to the beginning sometimes, remembering the amazing way God works.
    Yes, Mom, you did make us dresses, too. I remember them now. I guess the apron just stuck in my head more. :)

  16. That is such a wonderful idea to make something special for each child! What keepsakes!!

  17. That was such a great story of redemption. Thank you for sharing it. I love handmade gifts too. One year...a particularly "lean" year when we were farmers, I made most of my Christmas gifts. We moved at Thanksgiving to a new home and I ran out of boxes and began using trash bags. Not a good idea! Since we lived on a farm, trash was burned. My husband began burning trash bags and before I realized what was happening, he burned up all those handmade Christmas gifts. At the time, we just had to laugh or we would have cried. I don't remember what we did for gifts that year. Funny that I can't but that was not the memory. It was the gifts up in smoke and the terrible look of agony on my husband's face....the fear of my extreme disappointment. It was so pleading for forgiveness that I only remember the burning of the gifts as a laughable thing. And God provided the rest. Your tunnel is awesome, by the way! And so was your molding and painting.

  18. This was a beautiful post.

    The pcitures, the words, the story. A really heart-warming, thought-provoking and moving link.

    I am so glad I started the New Year with this. It gives me much to think of.

    Your handmade gifts are treasures. I can see the love in each paint stroke. What memories and love you are sharing with your family.

    Thank you for sharing them with us, too.

    Sending you warm wishes for a 2011 filled with joy, grace, discovery and adventures.

    Hugs and A+

  19. I was looking over your blog and I happened upon this beautiful Christmas Story. What a wonderful tradition you have started with your children .
    I think you did a marvelous job on both projects !


I love your comments!