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Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Light In
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The Joy of Family
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Tis The Season

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Making God Smile
By Debbie OConnor

Every night, before she goes to bed, my eight-year-old daughter thanks God for Christmas. Regardless of the length of her prayer list and the myriad things she wants or is thankful for, Kayla never forgets to mention Christmas right before she says, "In Jesus' name, amen."

Her enthusiasm has captured her brother's imagination. Four-year-old Daniel now glibly adds, "Thank you for Christmas," to his bedtime prayers as well.

My children look for signs of Christmas in September, and as the marketing monster forces it upon us earlier each year, they often find them. Christmas trees, plastic Santas that move and talk, lights, wreaths and wrapping paper are the signal to begin counting days. Their desire gains momentum like a runaway freight train when December arrives.

"How many more days, Mommy?" Daniel asks.

"Here's a calendar, Daniel. Every night we'll cross off the day. When we get to December 24th, where the picture of baby Jesus is, that's Christmas Eve. We'll go to Granny's house, see all the cousins, and open presents. The next day is Christmas Day. On Christmas Day we'll go to Nana and Paw Paw's."

"Will we have presents at Nana's too?"

"Of course, baby."

"Ooooh! Kayla, we get to go to Granny's and have presents and to Nana's and have more presents."

"I know, Daniel! Christmas is so great!"

We make salt-dough ornaments for the family. Molding, baking, painting and glittering little presents for everyone we love. Kayla, Daniel and the floor wear more paint and glitter than the ornaments, but a good time is had by all.

We shop. Mommy and Daddy are exhausted, but Kayla and Daniel are enthralled with the busy stores and new things.

"Do you think Nana would like this?" Kayla asks, innocently holding up a hideous, glittery, purple, spandex sweater.

"Um, I don't think that's Nana's size, baby," I say, making the kindest possible truthful observation. "What do you think of the sweaters over here?"

"Ooooh, let's get her the orange one!" she exclaims. Her pink cheeks and bright eyes are too much for me to resist. Orange it is.

We read the Christmas story in the Bible and in the storybook, "One Wintry Night." I continually remind Kayla and Daniel that Christmas is Jesus' birthday. I pray that I am doing enough to make Jesus the center of this mad, fantastic holiday.

Kayla sings in the children's choir at church. We bake cookies and attend Christmas parties. We see light displays and drink hot cocoa.

Finally, the day arrives. We head to Granny's house, for our first celebration, with a car stuffed full of wrapped treasure. We pray, we eat and we open gifts. The children love everything and, as always, are sorry when the last gift is opened. Finally, we relax and visit for a while before hauling our new toys home.

Morning comes, and this year we are pleasantly surprised with a light snowfall in New Orleans. The children run out, catching snowflakes on their tongues. There is not enough snow to really play in, but it is the only snow they've ever seen, so they scrape it off the deck and pretend to have a snowball fight.

Inside we have stockings crammed with little presents. My children's enthusiasm for presents knows no bounds-even new underwear is exciting. We enjoy a holiday breakfast of cinnamon rolls and chocolate milk. By afternoon, we are hauling gifts to Nana's house, and repeating the previous day's performance.

Everything about Christmas delights my children. To me, my children's joy is worth every effort and expense. I love to see them happy.

God is the best Father. He lovingly fashioned us individually, bestowing each of us with unique talent and purpose. He gave us a world filled with wonder and beauty to enjoy. He gave us people to love. He showed us how to live and, when we failed, He came to earth Himself to make things right for us. This is the greatest gift of Christmas, one we can only receive with the innocent rapture of a child.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17 NIV)

I believe God smiles when my children thank Him for Christmas every night. I know I do. I pray that I will bring a smile to God's lips with my own thankful heart.

Thank you for Christmas, Lord!
Debbie O'Connor lives just north of New Orleans with Jesus, her hero of 15 years, earthly husband, Jim, and their two children. If you would like to write to Debbie, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.