When our kids were little, we made an effort to go see grandparents over the holidays. We flew south some years and drove five hours to my folks other years. We hired someone to feed cows on Christmas Day – which we hated asking anyone to do, but it was the only way we could be with our families. We loaded up suitcases full of everything the kids needed and traveled, either across the state or across the country. 

Whitehurst marci
Freelance Writer
Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can foll...

As the kids grew older and the cow herd got bigger, we decided to start staying home for Christmas. There is so much busyness around the holidays as it is; trying to add traveling to that, especially in winter weather, was too much. 

Our Christmases at home with our three kids are memories I cherish. Sure, I wish extended family could’ve come to us. However, we had a lot of fun doing things with our kids over the holidays: sledding, making cookies and treats, art projects, ice skating, even feeding the cows. We had time with friends. We got to go to our local church on Christmas Eve. The kids were the ones feeding their 4-H steers to be ready for weigh-in in early January. 

When I look back on the years, I can recall a few of the gifts we bought them: a “robot,” an Easy Bake oven, new tack, iPads … but I don’t recall the things under the tree as much as the memories. 

I do remember some board games and a few movies. The kids usually got a board game, movie or something everyone would enjoy that they could open Christmas Eve. One year, we got Clue – and Dad kept beating everyone. (He still does. He literally gets his cards, rolls the dice once and knows the answer.) One year, it was the movie Polar Express, which we all watched while drinking hot chocolate. 


What comes to mind the most at the holidays are their smiles, their laughter, them getting up at 5 a.m. (or earlier) to open gifts …

As the kids got to be teens, life got busier. The schedules, it’s a lot of movement. What I’ve loved the most is making time to be with them, especially when schedules are crazy. Having date nights or an extra few minutes before they left to go somewhere was so important. 

With two kids in college and one at home full time, it’s still busy, but not like it was before. When the kids are all home, though, I love it. The noise, the food, even the “Hey, don’t take all the hot water!” 

The best part of the holidays is being together.

There’s a lot we can look at in the world and wonder, “What is going on, and when will it change?” Economic woes, sickness, war … much like a world 2,000 years ago.

God’s people thought when the Savior came, there would be peace: Nothing bad would happen, the political spheres would shift, and they wouldn’t experience what they were experiencing. While Christ’s birth did bring peace and a change to the world stage, what He gifted us with was His presence. 

God with us. Emmanuel. 

I pray often for people to be healed, changes to come, safety over our kids and others. God wants us to pray. He cares about those things.   

When we look at the Gospels, people flocked to Jesus. They wanted His healing touch for themselves or others. Yet they also wanted His words. When He spoke, people asked, “Where does He get such authority?” (Luke 4:32). His very presence shifted things.

His presence.

Like time with our families over the holidays or throughout our busy weeks, He came. 

He spent time.

He held hands. He held hearts. He didn’t forget us. 

Answered prayers happen, and they are so important. God treasures them more than we do, I imagine. Perhaps the greatest answer to anything, though, is Him.

Our kids often ask me what I want for Christmas. Do I have a few things on my list? Sure. It’s usually something like books or socks. However, what I love the most from them is their presence. I don’t expect gifts from the kids – what I long for is time. I long for connection. 

And I suppose that’s what God wants as well: time. 

I’d love to promise I won’t get stressed out and think about gifts over the holidays. I can’t promise that. However, in the midst of the busyness, like ababy born in a manger, I hope I can offer my presence. Enjoy your presence. And, most importantly, enjoy His presence.