When our family of seven arrived at the camp almost two months ago, we had no clue that our Christmas holiday would be spent living in an RV and still searching for the job that God was calling us to.

Every bit of our life (including all the Christmas decorations) was tucked away in a storage unit in Tennessee. I was dreading not having a home to settle in to begin a new season filled with new stories.

Jesus in His compassionate love, had much deeper plans for us. Isn’t that always the truth?

Sometimes (all the time) us mommas worry about every single thing He has already taken care of.

Thankfully the Spirit is faithful to remind me that our five kids belong to Him first. Nothing He allows in their lives is without His sifting and approval.

With interviews in process but lots of waiting ahead, we understood He was asking us to stay and serve the camp for their Lights of Christmas event.

Thousands of guests flood the grounds every weekend of December and we get to be right in the middle of it all.

The serving with the staff, the celebrating with people from all over the Pacific Northwest, and festive everything is giving us all the festive feels.

What an unexpected pile of gifts.

Ones that I would have normally been against because we need to be “home.”

Ones that I would have felt sad about because our kids would miss out on the “normal” Christmas hoopla.

But you know what? This year has proven to be filled with more gifts than they have ever been given.

Gifts wrapped up in paper are fun and kind and temporary right? They just don’t have that deep meaning that we really want for our people.

Those sets of LEGOS, that remote control anything, and all the really cool devices that everyone had on the top of their lists last year… are all so BORING now.

This year, our motorhome is not sporting our seven handmade stockings from Grandma Kay.

It is missing the tree Nana Bear gave us years ago.

My childhood ornaments that Grammy boxed up for me at graduation aren’t bringing back memories.

The kitchen chalkboard won’t be smothered with the pictures of our favorite families.

But it’s finally okay.

The peace of the silent night has fallen on us and we are embracing our current reality like nothing you’ve seen before.

In the hard times, we are choosing to see God’s plan of a “not so perfect” celebration to be exactly what He wanted and everything we needed this year.

Blessings have been covering us from the second we arrived!

Staff members have invited us over for treats to the decorate of their home, so we could witness our two-year-old son hanging every ornament on the same branch.

Belonging.

Our older boys invited one of the guys they work with over for dinner. Tacos, games, stories and laughter until we cried filled us with such hope.

Community.

One gal on staff offered to give our entire family haircuts, and another friend the boys work with delivered a bag of brand new warm gloves for all five kids!

Serving.

A momma who was missing her husband and going nuts with her own kids invited all of mine over to play with real toys and watch an actual television. To make messes and sit on a huge couch that we fit on.

Comfort.

Melt my ever-loving heart. So many solid gifts that my kids wont ever forget and whose stories will be told over and over.

The true gifts this year have definitely been relational and not at all material.

Friends, may we find ourselves searching for ways to usher in the birth of the Prince of Peace without also adding to the chaos of more!

Invite “that” family over, go play cards with a lonely soul, bring all of your rowdy tribe to serve those in need and see how the hearts of your kids expand.

Say yes to that nice invitation you’ve been putting off, even though it stresses you out.

Let others serve you and speak the hope of Jesus to your family.

Keep the calendar a little lighter so you are free to jump in and live in the unexpected gifts.

I’ve learned that those are the very BEST kind.

Let’s be the moms who dig deeper in our gift giving to really fill the hearts of our kids with lasting impact. The kind that will shine a bright light on the Savior and less light on the stuff. And all the moms shout AMEN!

Jenny Howell is a lover of people and hopeful words. She is living the pastor’s wife life with her high school boy of 20 years. She gets to be the crazy, sleep deprived, homeschool momma to 4 boys + 1 girl. You can find her with coffee in hand, outside soaking up creation (especially winter) and finding God in highs and lows of everyday. Connect with Jenny on her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.