Every Mama wants to give her family a Christmas treasure they’ll always remember. For me, one year stands out above all others as the best Christmas gift I ever gave!
Years ago, my sister shared a wonderful project with me that she created with the help of
her grandchildren. As all little sisters do, I copied her idea, but I took it to a greater extreme and I needed her to help me. Another thing little sisters do.
I planned a special gathering at my house with two of my kids (the younger ones) and
several grands––it happened to be a snowy afternoon which added to the joy of our day.
Seated at my oversized dining room table with pencil and paper in front of them, I gave
them their instructions. I told them I had a very important project I needed help with. We were going to spend our time together creating pictures in pencil only. Winter and Christmas scenes. No color. They asked me why they couldn’t use color, but I told them it was my secret.
From my 80-year-old father-in-law who joined in the fun, to my 4-month-old grandson, Joey, who’s now 18, and all ages in between, each one put their whole heart into it. The scenes they drew were full of life even without the brilliance of color. The babies were included, too. Each one was given a pencil, and, with their mama’s help, they scribbled on their papers. Brandon, 11 months old, quickly made what I identified as a blizzard!
After hours of cookies, hot chocolate, and some serious drawing, they all left wondering what on earth I would do with this stack of artwork. They loved our day together.
Excited to get started, the second they were out of sight, I spread all the pictures out on my table. One of my granddaughters, 6 at the time, spent her entire day drawing the whole family. There were a few airplanes, a vast tree farm, a little girl ice skating on a pond doing a figure 8, sleds, a manger, a rustic bridge over a pond, piles of wrapped presents, cats, dogs, a piano, hats, scarves and mittens, Christmas trees with lights, candy canes, snow balls, snow men, and interestingly enough––beautiful borders … you name it, if it had anything to do with Christmas or winter, I had a picture of it.
I knew if anything was missing, I’d draw it myself.
I recall looking at the table covered with these precious pictures and being overwhelmed with joy. I prayed. “Jesus, if You would please give me a story out of all these beautiful pages I would be so grateful.”
And He did––a wonderful story spilled into my heart! I ruminated on it the whole night.
The next day I took the kid’s drawings to a copy machine in Staples. I made countless
copies of each page––reducing some and enlarging others. I came home with 300 copies.
Engrossed in this story that had taken over my heart, my next step was to get it written down. I took a notebook and pen (before my computer days) to a quiet Starbucks. Snuggling down in a comfy chair with my coffee I began to write. My pen flew over the paper. Hours later, looking at my watch, I knew it had to be time for me to return home. I didn’t want to leave this precious place in my heart. I was so immersed in my story, it felt real.
I found myself whispering to Jesus, “I didn’t know You did fiction, Lord!” I smiled. I think He chuckled.
When I arrived home, I studied the pictures laid out on the table in front of me and the story continued to unfold and take shape. I could see the pictures on each page with my mind’s eye and I knew designing each one was going to be wonderful. I had one need left––a perfect ending.
One morning, getting ready for my day, I prayed out loud.
“Jesus, You know I need the perfect ending to this amazing story. I need Your help.” He
gave it to me right there. Right then. Joy spilled over. It was perfect! The story is charming.
After the whole thing was written, I went to my sister’s home for the weekend, and she
typed and printed out the manuscript while I cut and pasted both text and drawings, including adding margins, on the many pages of this treasure, designing each page with pictures all cut up and mixed from the original drawings. I marveled how it all went together so beautifully with the text.
On the way home, after a long weekend of wonderful work I stopped at Staples and had two copies made on cardstock. I think I scared the man who made the copies. Clutching the stack of cut and pasted papers against my chest, I stared him in the eyes and said, “This is my life!”
I paused. “I am afraid to leave these with you even for a half hour. Please don’t let anything happen to these pages.”
He was very gracious but I’m quite sure he thought I was a bit crazy.
My next step was huge––one I had to do behind closed doors so my family wouldn’t
catch on to what I was doing.
I took one set of the card stock copies I made, and hand painted every page, down to the
most minute details. It took me many hours to finish, but I loved every minute of it. The radiant colors made each scene spring to life.
The day arrived to bring the book pages to have them color copied. I knew I couldn’t afford this, so the week before I had asked the owner of a very messy copy store if he’d be willing to barter––I’d clean his shop in exchange for 225 color copy, double-sided pages. I planned to make 10 books of 45 pages each. He went for it and even threw his store manager in the deal to help me.
The manager, so into this project, rejected every page we printed that wasn’t perfect. Each page was amazing, vibrant, and my heart was bursting with joy! All I could envision was Christmas morning when each family received their book.
My last task was to find a book binder who would make this into a lifelong keepsake. I
found an older gentleman in Massachusetts, a retired book binder, who seemed as enthusiastic about this project as I was.
He used a beautiful, rich, Christmas red fabric, fitting it over a hard cover, and he covered
the fabric with a clear resin (or whatever book binders use) which made it last a lifetime. He bound the books and mailed me 10 copies just in time for our Dufek Family Christmas. You can imagine my excitement!
Our celebration was upon us. Still today, the favorite family event of the year, the whole
family gathers at Dana and Bill’s home and many of us sleep over. (How that began is a whole other amazing story). It’s a two-day affair. We always open gifts the first day we’re together.
All the other gifts had been opened and I saved mine for last. I asked each family to sit
together. I handed out their gifts, all beautifully wrapped in shiny paper with a big red bow. I could sense the anticipation in their hearts because they saw I was emotional. You could hear a pin drop!
The paper torn off, gasps, squeals, laughter, tears from parents… emotions were swirling
as they opened their books and realized it was their pictures––each other’s drawings cut and pasted and used all together for the artwork in this beautiful book.
“Look, there’s my girl doing her figure 8!”
“Look at all my cabins in a row!”
“Is that my boy throwing a snowball, Grammy?”
Then a hush fell over the room as each family began to turn the pages. I heard some of the dads reading quietly to their kids. Everyone was so delighted with their gift. I think my family would agree this was the most wonderful treasure I ever could have given them. I named the book A Christmas to Remember.
What a privilege to spend my time creating something lasting, a treasure to be passed
down through the generations as the years go on, filled with pictures drawn by my treasures.
Not only did each family love their book, which filled my heart with joy, but my time spent with Jesus was wonderful. He was so present with me every step of the way. I loved our time together.
And yes, considering He seemed to whisper this story into my heart, I think it’s fair to say He loves stories. And He does do fiction!
On this journey together,
If anyone is interested in creating a treasure like this and would like further detail, please feel free to contact me. I can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can set up a time to either meet or chat over the phone.