You are welcome and you are worthy.
What do you think of when you hear the word “Christmas”?
Many people think of Christmas presents, trees, music, cookies, traditions, and celebrations. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone. The Christmas season is painful, lonely, and shaming for many individuals who have experienced domestic abuse, homelessness, under-resourced neighborhoods and who intersect with foster care. This is a reality for many reasons: (1) that Christmas gifts are expensive, and (2) many families feel shame for not being able to provide gifts for those they love. This is true for most families within both our neighborhood and foster care initiatives here at OC United. Christmas time is a reminder to that they are not with their biological family. This triggers past traumas and becomes a time of grief and mourning for families with foster/adoptive children. “Typical” Christmas tasks like going to the mall and shopping for presents or taking family photos with Santa Claus with a long line of people behind them is just too much, too overwhelming, and just not worth it.
These families who have chosen to live sacrificially have poured all their resources into providing a safe and loving home for these children, which has cost them being able to have the Christmas they see people around them having.
We hosted an event that showed these families that they are seen, valuable, and worthy of having a time to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones. This past Saturday, December 15th, OC United hosted our first “Affordable Christmas Store”. We collected over 500 gifts and created an entire store that these families could come and shop for all their Christmas presents. Our guests were able to buy something meaningful for someone they love with pride and dignity. All proceeds went right back into the programs that benefit these families. We provided not only gifts but also free family portraits by Erica Cox, an amazing professional photographer who donated her time and talent to bless these families. Also, they enjoyed hot chocolate and cookie decorating. The day was beautiful!
One of our families who undertook three international adoptions came with her entire family and were able to participate that day.
The mom said, “It was everything. It was everything to have a safe, patient, and accepting space with people who understand my kids’ needs, for my family to come and buy new and beautiful gifts for one another when we’ve been stretched so thin by the adoption costs.” Another family said this was their first successful family photograph. There was no pressure of time, no judgement, no expectations, just space for these families to come as they were and hear the message, “you are welcome, and you are worthy”.
I am overwhelmed by the generosity and grace that was extended by our volunteers and donors.This is what Jesus Christ has done for all of us. He provides for our every need, welcomes us just as we are, clothes us with his righteousness, and deems us worthy to be in his presence. Jesus says there is no pressure, no judgement, no expectations to “get it together” before coming to him. That is what this season is really about, coming as we are. Just like we brought the store to these families to bridge the gap, God brought himself to us to bridge the gap. He lavishes us the dignity and honor and makes a way for us to be in relationship with him. So, no matter what your family looks like this Christmas, whether you have presents under the tree or not, Jesus has come to us, he hasn’t just stood in the gap, he has bridged the gap, and he tells us “you are welcome, and you are worthy.”
You are welcome and you are worthy.
Program Manager, THRIVE Home for Women