It was Christmas Eve of 2010 and instead of a house overflowing with family, it was only the three of us.  I didn’t know whether I should be sad or angry. If I am honest I was a bit of both. As the character O in the movie Home says: I was “sad-mad”.

Many of the people in South Africa are of German heritage.  And according to German tradition, presents are opened on Christmas Eve. So I have many memories of a big family squeezing into a lounge too small on Christmas Eve, Boney M playing in the background. We would hand out and open presents, but only after the children performed a short nativity.

Christmas Day was spent at church, in the pool and at the constant eating from a buffet, prepared by all the Aunties and Grannies.

So when my sister and her husband had to spend their Christmas elsewhere and my brother was in Abu Dhabi and my mother-in-law was at my sister-in-law’s, I was frustrated and disappointed. Unfortunately I was not very graceful and I had a short fuse with my little family.

It was no use trying to prepare something special, because who would we share it with. I didn’t even feel excited about opening presents. My husband suggested that we barbecue (we call it a braai) and it seemed too simple.

But then (if you’re still reading and haven’t given up on this spoilt brat), I started to realise that it was special. Because we were together. The three of us were there and that was enough. Christmas Eve under the stars.

So we barbecued, opened some of the presents and played and went to bed early and I had so much peace that night.

Fast-forward to Christmas 2011. We were in a foreign country, with freezing weather. I thank God that we had my amazing sister-and-brother-in-law and my mother-in-law with us, otherwise we would scarce have survived.

They made such an effort to spoil the three of us (and especially Justin) with presents.  We even cooked a semi-traditional Christmas meal.

And that night as I lay bed contemplating our ‘different’ Christmas, I remembered a Christmas just a year ago where I couldn’t understand why God would allow us to be alone. And I realised that in His love and wisdom He had prepared us for the three Christmases that would follow.

And I was suddenly truly grateful for the gift I didn’t know I’d received: Contentment

Philippians 4:11-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.