My favorite things about Christmas are the memories and miracles of Christmases past. Christmas has always been a very special time of year for our family. My late husband, Ken and l were blessed to have two daughters—both born in December. For us, there was no better gift than having a baby under the Christmas tree during the holidays. What special gifts from God! It reminds us that miracles still do happen each and every day.
Our daughters grew up understanding that Christ was the reason for Christmas. When Whitney was born, we gave her a tiny glass nativity ornament to hang on our tree. This started a tradition that has lasted through the years. Every year on her birthday, we have given her a nativity scene ornament—some fancy, some made of simple wood; some painted very realistically, others more abstract.
When Courtney was born four years later, we continued our ornament tradition by giving her angel ornaments—each one selected with love and care.
When they each married, we gave them a gift-wrapped box with all their ornaments, so they could hang them on their own Christmas trees. Through the years, the girls have enjoyed rediscovering their collections of nativity scene and angel ornaments during the Christmas season—reminders that Christ came into the world to save us all. Memories from the past are some of my favorite things.
Sometimes miracles happen when you least expect them. On Whitney’s 31st birthday, she woke up and realized she couldn’t make her hand, foot, or anything on her left side work. Knowing something was terribly wrong, she woke up Troy and they headed to the hospital. By the time Ken and I got to St. Thomas Hospital a few hours later, the doctors had already run tests to determine what was going on inside Whitney’s head. We soon learned that she had a mass on her brain. Knowing she had survived melanoma several years earlier, the hospital tumor committee predicted that there was a 90-95% chance that it was a malignant brain tumor. We were devastated! This couldn’t be happening to our daughter, Troy’s wife, and two-year old Drew’s mother!
When the doctor operated a few days later, he was surprised to find that there was no cancer—just a mass of dead brain cells. The doctor told Troy and Ken that it was the first time they had ever “high-fived” in the operating room. We had witnessed another miraculous gift from God. We were grateful there was no tumor; however, Whitney soon faced the long road ahead to recover from a stroke.
Little did we know that another miracle was just around the corner. While Whitney was in the hospital, I had suddenly noticed that Courtney had lost a lot of weight. When I asked her about it, she told me that she had lost about 50 pounds. I felt terrible! I had been so absorbed with Whitney’s health problems that I had failed to notice that Courtney was quietly struggling with her own health issues. She had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease several years earlier and the medication she had been taking was not working. The doctor told Courtney and her husband, Jay, that they could not start a family while she was on the high dosage of medicine that she would have to take to control her Crohn’s symptoms. The only other option was surgery. After much prayer and discussion, Courtney and Jay opted for the surgery. Within six months, both of our daughters had undergone major surgeries and their futures looked bright…..and the next year, Courtney delivered her first baby, Isaac, just in time for Christmas. Two years later, she had twins, Noa and Elijah, who arrived in January—our two belated Christmas gifts. God’s miracles never cease—Courtney’s Crohn’s has now been in remission since her surgery—over 16 years ago. Thank God for his miraculous healing power!
Through the years, Ken always enjoyed being one of Santa’s helpers each Christmas. When we moved to Tennessee, he decided to focus on families with special needs rather than work in a mall or department store. He loved attending the annual Christmas parties sponsored by the Downs Syndrome Association, visiting residents at senior living facilities, and having his picture taken with church youth groups and at other community events. He also enjoyed being included in family portraits—especially with newborn babies (who were too young to be exposed to the germs in the outside world) and children with mental and physical challenges who were often shy about talking to Santa in public. Ken grew his beard—and even had it bleached and styled at the beauty shop. When he donned his red velvet suit and cap, it was hard to believe that he wasn’t the “real” Santa Claus. His professional photographer, Courtney, was always on hand to capture these precious moments.
In December 2019, Ken contracted pancreatitis. The doctor told me that he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. I prayed for a miracle that night beneath the cold, starry sky. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. After 12 days in the hospital, Ken started getting better. He had survived this episode; however, he was never able to stand or walk again. We were sad about his declining health, but so blessed that God had given us the gift of having him with us for another year-and-a-half. I was so thankful that Ken and I were able to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We became closer as a family and cherished every moment we had together.
As this Christmas approaches, I once again reflect back on what this special season has meant to me through the years. It’s truly a gift from our Heavenly Father. That’s why I believe in miracles and treasure the memories of Christmas.
Our UM Table
8 individual packets of unflavored gelatin
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
1 6-oz. box berry blue Jell-O gelatin
1 6-oz. box lime Jell-O gelatin
1 6-oz. box lemon Jell-O gelatin
1 6-oz. box orange Jell-O gelatin
1 6-oz. box strawberry Jell-O gelatin
water for gelatins (see below for amounts)
Chill a 13x9-inch glass dish for 1-2 hours before starting this recipe.
Heat 1½ cups of water to boiling and add 3 packets of unflavored gelatin, stirring constantly, making sure the gelatin is completely dissolved. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk; stir well, adding a little more hot water to make a total of 4 cups of milk mixture. Set aside.
In a dry bowl, mix the blue Jell-O powder with one packet of unflavored gelatin. Pre-mixing will help the gelatin dissolve more smoothly. Heat another 1½ cups of water to boiling. Add the blue powder mixture and stir well until all is dissolved. Let cool slightly, then pour into the chilled 9x13 glass dish and return to the refrigerator for 15 minutes or until set.
Wash and dry your bowl or use a new one. You will do this between each color.
When the blue layer is set, measure out 1 cup of the milk mixture and pour it over the blue gel layer.
The green Jell-O will be the second color layer. Follow the steps above to pre-mix the powders, add boiling water and mix, and cool slightly before pouring over the white layer. Return to the refrigerator for another 20 minutes or until the Jell-O is set well.
Alternate between the colored layers and the white milk layer. From the bottom layer the color order is blue, green, yellow, orange, and red on top. If the milk mixture starts to set and become lumpy, microwave for 15 seconds until the mixture is warm again (NOT HOT) and smooth enough to pour.
For best results, chill the finished dessert overnight before cutting into rainbow slices.