Today in our “December to Remember” series, one of my new friends, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith shares a fabulous Christmas tradition her family has started — a tradition of giving. It began when Saundra found herself deeply moved by the request of one of her hospital patients…
One morning as I left the house to go see patients at the hospital, my gaze paused on the decorated tree in the corner. The lights skipped and jumped as if performing a beautiful dance routine. I stood there for a minute just taking it all in. The peace of that moment hung thick and stayed with me through the day. The hope and joy of Christmas seemed like the perfect cure for the stresses of life.
But after stepping into the first hospital room, I knew God was revealing something about this season to me. Not everyone’s Christmas is carefree. Many enter into the season of peace with no peace.
Lying in the first hospital room I visited was a frail-looking young woman. Her demeanor was one of stark hopelessness. As I finished and was about to leave she asked me if I would pray for her.
It takes a lot of courage for a patient to ask her doctor to pray with her. How could I say no?
As we prayed I started wondering how many other people around me I walk by daily and sense their pain, but fail to even consider praying for them during my private prayer time. I left work that day with a heavy burden on my heart for those who are not looking forward to Christmas.
That night at home we finished our Christmas decorating by hanging our stockings over the fireplace. (It’s our custom that the stockings remain empty until Christmas morning.) Each of my boys excitedly gave a quick list of yummy treats they would love to see filling their stockings. Then the question was posed to me, “So what do you want in your stocking this year, Mama?”
I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that question, especially since I am the official stocking stuffer at our house. But the question made me consider what would make me smile on Christmas morning. I thought about the young mom I’d prayed for earlier that day and then a crazy idea formed.
What would happen if for we used our stockings to collect the prayer needs of others and spent the days leading up to Christmas praying over the requests — even supplying some tangible prayer needs anonymously?
Nothing huge, like paying off someone’s house mortgage, but something we could afford. A $100 Target gift card mailed to a single mom struggling financially, a few $10 new sweatshirts delivered to the homeless shelter, or 20 minutes spent praying for different people who had shared their prayer requests with our family. Each an act of kindness and a symbol of the gift of Love God gave us in His son Jesus. Each gift given with nothing expected in return.
Normally one of my favorite parts of gift-giving is seeing the joy on the recipient’s face. Not an option with anonymous giving.
This time the joy would come in the service itself, and in the sense of teamwork, as our family worked as secret love agents for Christ. The stocking would include prayers for school bullies, coworkers who no longer enjoy work, those we know with financial difficulties, and many battling health problems. The gifts given would include time of dedicated prayer about each need, gifts to meet physical needs, and/or small financial gifts.
We know we can’t solve all of their problems, but we can remind these people that they are loved by God and by others. Our goal is to empty the prayer stocking by Christmas Eve in honor of the amazing gift God gave the world on Christmas Day.
Saundra Dalton-Smith is an internal medicine physician, author, speaker, and hope activist. She shares with audiences nationwide on the topics of eliminating limiting emotions and helps them overcome being overwhelmed. She is the founder of I Choose My Best Life, a site dedicated to helping women choose to live fully, love boldly, and rest intentionally. Her books include Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves (2011) and Come Empty (2015). Follow her on Twitter @DrDaltonSmith