December 1983 — Where have the past 30 years gone? Gazing at this picture of a very pregnant me with a toddler in tow, I’m transported back to a time and place of precious memories.

At the top of my wish list for “Santa” is an item I’m most hoping to see under the tree this year ~ a double stroller. I still shake my head in amazement as I waddle around swollen with babe and chasing our 16-month-old daughter. Though God is still just a mystical figure in my mind, something in my heart recognizes I’ve been the recipient of two miracles.

An infertility patient, I’ve journeyed through the tests, the surgery, and the drugs in an attempt to become a mom. After the thrill of finally conceiving and giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, I mysteriously find myself pregnant again, a mere seven months later. What — no surgery? No drugs? I remember asking my doctor, “How did this happen?” And him answering with a wink, “Wait, did we forget to tell you the most important part?”

So here I am, 28 years old and about to have my second miracle baby.  How will I juggle two little ones under two? It’s a time when double strollers, well they’re a rarity. Something you order in a catalog for parents of twins. Something I know I’ll be needing.

I hurriedly prepare for the fun but hectically busy two days of celebration with our families. Christmas Eve ~ an hour trek from our little seaside home up to the valley, car laden with gifts for everyone as we join my parents and siblings at Mom and Dad’s house. The next day will be our little celebration at home in the morning with our sweet little one, Kristin, and then another trek to the valley to bask in a second evening of family holiday at Randy’s parents’ home.

Hopefully, hubby will “surprise” me with the double stroller at one of these gatherings!

After a wonderful Christmas Eve meal prepared by Mom, we gather around the sparkling tree in a room that is bursting with packages in bright, shiny paper and festive bows. There are so many gifts! Surely one will be the stroller.

As the evening unfolds and the gifts are opened and shared, my husband stops the family chatter and asks for a moment to present me with “something special.” This must be it! But where is he hiding the large box?

All eyes turn as he approaches me with a tiny package nestled into the palm of his hand.  My arching eyebrows give away my puzzled response. With a slightly boyish and nervous voice, he hands me the gift. “This is for being the mother of our children.”

I blush and look around at the captive audience, all eyes eager to see what the box holds. As I unwrap it and flip the top open, tears threaten to spill. Nestled in the velvet is a beautiful ring, a heart of diamonds. As I breathe in the wonder of this unexpected sight, I feel the unborn babe stir within and I glance over at our precious little girl in her red Christmas dress. Words cannot convey the overwhelming joy and gratitude I feel.

Although I don’t know the details at this time, the faces around that room will be different next year. A new little boy will be perched on my lap. And the father I’ve known and loved for all my life will have passed from this life to the next. I will be searching for God and beginning to really listen to the words of the Christmas carols I sung mindlessly in the past. And I’ll be on the cusp of finding an eternal, heavenly Father.

But this Christmas of 1983 will never be forgotten. A priceless memory tucked into the recesses of my mind forever.

Oh, yes. And the double stroller? Well that was a gift from my dear mother-in-law and father-in-law the following day. They, too, have since moved on. And this year, Mom is about to turn 90 as we celebrate Christmas with her.

The ring? It is still my most treasured Christmas gift. One that was never on a wish list but filled a deeper space in my heart than any wish ever could because of the man who presented it and the thought that inspired it.

Now I watch our daughter and son-in-law juggling holiday celebrations with their little ones. And our son and his wife crazy busy starting a business and keeping up with their other work. So much to do and so many events to attend!

How I wish I could give them a glimpse into the future. These years are so brief. I know the load seems heavy at times, and the demands of family may appear burdensome and tiring during the brief couple of days of Christmas. But to breathe it all in, to plunge wholeheartedly into the celebrations and embrace the whirlwind of the holiday ~ these are the gifts I’d give them.

Just as I had no idea the Christmas of 1983 would be the last one spent with my dad, and as I reflect on the wondrous but brief experience of watching Christmas unfold through the eyes of our children, I know these days will slip past them all too quickly. Dear Lord, help them to know what really matters. Help all of us to hold tight to the times we have together.

May each of us take the time and make the journeys to create precious memories of Christmas.