When Christmas is Hard

It wasn’t that big of a deal, really. Still, I felt a twinge of sadness whenever I thought about it because it’s something I really liked a lot.

I made the small zippered pouch, all by hand—every last stitch. I wouldn’t call it a work of art, although I was quite proud of the clever piecing and homespun appearance.


I filled the little pouch with my most prized hand sewing supplies:

  • Tiny gold scissors in the shape of a stork that were so sharp they cut perfectly all the way to the end of the beak.
  • The only thimble I’ve ever found that fit perfectly.
  • A small magnetic needle holder filled with the finest German stainless steel sharps in a variety of sizes.
  • A tiny container of appliqué pins
  • And two spools of thread just the right size and shape to fill the remaining space in the sewing kit.

It’s been years since my sewing kit went missing, but the feeling of loss deepened. I looked from time to time, always consoling myself that it would turn up. It had to. Sewing kits don’t just get up and walk away.

In time, my casual attempts turned to all-out searches and eventually to excavations. I emptied drawers; looked in nooks and crannies in every room of the house.

From time to time I considered making a new pouch and refilling it with all the right items. I came this close to ordering a new pair of stork scissors. Wow, I didn’t remember them being that expensive.

I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to admit the originals were hopelessly lost.

I came to consider that there might be a lesson in all of this that I needed to learn,  certain it has to do with the unimportance of things compared to people.

It’s just a sewing kit, I kept telling myself—a tiny treasure that must have fallen into the wastebasket or somehow got scooped up into a donation bag. It’s not like I lost a child or a close friend. I still have my home, my family and so many things in my life that bring me so much joy.

Over the years that little sewing kit has prompted lots of “going through” and cleaning out. I have pared down our closets, given away furniture and household items we don’t need to others who do. And that felt good.

One day I was cleaning up a desk I no longer needed to give to a friend who would find it useful. At the last minute, I decided to check all the drawers just to make sure they were empty and clean.

Right there in the small drawer on the right was my little sewing kit—exactly where I put it so it would always be handy.

I got my sewing kit back. But more than that, I experienced something I don’t understand fully but believe with all my heart: It is in giving that we receive.

Christmas is only days ahead. We’ve reached the biggest gift-giving season of the year and with it, for some, brings torrents of pressure and expectation.

Maybe today you’re having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit because you just don’t have what it takes to come up with appropriate gifts.

Perhaps your heart is broken because you’ve recently lost a loved one. You cannot wrap your mind around how to celebrate in the midst of the pain.

You may be struggling to make ends meet—you just do not have the means to meet the expectations and demands of those around you. It feels like you are nearly suffocating.

You want to make everyone’s dreams come true, but you’re only human. It’s taking all you’ve got just to provide the most basic needs of those who depend on you.

Whatever you’re going through, let me remind you that you are not alone. The fact that you are reading this right now means you are part of an online family—my EC Family! We gather daily around our common bond—our desire for friendship, community and to save time and money every day. I care and I know that thousands of your fellow-readers care, as well.

There are lots of ways you can give to others this beautiful holiday season that do not require money. It’s good to remember that sometimes the very best gifts of all do not come from a store.

Often the most meaningful gifts and the most difficult ones to give are those that cost no money at all. A gift from the heart is a gift of time and talent.

What do you do well? Cook, clean, babysit, garden, sew, drive, shop? Whatever it is, create a unique gift certificate and make what you do the gift that you give: a weekend of babysitting, a day of housecleaning, six hours of errand running. Follow up within just a few days to set the exact time your certificate will be redeemed. Your recipient may be too embarrassed to remind you to make good on the gift.

Question: Have you ever treasured something that you thought was lost forever? Did it turn up? If so, where? Share your story in the comments area below!

First published: 12-18-19; Republished 12-14-19

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49 replies
  1. Nancy Lee says:

    My husband passed away on August 28th and after his funeral I was given his wedding ring, as I had requested. I slipped the ring on my first finger of my right hand and I touched it with my thumb periodically, reminding me of him and his closeness. Several days ago, while sewing, I glanced down at my right hand and the ring was gone. I had no idea when or where I lost his ring. I was devastated. I called my praying friends and my daughters. I started going through every room in the house, nothing. The second day I went to stores I had been in to no avail. I cried off and on all day long. How could I have lost his ring? That evening my daughter showed up and began her search of my home…no ring. About to give up and consider the ring was just lost she went to the last room to be searched and alas she found the ring under my bed near the head of the bed. We both cried with joy and was so thankful for answered prayer. I went to my closet and pulled out my lockbox and tucked the ring safely away, knowing it would be safer there and the loss would not happen again. I miss not having the ring on my finger to touch throughout the day but I have peace knowing it is in a safe place, like my husband, in a safe and joyful place!!!

  2. flo says:

    One year I bought a 15” garden type Teddy bear, in the fall. Thinking I would give it to my tween grandson the following Easter. I searched the house over the week before Easter, several times. I was so frustrated searching for this little bear. As I got ready for Easter Sunday services, (with no present for one grandson)I was standing in our walk-in closet, threw out my hands and said” Lord! Where is that bear!” No joke, it literally fell into my hands. I had looked up there before, several times. It was my Easter miracle. God bless you all. Have a wonderful Christmas.

  3. Noreen says:

    Hey Mary, just reading all the beautiful stories here lifted my spirits this morning. While I dont need anything, the memory of the loss of my mom last year and an aunt just a few weeks ago made me realise once again, that the Christmas is all about spending time with your loved ones and not about presents. Our sons live abroad but we got to spend time with both families earlier this year – so we may be on our own but we got to enjoy our family time earlier in the year.

  4. Sandy says:

    My husband, Bob, and I got married in 1991, and prior to that we did the Pre-cana weekend required by our church. Bob passed away 5 years ago. Recently, I found a box filled with my wedding planning lists, books, contracts for the hall, the flowers, etc. I was just saving a few of the papers and dumping the folders into the garbage. I was about to dump the folder marked “church” when I decided to see what was in it first. In it were two sealed envelopes with our names and pre-cana written on them. I opened them. They were letters they had us write to each other about our upcoming marriage, what we expected and why we were marrying each other. I had totally forgotten we had done this and we never opened them. 28 years later I was reading the words my husband and I wrote to each other. What a treasure to find.

  5. Karen says:

    I’ve hidden so many things for different reasons, and then later, couldn’t remember where I put them. Now, when I put something special in a hiding place I snap a picture of it with my phone. This has helped save my sanity many times! 🙂

  6. Mona says:

    I once lost a sterling silver flower ring, then found it as we were tilling our garden. That’s the good news. The bad news is I lost it again, never to be found.

  7. Lynne Powell says:

    I will start by saying I too have misplaced or lost much loved things over the years. Some were found and others gone forever. The loss that hurts the most is the loss of someone special. My mom passed away in December many years ago as did one of my grandfathers. My brother-in-law also died in December and 3 years later my husband. Each member of my family loved the holidays as did I. I will say that even though twelve years have passed since my husband’s death the loss continues to hurt. December is when everyone else is feeling joyous and I’m not—at least not on the inside. I miss my husband and I also mourn the loss of the holiday spirit.

  8. Lori says:

    Many years ago, I was having a difficult Christmas due to having 2 young children, short on money and way too busy with a less than helpful husband. One of my patients (I’m a occupational therapist) was a young man who had been injured in a car accident the year before, suffering brain damage. His sister had been killed in the accident. The boy’s mother was busy making cookies, having other family come, and doing everything she could to make their Christmas as normal as she could. Every Christmas I make her cookie recipie and thank God for all I have, especially my healthy children.

  9. Lily says:

    I am going through especially difficult time in my life I started many years ago since I divorce my husband in 2012 And then and 2018 when he forced me to sell the home that we still had jointly anyway I won’t tell you the whole story but financially it’s been very difficult on me. I’m sad and depressed all the time and I cry by myself because I try to put up a strong face in front of family and I hate the holiday season I hate Thanksgiving, I hate Christmas. I hate that I feel that God made me a mother and I can’t even be a mother and I can’t help my own children because I can’t even help myself! I feel hopeless and helpless and worthless all the time and from September on through end of year I feel worse

    • Lori M McArthur says:

      Dear one,
      I feel your pain. I urge you to keep going. try to find some small things that give you joy, a little at a time, make a gratitude list, maybe 5 things every day. And then find someone you can share with. You can do this. You can make it better.

    • Karen says:

      Dear Lily, You are not alone. So many people and organizations can help you. You need to find them. Call the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities. They’re there to help. Please don’t despair. You’ll be in my prayers tonight.

    • Ann says:

      I’m sorry for your situation but I was divorced too and had a small child, I didn’t have much income but took my child to many free events, especially the local town tree lighting, I made big out the holidays for my child.There is free council ing to where they would help get one help.Seeking help is the best thing.Let ones inner child come out for the kids young and old.

      • Ann says:

        And, I am very great ful to have made Christmas s for my young child as she passed away suddenly 3 years ago, I had to move and lost her tiny irish dancing shoes that I wanted to hang up next to her picture marching in our local parade, I thought that the family members had them and was going to order a new pair ,this went on for some years until I looked in a large container in my parents basement and sure enough there they were along with my other things of my daughters.So for Christmas I have my daughter’s out going smiling spirt with me . I am not the same but I make such to make a nice Christmas to remember for the rest of my family and friends. God bless those who have lost a child.they are with us every day in Spirit especially during the holidays.

  10. Radcliff says:

    I lost my mother to a terrible disease of Alzheimer’s. Her body was slowly going down hill but her memory of me seemed long gone. After suffering a stroke she seemed to sink into a coma. I sat by her bed holding her hand for days with no response. The nurses convinced me to go home and get some rest. The next more returning to her side I was greeted by the nurses so happy telling me she had woke up and was talking! Strangest thing was thought they said “Mrs. Radcliff all she asks for is candy, we have given her every piece if candy we can find and she eats it up and says ‘ I want candy’! “ I started laughing and crying as I re-introduced my self as Mrs Radcliff, Mrs Candy Radcliff !
    My mother passed away a few weeks later but I realized I hadn’t lost her after all. Some where deep in her memory I was still there and she will always be with me!

  11. Sandy says:

    I purchased a Christmas gift for my grandson months ago and hid it. Time to wrap it, could not find it. Turned into a month long Marie Kondo thing! Gave up, hoping it would turn up. Found it in a bookcase, disguised as a book so that he would not see it. Well, it worked, but I did not see it either!

  12. Darlene says:

    I laid down to take an afternoon nap and remember thinking just as I was falling asleep, “I need to take my wrist watch off because it’s snagging on the bedspread”. Next thing I know I am waking up and have no wrist watch on my arm. Do not remember taking it off. I searched everywhere. Nothing. Later that evening I was getting dressed to go out, opened my undies drawer, and there was the watch…lying very neatly on top of the undies! From that day on, I remove all jewelry before sleeping.

  13. Judi says:

    As a young teenager, I gave away my precious collection of folk albums to a family that helped my family while my mother was in the hospital. I had bought them with my babysitting money and it was all I had to give, to thank this family for their help. The kids in the family loved the albums. Some years later, I told my prayer group that I although it still felt right to have given that gift, that I missed those albums which were important memories of my teen years. The group told me that nothing is ever lost. I laughed and said something like… “well, these albums are gone forever”… A week later, a friend, who didn’t know about this conversation, knocked on my door with four identical albums. She knew that I liked folk music and asked if I would like them. She had moved into a rental apartment and was cleaning out a closet in which some things had been left behind. These folk albums were there, an identical replacement for the albums that I had given away. So within a week of “challenging Spirit to bring these albums back to me”… there they were, delivered to my house. What a lesson for me, that heartfelt giving never causes a loss in my life.

  14. Eunice says:

    I had and loved a very small pair of scissors that were most useful to me. They disappeared one day and I was heartbroken. I did all of the above – searched everywhere. I shopped everywhere trying to replace them with no luck. One day the bottom panel of my elderly nightstand (where I’d kept them) broke off. I took the drawers out to make it easier to carry it to the curb for the trash pick-up. When I pulled it out of the corner, I heard a clunk and there they were. The sharp tips had somehow pierced the top/underside of the drawer space and had been there all along – years! Such a happy day for me!

  15. Sue in MN says:

    Years ago, my Dad passed away at the end of January from a fast-moving cancer. But before he got too sick to shop, he made my mother go with him to buy Christmas gifts for the kids and grandkids – nothing fancy or expensive, but chosen for each. The surprise came the Christmas AFTER his death – when each of us received a gift chosen by him more than a year earlier. You see, he shopped for 2 Christmases on those final shopping trips. Every Christmas since then, we have brought this up as we gather for the holidays. It was so typical – he was the guy that never had a lot, but he would happily give it away.

  16. Mary H says:

    I was looking for a key. started at 5pm and searched the usual places could not find it.
    finally in desperation, I prayed Lord you know where it is please help me find it.
    One last search and there it was in a pouch where I pay the bills. It was 11 pm.
    The Lord always helps when I ask. Merry Christmas!

    • Shirley B Woods says:

      I am constantly praying for my lost or misplaced things. God has been faithful to reveal them to me time and again. Nothing is too large or small for Him.

  17. Carol Bucholz says:

    I bought a birthday present for my daughter (then about 5 years of age) and hid it in my closet. Time came for her birthday and I could not find the package. It did not even show up when we moved the next year. It’s been over 45 years since then but we still wonder what happened to that present. (I don’t even remember what it was.) But it makes for a cautionary tale to tell whenever something seems lost.

  18. PeonyMama says:

    15 years ago my fiance was killed in an accident 7 weeks b/4 our wedding date. About a week after the funeral I received a package containing tiny gold earrings shaped like forget-me-nots. They were a surprise gift from my fiance. I wore them constantly until about 3 months ago when I discovered the back still on my earlobe but the right earring was gone. I was getting ready to go out and had showered, dried & curled my hair, gotten dressed and was putting on my make-up so I was sure the earring was somewhere in the bathroom or the bedroom. I searched thoroughly several times and finally decided the earring must have gone down the shower drain. I searched jewelery departments and tried to remember where he had purchased them but never found an exact replacement so finally, with deep saddness, I gave up. Then, on my birthday in early November, I walked into my bathroom and stepped on something sharp. It was the missing earring! Understand how spooky this was for me … I had vacuumed and scrubbed this floor(on my hands & knees) multiple times since losing the earring and now here it was … and on my birthday! A gift from my fiance, again?????

  19. Vivian Wright Freppon says:

    Congratulations on your wonderful memory find! Christmas is hard financially and emotionally but God is good and as long as we keep Him as our #1 He will always take care of us! Merry and Joyous Christmas to you, Mary, and your family as well as the EC family here!

    • J P says:

      That is absolutely what has happened to me on so many occasions. I would loose something or my husband would and he got to the point he would just point upward to me as the Lord had directed me so many times to find things I never would have otherwise. Also my mother was so a woman of faith and she had lost a needle one time and thought it was in the carpet and so concerned she would step on it and it would penetrate her foot. She prayed about it and she said one night she felt like someone had touched her. She woke up and saw the needle laying on her bed. I am totally sure the angel of the Lord is the one who touched her as the Bible says angels are ministering spirits.

  20. Michelle V says:

    A few months ago I took down my oldest wind chime made of utensils. One of the forks had fallen off and I vowed to restring the treasured windchime. I put that stupid fork somewhere and have yet to find it. Like you, Mary, it has caused a good cleaning out all over the house and yet I still have not found it! It will turn up in some odd place hopefully next year.

  21. Muriel Donaldson says:

    Such beautiful responses, and best wishes to you and your family, Cathy, especially your daughter’s long road ahead…
    To someone who has very little money for Christmas giving to their little ones, I feel that I must share this idea that came to me because of a need. Our son’s family has NO MONEY to buy gifts this Christmas and we learned that our daughter-in-law has to work from home this week because they did not have gas money for her to drive to work. Our son will be working for his dad on a home project to earn $100 for presents for their two children, 4 and 6. As I wondered what I could do to help bring excitement to the little one’s Christmas, I got the idea that my daughter-in-law could stage a Christmas morning treasure hunt. I went to the Dollar Store and thoughtfully shopped for items that each would enjoy–10 items for each (slinky, coloring books, small pinball machine, paint-your-own ornament kits, ponytail holders, stickers, etc.) Their mom will wrap the items and hide them throughout the house and the children will take turns looking for their hidden treasures, one by one. The mom is so excited and can’t wait for Christmas morning, and I can’t wait to hear all about it. I know they will have lots of fun. What a bargain for only $20!

    • psherman115 says:

      What a FABulous idea, Muriel. And such a beautiful column, Mary. I currently and clearly ‘feel your pain.’ I’ve been searching for several weeks for a lovely Christmas pin that was a gift from my boss in recent years, as well as a necklace that I’ve not seen recently. The casual ‘looking’ progressed to a full-out search and cleaning out of jewelry to give away but, as yet, finding neither of the lost pieces. As frustrating as it is, I have finally just had to commit my frustration (with myself) to my gracious God, replacing the fretting when it comes to mind with a conscious gratitude for all that I did find/do have. I really hope for a similar outcome someday and it will indeed be a surprise because I have searched EVERY place I can think to look. And Cathy’s experience with her daughter surely puts it all in perspective. Thank you, Mary and EC family for sharing. Wishing you each a Merry Christmas!

      • Jan New says:

        One Christmas we went to the local Goodwill and purchased 2 bags full of toys that our 3 kids would like. We had just moved and didn’t have a paycheck coming in for a week. After 35 years, my kids still remember the neat toys they got that day. And, the free tree we got from Montgomery Ward!

  22. Cathy Walston says:

    For two years I thought I’d lost my daughter. She hooked up with an abusive druggie. At one point while she lived in Missouri, I was told by a family member that he had seen her & didn’t think he’d ever see her alive again…she looked that bad. That night I prayed for one more chance to see her & tell her I love her. Less than 3 hours later, a MO deputy was calling to ask for financial help for my daughter who was trying to get back to IL. My husband and I went to MO immediately to pick her up. She still had a long road ahead of her, but this year our family will all be together again for Christmas (minus the abusive jerk)!

    • Kay Jones says:

      What a wonderful start to my day, reading about your joy. You may have a difficult road ahead but please know you have lots of good thoughts and prayers from all of us here.

      • Cheri Gee says:

        Your story was incredibly beautiful. The grace of God to give your daughter another chance at a beautiful life, with lovely parents whose hearts are filled with love. Thank you so much for sharing your story. We just lost our 26 year old grandson to drugs and gangs. It breaks my heart that we won’t have a second chance to help him.

  23. Pamela Martin says:

    I was given a ring for my college graduation from my grandmother. The stones came from an antique brooch from my great grandmother. I am very good about putting jewelry way so when this went missing I was very concerned. Tearing the house apart did not turn it up. I was in tears. Weeks later, my husband found it in a very unlikely location. We have no idea how it got there but I was sooooo grateful that it turned up.

  24. Betty Thomas says:

    Thank you for such a great reminder Mary. We are all human and not perfect at all. We make mistakes and life can be messy. People come and go in our lives for many reasons but I try to learn a lesson or heal my heart at such losses. Giving of our time and ourselves costs nothing but will leave a memory to hold on to. It is truly the best gift when we can quit comparing ourselves to others and set our own expectations for us and our families. I wish you all Peace.

  25. Andrea says:

    I look forward to tomorrow’s list. Today’s blog brought tears to my eyes. So many people are struggling out there. Our house was burglarized 9 years ago and all my most prized and sentimental possessions were taken. Stuff that meant absolutely nothing to anyone but me…gone. It taught me the hard lesson you spoke about – things are things, but people are what we should all be focusing on. Unfortunately, I will never get my possessions back, I’m sure they were dumped in a ditch without care and the good stuff pawned but I’ll always be thankful for my family, friends and community. I too clean out the house much more often now and don’t collect stuff I don’t need, makes for less clutter and stress! Merry Christmas to all!

  26. Deb Westmoreland says:

    Sometimes I chastise myself for spending so much time reading columns yours included, just that feeling we all get that I should be doing something, stop lazing around reading, then I bring up your column and read the most wonderful, heartfelt article, and all I can think is “I love you” and I am right where I need to be! Thank you for that.

  27. mamasan49_376 says:

    Good story, thanks for sharing.
    I`ve learned instead of running myself ragged looking for something, I pray “Lord you know where it is, show me” HE comes thru every time.

  28. annie56 says:

    Thanks for sharing. It is indeed a difficult time of year for me & I know for many others. Such a beautiful season to be feeling so sad. And much to be grateful for!


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