Canceling Christmas (When You Have 22 Kids!)

Canceling Christmas, by Sue Badeau

Sue Badeau Laurie with her cookie tray“You have HOW MANY children?” Upon hearing that the answer is 22, 2 by birth and 20 adopted, the next statement many people make is “Christmas must be amazing in your house!”

Truly, Christmas IS amazing in our house. When my husband and I were first married 35 years ago, we began a tradition of doing something special on each day of advent to allow the anticipation to build, the light and joy of the season to grow day by day in the spirit of “Maranatha.” The activities ranged from baking special recipes, to making homemade ornaments, to reaching out and visiting a nursing home or prison. As each new child joined the family, these festivities also grew and traditions from each of their heritage, memory and culture were added to the mix. The whole month of December became a magnificent, chaotic cacophony of joyful noise and bustling energy.Sue Badeau Christmas_Short_Street_stockings

December in our house never included a moment of rest.

One year, things had been particularly stressful for months. Bad news, seemingly insurmountable challenges, illnesses, and even deaths were all piling up along with the endless stack of bills to be paid. Another blow was dealt to us just days after Thanksgiving and my husband and I had reached the breaking point. “That’s it!” We declared that we had just had enough and we were “canceling Christmas.” We held a family meeting and told the children that this year, there would be no Christmas. No activities, no cookies and eggnog, no lights, no tree, no stockings hung from the bannister. And most importantly, no gifts.Sue Badeau 2008Christmasphotocard

We needed a break from the action. We needed rest.

Three of our children – ages 11, 12 and 14 – had a different idea. They had a small after school job helping to deliver firewood. Secretly they decided to pool their pay and tips and buy gifts for the entire family. Stealthily they accomplished their mission with no one, not even mom and dad, catching on. Excitedly, they waited until after everyone had gone to bed on Christmas Eve and then tiptoed into the living room and filled every stocking and added a pile of wrapped gifts around the fireplace.

The astonished faces and tears of joy that graced our home that Christmas morning have never left my mind, or my heart. It was only by accident that I discovered who the 3 secret elves were, and I have kept their secret. Like the very first Christmas-mother, I too have “treasured up all these things and pondered them in (my) heart.” (Luke 2:19).Sue Badeau Stockings on Bannister

The dollar-store goodies that they provided were worth more than all the other gifts of Christmas past and future. We learned a simple and profound lesson that year. Christmas simply cannot be cancelled. Even in the darkest of times in our life and even in the darkest spaces in our world, the light of Christmas will not stay under the bushel-basket. The light will burst forth, spilling and spreading and dancing brighter and brighter as it is shared. The light of Christmas brings not only joy but refreshment and rest to the weary, and satisfies those who are feeling faint.

As the chaos and noisiness of the first festivities of Advent 2014 begin with rambunctious grandchildren excitedly setting out the decorations while others stir up the cookies and blend up the eggnog, I am bursting with gratitude and reminded that Christmas is ALWAYS amazing in our house!

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:25


Sue Badeau CCCA 14Sue Badeau is a national inspirational speaker and writer and a graduate of both Christian Communicators and Christian Communicators ADVANCED. She and her husband Hector have raised 22 children of diverse backgrounds, many with disabilities, 3 with terminal illnesses who have passed away. They now enjoy 35 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

Sue is the author of Are We There Yet? Adopting and Raising 22 KidsRoots and Wings at Loonstone Lake, The Christmas Primer, ‘Tis the Season in Sweetland, and Roots and Wings at Loonstone Lake, Volume 2.

The Badeaus understand that parents caring for children with special needs often need rest and refreshment, so while Sue continues to use her life experiences to inspire others through her speaking, they are also developing a ministry to open their home to provide rest, refreshment and care for caregivers. To learn more about their family and vision, or Sue’s speaking, visit and . Maranatha!

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