By: Ronda Nissley
I grew up in the small town of Kalona, Iowa as the seventh of nine children. My mother never worked outside the home and Dad was employed by a variety of small Christian schools and church agencies – earning a modest income even by standards of that day. Looking back, I’m sure our family would have been classified as “poor” by pretty much any economic measure. To my parent’s credit, I never figured that out until I was an adult. Thanks to my mother’s large garden and skills as a seamstress-we were always well fed and clothed.
For Christmas, we usually received one or two gifts each – generally it included something we needed like a new winter coat, gloves, or boots from mom & dad and then a smaller gift from a sibling that had drawn our name that year. There was usually one larger gift we shared as a family – a game, athletic equipment or one special year - a new stereo console. It was only when I returned to school after Christmas break that I realized my list of gifts received was considerably shorter than that of my friends.
Gifts were clearly not the center of our Christmas celebrations!!
Central to my (and my siblings) memories of Christmas was a small booklet of Christmas readings and hymns produced by the local bank that - as a family - we were REQUIRED to go through BEFORE any gifts were opened. I remember the giggling and goofing off through this time as we waded through the book – each taking turns reading different sections of the “Christmas Story.” At the time, this seemed like a tortuous process forced upon us to make us wait until the main event – THE GIFTS!! Now, this tradition holds sweet memories with equal parts nostalgia and gratitude for parents that kept the true meaning of Christmas front and center.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.