A Clean Slate

Letting go of the Christmas lists

For kids growing up in the 60s “screen time” usually meant sitting in front of a black and white television with the family. We watched shows like Walt Disney, Ed Sullivan, the Beverly Hillbillies and Bonanza. And then there were Saturday morning cartoons – the exclusive domain of the youngest viewers in the household.

Savvy advertisers long ago understood how to target the covetous side of human nature. Beginning in November every year they jammed the airwaves with clever commercials offering a plethora of the latest toys, trinkets and games. My friends and I started our lengthy Christmas wish lists early. One year I was convinced that I couldn’t survive without my very own Barbie and Ken dolls. I knew my mother would resist the teenage fashion doll trend, but I put them at the top of my list anyway. My parents were generous, but not frivolous. At Christmas my brother and I would receive something to wear, something to read and something fun.

Lists upon lists
That year they gave me a gift I hadn’t even thought of asking for – a two-foot square slate chalkboard, with a wooden frame and matching easel. Forget Barbie and Ken! That little chalkboard held a world of possibilities, limited only by my imagination. I drew pictures, practised letters, numbers, and random designs. I played school and made signs for my pretend store or restaurant. Over and over again I created, erased and went on to the next project. Mistakes? No problem. Simply wipe clean and begin again. Unlike painted wood, genuine slate doesn’t warp or wear thin. 

Once I had children of my own, I made Christmas lists of a different sort – not about what I hoped to receive, but rather what I wanted to do for my family and friends. I wrote endless greeting cards, baked goodies, decorated the house, planned huge meals and spent time and money hunting for the perfect gifts for each of my beloved ones. School programs and extra church services would remind me of the heart of the season. But then I’d come home and think of just one more treat, present or festive bauble I absolutely had to have.  

The gift that endures 
More than once by the time New Year’s arrived I was exhausted. All the big meals, grand gatherings and gift giving had left me with a few extra pounds and a few more bills to pay. Good memories were part of the equation, of course, but I couldn’t wait to get back to the normal routines of life.

I like to think I’ve learned something over the years. I still enjoy the Christmas festivities, although baking, buying and busyness have been significantly dialled back. I truly look forward to some special family times and reconnecting with friends. But I’m much more conscious of the real meaning of the season these days.

Sometimes it’s that present you hadn’t asked for, the one you weren’t expecting that brings the greatest joy. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I wanted a Saviour to bring me peace with God. No slick advertising campaign uncovered my sorry state and dangled redemption in front of my weary eyes. In reality it was nothing short of a miracle that the Lord brought me to that manger and showed me the gift beyond all others. 

So whatever else goes on this Christmas, I want more than anything to raise my voice along with jubilant angels and terrified shepherds and thank the Lord for the gift of salvation and a new life in Christ – a solid, enduring and eternally clean slate.

Imagine the possibilities!

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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