Thelma’s Christmas Carol


Every Christmas, my family loves to retell the story of a gift that I gave my aunt a few years back. “Tell it again,” the kids say, and we start from the beginning and end up laughing so hard we cry.

You see, one fall, my aunt moved to a new house. So as Christmas approached, I got the idea to give her a decorative address marker – you know, the kind that you order online, personalize, and put near your front door. I’m usually not great at gifting, so I was pleased to have thought of something personal, relevant, and ahead of time.

I called my aunt right away and explained I needed her new address for “mailing Christmas cards”. We chatted for a few minutes before I quickly jotted down her address and hung up the phone. Dang, now I have to do Christmas cards.

A couple of weeks later, her gift arrived at my door. As I wrapped it, I imagined the response I’d get from the whole party on Christmas day:

“What a thoughtful gift!” – my dad

“Where did you order that? That’s so nice!” – my mom

“That was a really good idea, Karen!” – my sister

The kids would scramble to see what all the commotion is about, my aunt would pass it around for all to admire, and my husband would give me an affirming smile.

In short, I would win Christmas.

It’s hard to look back this part of the story, because the red flags are so obvious. I try to look away, but the ghost of Christmas Past is persistent, and I had a hard lesson to learn.


“Remember, Scrooge, you fashioned these memories yourself.”

I’ll never forget the strange look on my aunt’s face when she opened my gift that Christmas afternoon. “Um, Thank …. you…. Karen!” She left it in the box and started to wrap the tissue back around it.

“What is it?” someone said. “Show us!” “Hold on … what did that say again…?”

What’s wrong? I wondered.

My aunt reluctantly held it up and said, “It’s an address marker. It’s very nice.”

“But wait … don’t you live on Selma?”  – my dad

My eyes darted to the words on the plaque. It read “2641 Thelma Avenue”.  Thelma?!

“Well, Merry Chrithmath!” my dad shouted and the room erupted with laughter.

“That’s tho thweet!” – my mom

“What a thpethial prethent!” – my sister

“It’s got your addreth on it!” – my husband

The kids clamored to see what all the commotion was about, my aunt passed my gift around, and we all wiped hysterical tears from our eyes.

“Thorry! ” I said, and we cracked up all over again.


My family was funny, but so kind. My aunt thanked me profusely, and everyone made sure I was fine and really, I was. But later that night, things turned dark and I couldn’t shake the heaviness of grief and shame.

My mind tried to talk some sense into my soul: It’s the thought that counts. She appreciated the idea. What’s the big deal? It was a fun family memory…  Get over yourself!

But this was about something bigger. I knew my soul needed more than cheering-up. It needed understanding. 

Near the midnight hour, we got out of bed, tiptoed into the living room, and sat by the tree, my soul and I.

I sat with my shame, grief, and failure. And for the first time, I chose curiosity over condemnation, bravery over blaming, and kindness over contempt.

And it made all the difference.

That night, God taught me my failure wasn’t in wanting glory. It was in thinking I could provide it for myself.

He reminded me I was made for victory, but only through His win.

I learned my Christmas wishes weren’t shameful. They were just in the wrong hands.


Just like Scrooge, my selfish tendencies are resilient. I still catch myself striving to win in relationships and conversations. I grab for glory at home, work, and even church.

That’s when a mysterious grief pays a visit and my soul awakens, begging to be understood.

The good news is the night doesn’t last long when I make room for curiosity, courage, and failure. And when I’m willing to learn, the Spirit is gentle and kind.


Has life kicked your butt down your own Thelma Avenue? Were you hoping to “win” Christmas – or even 2015? Are you grieving unkept resolutions or unanswered prayers? Or are you ashamed that you had the audacity to dream so big?

Offer your soul a cup of human kindness, friend. Make room for grace and get curious about the One who created you to stand in victory. Give yourself the gift of failure and wrap it in the eternal weight of glory.

Retheive the betht gift ever…

…and laugh in the face of every Christmas Future.

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25

Happy New Year,



19 thoughts on “Thelma’s Christmas Carol

  1. Christa December 29, 2015 / 5:32 am

    OH how I needed to read this today. You put some words around my feelings and God spoke deeply to me about what I am trying so hard to win. Thank you for sharing this. It was written just for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mary Suzanne December 29, 2015 / 5:47 am

    Nailed it! So grateful Jesus nailed all of our pride on his cross. Like your family, this is my favorite story of yours too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joanneviola December 29, 2015 / 7:11 am

    Karen – I so loved this post. Do you realize you gave the gift that has kept on giving? In the retelling of the story, you have brought laughter to your family each time. But more so, the powerful reminder of the gift we all truly do receive each Christmas. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. May you & yours have a blessed New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Karen Brown December 29, 2015 / 7:34 am

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Joann. I appreciate the encouragement!


  4. Michele Morin December 29, 2015 / 7:34 am

    I am always so encouraged by stories like this – that bring the cross into Christmas. We so need His grace!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Martha G. Brady December 29, 2015 / 10:43 am

    great post karen! as i’m clearing away christmas today, i’ll be thinking about this story:)


  6. Being Woven December 29, 2015 / 1:44 pm

    A very fine story but a far better gift given to us all by The Giver of His Son. Thank you, Karen, for sharing the hard tale and the laughter and the way God taught you so beautifully. I learn too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God December 30, 2015 / 5:36 am

    This is absolutely beautiful (and hysterical). “The Spirit is gentle and kind.” That’s what I need to remember when the nagging voice of condemnation takes up residence in my head. That’s my red flag that the enemy is at work. I love the thought of choosing curiosity over condemnation. That curiosity invites the Spirit in to move and love and heal. It lets God work and that, ultimately, is wherein lies the victory! May you be richly “blethed” in the New Year!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown December 30, 2015 / 5:52 am

      Bev- Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Here’s to more curiosity – and less condemnation in 2016… for both of us. Happy New Year!


  8. hopeful50 December 30, 2015 / 11:32 am

    Well, first of all I had to laugh at the Thelma thing but all the other words were so lovely they dwarf the joke! Did you ever get her another thign, I mean sign? 😉 😉 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown December 30, 2015 / 1:04 pm

      I did give her another thign! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your encouragement! Happy New Year!


  9. Abby December 30, 2015 / 12:32 pm

    Oh Karen, thank you for your transparency. I can so relate. There have been many times when I tricked myself into thinking I was doing something for someone else, when deep down I knew I was doing it for me. Love your words and your heart, friend. Wishing you a blessed New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Beth Willis Miller December 30, 2015 / 6:01 pm

    Great post, Karen! So good to not take ourselves so seriously, humor is good for the soul! Many New Years blessings to you ❤️


  11. sarahgirl3 December 30, 2015 / 7:18 pm

    Love it! I had a moment I am not proud of last week, so thank you for helping me with my shame.


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