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Have Yourself a Thrift-Shop Christmas

A woman on a budget relies on faith, inspiration and divine guidance in tracking down some very special Christmas presents.

Santa searches newspaper ads for bargains, just as Nan Kennedy Morrison did.
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I’m a gift-giver. I always have been. Especially at Christmastime.

There’s nothing more exciting than shopping for the people I love, then watching them open the present that’s perfect for them. But this year I was afraid there’d be no shopping.

It was a few weeks before Christmas and I sat at my kitchen table staring at my checkbook. Bills had left me with next to nothing in my gift budget.

There were a dozen people on my list—my husband, Frank, our son, nieces, nephews, friends….

I’ll never be able to afford something for everyone, I thought.

As usual, my faltering faith called my favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5–6, to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding; in all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”

Okay, Lord, I prayed, help me make this money stretch. I trust you.

The newspaper was on the table next to me. I flipped through it, and an article about a weekend estate sale practically jumped off the page. Maybe I’ll check it out, I thought, and wrote down the address.

I turned the page. There, smack dab in the middle, was an ad for the Goodwill store. Hmm, they might have a few things too. On the next? A garage sale listing. After that, one for a thrift shop.

“Okay, Lord, I’m listening,” I said aloud. “Direct my path.”

That weekend I drove over to the estate sale. First I browsed through the living room. There was antique furniture, tables crowded with vases and lamps. Nothing caught my eye.

I walked over to an office area and looked at some electronics. Nothing there either.

Another room had beautiful artwork, but everything was out of my price range. Maybe this is a waste of time, I thought, wandering into the kitchen.

Bingo! A table loaded with lace handkerchiefs for a dollar apiece. My sister collected handkerchiefs!

And up high on a pantry shelf was a sealed exotic mustard made in Eufaula, Oklahoma, a small town near where we’d grown up. I knew she’d get a kick out of that.

To cap it off, I added a brand-new, still-in-the-box crystal water pitcher.

The race was on! The next day I hit the Goodwill. I found a men’s designer dress shirt in just the right size for my hard-to-fit son, still with original creases, for just a few dollars.

A couple of days later I discovered a gorgeous choker with an unusual sapphire-colored stone in the center. Just the thing for my fashionista niece!

Next up were the garage sales. There were two terrific finds for Frank: a CD of Oklahoma’s centennial anniversary celebrations and a movie featuring Andy Griffith, his favorite actor.

“Have you bought anything for yourself?” Frank asked one afternoon when I came home with more packages. “Christmas is about other people,” I said.

But on my next trip to the thrift shop I found a rust-colored jacket that matched an outfit I had.

Thanks to all the wonderful deals I’d found I had enough money to buy it along with two knit shirts with sleeves long enough to cover my nephew’s basketball-reach arms and an evening purse for another niece.

And the perfect finish to all of my great finds: a bag full of glittering red ribbons that made all those gifts look like I’d spent a fortune.

By Christmas not only did I have special gifts for everyone on my list, but I had a few dollars out of my budget to spare. Those I donated to Samaritan’s Purse—Franklin Graham’s international relief charity.

My family all said the gifts I had given them were perfect.

“How did you know I’d like that?” they kept asking on Christmas Day.

It was easy, I told them. God had directed my path.

This story was excerpted from Guideposts’ The Joys of Christmas 2011. Buy your copy today!


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