The Christmas our daughter Krystal was two and a half, we knew exactly what she wanted. A jack-in-the-box. Not a doll, not a stuffed animal. A jack-in-the-box. Candy? New pajamas? Crayons, books, puzzles? Nope — just a jack-in-the box.

So we bought her a jack-in-the-box, but, of course, we knew better than she did. For goodness sakes, she was only two and a half. We also bought her a baby doll and a stuffed animal and new PJs, and candy and assorted other toys and clothing. She and her older brother had exactly the same number of gifts under the tree and exactly the same number of surprises in their stockings, and on Christmas morning they awoke to a wondrous array of presents.

Our son tore into his packages, laughing and smiling each time we handed him another. Krystal opened her jack-in-the-box. She hugged it and she turned the crank and listened to the tune and squealed with laughter when jack jumped out of his box. Then she pushed him back in and cranked the handle. He jumped and she laughed, again and again and again.

I gave her another gift, told her there was a surprise inside. No good. She was as happy as she could be. Even as unopened gifts piled up beside her, all she wanted was the jack-in-the-box. Not the doll, not the PJs or the stuffed animal or even her stocking. She had asked for one thing, and she was content.

I was not. What was wrong with this kid of mine? Didn’t she appreciate the Great American Dream, Christmas overflowing with consumer passion? What happened to the everyday normal child’s Christmas response, “Is that ALL?”

Finally my husband said, “She’s fine, Sue. She’s happy with what she has. Leave her alone.”

That’s when it dawned on me. Krystal, age two and a half, was acting the part of the adult. Me? I was the spoiled brat kid. That was a hard lesson. At least it seemed so on that long-ago Christmas morning.

I still love to give gifts, and our Christmas tree overflows, along with our hearts, every year, but that Jack-in-the-Box Christmas became the first lesson of many that God has taught me about contentment. As the Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (chapter 4, verse 11.) After all, the best gift is Jesus, and the greatest joy is love.

This Christmas, after 14 years in my log dream-house, we will celebrate with our family in the loft apartment where we now live. No more crackling fires in a huge stone fireplace, no soaring Christmas tree. And this Christmas, after 14 years, we will celebrate without our good dog, Wofgang, who passed away in October. This Christmas we will celebrate with my mother in an assisted living home, and she may recognize us or she may not.

You see, God is still teaching me, because I still have much to learn. But I do know one thing. This Christmas, we will celebrate.

Sue Harrison

BIO: Novelist Sue Harrison is best known for her Alaska trilogies. Her novels, national and international bestsellers, have been published in more than 20 countries in 13 different languages. Her novel Mother Earth Father Sky was named by the American Library Association as a Best Books for Young Adults. Sue lives with her husband in Michigan, but has family here in Nebraska and love Nebraska's rich history. She is currently writing romantic suspense for the inspirational market. Catch up with Sue on her website and blog – .