Christmas Joy

This season, I’ve been acutely aware of the blessings in life.  Perhaps it’s the season’s Spirit of joy, but oftentimes there is also a lot of stress associated with Christmas – unfortunately.  I don’t want to forget the recent moments that have brought a smile or a laugh to the day, so I decided to write them down and will continue to throughout the month.  Share a smile with me…

* Standing in our front yard with my man as he laughs at my attempt to assemble and inflate the inflatable snowman in our front yard.  I’m not a huge fan of lawn ornamentation, but Frosty found us and so he stays.  Anyway, in an effort to streamline decorating, I put Frost up myself this year.  I guess I couldn’t have done it any more wrong.  Hey, that’s why I married an engineer – because I’m not one!

* Enjoying the show the Salvation Army bell ringers put on in NYC.  Wow!  These people love their jobs!  Singing, dancing, grooving…it was quite a show and made everyone’s day a little brighter.

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* Came home the other day to find the nicest surprise!  My neighbor has a lawn service, but we don’t.  When their lawn guy came this week and did their lawn, he also blew off our leaf-covered driveway.  What a treat!

* Sitting around the dinner table, the meal long since finished, and just listening to our kids tell jokes and recite movie lines.  My man looked at me from across the table and I knew what he said to me with his eyes – and I agree…Yes, this IS what it’s all about, Honey.

* Dressing up our dog in her Mrs. Claus outfit to pick out our Christmas tree at the hardware store.  A red satin dress, velvet ruffled collar and hat with wig.  Oh it’s just too much. 🙂  She loves a car ride, and going to get the tree was a special treat.

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* Wrapping presents with my oldest for precious boys and girls in our community, and laughing with my boy at how he’s always had a hard time with, in his words, crafts.  Hey, it took me years of practice to get curling ribbon down.

* Spontaneously having a family sing-a-long while our baby girl played the Christmas music she’s learned on the piano.

* The smell of pine tree-scented candles.

* Our annual quest to find the perfect egg nog.  Nothing beats the Farm Stores brand I grew up with, but we’ll keep suffering through the samples. 😉

* Serving with my family and friends at Operation Christmas Child.  It is an amazing ministry that we are blessed to be a part of every year.  I love taking people for the first time and watching them be overwhelmed with joy at the work and the generosity of humankind on the behalf of God’s love love for the world.  What a great night!

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* Watching an elderly couple walk in front of me into an office building.  Although they were very old, and walked slowly, they held hands as they went.  What a picture it was.  He was in his twill coat and scarf.  She donned her long coat and knitted hat.  One walked with a cane.  Both were still in love.  They held hands tightly as they entered the building, discussing which elevator button to push.  It was a fleeting moment I am so glad I didn’t miss.  They personified beautiful, committed, tender love.  I think about all they must have seen in their lifetimes: the wars, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, homes, jobs, etc. and yet they still walk together – holding hands.  May all of us be so blessed.

* The silly elf hat my man bought our baby girl at the grocery store.  It’s really cute on her!  When they walked into the house, I said to her (wearing the hat) with a smile, So, what did you talk your dad into buying?  She smiled back, Oh, nothing.  Bruce and I do not have a problem saying no to our kids – they would agree!  It makes me smile to imagine what their conversation must have been somewhere between the produce and milk aisles about this green and red striped hat with sewn-on pointed ears.  He caved.  She’s adorable!  It’s all good.

* Thinking about my mother-in-law, whom I love dearly.  We spent Thanksgiving with her and extended family.  This year, we sat down to give thanks – including her being a new breast cancer survivor.  In the spring, when this news hit the whole family hard, I wondered what the fall would look like.  It surpasses my hopes!  She went with us to NYC and, little did we know, she got to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing the giant Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  She still talks about it, and I am so touched to have been able to be there with her when she saw it in person for the first time. ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

* At church, there was a volunteer pushing a 6-seater buggy filled with some of the cutest toddlers you’ve ever seen.  This kind woman could have just walked them around, but she saw it as a teachable moment.  They stopped at a table with the manger scene on it.  She pointed out all of the people and what their role was in the stable that night.  These little ones can’t even say complete sentences yet, but this woman patiently went through each one.  She wasn’t telling it to them like a bedtime story…she was writing it on their hearts.  What a blessing it was for me to stand back and watch. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-9

* I was at urgent care yesterday and am touched by seeing family and friends willing to risk catching all of the yuck going around in order to take, and sit with, their sick loved one.  Every seat was filled and every other person had a box of tissue on their laps.  Still, those healthy stayed by the side of those too sick to care for themselves.  ~ Matthew 25:34-40

* I don’t eat many desserts like cakes, pies – you know, the big hitters (chocolate notwithstanding).  For a special treat this weekend, I baked a Razzleberry pie (bought, not made!) for a kickoff to the Christmas season in our house.  To know my man is to know he LOVES pie!  His affection for pie is a joke, actually, in our family.  Razzleberry is his favorite tied with apple.  For 22 years, I have always saved the last slice for him, because it’s a way to show him I love him because I know how much he loves his pie.  Well, I was alone in the house, and one piece remained in the fridge.  Twenty-two years I left that last slice alone, but licking my wounds from being sick, I did it.  I ate the last slice!  I even sprayed whipped cream on top.  Not only that, I lost myself in a quiet moment on my sofa with the Christmas tree in the corner and stockings hung over the fireplace, and I…well, I…I sort of…licked the plate!  Not since I was a mere child have a licked any plate.  I even giggled as I did it as if I was breaking some adult rule.  I was good.  So very good.

* Listening to Barbara Streisand’s rendition of Jingle Bells!  Streisand was one of my mom’s all-time favorite singers, and hearing this song makes me feel close to Mom again.

* The P.A. who helped me at a clinic yesterday was so incredibly nice!  After leaving an urgent care filled with very sick people and the stench of Lysol in the air, I didn’t know what to do.  Finding a clinic, this woman was friendly, kind and attentive.  She went above and beyond her duties and showed that she genuinely cared.  I wasn’t a number or a bother.  I was a person she wanted to help.  And with that, she gave me meds for a severe sinus infection…finally I’ll get some relief.  God bless her!

* Reading “The Smells of Christmas” with my youngest.  It’s a scratch & sniff picture book exactly like the one I had growing up.  Although we are both a bit old for picture books, if you can’t enjoy a child’s classic at Christmas, then when can you? 🙂

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* Running into a store the other night, a Salvation Army bell ringer was outside.  I simply cannot pass by one without putting something in the pot.  However, I don’t carry cash ever since my car was stolen – with my purse inside which was stolen by a 2nd set of thieves who found it thrown away by the joy riders who totaled my car (long story).  I literally didn’t have a dime on me and felt terrible.  Upon exiting, I looked at him and said, I’m so sorry I don’t have anything to give tonight.  Instead of making me feel worse, he said with a smile, That’s alright Ma’am, you have yourself a good night.  Grace!  I love it. 🙂  It’s better to give than receive, yes, but that night I loved receiving his grace!

* Hanging mistletoe and getting caught under it.

* Hearing my very favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night.  To me , it is Christmas worship and reminds me every time in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 when the priests could not enter the temple, and all the Israelites “knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground” and worshiped, when the train of the LORD filled the temple.  All they could do, instead of their tasks, was worship.  May our Christmas be the same.  May we be overtaken by the presence and holiness of God that we stop our tasks, fall on our knees…and worship.  Some of the most spontaneous moments for worship for me have been doing the dishes, driving in the car, and doing the mundane things of the day.  Worship can happen anytime a heart draws near the Lord, and O Holy Night helps me do just that.

* Anticipating decorating our gingerbread house, and the fact that my kids are looking forward to it as much as I am.  I buy one early every season, when they are on sale, and it patiently waits until they are out of school for Christmas break.  Decorating the gingerbread house is just good ol’ fashioned fun, and makes all of us feel like little kids again!

* Trimming the tree.  Out of the whole Christmas tree process, I most enjoy reminiscing over the ornaments with my family.

*It all goes!  I’ve been on a purging binge for days now.  Before another Christmas goes by, we are purging everything we don’t need (thanks to the invasion I wrote about in Christmas Shocker).  It feels really good to know that items we no longer need will help another family have a wonderful holiday.  Toys and coats that are in great shape will make good presents.  It is indeed better to give than receive.

* Designing our Christmas card.  Even though I grumble about the to-do’s on the list, I love looking back at the year and the many ways God has moved, worked, healed and blessed our family.  It’s not all been rosy, but it’s all passed through the hands of our sovereign God who loves and works on our behalf.

Many of these Christmas blessings are very unassuming.  They would be easily missed if not intentionally sought.  Christmas isn’t necessarily made up of peak moments, rather it is weaved together with blessings that almost camouflage with life.  And, these blessings are often taken for granted.

The first Christmas, in Bethlehem, was much the same.  Unassuming.  Unnoticed by most.  Never a thought of looking for our Savior – much less have any room for His presence.  Christmas began in the Old Testament with hundreds of prophecies regarding Christ’s coming.  It continued into the New Testament with the birth of John the Baptist and Mary’s virgin conception and a never-before census which took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem – just like the prophecies said.  A long journey, probably filled with many silent moments interrupted only by the hooves of the donkey carrying Mary.

We may have come a long way with our modern Christmas festivities, but I can’t help but notice all of the very personal ways God’s love is still reaching.  Drawing.  Loving.

This season, for every beautiful moment that brings a smile to your heart, thank God for the gift that it is.  Seek Him in the large and small moments of the season (Deuteronomy 4:29).  He is in them all.  The best gifts need no bows or colorful wrapping paper.  After all, the very best gift was wrapped in cloth and laid in a feeding trough – for you and for me.

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