Monday, January 9, 2017

Holiday Wrap Up and a New Year

We are firmly into a new year, and I feel a little behind the program in posting a few concluding thoughts. But that's how it is for me. Even though this blog is one of the first things to get pushed to the back burner, I still see the value in trying to keep a few thoughts and memories recorded. 

I like how the holiday season comes at the end of the year. To pull back from the mundane and to enjoy time with family and friends, and especially to celebrate the coming of God to earth for us, is like the great crescendo of the year. I always come away with more thoughts tucked away in my heart than I can (or have time to) describe here. Instead, I will write a few simple facts.

The fact that we always end up with a heap of gifts under the tree is always remarkable to me. I don't know if it's because of my upbringing, or simply because receiving anything is undeserved. Regardless, I am ever so thankful.

My younger two still enjoyed lingering around the tree to discuss, play, and daydream. I am already missing how all my kids used to gather around and play in, around, and under the tree when they were all little, even it it meant some things were broke and ornaments of gingerbread cookies were partly eaten. 

Andrew's way of posing for a picture.

 Christmas Eve was first spent at church, came back home and enjoyed a delicious meal Jon had prepared, and then we watched home videos together. The video watching has become a majorly cherished NYE tradition around here, and we always reserve that night for just the six of us.

Like most families, we had to break from our traditional Christmas morning routine because Christmas was on a Sunday this year. We entertained a few options, but our kids were pretty set on trying to keep everything as normal as possible. Since we were all serving at church in some capacity in morning (Jon preaching, Olivia playing bass with the band, Michael serving in childcare, Andrew and Jacob singing in the children's choir, and me working children's check-in) and some of us needed to be at church early, we didn't have much time for both opening gifts and having our traditional breakfast. No one wanted to forgo any part of our normal, which involves opening gifts one at a time and having a larger, slower meal together.

Instead, we opened our stockings and one gift in the morning and had just a small bite to eat before church. Afterwards, early in the afternoon, we opened the rest of our gifts while breakfast baked in the oven.

We love watching each other open each gift. I love to see the expressions, hear the words of thankfulness expressed, and experience the excitement of childhood and family. My kids all buy for each other some well thought-out gift, using their own hard-earned cash. I love that this is their default choice, not something we've ever suggested or imposed.

{Carol, this is a gift Andrew made for you the day before Christmas. There was no time to send it to you, but we'll make sure you have it by year's end! There is an origami bird suspended in the ball.}

We enjoyed a few special activities following Christmas day, but I have yet to sort through the photos I took. I really enjoy the down time between Christmas and New Year. The following are from an afternoon spent on the shore, and a few words scribbled out as I watched my boys...

"It's December 29, and I'm sitting on a Southern California beach in 70-something degree weather. It is absolutely gorgeous. Some might lament, "Lucky!" while others might prefer snow covered homes and cozy knit sweaters for the holidays. This is what I get to enjoy today, but I have discovered that enjoyment is really a posture of heart no matter where I am or what my circumstance.

While Michael and Olivia are ice skating with friends, I am here with Jacob and Andrew. They are testing their new skim boards while the tide is out, learning and quickly mastering yet another skill. I occasionally laugh out loud at their frequent and comical-looking flips and falls from my perch atop a large bolder. My hair is getting bigger and bigger in the ocean air, which is especially not great because Jon and I are attending a holiday dinner tonight. I have pen and journal in hand, and thankfulness for... well, so much just wells up inside.

We've had a wonderful Christmas season. It has been marked by service (which is always the surest way to receiving), by the de-emphasis in counting gifts and fulfilling all tradition, of finding community in our church family, and of closing the doors for purposeful time with our nuclear family. I tried my hand at my grandmother's infamous cuisine, and attempted to re-create the French Canadian menu of my childhood Christmases. Not surprising, nothing could compare with my grandma's dishes and the heart-warming feelings they evoked.

Today, I spent the morning rotating between doing home and ministry admin, feeding children who aren't operating on any sort of normal schedule, and taking down Christmas decorations. My mind shot backwards and forwards between the organization of a new month --schedules, appointments, meetings, classes-- and the reality of another year coming to an end. The Christmas ornaments and little music boxes were dusted off and carefully wrapped for storage, while pine cones were tossed into a basket by the fireplace to be used for kindling. The once-fresh garlands of cedar lay in the green bin, and tree needles lay scattered across the floor waiting to be gathered and carried away. The tree, which is still in fairly good shaped, will soon be dragged out to the curbside.

And so it is with a closing year. We wrap up our little treasures to be stored up in our hearts, carefully preserving them for the future. The good things that stand out are cherished and kept safe so they can be recounted in years to come. The dust, the useless things, and the trash are wiped away, swept up, and thrown out. Just like the crud of life that lies behind us.

God calls us to look backwards and forwards.

We are to look back and recount His mighty deeds of old, and His wondrous works in the lives of His beloved. One generation to the next, we are to speak regularly of these things and praise the Lord for them. His works are recorded for us in the Bible, and His faithfulness and steadfast love is still evident in His story for us. The rest of it --that which is the result of the Fall-- is already dealt with. It is wiped away, burned up, and cleaned out. In fact, it was mercifully dealt with at the cross.

We are to look forward, too.We look with expectation and hope for answered prayer, we look to the fulfillment of promises, and we run straight ahead with our eyes, our hope, and our faith fixed firmly on Christ.

Yes, I do believe the best is still to come!"

Happy New Year to you all.



  1. Happy New Year! I think your "modified Christmas day plans" sound just right! :-)
    And...I LOVE your new blog header!


    1. Thank you! I hope 2017 is off to a smashing start for you! As for the header, I am irritated by how blurry it is! I think this is a newer problem with blogger (same with the profile pic), and I can't find how to fix it. I have learned how to fix the blurriness in my posts, but not for images entered through "Layout." :/

    2. Well, if it is any consolation, I hadn't noticed the blurriness until I looked again at your mention of it. I still think it looks nice! How did you do it?

    3. I'm really not good at this sort of stuff, so there are likely much better ways to do it. I used a clipart from my computer and added the goldenrod square and the type in Preview on my Mac. Then I resized it in, downloaded back to my computer, then onto Blogger. I had read that hosting the header image online (on Photobucket, for instance) would produce a clear picture, but I did not find that to be the case. I tried uploading it from various sites, file formats, sizes, etc., but nothing made a difference. I'm sure there's a way to ensure a sharper images, but I haven't found it! :/


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