Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A glimpse into Christmas 2009--LONG

Every year I say I'm going to have a simple Christmas. I really do try. I want God's Gift to be the radiant star that shines down from the top of the season's Christmas tree.

I decorate a little. Since we live so far away from most of you friends and family and I don't get to have you over for coffee and sugar cookies, here's a tiny Christmas tour.

I love to give and receive Christmas cards, and I display them joyfully. This year, mine were sent out in batches. Um, I'm still working on getting that second batch out. I know. It's a splurge, but please don't stop sending Christmas cards just because you can just more easily FB or txt or email or digitize a greeting or because it costs more in postage than the card itself! Christmas cards are very special. I even love receive the late ones!

A few sprigs of green with a few merry berries.

A surprise poinsettia from a friend. I no longer have to worry about toddlers eating the beautiful yet poisonous leaves, though I can't remember any of my toddlers chowing down on any of my plants.

I love homemade ornaments, especially ones the kids have carefully crafted. Our tree is as eclectic as I am. I like to have red-beaded and white-pearled garlands draped around it. And no matter how much the kids beg, I just can't bring myself to string on multi-colored lights. Gotta have the white ones that do NOT move about or twinkle or do anything to make me feel dizzy while I'm basking in their soft glow in the living room with my cup of hot coffee/tea/cocoa.

I even put a sprig of merry around the oil painting Rob's mom did of my kids. Don't they look festive? Have I ever shown this painting to you? Isn't it gorgeous?

The entertainment center gets a little holiday makeover as well. Just a little. Nothing over the top. I really like bringing in a bit of red to my spaces. It's only for a month. It makes me happy. Our Nutcrackers were especially appropriate since the kids and I got the opportunity to see the ballet performed here this year. It was as wonderful as I imagined.

Even the guest bathroom gets a Christmas kiss.

Isn't he cute in his fancy sleigh? My sister Jamie made him for me from a wooden post and an old sock. He's adorable, and he promises not to peek.

Okay, I have to say that creating a massive gingerbread house, er, church, is not even on the same side of the planet as "keeping it simple." Believe me, I know this full well. But by the time I discovered it, I was well committed to the project and had to see it through to completion. We had fun family moments assembling this beast, and all of the kids and the hubby want to make this a new tradition. I'm still licking my wounds and cleaning sugar off my kitchen floor. Ask me in a couple of months. Right now the smell of ginger makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

My favorite part was the little gingerbread and fondant Nativity. Sure the stained glass windows, peppermint stick fence and ice-cream-cone steeple were cool, but this is the only part of the whole humidity-sagged monstrosity whose lack of permanence I'm sad about.

Okay, okay, this isn't simple either. But Lily was really concerned about how Santa was going to come down our chimney...if we didn't have one. So we made a fireplace out of corrugated brick paper and taped it to the half-wall separating the kitchen and dining room. Caleb crafted the log and fire. You can almost hear it crackling and feel its warmth. We needed a place to hang our stockings anyway, right? A stocking for each of us six, one for the dog, and one for:

Right inside the front door. Baby Jesus shows up at first and then...goes missing. I wait for the kids to notice. And then we talk about how Mary had to wait for his birth, how God's people waited thousands of years for a Savior, how we're still waiting for him to come back.

Meanwhile, I wrap him up in a tiny brown box, and he becomes the first present opened from under the tree on Christmas morning.

I think I did manage to keep Christmas simple this year. At least here in our home. Our schedule flurried with activities, from homeschool partying, Christmas caroling--which comes with cookie and cocoa making, field tripping to the Nutcracker and the museum, more cookie baking and giving away, Christmas carding, post-officing, budgeting, shopping, children's choir concerting, and planning for the Christmas Eve service, in addition to all the other responsibilities we are already blessed to keep. I'm sure you all experienced similar surges in your schedules. I hope your homes and hearts were able to find joy and peace and simplicity in the midst of it all.

Christmas Eve we led a candlelight worship service at our little chapel. No one caught the old hymnals on fire, not even Seth when he bent down with his candle over the hymnal pocket. The service was lovely. Then kids performed in a nativity play, whose purpose was two-fold: 1.) Tell the story of Jesus' birth, 2.) Allow parents to take adorable pictures of their kids.

Seth, the happy wise man.

An angelic Lily. I could just eat her up. I know she must taste like spun sugar and caramel.

Gabe, the reluctant narrator. He had a lot of reading for his part--which he was at first excited about--but when he found out he had to stay behind the podium and did not get to interact with the other characters, he wanted to be a shepherd instead. I didn't let him back out of his commitment--tears were cried--but he was allowed to dress up like a shepherd. He was only slightly mollified.

Caleb, the gentle shepherd. His favorite part was the shepherd's staff, which he gleaned from "favorite sticks from Michigan" from our back yard...in TX. Yes, folks, we brought a walking stick with us from MI, packed with all our outdoor toys. I'm sure it wasn't the only thing the movers shook their heads about.

"Glory to God in the Highest!"

The cutest little wise men worshiping the newborn King.

"Joy to the World!"

After the Christmas Eve Service and Nativity play, we delivered 300 cookies to various commands around the base who had servicemen and women on duty Christmas Eve and Day. Then we dressed the kids in their PJ's and headed out to Rob's aunt's home, 30 minutes away, where she hosts an annual Christmas Eve open house. Lots of merry-making, and we enjoyed Rob's uncle's original Louisiana style gumbo.

Hang in there, you've almost made it through to the very end of this post, which is as long as the month of December. Christmas morning, we enjoyed our usual homemade cinnamon rolls and stockings and giggles and torturing the children by making them wait to tear into the gifts. I'll leave you with just a few images from our Christmas morning:

We didn't get the kids very many gifts, just three: a gold gift to treasure (something they've been wanting); a Frankincense gift to help them to know God more (devotionals, Christian-themed books); a Myrrh gift, something for their bodies (jackets, sweatshirts, slippers.) We didn't want God's Gift to get lost in the piles of wrapping paper and shiny new toys.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! God bless you! (And if you haven't gotten a Christmas card from me and you usually do...batch #2 will go out soon!)