Sing We Now of Christmas- 8/25/2014
Christmas is four months away. FOUR MONTHS!! I know it's in the 70s outside right now, and I know that it's still summer, but there is this little child part of my soul that will always start the internal (and occasionally external) countdown to Christmas in about August.
Am I tired of summer? No, not really. Am I hoping to skip fall and go straight to Christmas? Absolutely NOT; don't be absurd. I'm just still enough of a believer in peace on earth and goodwill toward men that, when the mornings start to become crisp and cool, and the daylight fades just a bit earlier each day, I start to think about a time of year when we all seem a little less reluctant to connect with our inner child. I've heard people complain that Christmas once was a time when life slowed down a little, and people really were kinder to their fellow man; they say that now Christmas is nothing but a rush to buy buy buy more more more, and, if you cut a few people off in the name of a good deal, so much the better. I disagree. Or, at least, I think we're still capable of more, though sometimes it is easier to become caught up in the rush rather than trying to turn the tide and slow down.
In light of that, I'm posting this early. Maybe if we start thinking about it four months in advance we'll be able to have a veritable army of slower-downers and be-kind-to-one-another-ers that will make this Christmas season not follow the trend. So, in no particular order, here are a few of the things to which I am most looking forward about Christmas. Let's remember these things (and any that you would add) when the Holidays are upon us, and it's too easy to fall prey to the temptation to go go go, buy buy buy, more more more.
1) Jesus- it seems obvious, but how can we deny the stunning display of love that happened when God Himself became a man and walked on the earth in our midst? I mean, if I were God and were doing my thing in Heaven, fully aware of all the pain, heartache, tears, hatred, and horror going on here on Earth, I don't think I'd be too eager to leave. Which is why it's a very, VERY good thing I'm not God.
2) Family- I come from a rather large family (youngest of 5 kids here), and I married into an even bigger family (Husband is one of 10--yes, really). Therefore, family get-togethers are a big deal for both of us. They're loud and busy and chaotic and SO MUCH FUN! We eat; we go for walks; we play games; we goof off; we eat some more; we cook; we fill our time just being together, talking, praying, and loving each other the family was meant to. It's a beautiful thing. And, though we do gather at other times throughout the year other than Christmas, there is just something about the Christmas gatherings that set them apart somehow.
3) Baking- I love to bake, and one of the fun parts of marriage is that, when two families join into one, each member brings their family's traditions into the mix, allowing those traditions to merge, morph, and grow into something else. Sometimes it's bigger; sometimes it's smaller; sometimes it's similar and familiar; sometimes it's totally new; always it's beautiful. At Christmas, baking is a common tradition for many families, and Husband's and mine are no exception. I grew up with certain Christmas cookies and baking traditions; Husband grew up with others. Now, we get to have BOTH!! Gingerbread men, sugar cookies, my Dad's favorite filled cookies, rum balls, peanut butter balls, peppermint patties, these little lemon shortbread things whose name I cannot remember right now (but they're probably my favorite), date balls, and more. I can hardly wait to make all these delectable treats....and then to help eat them. :)
4) Sweaters, scarves, boots, and hats- I love winter clothes. This is funny because, historically, I'm about the coldest person alive. Less than 70 degrees out? Time for long sleeves! Nevertheless, I love love love winter clothes. I love scarves and bundling up in an attempt to stay warm enough to enjoy being outside for at least a few minutes.
5) SNOW- I know I live too far south to enjoy much of this rare commodity, and it's also true that by the time we've had one good snow I'm fully over it and ready for spring (most years). But there is something undeniably magical about watching the world turn white and have all the dead winter blemishes be hidden beneath a blanket of freshness. It is breathtaking to me to watch an early morning sunrise hit freshly fallen snow and light up the yard with the brilliance of a billion diamonds.
6) Warm drinks- Hot chocolate. Tea. Coffee. Wassail. Hot cider. YUM! Combine wrapping your cold hands around a steaming mug of deliciousness with a fire in the fireplace, and there is truly nothing more cozy.
7) Decorating- I love decorating, but, while I have dreamed up many a decorating project that I'd like to one day do to my home, we have put very few of them into motion. They can get pretty pricey, especially when you're like me, and that fresh coat of paint makes you realize how shabby the carpet is which reminds you that we actually want hardwoods rather than carpet anyway which requires new curtains and new pillows which allows you to see...etc. It's like giving a mouse a cookie or a moose a muffin: one thing really just leads to another. Not at Christmas, though. Many of our decorations are re-usable year after year. And many of the non-reusable decorations are found in our yard or woods, so they're free to replace anyway. Not to mention, a bit of red ribbon here, and a string of twinkle lights there can really do a lot to enhance the festivity of a space. I like traditional Christmas decor and firmly believe that less is more. So decorating for the Holidays is fun and not stressful for us.
This, obviously, is not an exhaustive list. Please share your favorite holiday traditions, memories, cravings, etc. I'd love to hear them!
This morning I walked out onto my porch to see what the temperature out was like. Doing this each morning still feels a little strange. You see, I grew up in a house where the radio was turned on during breakfast to hear the weather report for the next few days and then immediately turned off when the weather report was done. I'm pretty sure my dad would actually turn down the volume to avoid hearing any music until the weather report began and then click! off. No more radio. No songs. No music. Now I hardly remember to check the weather. We went camping about a month ago, and I didn't even remember to check the weather before that. Had I done so, I would've noticed that there was a high likelihood of rain over the course of our camping trip. We would've packed our tarp. But I forgot to check the weather. We did not pack a tarp. We slept in wet sleeping bags in our leaky tent that weekend.
Anyway, I digress. This morning I stepped out the front door to check the weather. And it was gorgeous. Crisp, cool air that felt a lot more like September in the mountains than August in the Carolinas. There was a distinctive lack of humidity; the sun was just beginning to peak through the trees in front of our house; there was a gentle breeze. I love mornings like this: mornings that make you take a deep breath and know that life is good. Mornings where my appetite turns to lentil stew and chili rather than grilled chicken and burgers.
I've always said that my favorite season is the one that's here, but I still usually find myself ready for the next one the closer we come to the end of the current season. I know this Carolina summer isn't even close to being over, but that doesn't mean that my anticipation for fall is diminished at all. I will still love every last warm, sunshiny drop of this summer, but the promise of fall will also give me a thrill of excitement. I am so excited for the rapidly-approaching day when we'll wake up and realize that fall has sneaked up on us again and is really here.
I know that Anne of Green Gables is too-frequently quoted for saying, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." I agree with her whole-heartedly because, while in the south fall doesn't really show its full splendor until November, October is still the official herald of fall to me. I do think I'd probably re-word Anne's quote to say, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are seasons." And not just the physical seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter. I also mean just life seasons.
We all lament aging in some way or another, and I guess I'm guilty of that, too. But, if I were still 16, I would still be living in Halifax, commuting over an hour to high school, having not seen what life is like in other countries and other cultures. I wouldn't know half of the people I am so blessed to know and call friend right now. I wouldn't be married to the best man I know. It's like I was a different person then!
College was fun, but if I were still in that season of life, I would be missing out on all of the wonderful things that are happening now, in this season. It's so exciting to think that, as wonderful as life is now, it could be even more wonderful a year or five from now. I'm not impatient to move on from this life season; I'm so happy where God has me right now. I'm also so happy that even if hard things happen, God will still be good. God will still be here, directing our steps through each season. And that has the power to make whatever season wonderful in the long run.
Husband and I just came through a really hard winter; not in our marriage, but just in life. And with this summer new hope has sprung. I don't really have a moral to this story. And I'm not going to quote Jeremiah 29:11, either. Instead I'll give you Zechariah 4:10 to chew on:
10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
Do not despise small beginnings. Through whatever season you may be walking right now, do not despise it. Likewise, do not despise whatever future season you're fearing. God is there, too.