We racked up some memories this year. There was the trip to sit on Santa's lap at the fire department. You were didn't even flinch. The shopping trip while you stayed with mamaw and papaw. When we came back the house was filled with cousins playing together. The Christmas Portrait of the three of us that didn't quite happen. It was OK though, we got splendid pictures of you before your big meltdown! Seeing the cool pictures they took at school. Sending your picture in our Christmas cards. Making the cool ornament and package to send to your mamaw in Kentucky. Hearing her open it was so much fun. The lack of baking in our house. I had good intentions, even making a list of the things I hoped to bake but they just never materialized for lack of time, energy, and willpower. Reflecting on the test your mom took last Christmas Eve and the sudden turn of events that completely changed our lives. The bottle of wine we got for a friend on Christmas Eve. It was time for you to eat and we were looking at the bottle of wine when you got all big eyed and started reaching for it like it was your special big bottle. The look of frustration on your face when we took it away. How congenial and good you were around everyone at the Christmas parties. Then getting overwhelmed and having a meltdown opening your presents at home. We had to take a break and open some the next day. And the day after that. It is more blessed to give than recieve!
"twas the night before Christmas and we were all at home together. We napped on the couch. You actually let us sleep, being quiet as a mouse. The stocking were hung, filled to the max. We were all stretched out sleeping, just trying to relax. Your mom and I always open our gifts on Christmas eve. There is always so much to do Christmas day and so many places to go and people to see. We kept the tradition this year, opening our gifts to each other while you continued to sleep. We took a longer nap this year than we usually do before opening presents. We needed it. Christmas can be exhausting. Some gifts just didn't get wrapped this year. It is the thought that counts, right? This year there were more gifts for you under the tree than gifts for ourselves. Probably it will be that way for a long time.
Lamentations 3:23 says "His mercies are new every morning." That is a beautiful promise from scripture. The snow reminds me of that. Generally speaking, snow causes lots of people to get anxious as it is falling. There are long lines at the grocery stores and nervous drivers leaving work early to get in accidents and cause traffic problems. Snow is not something we experience often here. When it happens, or is forecasted, it can cause a panic in people. Then when we wake up in the morning we can see how beautiful it really is, uninterrupted and covering the world in freshness. It is pretty amazing once we just accept it and let it happen as we sleep, giving up trying to plan around or control it. If it is going to happen, it's going to happen and you cant stop it. Everything looks different covered in a blanket of snow. Dogs and children get excited by it. Cats and old people step through it tenatively. You saw your first snowfall this week. You gave a peek and seemed rather nonplussed by it. A dusting of snow is so fresh and perfect in the morning and then by the end of the day it has either been trampled on, melted, or turned into something creative like a snowman or a snow angel. People are fresh creations with God's mercy. Just like the snow covering the yard, turning it into something unexpectedly beautiful and totally different than what it was before.
Santa Claus is a controversial figure, but I want to raise you to pay heed to the spirit of generosity that this season reflects. If it takes a fat man in a red suit being led from house to hacienda all across the world by a team of reindeer to show generosity to All Men then, that is something that I can work with. Generosity sometimes needs a flamboyant larger than life example, and sometimes Santa Claus is that person. I'm all for examples of inclusiveness to show this point. You know there are a lot of bad children out there that don't deserve gifts, but they get them from Santa just the same. Even the children that we think of as being self-centered little brats. All they do is ask and they recieve. No, make that demand and recieve! Santa seems like a pretty generous fellow to go through all the trouble to do all this, but nobody ever thanks him or gives him a second thought until Christmas. Now I know that I'm not at all deserving of any of life's rich blessings that I have recieved, but they were poured out to me anyway. Not by any noble act or accomplishment on my part. Not by any right or entitlement, or even by demanding, but just by humbly asking for the gift. Then I even got some gifts that I didn't even ask for. Those turned out to be the really good ones. I'm all for the generosity that we show each other and even to total strangers, especially at Christmas. Angel trees, salvation army bell ringers, and even random carolers entertaining shoppers at the mall are all ways that strangers are evangelized to by people who love to give. Christmas is most definitely not about the gifts but the Spirit by which they are given and the kindness that we show each other in doing so. We may call these people crazy, roll our eyes, or try to avoid them, but we are glad that they care enough to do these kinds of things. All for total strangers. I'll bet that if these giving people put this much effort on total strangers then they must really know how to shower their own families with love. Sometimes these people are thanked for their giving, often they are not. They do it regardless. Giving just makes you feel good and people like to feel good. One year I went on a mission trip to West Virginia to deliver Christmas gifts to a very poor community. We collected bikes, baby dolls, any kind of toy you could imagine. We also gave coats and lots of clothing too. These people literally had nothing of material value and lived under a cloud of shame because of their living conditions. We gave many fuel vouchers so families could have warmth in their homes or even finally have their gas turned on for the winter. We also gave bags of groceries to each family. The hope they recieved along with these presents was life changing in that moment. Hope like that is what people need just to make it through the day. Giving those gifts was certainly life changing for me. Giving hope can change your whole perspective on gift giving. Undeserved gifts, gifts of generosity to fellow men, life changing gifts, and the gift of hope. These are what we really give and recieve at Christmas. Sometimes people will respond to gifts like that from Santa and noone else. For that reason, I put up with it...and yes, Virginia, it may even take Santa to help demonstrate God's unconditional love for us sometimes.
Over the river and thru the woods, off on a shopping date your mom and I went. You had your own fun at grandma's house. I don't think I ever seen the mall so crowded before. We got a cool ornament to send to your mamaw in Kentucky that said 'grandma's first christmas.' At the entrance of one store we saw at least 8 strollers parked with babies in tow and tired looking dads keeping their eyes on them. Most of the stores were so jam-packed that it would be strategically impossible to navigate a stroller through them. I don't think you are ready for that kind of outing yet. I know I'm not. Good thing grandma's house is on the way to the mall!
We took you to the local fire department to have your picture taken with Santa. There were plenty of babies there but none so cute as you. Some were dressed to the nines, at least as far as babies go. Newborn girls in tights, velvet dresses, shiny patent leather shoes, and those horrible headbands that look like some kind of garter belt on their little bald heads. Little boys in corduroy pants, sweater vests, button-down shirts and ties. Those kids were mostly all teary-eyed and flustered by the prospect of sitting on the lap of a man wearing a red furry suit in front of a fire truck. Hope they aren't scarred by the experience too badly. In your practical but stylish pink snowsuit, you just kept your cool composure throughout it all and shined like the diamond you are. Heck, you probably would have even ridden in the fire truck with Santa if we let them put your car seat in there. I would say that you 'glowed' for your picture, but glowing should be reserved for a more reverent experience.
This time last year I was in a baking mood. I baked and decorated soooo many gingerbread men for people's children that I lost count of just how many I made. The house smelled like Christmas on any given day because of all of the spices and molasses I used to bake with. I was also into wrapping presents. Some of them rather intricately in fact. I thought I was really in the Christmas Spirit. Your mom was settled down on the couch napping or wondering why she was so tired all of the time. This year the holiday baking has not begun yet though I do have plans, and your gifts are pretty much the only things wrapped and under the tree. Your mom would still like a winter's nap but it probably isn't going to happen any time soon!
About once a week we stop in Starbucks for coffee on your way to school. The place had just decorated for Christmas and everyone was in an extra chipper mood. Could have been the caffeine in the air or the Christmas Spirit, I'm not sure which. Suddenly Frank Sinatra came on the music system with his cool big band swing and you just lit up, beaming and bopping your head. Cool. We swayed since there were just too many people in there to dance. I could have put you in your carseat, we could have started dancing and swinging to Ol' Blue Eyes, and we could have knocked over people like so many bowling pins if we felt like it. I wasn't in the mood to be kicked out of a coffee shop this morning though, so we just swayed with you in my arms.