It is December 26 and I am up early. The house is quiet and still, in distinct contrast to yesterday. Everyone else is still asleep so it is a good time for remembering. In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior, Christmas is a marker each year and we reflect and remember the good, the bad and the funny of years past. I remember the year our tree fell in the middle of the night, making a horrific noise and breaking a few favorite ornaments. Most families have experienced a tree-falling year, so we know we are not alone. I remember the year Rob ran into the room and studied all the gifts left by Santa and then turned with a long face and asked, “Where is my Nintendo?” I remember at least two years when we ended up in the emergency room – once with JB suffering with the flu and once with Wes after Mary Margaret slammed the car door on his hand, breaking a finger! This is family life in the raw!
Some years are noted by a BIG gift someone received, like the year Mary Margaret appeared to feel slighted in comparison to her brothers, until she opened her last little box that held keys to a car sitting outside the front door! Wes asked for a drum set three years in a row; we kept hoping it was a passing idea but finally his wish came true and he was thrilled. Of course we all had to put up with the noise!
As I have sat in my chair the past few weeks looking directly at our Christmas tree I have experienced the sweetest Christmas memories. We have an old-fashioned Christmas tree dressed with ornaments that each tell a story. One of JB’s great ideas was a new ornament for each of us every year. He picked them out and put initials and date on each one every year. When our kids marry and start their own family traditions they will get to take all their ornaments with them. While living in Orlando we collected some Disney themed ornaments; when we moved to Texas we got boots and stars and hats ornaments. The year we went to England we came home with British ornaments. To sit and study our tree is a trip through our life together as a family.
By far my favorite ornaments are the homemade ones. Thank you, thank you, to every teacher our children had when they were young! I am not gifted at crafty things but am so grateful for those who spent time with our children, cutting, pasting, using glitter and beads, flannel and straw and popsicle sticks, to come up with some of the most precious ornaments ever, many including a picture of our child and always marked on the back with their names and the date! Who knew those would become precious family treasures? Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, I ponder these things and treasure them in my heart.
Last year at Christmas JB had another of his clever ideas. I tried to discourage him but he was insistent that we would have a gingerbread house decorating competition. We had a big crowd of family present and had three teams, determined by a drawing of straws. No one had ever done this before but the competition was fierce and the messes were huge! The team of all young adults won by a landslide. This activity was a huge success and everyone has been talking about it all year! Yesterday we went at it again. We only had two teams and by luck of the draw one team had the older crowd and one had the younger generation. This time everyone was very methodical and very determined to win. Again, the young team won, mainly due to neatness and detail. The older team got an award for creativity. The real bonus is the memories made with family that become part of our stories for years to come.
I could go on and on with family Christmas memories. Our family is probably much like yours. We don’t have our act together and we have had some disappointments, bum years and experiences we wish we could totally erase. But in addition to the bad and the ugly there is some good and we are grateful. I have learned that the key to contentment is focusing on the things for which we can be grateful. And we all have some.
Life is not perfect because we are not perfect. But we each have the opportunity to be thankful. I challenge you to find a little time and sit and reflect on the good, sweet things that are part of your life and your Christmas memories. The painful, tough memories won’t disappear but they may somehow be overshadowed by the good. And, if you have not considered the claims of Jesus as personal and meaningful, maybe this would be a good time to remember the true meaning of Christmas.