Christmas has come and gone, the tree is down, and the decorations are mostly all packed away. Lincoln starts classes next week and the kids and I are getting geared up to start school as well. I've been looking through my Christmas pictures and trying to sort and edit. And as I go I've been reflecting on this Christmas.
Early in November I had high hopes that this Christmas would be different. I had plans and expectations. I've never really struggled with over-buying at Christmas. I feel like our gift-giving is fairly low key -- the kids get mostly things they need and a few things they really want. It's the busyness that gets me. This year I wanted to slow down, get ahead, get things organized. I wanted to finish my entire Advent reading on time. I wanted to be more thankful and make Christmas more meaningful for the kids. I wanted to have more nights playing games and watching movies and fewer nights having things scheduled. Mostly I wanted this to be a Christmas when I wasn't sad all the time. I want my kids to look back and remember Christmas as a time of joy because of the birth of Christ, not a time of sadness. But the holidays always hit me hard, and as I've said before, it's when we're all together as a family that I miss Anne Marie the most. She is missed and there's just no other way to describe it than to say it just makes me really, really sad. And this year that was doubled when my mom died unexpectedly a week after Thanksgiving. It was a hard Christmas -- missing my mom and Anne Marie. Yes, I know that Anne Marie and my mom are in heaven and I'm thankful that I can grieve with hope. And yet it doesn't take the sadness away. It's still there.
As I've also said several times before, in the midst of my sadness there is still joy every day. I've been counting my gifts and I realize they are really too many to count. Every day is a gift and I know this, even if it's a hard day. I'm grateful for my family -- I don't know where I'd be without them. I have loved sitting around the kitchen table playing games with the kids over Christmas break, laughing with them, and listening to them. I'm grateful for my friends and my church and our pastors. I'm thankful for the memories of Anne Marie and my mom. Thankful for the daily reminders of them -- the pink skies that show up from time the time, a certain song, a certain smell. And I was reminded again this past Sunday night of something I seem to forget so often -- that God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. So, it was a Christmas of joy mixed with sorrow. Here are a few glimpses of some of our joys:
|Jack Henry being Santa's helper and helping me put Oliver's Cozy Coupe together. Thank goodness for online instructional videos -- for those of you who've ever put a Cozy Coupe together, you know what I mean.|
|Christmas Eve night|
|"Hey, Yeah-Yeah, you don't mind if I take your milkshake, do ya?"|
|Oliver joined in when the kids played "Just Dance" on Christmas Eve.|
|Oliver loved his Cozy Coupe.|
|Opening stockings . . .|
|"I've got my ball and that's all I need."|
|Jack Henry on Christmas morning.|