Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy (belated) New Year!
I must say that this Christmas season did not turned out exactly as planned. Illness, cancellation of a highly anticipated trip, more illness, ice storms, a middle of the night emergency sending my FIL to the ICU, and other difficult issues cast a bit of a pall over the holiday joy.
As if that were not enough, Christmas Eve I locked myself and my kids out of the car in a parking lot.
About that time, as I was standing in a store waiting for the locksmith to arrive with two little ones at my side, I found I just couldn't muster much Christmas spirit. Fortunately for me, God was about to use my circumstances to point me back in a "Christmas" direction I had not really considered much before but now found myself in a perfect position to contemplate.
Shortly after the car incident, I was truly blessed with a reminder (via this wonderful article) of two simultaneous views regarding the very first Christmas - one earthly and one heavenly.
That time of life for Mary and Joseph was full of difficulty and unexpected trials. Our hardships, though nothing compared to theirs, suddenly gave me a unique perspective into what they might have felt that first Christmas as they suddenly had to leave their home and ultimately ended up in a stable the night Mary gave birth. Not ideal for any pregnant woman, and I would imagine distressing for Joseph as well - a far cry from the joy we anticipate during the Christmas season now.
However, in contrast, how the heavens must have rejoiced that night! Salvation and hope for mankind had finally arrived in the form of a tiny newborn! I wonder if the angels could barely restrain their anticipation as they watched the events unfold and were allowed to be a part of it by declaring to the shepherds what had happened in Bethlehem.
Thus, instead of feeling despair at how this holiday did not turn out as planned, I was awed by an alternative glimpse into that first Christmas. :) It was a wonderful reminder of how God is present and always working out His loving will, even when we cannot see it with our earthly eyes.
Now, dear readers, lest you fear we experienced little fun this season, I want to set the record straight. We DID have plenty of enjoyable moments amid the setbacks, and I thought I would share a few things from December...
Here is a glimpse of our advent calendar this year. I made this using some leftover square envelopes which my daughter and I decorated with a red marker. I then stacked them up on the wall in Christmas tree form.
We set out milk, cookies, and a letter to St. Nick on St. Nicholas Day...
and the following morning made the exciting discovery of full stockings and a reply from St. Nicholas!
For those of you who don't know our family traditions, we let our kids know from the beginning that Santa Claus was once a real man who was known for showing God's love through acts of kindness. We also let them know that he is NOT alive today, BUT that we still love to pretend (after all, God did give us imaginations!). St. Nicholas Day is when we do that "pretending" (putting out milk and cookies, etc.).
I like this because it gives the kids a chance to enjoy Santa Claus for a day while also encouraging them to consider the historical man's example of showing God's love to others. It becomes yet another great activity which ultimately points them toward the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Gingerbread Day is a special time I plan close to Christmas. (You'll have to forgive the poor coloring job on the sign - my printer ran out of red ink so I was trying to compensate by coloring in the browns and reds myself).
This year we started out with gingerbread pancakes for breakfast. Here is the before picture...
and one of the after pictures. (I used a cookie cutter to cut the shapes out of pancakes).
Later in the day, I sent the kids on a hunt for individual paper gingerbread men I had hidden. They would exchange the gingerbread men as they found them, for candy to use when decorating their gingerbread house that afternoon.
Speaking of gingerbread houses, here is a photo of the finished project. I thought they did a great job! But I AM their mom so maybe I am just a teeny tiny bit prejudiced. ;)
For dessert that night, we also had homemade gingerbread stout cake with lemon cloud frosting (kind of a combo of two recipes). It was delicious!!! (Sadly, I have no picture of it).
Another evening, I surprised the kids with a Christmas movie night in our bedroom. They feasted on white chocolate peppermint popcorn while watching some Christmas shows and then camped out in our room for the night.
We had some other fun things we did together, of course - wrapping presents, reading Christmas stories, baking Christmas cookies, passing out candy canes to strangers in lines, etc. However, I did not take pictures of everything. :) Some days are like that - you just set down the camera and enjoy the moment.
And on that note - may YOU and YOUR family have a wonderful new year filled with treasured moments, reflecting on God's love and special gift of Jesus Christ - Savior, Hope, and Light of the World!