At our candlelight service on Christmas Eve night, Pastor Dave referred to the Christmas story of Jesus' birth as the 'most compelling story ever told.' Read and loved by some 2.8 billion Christians across the globe and translated in more than 2,000 languages, this story of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem has withstood the test of time more than any other story ever written. He then went on to share his own stories of how he's come to know, understand, and love this story for its work in his own life. This got me thinking about the stories from my life, the traditions and special memories I hold close during this time of year, and the blessings I've received because of the grace and hope born in that manger over 2,000 years ago.
I can recall memories of Christmas dresses, playing Mary in the live nativity at our church, helping Mom prepare our annual Christmas Eve spread after candlelight service, and snooping around the house early Christmas morning, looking for the remains of Santa's cookies or Rudolph's carrots in the trash, the front yard, or by the front door (since Santa didn't have a chimney entrance at our house). But more than the silly memories of Christmas, I remember the feelings associated with this time of year perhaps more than the presents, the traditions, or the food. I remember the anticipation before going to bed on Christmas Eve night. The whole world seems to be covered in a blanket of peace this night, with a one-of-a-kind excitement that only comes just one night a year. I always want to drag this night out forever, yet know morning will only bring new joy as well. I remember my bed feeling a little more snuggly, the lights on the house twinkling a little bit brighter, and everyone being happy.
I remember the thrill of Christmas morning, waking up with Jordan and first scoping out the wrapped mountains under the tree before quietly alerting Mom and Dad that we were up. I remember waiting on Dad, who I think took his time on purpose, before tearing into our stockings. I remember the presents and the sea of paper, and feeling so full afterwards, content and reassured that I would have all of Christmas break to play, watch, and enjoy all my new belongings.
One of the neatest things about Christmas is that these feelings of mine, both when I was growing up and now that I am raising a little of my own, are shared by so many. It's the common language of Christmastime, and has a way of bringing so many people together this time of year. As I enjoyed my own family and our many traditions of Christmas, I often thought about others, and felt uniquely united knowing so many were celebrating in similar, yet different ways. In this fast-paced, multi-directional world, it's neat to think that for one or two days a year, we all share a common force.
So what stories will I take with me from this Christmas this year? I'll let few words and many pictures do the talking...
...Our church's candlelight service was once again amazing. The music, the message, the sea of twinkling candles and chorus of 'Silent Night,' and watching my sweet little boy's face, trying not-so-casually to blow the candle out during the entire song! Mom and Dad have been joining us the last few years, and it always seems more special to share it with someone else. I will never forget how handsome Cruz looked in his blue striped sweater, his sweet profile as he intently watched the band play, and the way he raised his hand high in the air when one of the pastors asked the kids in the audience if they knew where their presents were kept. He's a smarty and keeps reminding me that he is indeed listening, even when I don't think so!
...A special dinner afterwards --- lasagna, bruschetta, and baked hot chocolate, a new Christmas Eve tradition around here. There was a good dinner and good conversation, an open bottle of wine, a fire started in the fireplace, and a new pair of personalized Grinch pajamas for one happy little elf. It was such a special night and I wanted it to last forever.
...There were books especially saved for this night - "The Night Before Christmas" being one, but a little boy who decided he'd rather retire to bed with a ornament of his choosing from the Christmas tree and forgo his books for the night. With a Hallmark manger ornament clasped between his hands, he fell fast asleep within a minute of his covers pulled up to his chin and the faint sounds of Christmas music playing from downstairs.
...There was some Santa play after Cruz went to bed --- stocking-filling, present-aranging, and toy-building, followed with a game of cribbage with Beau and some Bing Crosby in the background.
Cruz's new teepee. The perfect hideaway for books and blocks and dreams.
...There was that little shuffle of feet heard up in his room early Christmas morning, a little boy with disheveled hair and his blanket at the top of the stairs, and a request for more 'night night' in Mom and Dad's bed before he was ready to start his day. This sweet cuddle with our little grinch while piles of wrapped boxes awaited us in the living room was so welcomed this morning as I'm sure it will be short-lived as he grows more aware of Christmas morning.
...A three-hour marathon of presents and stockings, breakfast casserole and monkey bread, and testing out new treasures that suited our hobbies and wish lists. Cruz loved opening his presents, and it was easy to tell what his favorites were as those were the ones he immediately requested we 'open, pweeze.' He loved his puzzles and his doctor's kit, Beau loved his new slippers and guitar case, and Beau surprised this girl with a brand new camera that I am both excited and slightly flustered by. Last year was Beau's year with his Big Green Egg surprise, and I guess this year he didn't want to be outdone! Hoping I can live up to this baby's potential ;).
Santa surprised Cruz with his very own ukulele!
The never-ending stockings proved to be a big hit around here.
Cruz's very first board game - Chutes and Ladders!
Taking a snack break...
...There was a Christmas Eve morning breakfast at Gravy's Diner in our pjs, Cruz parading through the restaurant decked out in his red flannel pajamas, waving and smiling as if he was Santa himself.
...There were three of the cutest little elves, snug as bugs in new 'Ho, ho, ho' pjs from Grandma. We changed them all at the same time, and they instantly acted as if they were wearing a costume --- dancing and jumping and screaming around the house. Even Hayes was moving at record speed in his new attire. It's amazing we got the three of them to sit for a picture!
...There was a new bike for Cruz from Uncle Gabe and Aunt Gina --- a chromed-out Schwinn decked out with leather tassels, a bell, and a wooden foot rest on the back for Cruz's future buddy. We took turns pushing him around the house before diving into a Jorgensen Christmas tradition --- the world's largest stockings in Grandpa Ray's long john underwear!
The first look at his brand new bike...
Grandma thought he needed to 'shine his chrome.' This kept him busy for twenty minutes...
There was much peace, must laughter, and lots of plenty this Christmas holiday! We crashed when we got home Christmas night, and I worked the entire next day attempting to find new homes for new belongings. Now, these next days call for living and soaking in the blessings of this season. I told Beau that I don't think we need to leave the house for days! We have new toys to play with, new games to try together, and new movies calling for fires and popcorn and nights tucked in this house.
All is calm, all is bright.
Enough for now with many more pictures to sort through when the time is right. Hoping you all had a great Christmas weekend, filled with warmth and good food, a few wrapped surprises, and even more of the unwrapped kind.