For me, the "Christmas spirit" in recent years is less fluttery and less emotion-driven. Especially these last two in Honduras with it being so warm and just very, very different. I am attaching new sentiments to this time of year. I am finding incredible joy in giving and reaching out and loving. I'm sad for the years I thought Jesus' birth was about me, so now I feel in a frenzy to flip everything around.
I was thinking about all the memories and traditions I hold close to my heart... and thinking that I would someday want to create a home much like my parents did for me. Even if it took me years to understand the beauty in this season, I so cherish the moments I can look back and see how every Christmas pointed in the direction of heaven.
Sure, it may SEEM like more fun to have your head glued to a TV screen or stuck in endless shopping lines, but I prefer really living and cherishing these moments with the people I love.So, here are some of our family Christmas traditions I would like to share with you:
- Christmas caroling to neighbors and friends... this is one of my most loved. We stuff ourselves into the van with gifts for each house and then every one - from dad to brothers to sisters to mom - lift our voices for sweet choruses of joy! (sometimes they don't sound so sweet but we have fun and we hope those listening do too!
- Cookie decorating contest. This is serious business. Every year the "rules" are brought into question because it's so competitive and everyone is trying to find their edge or angle to seize the championship title. William and Christina have by far the best workmanship. Samuel and Bethany always somehow are a judge favorite. James is the best sport about the whole thing and always comes out my best friend:) Me... well, let's just say my cookies are pronounced "abstract."
- Mom (in our younger days and now all of us) baking in the kitchen while others wander in and out and end up plopping down on the linoleum floor for some of the best conversations ever.
- Christmas Eve dinner: potato soup for the "kids" and oyster soup for the parents, anadama bread, cheese and crackers, egg nog (recently switched over to light), sparkling grape juice:) and tapioca pudding... So simple and so good!!
- Candelight service at church - my favorite part is when we all file out of the auditorium into the fellowship hall singing "Silent Night" the groups in the two separate rooms inevitably find different tempos, but we all get back on track in time to fill that cozy space with joyful song.
- Opening gifts with my parents and siblings... one at a time because every gift has a story
- Watching the little red tin on the dining room table grow every year with our tithes and offerings that will go toward a worthy cause.
- It may not be the same every year, but you can bet it is a tradition to invent some crazy outdoor activity. One year I wanted to learn to snowboard, so I had my brother hook up a rope behind the four-wheeler and I rode behind it in the yard! Another year, my brothers and a few friends went sledding... on a picnic table... down an ice hill... without shirts on. When we were younger, it was always piling into the pick-up truck and finding a good soft sledding hill where we could use our saucer sled and plastic pieces. I do remember a few bruised bums when we tried a gravel road :)
- Christmas with Gram and Gramps (Sponsler) on Christmas day is a favorite. We get there early for a brunch and then munch all day and lay around nursing our stomach aches :) The presents have become less important and the time spent together PRIME.
- Nichols Christmas. Whew! How do I explain it? Can you picture homemade doughnuts (which begin before 5 am with Aunt Jane's preparation)? Can you picture the reunion of aunts, uncles, cousins (I'm sure we're over 60 people in all now) who haven't seen each other in awhile but still feel like we never left? Can you picture a day full of laughter and storytelling and the annual "aunt walk" and random road trips to the dollar store? No, you cannot picture it, but it is amazing!
Well, because people live there. Every day, all year round. The garbage dump is their reality and there's a beautiful light called Amor y Fe y Esperanza (Love and Faith and Hope) that seeks to love and care for and be Jesus to these people. There is a school with 138 children and we are delivering 138 gifts with the name of each child.
God is so good. I can't wait to see His face in these children!