Thankful Thursdays: Christmas

Today I am thankful for Christmas.

I am feeling so blessed and joyful. It's been a chaotic, crammed, sometimes stressful month of preparation. Finally, the day is here.

This has been week of wonderful moments.

A wreath-making party, coffee cake and conversation. I help my grandmother as she works hard to make dozens of traditional cookies: Russian Tea Cakes, Peanut Blossoms, Pecan Tartlets and English toffee. I have I Celebrate The Day on a CD of Christmas music in my car and I tear up every time I hear it.

My two new cousins, just a month apart, meet for the first time.  One of my best friends and her husband's sweet baby boy is a few weeks early. I had more than my fair share of baby-holding this week.

We watch Muppet Christmas Carol, my favorite Christmas movie. My little brother says Scrooge doesn't believe in Jesus, but the Muppets do and that's why they have fun. I love that he is figuring this stuff out.

I spend an evening out at a dinner theatre with my friend and her mom. A local theatre group has adapted Pride and Prejudice, adding Christmas carols.

We have a Mongolian Grill dinner, followed by a drive around the hills to see the elaborate Christmas light displays. I drown in piles of yarn, trying to finish up a scarf for my brother. My mom braves the fabric store two days before Christmas to get more yarn for me.

I cram in all my favorite Christmas movies because I've been to busy to watch them sooner. The women of the family go out for an afternoon of shopping and lunch.

I work with my siblings to shop for groceries and then engineer an elaborate gingerbread creation. (This year, Smaug the dragon on a pile of treasure.) We cook and decorate and dress-up. When the gingerbread takes longer than planned, my mom jumps in to finish all the cooking and cleaning.

We host small Hobbit-themed party of close and nerdy friends, feast and play games, make new jokes, and exchange silly gifts. My grandfather dresses up and makes an appearance as Gandalf. I have the best family.

Last minute coffee orders get delivered and mailed. I finally have time to edit pictures and paint my toenails. My family stays up too late watching Chuck, our newest Netflix obsession. I eat more sugar than I mean to. I tally the sales from the Apparent Project party and it brought in a total of $991. I am happy to be able to support Haitian families.

I watch Home Alone and wrap gifts. I feel inspired to make them creative and pretty this year and we have lots of random bits of wrapping and decorations to use. I make a quick batch of my signature holiday dessert: peppermint bark. I spend a morning babysitting my almost-3-year-old cousin who's in town for the week.

I don't find as much time to read my Bible as I want to, but I read the Christmas story before I fall asleep and I slowly work my way through A Christmas Carol.

The house full of family, a pot of soup made by my grandfather, coffee and tea and goodies on Christmas Eve. My siblings and I stuff Mom and Dad's stockings.

Is it possible to sleep well the night before Christmas? There's a spark of magic in the air and I feel like a little kid again. I listen to my favorite Christmas episode of Adventures in Odyssey to fall asleep.

We spend the morning at my grandparents' new house. For years I clung to the idea of "the coziest morning of the year" in their old house, the only place I can remember them living. My Papa gets up early and the fire is always going by the time we get there. I am a stickler about tradition, but now that the time has come, letting go of the old house and tradition and moving on doesn't feel so hard.

Our extended family has gotten so big, we've had to arrange shifts for each family to open presents with my grandparents. We curl up around the fire, eat bagels and nuts my grandfather smoked in his smoker, and fruit, tea and coffee. We open our stockings. I'm thrilled with the selection of goodies my mom picked out from the Asian market: brown rice green tea, a tea cup, Korean instant coffee, my favorite Korean crackers.We take turns opening our gifts, starting with the youngest and working our way up to the adults.

I feel so thankful for wonderful gifts this year. It's a great mix of semi-practical things I needed and fun surprises: new pajamas and a robe and socks with llamas on them, a TARDIS necklace, a bright red purse, a beautiful copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, (which I've never read.) My grandparents donate money to an orphanage in Mexico on behalf of our family. My aunt gives us a jar of homemade pesto. My grandfather has put together packs of home-smoked meats and cheeses and nuts.

Now we're home, showing each other our presents and enjoying some of them (especially the food ones.) We rest and nap and tidy up. I'm watching It's a Wonderful Life. Little Bro is becoming an expert at putting together Lego sets.

Tonight some family will probably come over for a meal and some games. Everyone has little ones now, so the nights don't go as late as they used to. We don't play Hearts for as long. But it's okay. Times change, but Christmas is still Christmas. I am more flexible and have learned to lower my expectations and enjoy whatever happens.

I've spent my Christmas season surrounded by the people I love, good conversation and good food.

Wherever you are, whoever you're with, whatever you're doing, I hope your day is filled with joy and celebration of our Savior. Merry Christmas!

What are you thankful for today?

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