Thursday, January 22, 2015

Christmas Reflections Part III

Nearly a month has passed since Christmas day. Unbelievable! I intended to upload our pictures and memories of Christmas day weeks ago and yet, life took on wings and flew into January. The wheels of time's flight are about to touch down in February and here I am, fingers on the keyboard.....finally.

Christmas 2014 was such a different and amazing experience for our family. For many years we have hosted military families in our home or celebrated with them in their homes. We have a very limited number of family in the area and we often find ourselves on our own over the holidays. As a result we have enjoyed getting to know several other (family-free) families over the years. And for a few years consecutively, we met with some dear military friends and celebrated together. They came to our house for Thanksgiving and we went to their house for Christmas Eve. After Christmas Eve dinner, our families ventured out into their neighborhood and serenaded their neighbors with Christmas Carols, followed by hot cocoa together. The last two years we have attended the Christmas Eve candle light service at our church (Emmanuel Baptist Church) and then gone in search of Christmas lights before heading home for cocoa. Most of the time we spend Christmas Day alone at home with our kids. We wake up and enjoy a simple breakfast by the fire and my husband reads the account of Jesus' birth from the book of Luke. The family connection time afterward is priceless every year. The kids have all said that this time with Dad, hearing him read the Christmas story, is their favorite Christmas tradition. Following Dad's reading and family chatter/prayer time, we enjoy a fun and lively gift exchange. Finally, we all jump in the kitchen together and prepare a fun and special meal that we enjoy....together...just our family.

We switched things up a bit this year.

This past fall my friend, Siobhan, invited our family to take part in serving a traditional Christmas meal to families in our church and community who had nowhere to go on Christmas day. In all honesty, I wasn't sure how my family would respond to that idea and to be REALLY real with you.....I wasn't sure how I felt about it either. I mean, I look forward to our holiday traditions and I enjoy the time with our kids on Christmas, at home. It's a fun day and it's also restful and special. I admit, I wrestled with God a bit as I drove home that day. I struggled with the idea of giving up the warmth and fun of our family tradition. I was fearful of reaching out to people I don't know with lives and lifestyles I'm personally unfamiliar with. I was worried that I wouldn't know how to converse with them. As I drove, I prayed and asked God to change my heart and make it willing. I think my family's response to the idea is the very thing God used to change my heart and illuminate the selfishness and fear that was lurking in there. I was pleasantly surprised and it warmed my heart when not only was the vote unanimously in favor of this plan, but the excitement level in our home could have nearly shaken the King Dome if it still existed. Okay.....that was a little bit of a stretch, but they really were excited, and in complete agreement.  so I contacted Siobhan and gave her the news.

I love how God works in our lives. He loves us, desires to bless us, and He is incredibly faithful. My husband suggested that we have our traditional family time on Christmas Eve day. "Mr. Think Outside The Box's", idea made it possible for us to serve and still enjoy our little family traditions and refuel time.  So we began Christmas Eve morning as a family around the fire with Dad reading to us from the Bible (after a quick trip to finish up a little shopping with three of the kids :) ).

On Christmas Day, we arrived at the church to a bustle of excitement and activity. The tables were beautifully set and the smells from the kitchen were enough to make a full stomach growl. It was a beautiful day. Natalie and Christine provided lovely Christmas music on the piano with a little help from their friend Chloe, Rich helped with technical stuff along with Siobhan's husband, Sam, and their son, Caleb. Our boys helped some of the other kids take signs out to the road to invite people in and I enjoyed serving food and running around with my camera capturing the beauty of the moments, the lovely faces of everyone who served and the guests who attended. Siobhan and a couple of other people went out and invited guests in from the community to enjoy a nice, warm, place to go for a hot meal and altogether, I believe we had about forty people in attendance. We made some new friends that day and heard stories that broke our hearts. We had opportunity to speak hope into people's lives and we had opportunity to serve alongside precious people in our We may not be blood family, but we are  family and that was evident in the love and care that went into making such a cozy, beautiful, atmosphere. It was evident that love, careful planning, and hard work went into the amazing meal,  linen table cloths, candlelight, beautiful desserts, and I think everyone's welcoming smiles were the most beautiful part of the entire day.

God did answer my prayer and remove my fear. As I sat visiting with people and learning their stories, I learned so much and the desire to spend more time with them grew. I think that we were much more blessed than those who came in off the streets and in ways I can't even explain.

Our kids all asked if we can do the same thing next Christmas. Who knows....maybe we can!


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