There it is! My one decoration so far.
The old ceramic Christmas tree.
All lit up for when my grandkids arrive today.
When I climbed out of bed this morning, I intended to clean the house, put up a few Christmas decorations, exercise, and spend the rest of the day typing out answers to the two really-involved study guides I have for my last two finals.
The house was a bit out of sync and not-so-cosy, so putting it in order before studying seemed like a good plan. I brewed a really good pot of French press coffee and turned up the Christmas carols while I made some headway in the clean-and-cosy department. I managed to put out one Christmas decoration (the old ceramic tree) before I was hit by a blizzard of phone calls and text messages, and now my plan has changed.
Aimee and Avery are driving down from Portland this afternoon to spend the weekend with me, and Michelle and her gang are coming to spend the afternoon and evening here as well. Yay, fun! I'll get to those study guides here and there and in between whatever is happening. Family first!
I really think the celebratory atmosphere and ambience we create in our homes is special and powerful in all of our lives, but especially for our children. We shouldn't underestimate the power of the sense of mystery and magic we nurture in the minds and hearts of our children by the environments we create. I really believe it can help open hearts to the mystery and magic of the meaning of Christmas and to God's love. But it's the intrinsic ambience and spirit of a life and of a home that does this much more than the external decorations we put up or the activities we enjoy, though the external can contribute, too.
I don't really decorate for holidays in a big way. I am certainly no Martha Stewart, and neither do I want to be. I like things to be very simple but sweet. And in these past three years, the celebrations of my family have gotten simpler than ever because they've had to. We didn't give gifts to one another last year--not a single thing. And you know what? There was a sort of freedom in it.
We all love to give and receive gifts, but not one of us wished that last Christmas was any different. We bought small things for the children, and we gathered to make a delicious meal and enjoy being together to give thanks for the one gift that really matters: God sent His Son to Earth to be the Savior of the world. The Savior of me. And you.
We likely won't give gifts again this year, but we will, again, be together, and it will certainly be a happy family time. What we give to each other is time and love. They don't cost anything, and these are the best gifts of all.
I was flipping through the pages of Elspeth's Wonderful Weekend Book, and my bookmark landed in the "winter" section. Elspeth begins her winter notes with these simple words:
"As the evenings draw in, I find real satisfaction in simple pleasures such as lighting a wood fire, making the Christmas cake and inviting friends for tea after a brisk wintry walk."
I love that spirit and attitude. And here's from Gladys Taber:
"The smell of pine and spicy hot cider drifts through the house. The buttered popcorn in the old wire popper adds extra fragrance. Outside, snow falls on the old orchard, the dark pond, and the giant maples towering above the roof. The children come in from sledding spangled with flakes."
Well, that certainly matches some of what my family experienced in the high desert, and I think it's lovely. We so enjoyed those snowy, crisp, magical days when we drank hot chocolate together at the table and watched snow pile up around our house, when we took long walks down a lovely, snowy road, and when snow-frozen hands were warmed by the fire.
The chances of snow and sledding where we live now are almost impossibly slim, but that's not the point. It's not about longing for an idealized atmosphere of the season; it's simply, as both Elspeth and Gladys communicate, making my own kind of atmosphere where I am now--one that is simple and magical even in its simplicity--and sharing it with others. This doesn't need to cost a thing except for time and love, and, again, these are the best gifts I can give.
That's what I'm going to give to my family today. I will study for my finals when I can, but I don't get to see my children and grandchildren everyday, so I'm going to make the most of this day with them. Popcorn doesn't cost much. I can make that. And I can certainly create a clean and warm and cosy environment. And I can read stories and play with my grandchildren. I will give the gifts I can and enjoy the gifts God has given me in this season when we are all focused on celebrating the One gift that really matters.
Wishing you a lovely day!