These pictures are from about two weeks ago when we decorated our tree...
that is how behind I am.
The boys have since had haircuts.... they look so much older with short hair.
It makes me weepy.
I always get a little crraaazzzyyy in the last few days before Christmas.
I always feel the pressure to make it more, better... more sparkly.
Please tell me I am not alone?
But I notice if I am not careful all my efforts can have the opposite effect.
I get stressed about getting the last few gifts and wrapping them BEFORE Christmas eve.
I decide that catching up the laundry before the weekend...
and making sure the camera is charged....
and baking the cookies we all want...
and having poppyseed cake for breakfast on the big day....
and getting the house spotless will help all of us to relax over the holiday...
in a cruel twist of fate this causes nothing but more stress for us all.
So last night as I switched the seventh load of laundry I took a minute to think.
I wrapped a warm towel around my head... because when I was a kid my Mom used to wrap us in warm towels strait out of the dryer while she folded the laundry...
and I find it INTENSELY comforting to this day.
What made Christmas special when I was a kid?
Quickly and easily I said... presents!
True... they were awesome.
Family... time with my cousins to play.
The candle light Christmas eve service.
The magic of the story... of God coming as a child, just like me... so close, so real.
Then I thought about all the Christmas's that stood out in my memory and why.
You know what they are?
The ones that went wrong.
Like the Christmas I was in high school and we couldn't get out to get our tree the night we had planned because it was snowing too much. We decided to walk the short distance to a nearby lot instead of the tree farm.
The streets had yet to be plowed and it was dark and snowing, we dragged the tree home down the middle of the road as Dad complained about the crazy price. I loved that walk. I loved that night.
There was the Christmas we spent in the nursing home with my Grandma because she was still recovering from surgery. I was maybe in fifth grade. It was the first year of my life we ever missed being at her house on Christmas.
But I learned a lot that year.
I learned that not everyone has someone to come see them.
Not everyone has five kids and four grandkids who are willing to spend hours in a nursing home on Christmas. I was kind of baffled that anyone had to spend Christmas alone.
I learned quickly that I think that is just plain wrong.
And I promised myself I wouldn't let it be my parents who were shamefully alone on Christmas.
So what if your not comfortable in a shabby nursing home... God was born in a barn people.
Lastly there was the Christmas eve right after I had gotten my first car. A tiny little Geo Storm.
My parents let my sister and I drive the thirty minutes to my Aunts house... Lord only knows why because the snow was pretty bad that night. By the time we got home I was a ball of nerves from sliding all over the place all the way home.
But as much as I hated that snow while I was driving in it I still remember getting out of the car and seeing that beautiful whisper soft glittery kind of snow falling in a thick blanket on our house and thinking that even my cynical 17 year old self might be able to believe in miracles and silly Bible stories on a night like that.
My parents pulled in shortly after that and my Mom told us about a Christmas with her Dad, who had died when she was very young, and about a snowstorm on Christmas eve much like that one. We stood in the driveway a long time and just talked... listened, learned. Regained a little of the Christmas magic that slips away in those tough teenage years.
I realized in the basement with a towel wrapped around my head that I cannot make Christmas special for my kids.
I can add to it. I can garnish it with gifts and decorations.
But the real sweet stuff will come by accident. Often disguised as a hitch in the usual plans.
Each year we build on the memories, we retell the stories of the ornaments and where they come from as we hang them on the branches.
Some of them sparkled in the eyes of our Grandparents when they were still little and waiting on Santa... some are brand new like the baby's first Christmas they celebrate.
It doesn't matter if I give them the Barbie camper or the light sabers.
It doesn't matter if they match and smile in the photos.
It doesn't matter if the cookies burn and I stand in the kitchen with a towel wrapped around my head all day.
It's nice to have the gifts, the traditions, but its not what they will remember.
Something tells me the things that they do remember will surprise me when we learn about it one day.
Although I am sure if I do the towel thing in the kitchen that will make the list.... in the end the unexpected things are always the most memorable.
Like how no one expected to find God in a manger, a helpless baby.
They were looking for a mighty King in a palace.
Just like we are looking for the sparkle and shine while missing the moments right in front of us.
The most important memory of mankind, the one that is two thousand years old.
The God who came to save.
"This is a story of impossible things,
of a baby and angels, of shepherds and kings.
And though it took place long ago, far away,
it's just as true now that love finds a way."