Needless to say, it was not exactly the holiday that Ken and I had expected. We had arranged to celebrate our "family" Christmas on the Saturday before Christmas. We have found that having the day away from the holiday actually makes for a more restful and fun celebration. Unfortunately, Ken was not feeling well on the Friday before that and ended up in the ER after some serious stomach pain. After a series of tests, it was determined that he has some stomach ulcers and inflammation most likely caused by a course of antibiotics he had been taking over the last few weeks. After an overnight in the hospital and a slightly uncomfortable test, we begged to be released to still make it to Gwen and Tim's in time for our Christmas. Thankfully he was quickly released and we got to our celebration by early afternoon. We are also thankful that the new medicine to reduce his stomach acid has given him total freedom from any stomach pain. The thought of missing being with our family made both Ken and I especially grateful for the time spent together.
It was a wonderful, crazy and fun day. Tim made a wonderful ham dinner (which Ken ate with no problems!) The kids had so much fun opening presents and as usual, there was lots of laughing and just being silly.
I love this picture of the kids together! Grace had a wonderful time with the older kids. She pushed her shopping cart around and around the room. It is hard to believe that soon she will be two years old. Lia has made the move away from the "toys" to much more grown up things. Her gifts included clothes and slippers and tickets to see "Hamilton"! She had to immediately text her friends with the exciting news. Yes, it is clear that she will be 13 in a few months, as we have moved into the "teenage" years. Ellie got her long awaited "Calico Critters" (which included a zillion little tiny pieces of "stuff"). Anna loved all of her Shoppie dolls and especially liked the Backpack set (that included a water bottle, lunch box and pencil case). Zeke was all about Pokemon (no surprise there) but also loved a roller coaster game that is really quite amazing. We all had so much fun doing a science experiment taken from a book given to the older kids by Doug and Susie. Lets just say that balloons, string, tape and lots of very odd noises accompanied this. Doug managed to find a way to make really loud noises during the experiment. Needless to say, Ken was able to catch a nap (after a sleepless couple of nights) and the noise didn't bother him (or Chandler) at all!
The kids were running around, the adults were laughing like crazy and these two slept on! I guess when you finally relax pain free, you can sleep through anything! What a wonderful family time together. One that we will remember always.
The rest of our Christmas was really low key. Ken and I mostly just stayed home and watched some movies. We did go to Gwen and Tim's church for Christmas Eve candlelight service. Gwen sang and played flute, so we joined Tim and the kids for this late night service. We ended up getting home around midnight. For a change the weather cooperated and the night was clear and relatively warm for Chicago (30 degrees). A wonderful way to remember the reason for the season!
Christmas Day was another quiet day for us. We did decide to go to see a movie in the afternoon and really enjoyed "Mary Poppins Returns". So nice to go the movies and come away with a smile and feeling good.
On the day after Christmas, Ken and I were shopping for a few sale items for next year. I found really nice stuffed animals for our Operation Christmas Child boxes, reduced to $1.50 each. I got to talking to a lady behind us in the checkout line about this great sale. She had never heard of the Operation Christmas Child boxes and was greatly interested. I gave her all the information and she said that she would be doing this next year with her Girl Scout troop and her own children. Passing on information about this ministry was one of the highlights of my holiday. I love that our participation in honor of Lucas, may bring others into the joy of touching children around the world. This year my boxes went to Rwanda, Africa, and I pray for those little boys who will soon receive our boxes.
Christmas is about receiving and giving. It all started when God gave us an incredible gift through the birth of Jesus. And it is all about our receiving that wonderful gift when we grow to know and love Jesus as our Savior. I love that our family finds so much joy in being together - in sharing love and laughter. That is what the season is really all about. Giving and receiving warm hugs.
Yesterday I took down all of our Christmas decorations. They are still sitting in the garage, awaiting a time to return them to the attic. We had a light dusting of snow the other night, which made it a little bitter sweet to see the decorations go away. It actually looked a bit more "Christmasy" than it has for the last month. But no complaints for me about the lack of shovelable snow! Today it is pouring rain. I was thinking about how much snow we would have if the temperature was just a few degrees colder. So I am feeling very thankful that we are starting the New Year on the warm side.
I am ending this year feeling so thankful and happy, content and ready to contemplate the new year ahead. Yes, 2018 has been a good year filled with family, friends and fun. Looking forward to all that Jesus has in store for us in 2019.
Jesus, thank you for giving us reminders to appreciate each day together. Holy Spirit, help us all to reflect on the year just past while also nudging us to keep our eyes on Jesus. Give us courage and boldness to continue to share the kindness and generosity of Christmas all year long. Give us eyes to see needs around us, and hands willing to do the service. Keep our feet moving forward into your plans for us. Thank you for love, laughter and fun. Amen