Archive for December, 2011

Thank you for the Gift

Posted on: December 29th, 2011 by Donna 6 Comments

Somehow the holidays always sneak up on me. You’d think with all the hoopla starting around Halloween that I’d prepare myself and  our home well in advance.  Nope. By bill payment time in early November I write out checks in response to seasonal mailing label bribes for worthy charities.  And so it begins.

While grocery shopping, I can’t resist buying new Christmas cards.  I also try to recall where I stashed last year’s because they’re most likely still in unopened boxes.  Placing the new cards in the cart with our Thanksgiving turkey, I wonder how many street addresses on my contact  list are current.  Although I shoved after-Christmas-sale rolls of wrapping paper in the guest room closet last year, I don’t recall seeing any of it lately.  I buy a three-pack, just in case.

As usual, I have no idea what to buy several family members. Even though we assured one another during visits last summer that we  didn’t need anything, that Christmas was for kids, and everyone has less money this year, I am certain boxes will soon arrive from their homes.  At least shopping on-line makes things easy.

But first, I’ll get ready for Thanksgiving.  I love to cook and plan to serve a crisp and golden bird, a great stuffing, homemade  potato rolls, and a couple of pies.  Per recommendations from Christopher Kimball at Cook’s Illustrated, I order a fat separator and non-stick V rack for my roaster.

Alas, no family can make it here for Thanksgiving, so I round up lakeside neighbors in the same boat as us.  I’ve done it  before—inviting a young divorced dad and his three year old and borrowing a lonely woman from a nursing home.  It was fun having young and old share a  special time—until our substitute grandmother asked for the fifteenth time, “Tell me dear, who are you again?” and “Where am I, anyway?”

We neighbors all know each other, of course, and enjoy our meal together.  I am especially grateful this year for our families–the relative, neighbor and church ones, our little choir, my writing sisters and P.E.O. ones, my new friends at Tate Publishing, and our health this year.

I know I should be addressing those cards, but the weekend drifts by amid football games, leftovers, and naps.  By Monday, elegant cards  begin to trickle in with the bills.  All the rest of the Paul family women are organized and punctual.

A trip to the doctor turns urgent as my Sweetie is scheduled for surgery.  Pre-op work up, day surgery, pain management, and meals take up the rest of the week.

An out of town December wedding might allow me time to finalize a mailing list, or at least sign the new cards.  I pack the cards in  a suitcase.  Instead of signing cards, we patrol the Lake Jackson streets we knew well long ago, marvel at new businesses, miss old ones, and cluck at the increased traffic.  It’s great to catch up with family and old friends, share meals and stories, laughter and memories.  The bride is radiant, her parents and  grandparents proud, and many of us cry watching little girls turned into high-heeled beauties with beaus and husbands and children of their own.  My, how fast time flies.

We glimpse lit Christmas trees and decorated yards as we head north on Sunday.  I drive while Sweetie rests.  The beautiful songs of  Christmas settle over us as we pass through a chain of our favorite Christian radio station waves.  We return home exhausted from the drive, all the  celebratory events, and sleeping in a strange bed.  How does Ron do it?

We find a dozen phone messages and a hundred emails waiting.  Lots more cards are stacked high on the counter, courtesy of our  neighbor Dave.  Word that we’ll have no family here for Christmas comes too.  There’s now no need to haul out the decorations, although our cheerful little table top tree always makes me smile.  Even my Christmas cactus isn’t ready, and in fact has dropped most of its blooms.

Christmas Eve is drizzly.  Dark arrives at church with us. Inside we nestle as a small congregation which chooses to fill only one side of our sanctuary.  We are the merry and bright.  We are the reverent.  We are held in the spell of the real celebration; our Lord and Savior’s birth.  Indeed, Oh, Holy Night.

The treasure of this time of year comes not with holly, pretty ribbons and papers, or thoughtful, sentimental cards.  The gifts, the tree, the festive meals are just trappings.  It’s us, the people, one at a time pausing to reflect what God sent down from the heavens.  I hang my head in shame at the ways I’ve not been ready to receive that blessing.  And I vow again to do better.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Have a blessed New Year.