We finally took down the Christmas tree last weekend. I am a big believer in celebrating the twelve days of Christmas these past several years. A time when all our extroverted celebrating or traveling is finished and we can sit quietly by the lights of the tree, doing some yoga or reading a book. Having deep conversations about what this season means and using all the colorful light as backdrop for some New Years’s pondering.
We had the most beautiful and simple Christmas season this year. Aaron and I had enough energy to host our outdoor nativity walk for the first time in four or five years and it reminded me of everything I love about it. You plan what you hope will be a perfect, holy night to bring some restoration and then fun to everyone’s soul (including your own). The night comes and it never goes according to plan. It’s -35 or the wind is howling or you forget half of what you wanted to say. Yet somehow it still has moments of holy, brings restoration and fun.
We had our (second) annual baking day, where we make all the delicious Christmas foods altogether on a day just before Christmas. It very quickly is becoming a must do for everyone in our family, the hours of flour and butter and sugar and laughing mixing together into cherished time all together. I decided a few days before Christmas to do a Christmas card and for the first time ever a letter. So many people were praying for us and thinking about us two years ago and are always wondering how we are doing so it felt right this year to let all my extended family and friends who we don’t often see in person know. I know not everyone is a fan of the Christmas letter in these days of facebook, but I always love getting something physical in the mail, to sit and read intentionally in a moment of quiet, sharing a bit of joy and struggle, rather than during my daily scrolling session.
We had a just right Christmas and Christmas Eve, quiet, singing, candles, all the traditional books. Once a year cinnamon buns, stockings, hot tub, presents, walks in the woods, delicious food, time to rest. As fun as those years were when we had little babies and toddlers, and I will remember forever with fondness the joy of new toys and playing with wrapping paper and one piece snowsuits for sled pulls through the yard, I have to say I’m enjoying these older kid years immensely. We get to sleep till a decent hour, drink some coffee while it is still hot and do a bit of something we love too. After that we had a few really nice days with Aaron’s family.
Then before we could catch our breath we had a birthday celebration for a newly eleven year old. She got tickets to see a musical for her birthday and for that girl along with ice cream sundaes and a few other small art supplies was a perfect day. New Years Eve we got to see some family we haven’t seen in too long and it made my heart so happy. And like the past many years on New Year’s Day we made our family top ten lists for the year.
2018 was a full, full year for our family as indicated by our lists. We had several major changes. We had (compared to the several years previously) few medical crises (multiple ER trips and a crap load of physio but frankly for us that feels like not much. Insert crying/laughing face emoji here.) For me it was a year of re-calibration, of heading towards renewal after a long period of recovery. It was a year I rediscovered my easy smile and dancing in the kitchen. And after a few years of mourning the end of baby/little kids years and rhythms found joy and gratitude in how much I love who my big kids are becoming.
For all of us there was the most amazing trip to Australia. It wasn’t perfect, but there is something about that continent that stirs up your soul, makes you pay attention, be awake. The whole place feels wild in it’s very essence. Something the adults in our family cherished (and probably the kids too) after being in survival mode for too long. We all needed a little stirring, a physical reminder of the world being holy and teaching us what it is to be alive.
Aaron resigned from his job after being with that company for 19.5 years before we left, after a long period of significant work stress. He started a new job with joy when we returned from our trip. This too brought changes for us as his new job, while fantastic, involves more travel, which means adjustments for me and the kids as well. It took me until early winter to find my groove and I can honestly say I am eagerly anticipating the year ahead.
The world moves on so quickly from a fresh start these days. Personally with everything moving slower in my heart and head, January 18th is just about the right time to have my thoughts collected on the last year and have some clarity about the next. The day we took down the Christmas tree was the First day of Ordinary time in the church calendar, which in my symbolic bones is the perfect timing.
I am fully enamored with the concept of ordinary time at this stage of life. When I look at our family’s top ten lists we made on New Years and my own reflective thoughts I’ve been mulling over these past weeks, yes some extraordinary events stand out. Trips, job changes, periods of celebration and mourning. But mostly when I think about 2018 what I remember is all of the everyday love, sacrifice, commitment and grace that made up the majority of our days. All of the hard work and discipline and rhythm and beauty added all together to allow us to watch the sunrise on a different continent and pursue our dreams, absolutely.
Also, and just as importantly, all of that adds up to give us a regular life of days we experience with fondness. They count in books read aloud, car pools driven and deep conversations around the table. The weeks flow with passions practiced, flowers grown, floors scrubbed, laughter easily had, comfort zones expanded and milestones coming. In mistakes made and apologies offered.
They accumulate in an immense gratitude of living in a season of answered prayers. A season of ordinary days in ordinary time experienced with love and joy and peace and prayer to get us through the inevitable frustrations and conflicts and disappointments and fatigue.
Wishing the same for you in this new, gloriously ordinary year friends.