Did you make it through the holidays? Are you ready to bring in a brand new year?
In spite of my grappling not-going-to-say-Grinch-like start of December, by God's grace I wrested my heart into resting in grace, and finally relaxed into enjoying the holiday however it came together. Mostly it was me reveling in the decorating and Christmas Carols, and me doing Elf on the Shelf (although my family seemed amused by my efforts); I watched A Christmas Carol three times, and one of those times the whole family was present. I think that may have been the ONLY time we were all home together in the evening in the month of December ... it was our own family Christmas miracle!
My typical approach to getting the house ready for guests over the years has been to act like a lion-tamer with the mess, chasing it from room after room, until finally it's contained behind the door of the master bedroom. That's worked to get the house clean and tidy, but then walking into our bedroom was like walking into a war zone.
This year I did things a little differently and started cleaning with the master suite, and the affect was AMAZING. Even though no one else went in there, it was a quiet source of contentment to know that my room was tidy, and slipping in there to grab wrapping paper or a coat was a source of peace rather than shame and chaos.
Starting the house-clean in our bedroom also put a different spin on cleaning the rest of the house; it helped me remember that as much as we were preparing the house for our guests, we were also preparing and cleaning and tidying it for ourselves. In the past, I always felt there just wasn't time to give this private gift to myself, but I won't neglect this one, ever again.
My sister invited us for a Christmas Eve dinner party, and served our family-traditional menu, oyster stew complete with oyster crackers. She thoughtfully supplements the meal with amazing hot sandwiches for the non-stew lovers. For dessert we all made our own mini-pies, using a plethora of candy filling choices and sweetened condensed milk. While the pies were cooking, we each decorated our own Christmas ornaments. It was so much fun to have a few moments of spontaneous creativity together at the table. This is one of my very favorite meals of the whole year, both for the mouth watering oyster stew and the pleasure of sitting at my sister's beautifully set table.
We hosted Christmas day for both our families, and served Christmas dinner for eighteen. Although this is customarily considered to be the most pressurized meal of the year, I've done this meal so many times in partnership with my sister and sister-in-law with support from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law from out of state, that believe it or not, for me it's probably the easiest meal of the year. The cajun spiced turkey coming from Dickie's is the centerpiece, which makes it possible to focus on all the yummy side dishes and desserts. We all have our assigned specialties and nothing on the buffet is neglected - every dish is completely wonderful! We set up four tables in the family room and after the meal my favorite thing happened: everyone lingered past seconds and over well-cleaned plates to visit. The room hummed with great conversation and laughter and lots of love.
After dinner, our tradition is to have a White Elephant Gift Exchange. One of the greatest things about a White Elephant Gift Exchange is that it's the perfect chance to offload unwanted gifts. For years, I've been tripping over the snare drum Ben used in 8th grade drumline class. I finally put it into the bag to take to Good Will, but pulled it out when I needed to round up extra White Elephant Gifts. Imagine my surprise when my brother-in-law delightedly snatched it up (and the stand! and carrying case!) - White Elephant gold, for both of us! I scored a very nice Pierre Cardin pen and pencil set, but my favorite gift were the fake snowballs made of felt that my sister and brother-in-law picked up somewhere on the Arkansas/Texas border. The snowball fight erupted as soon as they came out of the bag.
In late November, I bought myself a Christmas gift, the sweetest book, The Art of Holly Hobbie. I left it in the package until the day after Christmas, when I curled up on the couch and had the most lovely afternoon pouring over her whimsical artwork and words, while everyone else indulged in long winter's naps. Oh, those rosy cheeks, those graceful hands, the intricate and whimsical detail, the delicate coloring ... nothing takes me back to my childhood like Holly Hobbie.
We rang in the New Year with good friends and January 1 has worked its magic on me ... the idea of planning and resolutions and goals completely geeks me out. I make resolutions every year, and for several weeks, maybe a few months, with great luck nearly all year - some of them motivate me to work on refining me and my life. Every year I know this will be the year I'll accomplish all of them :o)
Wherever you are and whatever your 2015 was, I hope that 2016 is a year full of sweet moments, true contentment, and deepest growth for you. I thank you so much for stopping by my corner of the internet every now and again. Let's fill 2016 with heaps of joy!