Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reflections on Christmas Present

Many years ago, I purposed to let go of all the expectations that Christmas be celebrated like the ones I remembered so fondly from my childhood.  Christmas, a time of joy and peace, should not be lived by remembering the past to the point where one does not enjoy the the present.  Distance, divorce, and death, the three "D's" of Christmas, can threaten to destroy the joy and peace that we hope for during the Christmas season.  

Over the years, I've learned that it is best to let go of those expectations surrounding holidays that can lead to disappointment and a sense of sadness that robs us of the joy of the season.  During this time of year, despite my best intentions, I still find myself feeling stressed and unhappy because of the pressures I feel from the expectations of others.  I am working on establishing boundaries on time commitments and on spending during the season of parties, get togethers, and gift exchanges.  I've learned Christmas can be the time when we most get to practice using the skills of being present in the present and learning to enjoy the moment minus trying to meet the expectations we place on ourselves and others.

Early in the season, I purposed to focus on the Reason for the Season rather than being distracted by all the demands that seem to so easily overwhelm during this busy time of the year.

I purposed to enjoy the decorating my house with the those objects that hold meaning and significance to me and tie me to memories from the past.  When I prepare for Christmas,  I put up a small live tree which I decorate with Julie's Christmas ornaments.  Julie was single, and didn't have a lot of ornaments, but the ones she had were stored in a round Christmas theme hat box that I had given her filled with Christmas gifts years before.  Julie had carefully wrapped each ornament in tissue paper and placed them in the storage box on that last Christmas of her life.

 The first Christmas after her death, upon opening this storage receptacle holding Julie's ornaments, I was overcome with sadness and weeping by the unexpected scent of Julie that wafted from the box.  Julie used a strongly scented hair pomade which she would work through her curls as she styled them.  I pictured her doing her hair, and letting it dry, as she had packed away Christmas in 2009.  Honestly, every year, when I open the box, the scent hits me and makes me cry.  Each year, I am grateful I can still catch a bit of the beautiful scent that was Julie.

I don't know where Julie got this skier ornament.  It reminds me of an athletic Julie during her healthy days when she had the money, the time, and energy all at the same time so she could go skiing.  I remember her living in ski country near Vail, Colorado and wonder if she got the ornament while she lived there.  

I gave Julie this angel holding a puppy for Christmas when her dog Phoenix was a pup.  Now, Phoenix is also gone.  

Julie was a highly organized person.  Her Christmas ornaments and other trappings of Christmas were all stored in a large green plastic container.  This year, I opened up the many unopend packages of Christmas lights that she had purchased with the intent of decorating the outside of wherever she was living at the time.  For the first time ever, I decided these lights should be used.  Jim and I spent an early December day stringing the lights on the back deck of our house.  The light from them brought me great joy this year.


Throughout the year, my life is richly blessed by several groups of women from my church.  I found myself saying, "Let's have a Christmas lunch at my house this year," during our last Bible study time before the holidays.  Immediately, afterwards, I felt just a touch of panic when I realized that meant I would have to have my house cleaned and decorated before the date set for the lunch!  

Somehow, I pulled it off.  The house was cleaned.  (Ok, I had the cleaning ladies clean the house.)  The tree was decorated.  The various other Christmas displays were set up.  I even was able to get the food arranged, the coffee and tea made, and the dishes and eating utensils all placed on a counter so my guests could serve themselves in a buffet style.  It all seemed to be a success.  I had fifteen women in attendance.  A more sedate, reflective group of eight sat in the formal dining room, while the rowdy, laughing ladies and I, nine of us, gathered around my kitchen table.  Somehow, I forgot to get a photo of the occasion.  Everyone stayed a long time.  We gathered in the living room and chatted as a group before everyone departed.  What a wonderful group of ladies I have been able to get to know this year.  I look forward to studying the Psalms with them next year.

It seemed a waste not to have another party once I had the extra leaves in the dining room table, so I had another party on the Saturday before Christmas.  This time, my dear prayer group ladies, my Monica Moms, came to my home for a brunch.  How I love these women.  We gather twice a month to pray.  We sat at my dining room table and rejoiced over the answers to prayers we have seen this year. We cried together over those requests that are still on our hearts, the prayers not yet answered.  We encouraged each other.   We laughed.  We celebrated each other.

On Christmas Eve, I was able to go to church with one of my dear high school friends.  It was so wonderful to spend this time with her and then to go over to her home to chat with her and her husband before I had to leave to pick Jim up from work.  

The rest of Christmas Eve was spent at Jim's daughter's house with all of his daughters and their families.  It was a great gathering.  What a great pile of cousins this is!

My daughter Amy was to join us on Christmas Day, but she came down with a cold that she didn't want to give us for Christmas, so she stayed home.  We missed seeing her and spending time with her.  The presents for her and her family will be delivered next week.

Jim and I spent a lazy, quiet Christmas morning.  It was good.  As I sat on the couch visiting with my hubby, I snapped a photo of the place where we do much of our living.  I am so grateful for each Christmas that I spend with the man I love in this home that brings us such comfort.  Home is the heart of Christmas in so many ways.  While none of our children ever lived in this home, and while so many Christmas memories were made in the home we left three years ago, this is now our home, and we are so happy living here.  

We ate a leisurely breakfast after opening our gifts.  Then we took the dog for a walk.   The day was cool, and snow kept lightly falling on us as we walked among the other creatures of the valley where we live. I counted 15 mule deer dotting the grounds around the corner from our house.

I was reminded of that Christmas song,
Grandpa got run over by a reindeer 
as Jim walked by our other neighbors who were also out enjoying Christmas afternoon.

Christmas Day was finished off with by Grandpa and Grandma joining daughter Trinette's family at the movie theater to watch "Star War."    I must confess, that I am not very culturally relevant  on many things.  I had never seen a Star Wars movie!  It was great.  I enjoyed it.  After the movie, the kids came to our house for cold cuts, candy, cookies, holiday bread, and ice cream.  

After dinner and a movie, sweet T was fell asleep in her mother's arms.  Christmas is exhausting!

 Today, I got up to a messy house with the wrappings and trappings of Christmas strewn about.  From the looks of things, I'd say we had a very Merry Christmas.   

Christmas Day 2015
Sally & Boston


Barb said...

Hi Sally, Seeing Julie's ornaments on that little tree brought a tear to my eye. How hard it must be to unpack these memories, but also how wonderful that you have so many good memories of Julie's life. Your Christmas parties and celebrations sound delightful, filled with family and good, supportive friends. We're back home in Breckenridge after spending time with our own family and friends. Ben (12) is with us a few days, and it's lovely having him all to ourselves! Next I guess I need to say, "Happy 2016!" You look great.

Sandi said...

Hello, Sally, and Merry Christmas to you! You seem to have taken this precious holiday that can be pretty painful and draining, and built a success from wonderful memories, past and present. I too had a sometimes cheery and sometimes teary celebration this year. After the hustle and bustle, and quite a lot of company, I am resting and relaxing today.
So glad to read of your joyous celebration of the season. Love, Sandi

The Furry Gnome said...

Was that one guy with 8 girl cousins i saw?! And thanks for your kind words on my blog.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

It can be so bittersweet - feeling our losses most keenly during the holidays and yet keeping them with us via tangible memories -- like Julie's ornaments. I have a tree full of ornaments made by Bob's parents 30+ years ago. They've always been precious to us, but even more since these dear people have been gone for many years. I smile and think of my mother-in-law whenever we decorate our tree. I'm so glad you had such a lovely mix of company and quiet for Christmas, Sally!

Linda Reeder said...

I enjoyed reading about your Christmas. I realized when I had guests over and began to tell a few stories about our decorations, just how much meaning and how many memories are tied to them. I don't have the cause for deep sadness that you have, but I know that just the passage of time and the changes that brings can lead to bittersweet feelings.
I don't dwell there.
I am posting my Christmas in several parts. It was busy and family centered and good, very good. I've slowed down today, but not for long. Adventures await.
And a diet!

Jackie said...

We as wives and mothers share many feelings, and to read about them so beautifully penned brought joy to my heart. You have a gift, my friend. Your gentleness of spirit is obvious. Thank you for blessing me with memories of Christmas 2015 shared from your heart. May The Lord continue to enfold you with His love.
Gentle hugs,

Tom Sightings said...

I can see you've made the best of Christmas present, and ... I love your "pile of cousins."

Jeanie said...

It sounds like a beautiful and meaningful Christmas, Sally. I'm so glad you could have Julie's ornaments and tree and her lights brightening the way. Indeed, these times are hard for us as we reflect on loss but bringing it to the present as you did and celebrating her is a lovely tribute.

Your various parties sound lovely and so does your Christmas with family and friends. I have struggled with "not the same" this year -- and yet it can all be good. New and present is indeed a good thing.

Happiest of New Year's to you, my friend.

DJan said...

That is a great picture. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful gathering and love that last picture of you! :-)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

While you try to live in the present the past still finfs ways in and perhaps it's a necessary part that holds the journey of life together?
You blended all together. You managed to push past stress and enjoy time with family and companions in fun ways. You are blessed. Now it's past once again. Thanks for sharing.

Lin Floyd said...

I'm exhausted just reading about! We had family stop by for a brief visit Christmas eve and morning on their way to a service project in Mexico....then it was just the two of us and peach and quiet!

Friko said...

A bit of sadness, a bit of nostalgia, some happy moments, a few little tears, some memories brought back and a lot of good things happening right now. Family and friends to warm the heart and the best friend to joint in pleasant contemplation.

What else could Christmas be? It’s wonderful that you can have it all, even if some memories are still painful enough to break the heart.

Keep all of it in your great, generous heart, and you can’t go much wrong.

A happy New Year to you, dear Sally.

troutbirder said...

Happy New Year, Sally!!!

Kay said...

I'm sending you a hug, Sally. I'm so sorry for the pain, but glad you have some memories to comfort you. Your home is absolutely beautiful! It warms my heart to read about the love you and Jim share. You both have such a gorgeous family!

Perpetua said...

That sounds like a wonderful Christmas, Sally, despite the sadness of missing Julie. I'm glad you are making new tradition s to go with the new house. We seniors need to be as adaptable in our own way as any youngster. :)