For the past 19 years, opening presents has been scheduled around my sister’s family. For me being the youngest of 3, having the opportunity to watch my nephews and niece grow up and embrace their innocence has been one of the best presents. Yesterday was no exception. We decided to open presents before an early dinner and church. We all gathered around the tree with our piles of presents. Meagan, my niece, was in full excitement mode. Her 3 older brothers were on the other side of couch so they could spread out and have space. Their average height is about 6’2 and ages range from 15-19. Once my brother-in-law had his phone ready to record, the green light was given to start opening. My Mom and sister were on either side of me, and we all watched Meagan light up when she started tearing open her packages. Frequently throughout the Christmas season, I would hear my sister Kathy say, “I have to remember she’s only 10…and need to enjoy this time with her.” Whether it was a Bath and Body Works foaming body spray or a fun t-shirt, Meagan was all smiles. After opening a few of her own, she went over to my sister to see her gifts. My Mom and I caught Garrett, who just turned 13, punching his fist in the air out of excitement after opening a book on baseball stadiums. Occasionally, from the other side of the couch, we would hear a “Thanks Grandma” or “Thanks Aunt Mary” from one of the boys as they unwrapped theirs. I loved turning around to see these large teenage boys, two of which are in college, still smile as they took part in the chaos. They haven’t outgrown any of it. This was evident an hour or so later as we were all gathered as a family in church (taking up almost a whole pew, I might add), when I watched my two 6’3 nephews sing along to the Christmas hymns. A proud aunt….you’re darn right!
One of my favorite songs I play repeatedly this time of year is “The Heart of Christmas” by Matthew West. The words ring so true as to how we should feel and the things we should embrace this time of year. Two verses of the song really say it well:
Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas
Let’s make it feel the way it used to
Let’s find that wonder of a child
You can see the magic all around you
Come on, and open up your eyes
We are all guilty of rushing through the season. I work in a school and there were moments on the last day before our break where I thought, “Seriously, we’re already here?” Of course another part of me was ready to shove everything in my bag and check out for two weeks…but I just couldn’t believe the days had gone by that fast. No kids to see everyday with excitement in their eyes, anxiously waiting Santa and “the magic of Christmas.”
As you spend the day with your family, may you slow down and enjoy every moment.
The Christmas holidays this year were different for me in that I was not with my family in San Antonio. Prior to my being home for Thanksgiving, we had decided it would be fun for my parents, sisters, niece and nephews would visit me for Christmas. My parents had wanted to see my new house so this was a great opportunity. I kept telling myself that I needed to just get through Christmas Day and then I’d be fine. I decided to attend church on Christmas Eve. I first attempted to make it to one church’s service at 5:00. I arrived with only 10 minutes or so to spare and found no parking….well, I could’ve parked across the street but then figured there would be no seating inside the church. Alrighty, Plan B. I stopped at the grocery store, grabbed some milk, pizza, spaghetti, sauce and chips…clearly essentials for snow storm. I drove home, put the groceries away and got back into the car so I was sure to make the next service. The entryway of St. Thomas More was already crowded. I spotted a seat on one of benches and quickly snagged it. As I began looking around, I realized this was the children’s pageant mass. Little ones decked out in their adorable holiday clothes kept the atrium area a buzz with activity. A few minutes later, the children began lining up to take their place. Angels, various animals and alike were chattering amongst themselves.
A Call to Serve
Thanks to the tweet from Ann Curry, I felt called to volunteer to help serve dinner at the Norman Community Dinner on Christmas Day. I was scheduled to be a back-up but then got the call that someone had cancelled. I left early in case it took me a while to get to Norman High School. I parked and carefully walked up the ramp. As I looked around the cafeteria, I couldn’t help but smile. Families and individuals enjoying a delicious holiday meal. After getting my instructions, I was assigned my post. I am finding out how small of a world Norman is as I ended up meeting two ladies who used to work where I work now. As I was saying my goodbyes to the gentleman in charge of the event an hour or so later, I said I would get in touch with him earlier next year so I could sign up in advance.
Through the slosh and over the ice we go
The reports that came in early on Tuesday were not encouraging for my being able to travel to my friend’s house for dinner. Text messages were exchanged and after looking at updates online, I decided to head north. Getting out of my neighborhood seemed to be the most difficult. Fast forward a couple of hours and I returned home from a delicious meal with friends. We ate, watched the Thunder game, opened presents and just hung out.
In my eyes, that was a good Christmas. As I write this, it is two days until my family gets to Norman. I can’t wait….
Enjoying the holidays in Norman
At one time or another, I would imagine that all of us have been a part of a surprise. Maybe we were the recipient of a surprise or were the person who came up with the great idea. I have been fortunate to have been on both ends of the spectrum. Normally, I am the person trying to come up with a surprise… some sweet gesture that would make someone’s day that they did not see coming at all. This week, however, I was the one who didn’t see something coming. After attending a funeral of a friend’s father, I returned to my car and noticed the light on my phone was flashing indicating a text message. The text was from my sister and simply read: Can you call me when you have 10 minutes. Nothing urgent. I had some time before my doctor’s appointment so before I left the parking lot, I dialed her number. After exchanging the usual “Hey, what’s up, how are you?” Kathy proceeded to say that while it was going to be a surprise, she was going to drive up and help me decorate for my work Christmas party. I couldn’t believe it and can’t help but smile when I think about that conversation. She was so excited and so we got busy reserving a moving van/truck she could use to haul the furniture a friend of hers is giving me along with some pieces we got at Pottery Barn outlet over Thanksgiving.
It is now only hours until she arrives. She is leaving at ungodly hour in the morning so I will be sure to treat her to a delicious and relaxing dinner tomorrow night. I feel so loved that she would do this for me. Perhaps I’ll post pictures after we finish decorating. This may just inspire me to host more parties….
Surprised and blessed in Norman
I have a confession….I’m a sucker for those Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. I am perfectly content on the weekends to stretch out on the couch and settle in with some hot chocolate and let the characters entertain me. Sure, if I had “someone special” to share this time of year with, it’d be even sweeter….but I have faith that will come when it’s time . But back to my being a sucker part…I love the way the movies make me feel good and give me that itch to go and do for others. They give me hope—hope for the season, hope for living with a clearer sense of purpose. One movie in particular I watched was “Farewell, Mr. Kringle.” A quote I wrote down that stood out, from the character Kris Kringle, went like this, “Christmas is more than a day on the calendar, it’s a feeling—like a smile from a long-lost friend.” Hopefully we all get that warm, fulfilling joy from giving a gift to someone we care about. It could even be a complete stranger…..and the gift doesn’t even have to be expensive or grand gesture….just something to make their day and their Christmas season, a little brighter.
This is my favorite time of year, if you couldn’t tell that already. There are 20 more days until Christmas. I intend on making the most of each and every one. So, to you and yours, all the best this holiday season!