On a friend’s Facebook page the other day, she started a thread on what people did during the busy holiday season of Christmas to bring things down a little.  Things that helped them to focus on the birth of Christ or on family instead of the “rat-race” that can be December.  In our home we have a number of traditions that help us refocus and reconnect with each other and the birth of Jesus.  Even without these traditions though, Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year.  I love sitting beside a lit Christmas tree and reading a good book or drinking hot chocolate and snuggling one of my kiddos.  While it can be chaotic it can also be one of the most fulfilling times of year.

As a Christ-follower, I feel that somehow I have an inherent sense of peace during this season.  It’s almost as if December 1st hits me with an inexplicable joy and great sense of anticipation.  In all honesty, it has nothing to do with presents.  While I love giving gifts and, of course, receiving them, it’s more the festivities, colour, songs, etc. that sets my heart in a perpetual rhythm of gladness for one full month.

This year hasn’t been any different!  Don’t get me wrong, I have had many moments of being completely frustrated, of being over the top angry and just all around overwhelmed (just ask my husband he’ll have a few stories).  But the sense of quiet and “bubbling, beneath the surface excitement” is always there.  Amidst the chaos of Christmas parties, Christmas baking, Christmas programs, Christmas shopping, Christmas dressing we find so many moments as a family to connect and hang out.  Part of that is purposeful and part of that seems to be a natural inclination that we have as human beings to “need” each other.  I realize that I am blessed to have family, both immediate and extended, that constantly seek out moments to re-connect.  I have siblings that care to know each other, parents that cherish time with each of their children and grandchildren, in-laws that are more than eager to carve out time to spend with us, and a husband and children who actually try to be together and there for each other.  I also have friends that are more than happy to interrupt an already busy season with impromptu gatherings, or scheduled bake-offs, or even just random, deep texts about the realities of life.

A perfect example of seeing this “need” for each other happened the other day when Annie came home reciting one of her many, little pieces for her Christmas program at preschool and the oldest three piped up how they were planning on attending.  “Where else would they be”, they wondered!!  Little did they realize that the program happened during school hours and they would all be in their classes during her performance.  While I was thrilled that they were all planning on being there without question, I had my doubts about pulling them out of school just for a 15 minute program.  A week and a bit rolled by and the weekend before, James and I headed out of town together.  The kids were well taken care of by my brother and sister-in-law.  The Sunday afternoon when we got home, the kids were so happy to see us.  As the evening drew to a close, I realized that Annie’s program was the next morning and I hadn’t really given it too much thought.  I took a moment to think through just how meaningful it was that all the big kids wanted to show their little sister support and be there in her excitement.  We sat down and had a little chat about whether or not they really wanted to miss school, what they’d be missing, if they had projects, homework, etc. that was due and if perhaps they would like to just have a day at home all together afterward.  I was thrilled that a spontaneous day of Christmas cheer turned into a relaxing day with my children.  We saw Annie:

We had a few snacks with her:

And then I dropped the one child off who loves school for the rest of his day and the rest of us headed off to Wal-Mart to do some Christmas shopping.  I was blessed to see my children having a wonderful time picking out gifts for their cousins, thinking of others, happily enjoying themselves, together, as a family.

The rest of the day consisted of homework, cookie baking, Christmas music and finished off with a belated Saint Nicholas Day celebration.  While we couldn’t do everything we’d normally do for this celebration on this particular evening it was well worth the decision to follow through with a portion of it at least.  Listening to Sam pray at the dinner table that we’d all understand that the reasons for why we’ve chosen to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day during the Christmas season as a family was because it would help remind us to be kind, to give to others in need and remember that Jesus asks us to help those in need, was such a huge reminder to me that Christmas does bring a depth of joy that we don’t feel any other time of year.

Later as the kids opened their Saint Nicholas Day stockings and we planned our yearly Angel Tree trip for later in the week, we laughed, we read our Christmas story for the evening, the girls and I sang a carol or two and I was reminded that God is good.  He is good all the time, but we are so able to recognize His goodness during this time of year when we feel the joy of the gift He gave us.  When we feel our families reaching towards each other and finding memories in the moments we share as we join in the traditions that we’ve created, uniquely, as an individual family.

 So this year, I feel challenged to recognize each day a moment or two, when I feel the closeness of my Creator and to bask in it.  To savour that moment so that when the rest of the year traipses on I’ll remember the peace I could rest in during this particular season.

So a new year begins and everyone is making resolutions, promises, brainstorming ways to make this year better, etc. Although I’ve succumbed to a bit of that, mainly the desire to get back to my regular routine of exercising which helps me feel healthy and more energetic, the truth is I’ve been a bit shocked at the fact that this past year flew by. As any year before, it’s been full of ups and downs, memory making activities, soul searching moments and all around fun but I can’t believe it’s over.

To be honest I’m looking forward to a fresh start…a new attempt at deepening my friendships, strengthening my marriage, becoming more adept at understanding my children, exploring more of what makes me tick, and generally just allowing God to continue molding me. These are not so much resolutions as extensions of on-going personal betterment that flows through each year.

Christmas was a great time of rest. It was busy as I’m sure most people found their time over the holidays. But it was filled with laughter, joy, sleep, pajamas, gifts, family, friends, fun (a few tears but they were tears that led to deeper understanding and therefore good), and all good things that the season usually brings. My iPhone camera stayed tucked away for the most part (my only regret to this season) but the snapshots of important moments are tucked away in my mind’s eye! We had the opportunity to spend some time with all extended family on both sides at various times through the two weeks of “vacation” and then rang in the New Year with family and a few visits with dear friends. It was a great way to end one year and begin another.

As we have headed into another year of “normal” life I am EXCITED! I’m not 100% sure why I feel this anticipation but it’s a good feeling. I think that whether or not this year is just a year like any other or holds something new and different, it’s going to be special. Perhaps it’s perspective…perhaps it’s the joy of the Holy Spirit…perhaps it’s a bit of both! Whatever the case I’m going to enjoy this feeling of contented expectation.

I pray the same for those who are reading this and look forward to hearing how life in 2012 pans out!!!

A great picture of my beautiful kiddos as they wait to open their gifts Christmas morning. They were so excited but patient and attentive! A moment I will always cherish.

I really didn’t have anything particular on my mind but the thought that it’s been awhile since I posted anything on my blog! At the moment I’m sitting at my desk at work contemplating a few ideas I have and wondering if any of them will fly. I’m curious to know if any of the children I work with are grasping the word God has for them…I’m thankful for the people in the church who care enough to share their time with these kids each Sunday morning…I’m glad for friends in my personal life who hold me accountable and allow me to share my heart with them…I’m hoping to hear God’s voice in the midst of all these thoughts and remain quiet enough to distinguish it from the rest of the “chatter” in my brain.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel! Not everyday, as I probably should, but consistently. I am awed at God…I am inspired by the reality of Samuel’s experience in hearing his Father…I admire David’s graciousness to Saul and his trust in God’s provision…I wish I could just BE, more like them rather than constantly trying to think up new ways to change my habits to emulate them.

I had a moment of truth last night with my oldest. We’ve been reading a christian novel written for kids by Frank Peretti. It’s a mystery and in the end it turns out that there was “evil” at work. An ancient vault was about to be unlocked releasing demons…I know, you might wonder why on earth I would be reading a book like that to my nine-year-old. In truth, I didn’t actually prescreen the book I just assumed that a novel by Frank Peretti would be acceptable material for him to read, especially if it was written for kids. In fact, it created a unique opportunity for me to share with Sam some of the basic beliefs of my faith. The word demons appeared and I realized he’d likely never understood the worD before so I asked him? He was baffled so I began to explain to him how God uses angels as part of His protection over us but that Satan has “warriors” as well that cannot hurt those who are under God’s protection but they will try. He understood but asked me not to use the word demons as it was a “gross” word (funny how without knowing the meaning of the word he instinctively knew it was a word that just doesn’t sit right). Then he paused and asked if they were real. My initial response was to try to downplay the power Satan has but I realized that God had opened a door for me to share the reality of our world and the strength of His power with a child who is getting old enough to understand it. Truthfully, I wanted to pretend he was but a little boy, not grown enough to grasp the depths of faith and young enough to protect from the reality of our harsh world but in recent days God has challenged me to begin letting go and allowing my son to grow up. This was a moment of faith for me as I trusted that God would protect Sam’s mind and heart from the deep fear that Satan has often whispered in my ear at the thought of his power. It was a moment to share with my child that God is greater than anything. It was a moment to live what I’ve been contemplating in listening to one of my new favorite songs by Chris August, Starry Night:

I’m giving my life to the only one who makes the Moon reflect the sun.
Every Starry Night, that was His design.
I’m giving my life to the only son, who was and is and yet to come
Let the praises ring, ’cause he is everything
‘Cause he is everything

God is everything. He is our Creator, our ABBA Father, who has given us life. We often marvel at the creations of man, the architectural genius of human hands, but rarely do we take time to recognize that what we live in has been created with nothing more than a word. He can create and He can destroy. Most important in this situation was not downplaying the power Satan holds in this world but creating the understanding that God has destroyed the stronghold Satan is allowed in our lives. That we merely speak His name, that a word from our lips can bring the power of Heaven and Earth to our hearts.

Like I said, so many thoughts clutter my mind! I am trying to sift through and keep my mind clear for the sound of my Beloved’s voice.

I know it’s been a ridiculously long time since I blogged but life has been crazy so this was the first thing to be put on hold! However after a friendly reminder from my good friend Tillie, I realized that some people do indeed still check to see what my life looks like. Although I choose not to make New Year’s resolutions I will endeavor to keep this little corner of the virtual world more up to date:)

So I’ll start with the wonderful memories we created this past Christmas. When I was a little girl my mom had this cute calendar that started on December 1st and went until Christmas eve. It was made of felt and had tiny little pockets in it. It wasn’t unique in and of itself but it was the way my mom chose to use it that created the most amazing memories for me and I have carried that tradition into my own house. So each year on November 30th I drag out my calendar and begin brainstorming activities that I can write on small pieces of paper and put into each little pocket. These activities may include such things as decorating the Christmas tree, making cookies, finger painting, homemade playdough, etc., etc. The point is that each day has something unique that is either related to Christmas or has some aspect of family time together. Now that we have a fake tree December first is always decorating the Christmas tree, much to my enjoyment and to the chagrin of James. I usually unpack the trees, the Christmas CDs and get them ready so that when James gets home and we’ve eaten dinner we can then spend some time focusing on this altogether. Thankfully my husband is a great sport and always chooses to participate. I hope and pray this will continue even as our children grow since part of the reason they love it so much is because we do it all together. The other reason we cherish this time is because many of our Christmas tree ornaments hold special meaning. For example I made ornaments for each of the children on their first Christmas from their footprints and every year since I have tried to come up with some unique ornament so that when they move into their own home they will have something that first year to put on their tree. James reminded this year that perhaps I should think about choosing an age to stop this tradition as the kids may find it kind of silly as they get older so we chose 10 as the appropriate year to finish with that for each of the kids! That means I have two more years for Sam and a few more for the other three. Some of the other special ornaments include ones that my mom purchased for James and I when we were engaged and first married as well as one particular ornament my mom purchased for me the year I miscarried during the Christmas season. Each year when I put that one on the tree I get a little catch in my throat as the kids remember that there actually was one more baby Davenport. It’s bittersweet in its rememberance for me.

Other Christmas activities are our Church family skate, decorating a gingerbread house, celebrating James’ birthday, the kids Christmas programs at school and church, doing a tour of lights in our town, going to Van Dusen park or on the Christmas train at Stanley park, and Christmas carolling. A few of these activities had to be abandoned this year because of snow or just exhaustion from too much happening but we managed to enjoy quite a few.

As far as Christmas productions are concerned this year was a particularly busy season for those. The kids’ school is rather traditional in how they celebrate which I really appreciate. Sam’s class explored how different cultures celebrate but front and center was the nativity scene and my wonderful eight year old played the part of Joseph. He was excellent with his lines and looked so sweet playing a little man. Jake’s class has an amazing opportunity to learn sign language since one of his classmates is deaf. Their class sang the song, “Little toy trains” and did the sign language for it as well. Jake was fabulous and sang his heart out. Now the kids also had the privilege of participating in the church program. Since I was able to coordinate it this year with an amazing team of people working with me it was a great success. The live orchestra, the children’s choir, and the great acting made it such a wonderful performance. Of course the cutest by far were the little ones who were the cows and sheep in the nativity scene. That included Lanae and she was more than thrilled to be included in something that put her front and center.

This year we spent Christmas Eve with my parents. Thankfully most of us had the day off so everyone except for Joel’s fiance, Meghan, who had to work a little later and Ben and Trish, who headed over the Island to spend Christmas with her family this year, headed over the mom and dad’s right after lunch. We all pitched in to help with dinner and then just spent the day opening gifts, visiting and playing! It was actually pretty relaxing even with my four kids and Tim and Amber’s little guy, Meeka. Lanae and Annie both took a turn dancing with grandpa since my parents have recently taken up dance lessons. It was so sweet to see them both enjoying my dad and feeling cherished as every little girl should. The boys enjoyed the Wii game we purchased for them (actually we all have over the holidays) and all the kids were thrilled to get new shirts or dresses specially purchased from Jamaica from Uncle Joelly and Auntie Meghan. We attended Heritage’s Christmas Eve service which was simple and enjoyable and then headed back to mom and dad’s for appetizers and games.

Christmas morning the kids actually managed to sleep until 7:30 so we all jumped out of bed and began opening gifts. The kids were eager for us to open the gifts they purchased for us. The boys’ school holds a Christmas craft fair each year and they both brought some money and purchased small gifts for each family member. My sons know me so well since they both came home with a pair of earrings for me. Yes, if you’re wondering they were slightly tacky but I’ve managed to wear both pairs and the look of delight on their faces is worth whatever mockery I might have to endure for my plastic, glittery, snowflake earrings. James also spoiled me this year and signed us up for the same dance lessons my parents have been taking. Joel and Meghan are determined to have a proper dance at their wedding so it will be neat to actually know how to dance. However, James surprised me with the idea to go to a few of the “dance parties” the dance studio holds after lessons. Who knows, maybe this will be one of those hobbies we will enjoy well into our retirement years.

I don’t have any pictures of this one but James has made it a bit of a tradition with which ever family we are spending Christmas day with to make a big brunch. He whips out his big skillet and makes a feast for the morning. This year he treated us to bacon, breakfast sausage, fresh fruit, orange juice, eggnog french toast with cinnamon butter and syrup, eggs, hashbrowns…it was amazing and a great way to settle into Christmas day.

We ended the Christmas festivities at Jim and Janet’s with gift opening, wine, visiting, laughing, and a full roast beef meal. This year we were glad to have Drew and his girlfriend, Saika, join us for the day. It was a wonderful day and the kids enjoyed every minute of it as did James and I.

What I value most every Christmas is the closeness of both our families. Sometimes it’s just the proximity that keeps us close and other years we truly feel the bond of relationship that brings us together and keeps us united. Although we do not spend a great deal of time discussing this we all know that in the world we live in today dysfunction reigns in many families and often brings with it horrible experiences especially around the holiday season. I can honestly say that I LOVE both of our families and cherish the time we have together. It is a refreshing break from the chaos of life and every year reminds me of what Christ have given us in His relationship with us.

I hope this year I will be able to take a little more time to share the experience God is giving me and how they are impacting my own growth and my family! I hope I haven’t lost too many of you in negligence of my blog but for those of you still checking I hope this year brings many blessings for you as well.