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.

Canada Day this year epitomized why I love my life. It was a day filled with fun, family, and friends.

We woke up bright and early to get out the door and reserve our usual spot to watch the parade. We ended up an hour early and with a good chunk of sidewalk reserved for a large group of our friends. The parade definitely left much to be desired, in fact I’m pretty sure there were only two or three really good floats this year but the kids still enjoyed it and hopefully for years to come they will remember the people we were spending time with rather than what the actual parade looked like.

The kids pretty much had someone special to hang out with throughout the day. Sam saw his friends, Evan and Caleb (which meant we only saw him for about five minutes all day), Jake hung out with his buddy Nolan a little later in the afternoon, Lanae had her two good friends Natalie and Monica and Annie was snuggling with me and Julie. There was definitely an abundance of good company. I, of course loved the many kidisms that were heard throughout the day and many good laughs with some of my best friends. I think James just enjoyed not working on a random day during the week and would take a break like that every week if he could.
Later in the evening after a BBQ at “the Tams” we headed to my parents house for pizza and chillaxin’. The kids needed to wind down and have some quiet time before we made them stay up until 11:00 watching mediocre fireworks. It was one of the best evenings with my family, although it was rather unfortunate to have some key people missing, but we really just talked and laughed and enjoyed being together. I have to say that as we get older there are so many more opportunities for that even though the amount of time together isn’t as great it’s definitely more quality. Anyway, the kids ALL enjoyed the fireworks. The only one I was slightly concerned about was Annie and she clapped her hands, danced and kept saying, “wow, that’s pretty”. Overall I was so proud of my kids for the good behavior and just being together with no major issues. It was definitely a day to be enjoyed.