Mama C's backyard in Rose Hill on Christmas Day
Most of us who celebrated Christmas have special memories of Christmases past-- whether it's baking cookies with your family, tearing open presents on Christmas morning, going to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, or sharing a meal with all of your loved ones at the same dinner table. My memories include lots of cooking with my mom and Grandma on Christmas Eve, packing ourselves into the car to go to Christmas Eve service, racing home to eat an Italian meal for Christmas Eve, and all of the kids rushing to help the adults clean up so we can get to the present-opening. We always exchanged family gifts on Christmas Eve and then did Santa gifts on Christmas morning. I remember my brother and sister organizing all of the gifts into piles in the living room and everyone picking out who would go first and which gift to open first.
Christmas this year has been a little different. My grandmother passed away in June after a battle with breast cancer that spanned almost my entire lifetime, and none of us knew what Christmas would look like this year in light of that. My mom and sister decided to go to the Florida Keys with my grandpa-- something he and my grandmother always wanted to do together. This also marked the first married Christmas for Scott and I which meant trying to figure out how to split ourselves between two divorced families so that we could see everyone.
I must say, I think that things have worked out in such a lovely way for our holiday, and though we are not necessarily creating new traditions, we're allowing ourselves to be open to new experiences together for Christmas. One thing we did this year that was very different for us was deciding not to stay with anyone at their house for the holidays. We have been staying at Scott's family's beach house in Kure Beach, and it has been just as relaxing as I had hoped it would be. It has been a little time consuming traveling into town to see family and friends, but it's been worth it to not have to unpack and repack every night to sleep somewhere new.
And while we did break my family's traditions, we still participated in those of Scott's family. We went to his aunt's house for Christmas Eve dinner after my flight arrived in Wilmington (hello to being awake for 36 hours straight!) and we went to Mama C's in Rose Hill where we got married for Christmas lunch. I usually don't get the opportunity to see my dad on Christmas, but we started the day with breakfast at his house and gift exchanging after mimosas and breakfast.
This has also been the first year in my life when I genuinely have not cared about Christmas gifts. I have cared in the sense that I have really loved picking out other people's and putting thought into something truly from the heart, but I have not hardly thought about what I would want for myself. I have been so appreciative of the things people have given to me, but I have enjoyed time with family so much that the gifts are just the added bonus, not the sole thing that I think about. I think this just comes with getting older too, but I can remember Christmases where I was so so excited to get a gift that I barely even realized how important time with family was. It's something I especially reflect on with the recent death of my grandmother. Oh, how I wish I had spent more time in the kitchen helping her cook meals, or more time watching Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune with her and my grandpa every night when they visited. Instead of living in regret, I'm thankful for the time I could spend with her and using that as motivation to spend quality time with the people that are still present.
So this year has been one for breaking tradition and living intentionally. It's been about being thankful for the relationships that God has helped to develop and strengthen, and it's been about living in the present instead of always anticipating the future or being tied down by past regrets. I am thankful for the mercy and grace of Jesus, and for the constant way he reminds me of His presence in my life.
I hope that your holiday season has been a blessed one filled with new memories and traditions and people around your table. And I hope that as the new year approaches, that you reflect on this past one and think about what your prayer is for the year to come. I always pick a word to live out each year instead of doing a New Year's resolution, and so far I'm still praying about my word.
Lots of love and blessings to you and your families. I may get one more post in before 2015, but if not, I will see you in the new year!