December. Just that one word brings to mind a whole realm of thoughts and emotions.
I think of the times as a child, we would all (5 kids, Mother & Daddy) load up in the car on Christmas Eve and go drive around town and look at Christmas lights. When we would arrive back home, we would find that gifts had been left under the tree! We would open them and of course, enjoy what we received!
As an adult and parent our family usually opened gifts on Christmas morning. Most of the time we would have a meal there at home, but on occasion we went to spend time with family or friends.
Since my daughter is grown and has a family of her own, we now spend a couple days together before Christmas. My way of thinking is that the date on the calendar isn't what makes it "Christmas" it's being able to spend time with those you love, so it's Christmas when they are here! They have a tradition of spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together as a family. I look forward to the time when they are here. We have many traditions that we have put in place through the years and look forward to sharing each year.
Among the traditions are the "Bonnie cookies" that I make and decorate each year. This year again, I baked 22 dozen and put them in the freezer, so I would have them ready to frost as I needed them for various Christmas happenings. Week before last, my grandson, Caleb got to come spend some time with me and for the first time, he and I baked and frosted some together! It was so much fun to watch him rolling out the dough, deciding which cutter to use, holding the frosting bag just right and frosting the cookies. I must say that they are probably the most beautiful (and filled with love) cookies that I've ever made for Christmas! (Caleb calls them "cookie cutters")
I have always (through my childhood & adult life) had a live tree. In the past couple of years I have thought that I might watch the after Christmas sales and get an artificial tree, however each year I decide against that and again in December I go "twirl" a tree around and pick out the right one, take it home, put it in the stand and take it in the house to decorate! I even think having the pine needles all over the carpet to clean up is part of the tradition!
December also has some bittersweet memories for me. My Daddy was sick and passed away on December 22, 2005. It was his deepest wish that he not "mess up everyone's Christmas" that year. And in reference to him saying that, we waited and had the memorial service on December 30th, rather than during the Christmas festivities. From Thanksgiving till the end of December each year since, I have a varied range of emotions. I miss Daddy every single day. I miss him calling just to say hi and I especially miss the "Merry Christmas" call he would always give my family at 10 a.m. on Christmas morning. I miss him calling and asking me if I wanted to take him to lunch (which I joyfully always agreed to). I miss seeing him walk up EVERY Valentine's Day with a rose in a bud vase for me. I miss hearing the silly little sayings he said. I miss the bags of shelled pecans in my freezer that he shelled and brought to me. I miss the times when I would hear a mower running and look out the door and he would be outside mowing our yard, just because he noticed it needed to be mowed. I miss the times he would call me from Sliger's and ask how many bushels of tomatoes I would make into juice for him! I miss him telling me that he saved the last quart of tomato juice each year until I made him more! I miss the talks he and I had about anything and everything.
I have so many precious memories of the holiday season. I have many, many blessings that fill my heart and life. I know that the grief is a natural part of life. I feel that it's part of what God instilled in us to deal with loss and change. This year I have had an unusually tough time dealing with some things past and present. I have been seeking to find the balance so that I learn and grow through the things that are going on. I am thankful for so many things and am so blessed.
My prayer during this holiday season is a peaceful, enjoyable time to reflect on memories of the past and make memories that can be put in place to reflect upon next year and for years to come!