Oh Holy Night...
Tonight we continued our tradition of having friends over for Mexican food, then hustled off to church so the kids could help set up
luminaria lanterns prior to the evening service.
Oh Come Emmanuel...
The First Noel...
It's not about Santa and stockings, though those things may be included. It's not about the gifts prettily wrapped and resting beneath an ornate tree.
This season was, by all accounts in our family, the best yet. I was told by Angela that it was ushered in with a Thanksgiving to remember, and ended with a new tradition and a double dose of Jesus and carols.
We are no longer in the little kid stage. I loved it while we had it, I miss that we didn't have more of it with our kids who came home at older ages, but what we have now is so rich, so meaningful, that it leaves little to yearn for.
And I know to others it might seem a little empty, a little lacking
...too few packages to unwrap, too little time without work as the store remains open, too many who ought to be around the table but aren't.
I look around that same table and see abundance. I see love. I see overcoming. I see gratitude. I see friends who are family. There is no
lack here, and it is beautiful.
Leading up to the holiday, we had a choice between a few more gifts, or money spent on baking ingredients. So much fun was had, as Olesya made her butter mints even prettier than last year, and Joshua and Kenny decided to go on the hunt for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, finding one at Allrecipes.com that was a sure fire winner. Angela made peppermint bark. Matthew simply ate it all!
Sunny offered moral support from her throne in front of the fireplace...
The candle light service was beautiful, and as I sat there and watched all five LaJoy youth participate in one form or another, either by taking the offering or with candle lighting, I was struck by how time has passed so quickly. They are so mature, still not quite yet adults, but certainly no longer children by any means. They step up so often to handle things around our home, the business, and church, and are moving gently into adulthood
having been guided by the very people that surround them in our congregation. This is a group of kids who have been well loved by so many, who have been nurtured and cared for in ways that are hard to describe, but for which I am deeply grateful.
When the service was over, off we went to work at the store for the remainder of the evening. There was snow to shovel, a sign to change, trash to throw, and customers to greet. The amazing thing? Every one of them had a blast and said they LOVED our new tradition of being there to help cover one of the busiest nights of the year. Not a complaint was heard, only joyful laughter and giggles along with the "Merry Christmas" greetings offered every customer who entered.
Angela and Matt
changing the outdoor sign in the snow.
A Snowy Kazakh Man~
An equally snowy Russian woman!
And a shot of dapper looking Joshie, just because we all thought he looked quite handsome.
As the evening grew late, and things started to slow down at the store, someone mentioned the Catholic Church and midnight mass. I offered to take whoever wanted to go with me, as we had enough help at the store. Who has teens who want to willingly attend two different church services on Christmas Eve? We do. Olesya and Kenny decided to remain behind to help Dominick close up, and Josh, Angie, and Matt all eagerly wanted to attend and see what a Catholic Christmas Eve Mass was like. We bundled up, and off we went
...and it was beautiful, different for us, and helped extend the meaning of the evening just a little longer. Sitting there beside the three of them as we sang together, and fumbled our way through an unfamiliar service, there were new scents, sights, and sounds to take in. Afterward, in the car driving home, all three suggested that we make this a part of our Christmas Eve tradition as well, now that we will likely all be staying out later with the store on this special night every year.
Listening to their warm comments about the evening, I was thrilled that presents
weren't once talked about, but "presence" was in many different ways. Christmas Day itself is an afterthought, according to them. Christmas is about Christmas Eve, about "Framily", about music and faith. I really have no idea quite how we got to this point, how we managed to make it about the things that really matter, despite cultural pressures, but I realized tonight it is firmly cemented, and though they might all one day walk a different path and things might shift, there is no doubt that something meaningful is now ingrained and it won't easily be abandoned.
Tomorrow will be a little different, as the boys all head off mid-morning for a road trip to Colorado Springs to get Matt delivered to his leadership camp.
Weather is ugly, roads are bad, and we are praying for safety for them. The girls and I will send them on their way, and then settle in to spend some time together uninterrupted. It won't be as adventurous as the boys, but I trust it will be a sweet time. How can it not be when I will be spending the day with two of the kindest young ladies on the planet? We will open gifts before the menfolk leave, and take a few photos, no doubt. But our hearts are already as full as can be, and here in the silence, I know that for this night, all is right in my world.
Merry Christmas, everyone!