Family Christmas

9:36 PM

Welcome back, Naomi. It’s been so long, Naomi. What have you been doing, Naomi?

Actually, I have a funny little quirk about people who spend more time apologizing for not blogging than they actually spend blogging. Blog-writing is a luxury – not a right, and I am resolving in 2014 to treat it as such. Blogging because I want to share my life with friends and family, not blogging because I want to maintain a certain image or gain a following… because really, my life is a little too polarizing, a little too boring, a little too common-quiet-homelife-not-glamorous to gain a following. I am certainly okay with that.

Our life ebbs and flows to the schedule of Penn State University. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it revolves around PSU (as it does for many Penn State football fans. hehe), but for sure, the seasons of our year are strictly defined by the college schedule. We push through the deep mire of mid-terms and spend the evenings surrounded by textbooks and math scribbles and lab reports. The truth is that Brandon presses through and I spend my free moments picking him up from class and packing lots of food to get us through the day – because he has to work late, so we pack both lunches and dinners. Makes for some long food prep at night, but that’s what this season demands so we both work to make it through the season. By the end of the semester, we are tired and feeling more than a little deprived of rest. We are always grateful for Sundays – the one day of our week that is sacred. Set apart. For rest and for worship and for time spent with each other, but in the deep dark semester nights, I long for those Jewish festivals that no one celebrates anymore… for Sabbath weeks! Yes, days upon days of rest and feasting. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Really, really amazing. The closest we get to such things is Christmastime. The semester breaks just in time for us to come to a crashing halt from our daily life and rest and worship and spend time with each other.

Oh Christmastime.

Christmastime for us is always bittersweet. In the sugary-sweet-Hallmark movie times, I am constantly reminded of the loss we suffer. Because of the estrangement from our family (due to the church that he grew up in), Christmas is the time that I am most aware of the family traditions that I am not apart of, that I have never (formally) met Brandon’s parents, that we are excluded from those family gatherings, that I should have friendships with my mother-in-law and sis-in-law, that there is a little nephew that I’ve never met, that those silly-awkward-funny family jokes I only hear about when Brandon is in a reminiscing mood. Don’t get me wrong, folks – I’m not complaining. We all have our own trials in this life – our own crosses to bear. I do not think that our particular trial is the worst of all. I’m just saying – Christmas is when it hurts the most. Christmas is when I cry for grace the most. Christmas is when I think about forgiveness daily.

This year was especially painful because of the recent loss of my uncle. My dear aunt and cousins travelled to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with us, and it was a sweet, fun, happy and sad time—all rolled into one. And Brandon and I spent even more time than normal up ‘on the mountain’ (our silly little phrase that refers to my parents’ home on the top of a mountain). Family Christmas dinners and slow Christmas days and get-togethers.

Christmas gifts time – we are ALWAYS happy to get coffee, especially when my parents bring it back from a business/vacation trip in Costa Rica!
Little nieces received prairie dresses for dressup! – also love the golden retriever photo-bombing. (note: no face shots in respect for hiding little kids’ identities on my blog)

Puzzle time!

My cousin, Michelle, handcrafted these amazing dolls for each of the little nieces. I was in awe. And so were the little girlies!

Even the boxes were specially handcrafted!

Speaking of hand-crafted, I “made” one gift for a family women’s gift exchange and my sister was happy to end up with it. Naomi’s tea-time recipes cookbook! Because I like tea-time and making food to go with tea-time and taking pictures of such things, so it made sense to create my own little cookbook.

Our times together were filled with eating (of course), winter-walking (a.k.a. hiking – which I did not participate in, but Brandon had fun!), Apples-to-Apples playing, fireside chatting, tea-drinking, and in typical family fashion – Christmas carol singing!

And because it’s so rare that my siblings and I are all together and forced into taking a picture, here ya go!

So that’s the extended family portion of Christmas.
Brandon and I’s own little family Christmas was much quieter. It’s always much quieter in our house, since the only small being residing in our house is a kitty. He only meows when he’s hungry or when he just wants to be annoying. For real. Most of the time, he just moves around the house doing this:

Caspian the Kitty experiences Christmas holiday rest all year ‘round. (*shaking my head at cats*). At least he’s not crowding baby Jesus anymore (see instagram for photos).

We read the Christmas story by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, munched on appetizers on Christmas Eve (always with cheese – everything wonderful includes cheese or chocolate), and spent long hours in conversation or reading. We joked about the emptyness of our Christmas stocking. We opened no gifts on Christmas morning because we had done our Christmas shopping early and were already using/wearing our gifts… new Old Testament commentaries for Brandon and new black leather knee-high boots for me! But Christmas was filled with happiness and joy and enough precious words that we didn’t feel deprived in the least.

I am blessed. Incredibly, amazingly blessed.

Blessed by life and love and God’s gift of joy that endures through hardship, through long semesters, through family estrangement, through emotional losses, through financial lack and financial blessing, through change, through cold winters and dark nights and tough workdays, through misunderstandings and intentional woundings, through pain and suffering, through simple pleasures and the intricate web of God’s provision, through difficulty and desire, through mountains and valleys, through magnificient strength and utter weakness, through all these things, I do not ever doubt this one truth:
Our God is faithful.

And Christmas 2013 was a perfect time to reflect on God’s faithfulness.
Merry Belated Christmas from us.

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