holding on to Christmas

I tested positive for Covid-19 on the first day of Christmas break. This meant that all my last-minute plans for sharing baked goods with neighbors and picking up the last few gifts came to a screeching halt. I had to stay home. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

Though I was disappointed about not being able to see extended family on Christmas day, I did get to hang out with the people who live with me, and I was thankful for them in a new way. As much of an introvert as I am, I can’t imagine spending ten days alone, especially when one of them is a major holiday.

I wasn’t that ill, but I did have less energy. I focused on being present in the moment and being okay with adjustments to the plan. The boys decorated the tree by themselves. Staying home for Christmas made things simple, unrushed. I could be still. I could reflect.

The Sunday after Christmas, we logged in for a service online and were challenged to reflect on what we learned this Christmas that we wanted to hold on to for the coming 12 months. The pastor suggested that when we pack up the Christmas decorations, we keep out one item to serve as a visual reminder of what part of Christmas we want to keep in the forefront all year.

I grabbed this stuffed star ornament off the tree before my sons took the rest of the decorations off, and I hung it up where I can see it everyday when I’m doing dishes. It’s a reminder that even when things don’t go as I’d planned, I can still choose joy. I can view the perceived interruptions as blessings, as reasons to slow down, as opportunities to be thankful.

ring out the false, ring in the true

Despite mild protest, our evening included a reading of In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson. After the critics quieted down, we were struck by how apropos some of the poem seemed. This year more than ever, we agree with Tennyson, “The year is going, let him go.”

We’re ready to “ring out” a number of the things he mentioned, including false pride, civic slander, “darkness of the land,” and “old shapes of foul disease.”

May 2022 be marked by peace, a larger heart, and “the love of truth and right.”

Happy New Year.

the gift of time

This year I decided to bake Christmas cookies to share with neighbors who live alone and probably rarely ever bother to break out the baking ingredients. (Who wants to bake for one person, really?)

The baking was the fun part; squeezing it in with all the other stuff we had going on in December was the challenging part. So I didn’t linger much as a rung doorbells and dropped off foil-wrapped parcels.

We got a note from one of the recipients, “I really appreciated the cookies, and they came at a time when I was feeling a little low!”

That got me thinking. Sharing homemade cookies is a small gesture. How much greater could it have been had I taken the time to sit down and listen to each person?

So I’m pondering what we as a family will do in the coming year to reach out more often to people who tend to spend more time alone than they’d prefer.

And since we’re talking about seasonal treats, here’s one that typically gets rave reviews when I share it:

Frango Mints

1 stick butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons peppermint extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 pasteurized eggs

12 oz. pkg semi sweet chocolate chips, melted

Beat butter and powdered sugar until light and creamy. Beat in extracts and eggs. Add melted chocolate chips and mix thoroughly. Pour into a buttered 8 x 8-inch pan, smoothing out the top. Chill overnight or until firm. Cut into small squares.

’tis the season for sharing

Last week a friend invited us over for dinner and cookie decorating. She and her grandchildren had baked the cookies the day before. The frosting was all mixed up and parchment-paper-lined boxes were ready for packing up the decorated cookies (so she could send some home with each family). That evening was truly a gift for me, a mom going solo that evening.

What’s more, my friend reminded me of a few important truths:

Time together is a great gift. Usually better than something that is wrapped up, put under a tree or dropped off at one’s door. Time is precious and the amount of time we spend with others often mirrors the amount of value we place on them.

Invite someone new to be a part of your traditions. That evening, my friend had also invited a refugee family who’ll be spending their first Christmas in the United States. The seven-year-old, the three-year-old and their mom all jumped right in on the decorating and seemed to enjoy the process.

You don’t have to wait until everything is just right to have people over. I tend to delay on this very thing. My excuses abound. I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to clean. Our house isn’t big enough. It’s a lot of work. But here’s the self-talk I need to dwell on: it’s worth the effort.

Laughter is universal. Though my boys and the boys from Burma don’t speak the same language at home, they didn’t have any communication problems. Who needs to talk while chasing each other and the dog around the house? Their laughter expressed the main point.