stream-of-consciousness post on Christmas

Wow!  I haven’t blogged in almost a week!  I must be busy.

Last night (Sunday) we hosted a Christmas party for church members who A) give of their time and talents to our church or B) are new members of our church.  Only about one-third of the invitees came (it’s a busy time of year), but everyone who came seemed to have a good time.  Our dining room table was undeniably loaded with the “festive treats and appetizers” that people had brought, as well as some I had made, so no one had any excuse to go hungry.  My vodka slush*, which is a standard at this annual party, was just about gone by the end of the evening, as was my hot apple cider.  So, it was a good party.  We had a Christmas song sing-along, with me on the piano and everyone choosing songs from the Christmas songs lyric books I distributed. (Thank you, Reader’s Digest Christmas Songbook!)  Best of all, there was plenty of leftovers!  I’m munching on homemade Chex mix as I type. 🙂

The house is beautifully clean right now with the Christmas decorations all in place (except for the breakable ones, which I’ve left packed for the past few years).  I love having my house look like this.  Too bad that most of the crap stuff that usually sits around the house is now sitting upstairs in my bedroom.  Sigh…  I think I’ll just stay downstairs.

Getting ready for the party reminded me, once again, how efficiently I can work when I have a deadline.  Of course, that realization always leaves me feeling guilty that I don’t work like that all the time.  I know that in this issue, I’m probably the same as 95% of women out there (as evidenced by my Facebook status, where I said, “If I didn’t have parties, my house would never get clean!” and a number of women agreed with me), but it IS frustrating.  I had really hoped to stay on top of the clutter this year.

In fact, as 2009 draws to a close and I think back on what I hoped to accomplish this year and realize how little of it actually happened, it’s a bit depressing.  But, I try to look on the positive side of things, and that’s what a new year is for!  Wipe the slate clean from the mistakes of the old year!  Try again!  I’m not the same person I was a year ago; I hope that, if nothing else, I at least get closer to achieving my goals this year.  There are some big unfinished projects that got ZERO done on them in 2009, and I hope to change that in 2010.

One thing I learned in 2009, or at least learned more and stronger than I have in the past, is that happiness is a choice, a state of mind on which we can have a direct impact.  So much of life is chosen for us, but we can choose to look at the glass as half-empty or half-full.  When I’m feeling anxious, that’s obviously harder to do, but I truly feel that this year I’ve learned to become better at looking life optimistically even when I’ve been anxious.  I’m proud of myself for that.  And, strangely enough, my inspiration in that area has come from the deaths of my grandma and my aunt.  As mother and daughter they had similar personalities, and now that they’re gone, I’ve thought about them so much more than I did when they were alive.  At first that seems strange to me, but as I’ve talked about it to a few people, I’ve learned that apparently it’s not that strange at all.

I often think about my grandma and aunt, and I still choke up when I sing hymns that talk about the “saints triumphant” or similar themes.  We sang “Rejoice, Rejoice Believers” in church on Sunday, and I started crying during verse 3:

You saints, who here in patience your cross and suffrings bore,
Shall live and reign forever when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory the Lamb you shall behold;
In triumph lay before him your shining crowns of gold.

So, I think about them a lot, and I long to be in heaven myself.  Because even when it is approached with a spirit of optimism, life is hard.  But that’s why Jesus came to earth, right?  He came to earth to be our substitute, so that we could someday look forward to heaven.  Not surprisingly, that truth, one that I’ve always known, has struck me deeply this Christmas season.  I feel the true meaning of Christmas deeply.  I know that it’s a jolly and wonderful time of year, and it is, but truly, it’s a serious time of year.  I remember a Christmas song that my college choir sang once, entitled “Born to Die.”  That’s what Christmas truly is about.

It seems that when you’re a child, Christmas is about the lights and presents and decorations and sweets and songs — and Jesus.  When you’re an adult, Christmas is still those things, but the Jesus part takes on a lot more meaning.  Plus, as an adult, you have to make the magic happen for your children, but I already wrote about that.

I’m happy.  I’m glad it’s December.  I’m glad, once again, to have my house decorated, to be nibbling on yummy treats all day long, to be planning presents and writing out cards and doing the extra stuff that the season requires.  But there’s a seriousness to it all, too.  There are many people whom I care about who have real problems that they’re dealing with.  Family members, for whom my grandma and my aunt were integral parts of their holiday celebrations, are going to have their first Christmas without them.  Problems of all sorts continue to happen in the world.  Life is not easy.

But, then comes the news that Jesus has come.  He has come not only to live the perfect life we couldn’t live, but also to take on the punishment that we deserved.  That’s an awful lot of love.  And Christmas was the start of it all.

It’s a lovely time of year.

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* Vodka Slush recipe

2 quarts cranapple juice
2 C. water
2-3 C. vodka
12 oz. can frozen concentrate lemonade (I thaw it first)
12 oz. can frozen concentrate orange juice (I thaw it first)

Combine all ingredients in freezer proof container.  (I use an old 1.25 gallon ice cream bucket that I keep in a high-up cupboard just for this annual use.)  Put in the freezer.  Stir 3 times during the first 24 hours.  Scoop into glass and fill to taste with white soda or ginger ale.

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