Preparing Our Hearts and Homes for Christmas

I’m not sure why, but this is the first holiday season that I have looked forward to in several years.  I think that started five years ago when my brother, his wife, and me made a cross country trek to visit my mother just before Christmas.  As referenced in my story, “Walking My Mother Home,” in Journeys to Mother Love, it was our final farewell to her.  She survived another Christmas season and passed away in February the next year.  Those two Christmases were the hardest for me, still being in the waiting process.

On Santa's lap, 2001

On Santa’s lap, 2001

Holiday Transitions

It was also during that time our teenage sons were becoming more independent.  The feel of the holidays was changing.  There was no more Christmas wonder, no more believing in Santa Claus, and no more family holiday portraits.  It became harder for me to instill some tradition and holiday spirit into the season.

This year we are preparing for our next layer of parenting and holiday traditions.  Our oldest son Evan graduated from college earlier this year and moved out of state.  We haven’t seen each other since we moved him into his new apartment six months ago.  We already faced Thanksgiving without him.  It was a quiet day with my husband, my youngest son, Cameron, and me.  It was like a super-charged family meal with a small turkey and all the trimmings.

We made the most of it.  The highlight for me was when Cameron asked us each to share what we were thankful for.  He shared that he was thankful for understanding parents (in reference to the challenges he faced adapting to high school with ADD) and that his parents were still together (in reference to his keen awareness of how many of his friends come from broken families).

His response warmed this sentimental mother’s heart.  Even at 17 he gets it!

An Old Tradition

In preparation for Evan’s holiday visit, I am decking the house all out for Christmas, like in years past.  It is a big chore so I enlisted the help of my friend, Stacie, who has spent several holiday meals at our home. While digging through the boxes of decorations, I was reminded of a family tradition of sorts that was handed down from my husband’s father, Ray.

Ray with his new pick-up truck in 1969.

Ray with his new pick-up truck in 1969.

I barely knew Ray.  He never officially became my father-in-law, passing away over 30 years ago, a few months before we were married.  For the next several years though, we were fondly reminded of his sense of humor at Christmas.  Ray had a habit of making a note on the outside of some of the Christmas boxes, posting the year, and maybe what the weather was like outside or some comical tidbit of information.  My husband and I started doing the same, usually making a treatise about the weather or maybe a good-natured ribbing of the other’s holiday attitude.

Continuing the Tradition

Those boxes with their notes from Ray are long gone, but my notes have continued and took a new more ‘writerly’ direction in recent years.  I came across some of those notes while decorating.  Stacie and I had a big laugh over some of my notes and reminisced about how we met.

In a phone conversation a few days prior, we pondered what year we met…and there it was in black and white in my entry for January 12, 2007.  We met in one of the classes that I was leading at church, and I had noted that I was preparing the curriculum.  (It was my first class of this nature, so it was a big deal to me.)  We got quite a chuckle out of that.

Meeting Stacie in a spiritual growth class, 2007.

New and old friends from a spiritual growth class at church in 2007.

I went on to read my notes getting a glimpse into our holiday preparations.  Stacie showed up in my notes indirectly again two years later.  I wrote that I was preparing for the women’s retreat at church.  She was at that retreat and mentioned the significance of it to her.  I remembered it very clearly.  Stacie was in a period of transition and heartache at the time.  In a moment of divine intervention, a group of women gathered around her, and laid hands on her in prayer.  We witnessed the Holy Spirit minister to many women at that retreat.

Ministering to Others

Stacie and I worked hard tending to all the decorating details around the house this year.   We laughed and we got a bit teary eyed a few times.  We turned a chore into a celebration of God’s goodness to us over the years.  It all started with a simple holiday tradition of writing a short note to include with my Christmas decorations.  It ministered to us both that day, not only preparing my home, but also our hearts for Christmas.

Thank you Ray!  Maybe the grandsons whom you never met, will carry on that humorous habit.  If not, you left us a legacy through the notes that are tucked away in our Christmas boxes.  Some day when I pass those boxes of decorations on to my kids, maybe it will minister to them too.

What are you doing to prepare your heart and home for Christmas?

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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