Christmas is a special time in our family. Our daughter Maggie loves decorating the tree, and her brother Robert is now tall enough to decorate the top third -- which she and I cannot reach. This year, we waited until Maggie came home from college, so the tree went up a bit later than normal.
The highlight of the season is the Christmas Eve service. The pageant, led by children of the church, includes Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus -- but also donkeys, angels, bumblebees, a camel and a dinosaur. (The children can wear any animal costume they would like.)
The Christmas celebrations remind me of how blessed I am to be part of a large, loving, generous family. The party for extended family (complete with Santa), Christmas Eve at Nanny's and Christmas Day dinner at our home with my fairy godmother and her family are fun times for all.
Blessed indeed are we.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is one of my favorite times of the year. When I was growing up, it was when my family visited my grandmother in Columbus, Georgia -- with the kittens in tow, which Santa had brought my sister Kathy and me one year. In college, it was when I took a break from studies and focused instead on running, reading and sleeping. As a young professional working in finance, it was when I worked: wrapping up the old year and preparing to get the year ahead off to a quick start.
When my children were toddlers, it was when I let them play for hours with whatever toys Christmas had brought them. As the mother of teenagers, it is when I let them sleep and sleep and, well, occasionally, eat. With our oldest at college this year, it's been fun to have her back at home.
During this time, we bathe in the afterglow that comes from having celebrated Jesus' birth at Christmas, a reminder that we are all saved by his grace rather than by any actions of our own. This grace-saving reminder is then complemented by the tantalizing thought of personal resolutions that, if kept, might lead to a better life.
It's also a time to reflect on what was and what has been and to be thankful for what is coming to a close at the end of the year. That includes both the good -- the joys and accomplishments -- and the bad, which we can be thankful we simply survived.
In an attempt to loosen my focus on control, last New Year, I continued to forgo resolutions and instead focus on joy. Without any resolutions, I need not report on my lack of progress.
But I can report that I succeeded well in the joy department. The best times for me this year were those I spent with family, watching our daughter cheer and play violin, hosting over a dozen friends for an overnight party, seeing her graduate from high school and visiting her at college on parents day; watching our son play string bass, play water polo, wrestle and sail.
Another of this year's highlights for me has been battling wits as a guest on the "Political Rewind" radio show on Georgia Public Radio with Bill Nigut. The political discussions kept me on my toes and gave me the chance to work with really smart, dedicated people.
My toes -- and the rest of me -- got a workout during the tennis matches that provided me both an outlet for exercise as well as a social outlet with team members whom I have grown to love. For me, it's meditation in action.
This coming week, our family of four, along with my sister, Kathy, her husband, Paul, my father, Newt, and his wife, Callista, will ring in the New Year together. I cherish the time that we get to spend with the ones we love.
But my year will not be complete until I thank you, too, dear reader, for joining me this year. Thank you. And, after you reflect on 2018 as it comes to an end, may you look forward to the joys of the year to come. Remember, we are all given talents and tools from God. The question becomes: Will we accept them and use them as well as we can, and for what purpose? There is no better time than now for us to think about that. Happy new year.