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Happy Almost New Year

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

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 -- that Maggie and I cannot reach. The highlight of the season is the Christmas Eve service. The pageant, led by children of our church, includes Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, along with donkeys, angels, bumble bees, a camel and a dinosaur. (The children can wear any animal costume they 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. When I was growing up, it was when my family visited my grandmother in Columbus, Georgia (with the kittens in tow that Santa had brought my sister, Kathy, and me one year). In college, it was when I took a break from studies to focus 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 alone, 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 -- through which we can be thankful we simply survived.

In an attempt to loosen my sometimes-overbearing focus on control, I continued last new year to forgo resolutions for 2019 and focus instead 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 this year for me were those I spent with family, watching our daughter play violin and host over a dozen friends for an overnight party, and visiting her at college on parents' day; watching our son play string bass and bass guitar, be an acolyte at church and play water polo. All these revolve around my husband, Jimmy, whom I often refer to as the nicest man I have ever met -- and I am correct in that assessment.

My experience as a guest on the "Political Rewind" radio show on Georgia Public Radio with Bill Nigut helped frame my new book, "Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening." This was a huge project that I am incredibly proud of. As with any large project, it was a team effort that included family, friends and an extended work network. Thanks to all of them for their support and help!

My toes and the rest of me got a workout during the tennis matches that provided me with 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, and her husband, Paul; and 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 having joined me this year. Thank you. And after you reflect on 2019 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.

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