I'm so happy to have found two of the Christmas 2011 photos I thought were gone for good! These were shots I took of my wonderful husband and our six younger children. I had forgotten that I emailed them to my Mac so I could send them on to my eldest son who is in Afghanistan. They are so ordinary, though, I hesitate to post them. They aren't good photos, or lovely, or specially posed. They are "the real McCoy"! You can see our white board "fireplace" down in the lower right hand corner, our improvised stockings hanging by the horizontal blinds with care, our son struggling to get loose, and the completely unmatched pajama situation that has truly gotten out of hand! Our children above are in the midst of a game of Boggle with the felt Jesse tree on the wall behind them.
Dear readers, I really struggled to find happiness this Christmas. We were away from our home in Virginia for a second year and I was in a place that I don't like or feel at home in. It was so hard to make it lovely, although it was a bit lovelier than these pictures show (I did take some great shots of our tree and our Christmas dinner spread...those are gone for good, though). I had to confront some not-so-pleasant-to-see truths about what was important to me, what I value most. And I found it was not the twinkly lights, though they are lovely. It was not the flickering fire, though that is cheery and warming. It was the people in my life, my dear loved ones, who saved Christmas for me and made it joyful.
My delight was in snuggling those dear boys in their unmatched jammies and playing seriously competitive Boggle with my dear daughters. My joy was in seeing the growth and maturity in my 20-something son's eyes and the warm feeling of being loved that came from thinking about the willingness of my college-aged son and daughter to drive 5 hours through horrible traffic just to spend Christmas day with us. And although I didn't get a picture of them, I also was so blessed by my second oldest son and his wife, who drove several hours to spend Christmas Eve Day with us before heading off to her folk's home for Christmas Day. We walked the beach together and played Pictionary (with me having to draw words like loitering and cartography, while others were given crayon and barn...I'm not usually suspicious, but....) My oldest son called many times before he finally was able to reach us and wish us Merry Christmas, and that was also a source of great joy, as was being able to talk to his sweet wife and our grandchildren on Christmas Day. But the greatest gift of all was looking at my husband of 31 years and knowing he loves me more this Christmas than he ever has, that he accepts me just as I am--not an easy thing!--and that he and I together with God's help have created this lovely family.
The heart of the joy of my Christmas this year was family.
And isn't that the true meaning of Christmas, after all? Isn't that why Jesus came to us that first Christmas night? Shivering in a cold cavern, lying in a crude manger of straw, He came to us in order to bring us home to our family, in order to bring us home to our Father.
"Heavenly Father, you have given us a model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O loving Father to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely Eucharistic and vibrant with joy. Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow through family prayer. Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our family especially in their distressing disguise. May the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus make our hearts meek and humble like His and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way. May we love one another as God loves each one of us more and more each day, and forgive each other's faults as You forgive our sins. Help us, O loving Father to take whatever You give and to give whatever You take with a big smile. Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us. St. Joseph, pray for us. Holy Guardian Angels be always with us, guide and protect us. Amen."~Blessed Theresa of Calcutta