Monday, December 20, 2010

A Few Christmas Reminders

Walking out of the house for church this morning in a skirt, sleeveless shirt, and flip flops, it was hard to believe it's Christmas week. Sure, I haven't exactly had a lot of white Christmases the last few years, but I've at least been somewhere chilly enough to pull out a sweater, and certainly socks! So given the fact that we're still surrounded by palm trees, sunshine, and beach days, we're finding we have to be a little more creative with making it feel like Christmas around here.

One of the ways we've created Christmas ambiance is by putting lights on our house. Living in dorms and apartments the last 10 years, there was no way to decorate an outdoor space. So for this first Christmas in a house of our own, Christmas lights went up and are so much fun to plug in every night as a reminder that Christmas is coming.

We got a little creative with our outdoor decor. Back in September, Nick brought home some hand-carved wooden masks from the Philippines. I was a little hesitant to hang them up because they are massive (about 5 or 6 feet long each). But he'd already dragged them all this way and they certainly weren't going in our bedroom (scary!), so front of the house won. We decided these guys needed to get into the Christmas spirit as well, so the Three Stooges scored some Santa hats.

Another great reminder of Christmas is the full-size Douglas fir in our living room (pictured above). We've never had the space or the reason to get an actual Christmas tree before, so this is our first together. Consequently, we didn't have a tree topper, so St. Nick improvised by digging in the nearby golf closet, and then reaching for a drill in the tool closet. Viola! Behold, our golf tree, and all the beautiful presents I can't wait to open! (am I too old to be this excited about presents?)

One of the main reasons we decided to go for a big tree this year is because we are hosting our first Christmas! Nick's mom and stepdad flew out last week to spend two weeks with us out here. Russ got SCUBA certified before coming out, so he and Nick have been diving together, while Diane and I have been shopping and snorkeling quite a bit. They are loving the vacation atmosphere our tropical island has to offer, and we are loving having family here. That's one major ingredient to Christmas we are so grateful for this year. Of course, you can expect to hear more about their visit here soon :)

Finally, one other great Christmas reminder appeared this morning when the children and youth from our church did their annual Christmas program. Through poorly memorized lines, questionable (though highly amusing!) acting, and reminiscent Bible verses, they told the Christmas story in between favorite familiar Christmas carols our congregation sang along to. It was a great reminder of the true reason for Christmas, that we don't have to have snow or sweaters or trees or presents to appreciate the real reason to celebrate. The world was a dark place of sorrow and loss until Hope came down from heaven to bring the world what it needed most: Love. Abundant, merciful, everlasting love. Love that lasts an eternity. Love that even conquers death.
I'm not completely sure why, but I often make a point of not preaching my Christian beliefs to the people in my life. I suppose deep down, I believe a person has to experience God for themselves to really understand why His message is so powerful. But inspired by today's service, I'm going to go out on a limb and simply encourage whoever is reading this to do what you can to go to a Christmas Eve service this year. Anyone can go, many of them are candlelit, and nearly every church has one (check the interweb, people!). Regardless of what you believe or don't, I am certain you will find it a worthwhile experience.

Nick hugging his Mom at the Guam airport upon their arrival!
Many of you will recall that this time last year, Nick and I were spending our first Christmas apart in the 8 years we'd been together. Thanks to dear friends in San Diego, I had a surprisingly wonderful Christmas despite that big change, but it makes the fact that he is home so special this year. And considering this, and the fact that we are 8,000 miles away from the rest of our family and friends, I am extra mindful this year of the sad fact that not everyone will be so lucky to be with the ones they love this Christmas. For those whom this is the case, it is my prayer that you are able to find joy in remembering somebody out there loves you... and peace in knowing you'll be with that person again one day. That hope, dear friends, after all, is what the Christmas miracle is all about. And no matter what time of year it is, it's always nice to be reminded of that.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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