Am I the only one who thought Christmas Day felt... weird? It was HOT. We winged it. It was far from 'traditional'. Our Christmas Lunch was re-heated leftovers. Decorations were scarese. And our house STILL smells like smoke. Gross. (Keep reading for full story.) 7:30 am came quick on Christmas Day after staying up with my family for Christmas Eve and opening presents. As you know, Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, of course, and a church service was to be had! Sundays are work days. Though with great joy we gladly serve the Lord each Sunday and don't look at it as our "job" but as a privilege, it still technically is. We arrived at the church at 8:30 am ready to set up and run through our Christmas service with the worship team. This Christmas we decided to tell the story of Jesus through song and Scripture reading. It was different than a regular Sunday service, but it was good. Our service ended up being just 35 minutes long, more than we expected attended and love and cheer was in the air. Despite the few technical mishaps, the last-minute rearranging of songs.. none of that took away from the very fact that we gathered to celebrate the birth of our Savior and as one very sweet woman shared with me afterwards, "the presence of God was felt so strongly during the service". After she told me that, I smiled.
After service, the rest of our Christmas Day just felt off.. weird.. and almost non-existent. I had no perfect lunch cooking. We had but two gifts under the tree.. with two others waiting to be wrapped and by 'wrapped' I mean just covered up with paper and taped so no part of the gift could be seen. Zero creativity there, I know. And prior to church we didn't wake up in our matching jammies, nor enjoy a tasty family breakfast. No family traditions occurred nor were they planned for the day.
Disclaimer: I know it's not about the perfectly wrapped presents, the lovely decorations, elegant three course meal and beautiful Christmas outfits or matching pjs - which ever may be your taste. It's not about the flaunting of trendy gifts or posts of many pictures on social media to display your perfect Holiday. It's about Jesus. It's about God incarnated. It's about true love. God's love. Matter of fact, reading "Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born, Hope is Here" by Max Lucado this season has really helped me stay grounded on the true meaning of Christmas this year. Not that as believers we aren't aware of the true meaning of Christmas... I just think we sometimes become more concerned with what society tells us we must have this holiday season: the best gifts, the most beautifully decorated home, the cutest pictures and a delicious Pinterest-inspired feast. Disclaimer over.
About two weeks ago Calvin and I had decided we should invite those we knew who had no specific plans for Christmas Day or maybe weren't able to spend the day with family over to our house that evening for a Christmas Dinner/Party. So before and after the Christmas service, Calvin announced it from the pulpit. We returned to the house - Calvin, Chuck (our Community Pastor) and I - to prepare for the night. We had no clue if 50 would show up or 5. And as I mentioned before, we had our opening of presents part of the day over re-heated left overs and two of those gifts had just been wrapped 3 minutes prior. Yep. We winged it. See, the reason this was so 'off' for me is that I'm normally the planner, the perfectionist, the 'every detail must be right' kind of gal, the stressed out one and the rushed one and the 'over complicates it so it can be/look fabulous' one... and I know I'm not alone in this. But this year I agreed to be more present and less worried about being 'perfect'.. as if I could ever be entirely perfect on this side of Heaven. Ha! I agreed to not over stress this holiday season, gladly take each day as it may and let go. Not in a 'I no longer care about Christmas' way... more so in a 'I dare to care more about the people than the things/stuff' kind of way.
You may still be wondering.. 'so why does their entire house smell like smoke, again'???
We also sort of winged it when it came to preparing our Christmas dinner for this open door type party we decided to host. If you know me... you know I love hosting with every part of my beating heart... so with that said it was difficult to not already have this entire night planned out (aka party itinerary), decorations up, food items purchased and prepped before we left to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. Calvin told me, 'I got this'. So I stepped aside and decided not to get frantic about it.
Taco soup was what he decided. We went with it... except come Sunday (aka Christmas Day) we he realized we were low on groceries and he needed a lot more ingredients to make a good taco soup to serve for our guest (so I thought). We argued in our kitchen (in a playful manner) over whether or not the 1 can of Black Eyed Peas left in our pantry would go well in a Taco Soup because we had no other type of canned bean the recipe called for. I argued definitely not. Black beans are almost always required. Or pinto. I could have some boiled and cooked within an hour or two. We went back and forth. Calvin 'had it'. I disagreed. Chuck simply watched, listen and often laughed at us, not with us, I'm sure. Calvin decided he'd first take a nap before starting the Taco Soup and I began to take the reigns again by stubbornly still making a pot of black beans for his soup, telling myself "he'll ask for them later and thank me I did". We then napped.
Two hours later Calvin wakes up and yells for me. The water had evaporated and the beans had burned. SMOKE EVERYWHERE. Nope... I guess our fire alarms DO NOT work. Yes, we are now looking into that...
With a pot of black beans now resting on our backyard patio floor and all the windows and doors opened, we all took charge on lighting candles, spraying every Fabreeze can we own and turning every fan on. We were getting no where with the smell. With the 6 o' clock party hour quickly approaching, now we really had no other option in our pantry but a can of black eyed peas. So, Chuck rushed to the store.. a store.. any store that would be open Christmas Day. We assumed Wal-mart but it failed us. Insert La Michoacana! Chuck was able to purchase what we needed. Back at home I baked and baked in hopes that the aroma of chocolate chip cookies and peppermint brownies would fight off the smell of smoke. Negative. Neither did the start of Calvin's Taco Soup which actually smelled quite nicely but still wasn't enough to get the job done.
The doorbell rang. Our guest had arrived. Our situation hadn't changed. I welcomed them to my home as it was, as we were, imperfect and real. Dishes in the sink, the smell of smoke everywhere, desserts still in the oven and I in jeans and a t-shirt with nap make up still on. We had 4 guest at first, then 3 more arrived and finally 1 more joined us. We enjoyed a delicious Taco Soup - kuddos to Calvin - and a guest brought a cooked ham. We played games and had plenty desserts, coffee and hot chocolate.
We simply enjoyed each others company and I for once, to be 100% honest, didn't stress myself out trying too hard to impress or to host the perfect (Holiday) party. I was 100% present, 100% aware. My phone died at some point that day. Maybe in between phone calls with Chuck about where to find certain ingredients at the hispanic store that looks very different from your local Wal-mart. Or maybe it died when I set it on the counter as I made us all a pot of coffee. Point being, I didn't need it. I didn't even miss it. I was present.
In the end, Christmas Day/Night was very different. Different than any other Christmas. Maybe it felt weird because we still had to 'work'/lead a church service. Maybe it was because we weren't with Calvin's family (as we normally are). Or maybe because we didn't continue a certain tradition or had a fancy evening and pictures to prove it. We just took the day hour by hour, adventure by adventure and enjoyed the company of others whose Christmas Day also looked a little different this year.
So because that was my Christmas Day.. I will now (48 hrs later) share the only 'Christmas Pictures' we took. Better late then never, huh?
Thanks for the read. I hope you each had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed every minute of it. I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors...
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” - Shauna Niequist