Family

We Had Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas

A Merry Little Christmas

I spent most of today on the couch enjoying the Christmas gift given to me by my oldest child – a head cold. In her defense, Emelie also gave me a beautiful abstract watercolor she painted, so…I forgave her. 🙂 And as soon as I can garner the energy it takes to change from my pajamas and drive to Hobby Lobby, I plan to frame it. It is beautiful and perfect for me.

This Christmas I received several special gifts.

I’ve already told you about Emelie’s gift, and then, Jeff replaced my 3-year-old sunglasses and surprised me with a pair of kiwi Sloggers to wear about the yard. My parents gave me a watch I’ve had on my wish list for a while, which means I can leave my phone in my purse and still know the time. My In-loves gave cash that I quickly exchanged for a vat (okay, fine – 6.7 oz) of Origins Smoothing Souffle; something I sampled and fell in love with at the counter but would not purchase for myself. And my grandmother gifted me the David Jeremiah Study Bible (NKJV), which I’ll use to read through the Bible this year. This year I’ve enjoyed reading through the The Inspirational Study Bible (NCV).

But beyond the lovely gifts…

Thinking back over the last several Christmas seasons, I have to say this one topped the list for me. Mostly because we weren’t traveling on or around Christmas Day, and so, it was a peaceful, relaxed holiday where we actually rested in the Spirit of the season.

Jeff’s parents, brother, and sister-in-law drove down the Saturday before Christmas to exchange gifts as well as take Kenny out for his birthday. We had a wonderful time visiting with them throughout the day and into the evening before they headed back home.

Then, I took off work on Christmas Eve and spent the entire day at my parents’ home working a puzzle and listening/singing to Christmas music. Meredith and Emelie joined Momma and me early on, and the boys came a bit later in the day (not being big puzzlers and because Jeff wanted to fish). The evening was spent at my grandmother’s home visiting with extended family and eating our traditional potato soup – there was also oyster soup for those who could stomach it (Not me! Eeeeww).

I cherish being home on Christmas Eve, so we didn’t stay late, and Christmas morning and throughout the day was equally relaxing. My parents came over to open gifts and then, we went back to their house for pecan waffles.

It’s nice to know I will return to work in the morning not feeling as though I ran a marathon.

It’s also nice to know I had time each morning to wake up, dive into The Word, write in my prayer journal, and focus on the sole reason our family even celebrates Christmas.

May we all embrace the Lord Jesus and praise God just like the righteous and devout Simeon who “was waiting for the consolation of Israel” because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him “that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.”

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. (ESV)” – Luke 2:29-32

Tell me, did anything stand out about your Christmas this year?

Did you make any choices that ushered in a more peaceful celebration? Have you any special New Year’s Eve plans? As I wrote last week, my word for 2016 is Surrender. If you have a word/theme or intentional focus for 2016, please share it in the comments.

Heather Sanders

42 thoughts on “We Had Ourselves a Merry Little Christmas”

  1. Patricia Ortega says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. My words are simple, thank you God. Thank you God for it all. Thank you for my family, my life, my new job, the ability to be resting for two weeks because of my new job. We are grateful for it all so to that I simply say thank you God every time I remember I pause and say it!!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      YES! I’ll give thanks to the Lord with you, Patricia! It puts to mind the opening (and closing) of Psalm 136:

      “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
      His love endures forever.
      Give thanks to the God of gods.
      His love endures forever.
      Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
      His love endures forever… (vs. 1-3)

      Give thanks to the God of heaven.
      His love endures forever. (vs. 26)”

  2. Debbie says:

    I was doing so well this Christmas season – ordered my gifts in plenty of time, not rushing around, had everything organized with 3 weeks before Christmas. Then one Saturday my stepmom died and we had an unexpected 5 day trip (5 hours away). After that, we had two more obligations that had to be kept, so I found myself about 5 days before Christmas, not even remembering what I had under the tree, in the mail, etc.

    I finally just stopped one night and said “enough” and gave myself the grace to be done and whatever wasn’t in the mail or under the tree would have to wait.

    After losing my stepmom and spending 5 days with all my sisters, I decided that people are the main thing, besides Jesus. Of course, I already knew this, but sometimes you need a reminder and this year I was reminded.

    What stood out to me was the grace I was able to extend to myself. This rarely happens. Maybe God is doing a work in me 🙂

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Debbie – I am so sorry to hear of your Stepmom’s passing, but I am glad that you chose to extend yourself the grace to step away from the seasonal preparations and be present with your sisters. As you said, “people are the main thing.” As you clearly understand, the Lord entered this world for one reason only – to offer saving grace through a relationship with Him. And through the fellowship of our relationships we bear His Light to the world. Much love and Happy New Year, lady!

  3. Laura Brown says:

    This was one of the best Christmases ever for me as well. It was one of the most relaxing, least pressured as I wasn’t working full time outside the home. Gifts were ordered and wrapped without having to stay up all hours. The hardest part was waiting for our oldest child to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. God granted us a season of true peace this year after the rest of the year was tumultuous. Glad you had a Merry Christmas and hope you have a happy New Year as well.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Laura“God granted us a season of true peace this year after the rest of the year was tumultuous” What a gift! I’m so glad to read this. Blessings!!

  4. Shawna says:

    Last year at Christmas I was going through chemo and we traveled from Florida to Ohio where I was basically sequestered by myself to avoid germs. This year was wonderful compared to that! We stayed home and my brother and his family visited us. The weather was beautiful and we watched the sunset at the beach on Christmas Day. We went to a Christmas Eve service at our church, something we’ve never done because we would normally be celebrating with family. It was so wonderful to worship and remember the real reason we are celebrating. Glad you had a great Christmas too!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Shawna“This year was wonderful compared to that! “ – Well, I should guess so! We miss our church’s Christmas Eve service for the same reason – family gathering. Though usually our family gathering has a bit of praise and worship music (my grandmother at the piano). I would love to walk along a beach at Sunset on Christmas Day. That sounds glorious!

  5. Jane D says:

    This Christmas was fun and relaxing for our family. For the first time ever we stayed home all day on Christmas. My husband and I both come from large families and traditionally, we have gathered with my siblings in around 1PM and my husband’s siblings in the evening, making for a crazy, rushed and exhausting day. When our daughters were young, we opened gifts, ate breakfast and ran out the door. This year was wonderful, especially as both of our grown daughters have returned to live at home. We celebrated on Saturday with one side of the family and Sunday with the other. We, too, woke up this morning smiling and refreshed. This is a good season in life for us. Praise God for always being there with humor, encouragement, correction, admonition and never ending love!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Jane D“Praise God for always being there with humor, encouragement, correction, admonition and never ending love!” AMEN! I’m glad you woke up “smiling and refreshed.” I’m praising God with you!

  6. Penny N says:

    Heather, Thank you for this lovely post and for sharing your family with us. I really look forward to your posts. I enjoy reading about your family adventures especially with this lake house.

    But I have also come to depend on your spiritual journey as well. I just want you to know that when you do not post for a while, it is noticed. I understand that you usually are working through something and the end result will be a glorious post. You inspire me to be faithful in my walk with Jesus and the word. Just know that this little blog thing is doing good work for the lord.

    And as for me, I also had a Merry Little Christmas … enjoyed with family as usual. I wish for a very Happy New Year to all!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Penny – It is wonderful and heartwarming to read that you look forward to reading my posts and miss them when I don’t post for a while. Thank you. I appreciate your encouragement. You and many of the readers here are inspiration to me as well – to also be faithful in my walk with Jesus and in His Word. My writing has become a part of that faith walk, and it encourages me when He uses me to inspire others like you. It is like a gift that keeps giving. You give to me, and I give to you. What a treasure.

      I’m happy to hear you also had a merry little Christmas! And have a Happy New Year!

  7. Debi says:

    Volunteered at the orphanage holiday party Christmas day, such a blessing I received. Set the tone of gratitude and peace for the usually frazzling four Christmas’ we attend on that day.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Debi – I can certainly see how volunteering at an orphanage would set a tone of gratitude. That is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Jenn B says:

    It is so wonderful you had a Merry Christmas! Down time, rest and peace is quintessential to our souls. Ours was so restful and peaceful this year. The best (for me) in years. I purposed to get the shopping/wrapping done for our family in November so that December could be full of rest and focus on Christ and memories/traditions with the family.We always take two weeks off homeschool and this year our break wasn’t spent running around but rather enjoying each other. On Christmas day our events changed a little to allow us to be home for a lot of the day and have a leisurely morning enjoying the people and things the Lord has blessed us with. Then, we went to spend time with extended family and that was relaxed as well. It couldn’t have been better! Praise God! Oh, by the way, one of the best things I did this Christmas season was read through Ann Voskamp’s book The Greatest Gift advent devotional. It helped me rest each day in Christ and focus on Him and not get distracted by the craziness that can often come with the season. I highly recommend the book!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Jenn B – I’m enjoying all the mindfulness in the comments so far. It looks as though many, including you, made a choice to reduce the clutter of Christmas busyness and get into the true meaning of the season What a BLESSING! I too love having a “leisurely morning enjoying the people and things the Lord has blessed [me] with.”

      And thank you for the recommendation of Ann Voskamp’s advent devotion. I’ve talked with Jeff about doing a more formal advent focus next year.

  9. Heather H says:

    I have come to the realization that I do not like December. I love that we can celebrate the birth of Jesus, but I am a music teacher and very involved in the music programs at my church. Not to mention being the mom which means I purchase the vast majority of the presents and the “stuff” that goes along with celebrating. I love our traditions, but I find myself year after year telling myself to find the JOY in Christmas. Thus my realization that I don’t like December. I don’t want to give up the traditions (at home or at church), but I don’t know how to…find JOY. Maybe it will be like this for as long as I work or volunteer, but music is part of who I am – how do I turn it off…? I guess that I will continue to remind myself to look for the JOY in the small things of the season. Amazon Prime; children’s enthusiasm for the pageant; the music…

    Thank you for your blog. I very much enjoyed all of your posts on Pioneer Woman, and I did purchase a number of items based on your recommendations.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Heather – I agree that being the “Mom” and having the additional responsibility of being the music coordinator at your church adds double doses of busyness into your Christmas. I will tell you one of my tricks is I start shopping for Christmas in October. I know, I know…it seems early but my goal is to have all of my shopping completed by Thanksgiving. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. The gifts get wrapped with the help of Jeff, and I’ve reduced the budget and gift giving significantly because when it comes right down to it adults need to trade time, not gift cards. 🙂

      You can’t get away from the Christmas pageant and music, but if you don’t have the other clutter, you’ll likely enjoy it more. Find time in the evenings to rest and stare at the lights on the tree, journal, read or pray – whatever gets you in a place of peace and JOY.

      As mothers we have to be so much more intentional. There is a season for everything, and I realize that means there are seasons of busyness, but we can balance it. I truly believe with a little forethought, we can balance it.

      Thank YOU for being real. I like real people. I’m so glad you came over from reading me on The Pioneer Woman. Blessings!

  10. CIndyK says:

    I love how the cabin looks with the lights. I baked less and bought less. Christmas has always been low key here but this year was even more so with things up in the air with my husband’s job. It felt great. I baked less and yet our Lord pulled a five loaves and two fishes with what I baked for the neighbors. Each time I took from my pile of things they did not seem to be diminishing. Christmas Eve was spent alone with my sick 14 year old son and El Pollo Loco! The rest of my children and husband went to his family’s house to be together. It was well with my soul. Christmas was still celebrated in big ways in my heart. What stood out this year to me was my desire to not be all things to all people. I have let go of trying to do it all. I have been set free and have been humbled in such lovely and beautiful ways. My words for this year are ,”Own it”. I am watching my words and owning things when I mess up instead of making excuses. Excuses stink. I also want to stop saying the words, “I will try to do that.” That is an euphemism for I do not want to do that. 🙂

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      CindyK – Thank you, I love the way the cabin looks with the lights too. This is my favorite time of year to spend on the front porch because of them. That said, all my plants are tucked away in the makeshift greenhouse on the back porch now, so the front porch is lit up but completely bare.

      This is just beautiful: “Each time I took from my pile of things they did not seem to be diminishing.”

      I’m so sorry to hear that you had a sick child during Christmas, but as you said…it was well with [your] soul because you celebrated Christmas in big ways in your heart. Glorious!

      And thank you for sharing “What stood out this year to me was my desire to not be all things to all people.” I too am letting go of trying to do it all and “be” it all. I realize no one really expects that from me EXCEPT me. For me, it was a pride issue. Then again, there may be some issues with control in there too.

      *sigh* That’s why I always say I’m “Living, loving and learning. Wrapped in God’s grace!”

      1. CIndyK says:

        I can think of a dozen ways to apply spiritually to what you said about your porch being bare but only having the lights! We come to Him with bare hands and He shines His light in and through us. I did not notice the bare porch, only the Light(s). As it should be with us!

      2. Heather Sanders says:

        CindyK – My, my…so true.

        It reminds me of Chris Tomlin’s “Here I Am to Worship”

        Light of the world, You step down into darkness.
        Opened my eyes let me see.
        Beauty that made this heart adore you hope of a life spent with you.

  11. s says:

    This was one of the best Christmas seasons…it felt so doable. I took time off from work to shop each week and kept up on wrapping, did lots on line, and just felt more deliberate in what I purchased. I especially enjoyed picking things I knew would be well received, not just getting a present to fulfill my to buy list. I had some crazy moments doing last-minute baking, nut making, caramel popcorn making then packaging, but it wasn’t over the top. I just felt things were under control, vs last minute scrambling.

    2016 I hope to “show up” – whether for someone in our community or my own family and friends, I want to practice showing up, even if it stretches me out of my comfort zone.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      s – It sounds like your deliberate steps to ensure your Christmas season remained “doable” provided great returns. I’m like you in that I want to have time to purchase gifts the receiver wants – not just “fulfill my to buy list.”

      What a terrific desire for 2016 – to “show up.” I like that! I have no doubt you’ll make that happen. Blessings!

  12. Heather says:

    We had a pretty amazing Christmas too. I did have a moment of stress out on the 23rd, but rallied to the peace I’d been feeling in time for our little family Christmas on Christmas Eve and a trip to my sister’s for Christmas and the weekend. The first time my parents, my sister and her family and all of us were together on Christmas in many, many years. So wonderful and really relaxing. This was our first Christmas without my in-laws and was understandably difficult at times for my husband (he’s only 36, an only child and lost both his parents in the last year.) We are working to incorporate their traditions and keep their memories alive for our young children. This was the first go around and we did okay. We’ll get better at figuring out how to merge all the family traditions (and cookies…my MIL made 5-8 kinds/year and my husband wants to keep some of that going!) All in all it was a much calmer, more peaceful Christmas than the chaos we were in the middle of last year and for that I am grateful.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Heather – I can imagine that creating new Christmas traditions after the loss of your husband’s parents (both in one year, no less) is difficult. I’m glad to hear that you’ll be merging family traditions; although, 5-8 different kinds of cookies/year is A LOT. WOW!

      Peace over chaos. Indeed. THAT is definitely a reason to lift our hearts and voices in praise! Blessings!

  13. Monica B. says:

    Good Morning Heather!! HOW did I miss this post? Oh, wait I work in retail (not by first choice) – sure to consume one’s life for 60 days, so my spiritual life falls into complete neglect, and top that with living in a very large city where herding in tourists to attend the “holiday” is a main attraction flooding the streets, transportation, lines, everywhere a sea of people, 10-12 hour work days. As I read your post, you reminded me that my yearning to be in the peace and LIGHT of the season is ‘real’ and valid and tugging on my heartstrings. I’ve not forgotten one of your previous posts you shared about securing your dream job “I heart books”, etc. That post, and your sharing of your merry little christmas encourages, nudges, strengthens me to honor my deepest desires (makes me “own it”), the longings in my heart, the whispers in my ear, the gentle taps on my shoulder, and pushes me to continue to move in the spiritual direction “first”. Because, honestly, when that isn’t right, I’m not right. In the past words like “mindfulness”, “own it” and “show up” have been my focus. A few days ago “shine” came to me even though “show up” remains appropriate. For 2016 “show up and SHINE” seems to be forming. Thank you so much for being here and sharing. I wish you many, many wonderful blessings in 2016.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Monica B. – Are you subscribed to my email list? I send out a notification as soon as I publish each post.

      Reading your comment takes me back to the many years I worked retail. I remember those 10-12 work days. I remember feeling like I lived at the mall and all the many people both before and after Christmas. And remembering that, I think your 2016 “show up and SHINE” is beautiful and PERFECT! You have access to so many people. You can literally be a beacon for His Glory!

      “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

  14. Siobhan in Ireland says:

    Twinkle, Twinkle Little House.
    How very pretty your home looks.
    Ireland has had many storms blow in this Christmas.
    All the cobwebs are blown away and we are washed and ready for 2016.

  15. Pat in Indy says:

    This might not be read because it is kind of late, but I want to add a belated “Merry Christmas” and also a very “Happy New Year” to you and your family! Our Christmas was wonderful, but I am hoping we can do less, spend less, run less, etc. next year. I love all the trappings, but I am craving simplicity! I was able to take time off from work, and am just returning today. Thank you for your lovely posts…..I’m looking forward to all to come!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Pat – I read and cherish every comment, so I thank you for yours. (A comment is never “late” in my opinion.)

      I too crave simplicity. It sounds like you had a much needed break from work.

      Thank YOU for your sweet encouragement. I look forward to continuing to write.

      Much love and MANY blessings for this NEW YEAR!

  16. Becky in 'Bama says:

    So Thankful for friends who are a true gift. NOT having extended family can make the holidays a bit hollow. Unfortunately, eight years ago, three days before Christmas, my nephew had a life changing sports accident resulting in quadriplegia, so for our family (what’s left of us) the holidays recount those painful days, weeks and months (and now years) following that event. Our lives were collectively affected, and sadly, the holidays were never the same. We simply gather now on Christmas Eve for a few hours of recounting the year and share a quick meal. One year ago my sister-in-law underwent surgery for breast cancer. A year later, she continues to improve. My mom died in October three years ago, and then my poor daddy went into the nursing the week of Christmas two years ago. You see the pattern here? And now my daughter, son-in-law and g’kids all live HOURS away in another state. With little $$ they have not been home for Christmas in several years. Last week on Christmas night, we had torrential rains in our area, resulting widespread flooding, which left us with a wet basement and a wet downstairs playroom. Okay..I’ll stop with that. The Sunday after Christmas, one of my sweet friends invited 6 of us over to her house after church and served us a gourmet lunch. Sensing my ‘down’ spirit, she gave me a wonderful sack of Christmas gifts – a variety of things I like and need. Another friend invited us over this past week where were enjoyed more fun and fellowship. Thanks be to God for his wonderful gift of Friendship. I know that God knows my heart during these days, and I thank him for preserving my sanity during these times.

    1. Pat in Indy says:

      God Bless You!! Isn’t it wonderful, though, that we don’t even have to say a word and God knows what’s in your heart..just like you said! You and your family are in my prayers for a happy and healthy 2016!

    2. Heather Sanders says:

      Becky – I too am thankful for the gift of true friendship. Our family spent several years living 8 to 21 hours away from family (in fact, it was far more than that the six months my parents were in England), and we leaned heavily on our church fellowship and the friends we created.

      From all you’ve detailed, I can see how the days surrounding Christmas are sadly difficult for your family. BUT! I’m very thankful for God, who was there to wrap you up with, as you wrote, “His beautiful gift of friendship.” He certainly does know your heart. Praise the Lord!

  17. tpcelt says:

    Heather,

    Thank you for sharing the very thoughtful details of your Christmas. I, like you and many of the other posters, had a very rare, relaxing, and contemplative Christmas. It was an opportunity to “recharge the batteries” and really think about Christmas, family, and a New Year to ride this rock Earth around the Sun, Lord willing, another time. “Choosing Gratitude” has been a reading companion (thanks for the recommendation!).

    I’ve been struck by how many people I know who seemed to want to keep the holidays low-key and close to home (and, whoa, I totally understand the work crush on our retail posters!) Maybe it’s because of the global and US unrest we’re going through, but it does seem that many of us are reconnecting to home and basic values more than before.

    God bless us everyone in 2016.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      tpcelt“…it does seem that many of us are reconnecting to home and basic values more than before.” – My grandmother calls it a pendulum. She says it swings between generations. Apparently, it is time for us to swing back! Praise the Lord!

  18. Shane says:

    This Christmas season was stressful, as usual. My daughter was at her dad’s house and I was in OK for 6 weeks sleeping on a couch with my two boys. My husband was in WA working. It was hard being apart but when my husband flew in, things got better until he got to my parents house. Then things went south. It is hard living a Christian life and having other Christians, who could be considered lukewarm, start disagreements. It was awful. I also did not want to go to WA, as we only been living there for eight months. Prior to leaving, I was active in the church and had my kids on a schedule. On our way back to WA I felt like I did not belong anywhere but I summed it up as I was listening to the wrong voice. I know I always have a place with God. A place where I belong. This year I want to stay wrapped up in His Word so when I get out of my comfort zone I have something to cling to. I want to memorize and keep His Word in my heart! 2016 I want to be thankful for everything we have (even though I would love to downsize)!!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Shane – It is painful to transition a family, but I’m thrilled to hear that you know exactly how to move through it – “…stay wrapped up in His Word so when [you] get out of [your] comfort zone [you] have something to cling to.” I too plan to memorize more of His Word for 2016. And yes, thankfulness is definitely key to our faith walk. BLESSINGS in 2016!

  19. Carolyn says:

    I’m late to this post having been away touring some of your lovely states this Christmas and New Year (I’m from Canada), but I want to add my best wishes for abundant blessings in 2016.

    So many of these comments echo my own. I decided that I could not go through the sadness that staying at home for Christmas and my birthday (Dec. 29th) would entail for me. We used to share Christmas mornings with our two granddaughters, but my son-in-law had angry words with my DH on moving day seven years ago (his feelings were hurt) – they lived beside us but moved about a 10-minute drive away – and as a result we were not welcome in their home. She will never know the true devastation she has caused.

    The hardest part is knowing your own daughter cannot have her parents in her house. She has an excellent job, no financial worries (due to an out-of-court financial settlement from a minor motorcycle accident my son-in-law had), but she bends to her husband’s terms, sacrificing us in the process. I sadly believe maintaining the status-quo was more important or she just didn’t and still doesn’t realize the impact her decision has had on her parents. Even more sad is what she’s teaching her daughters.

    That being said, I’m working on forgiveness, but it’s a process-in-progress. I’m hoping to find the strength to do that this year.

    Carolyn

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Carolyn – I remember praying about this for you back in October. I absolutely agree that forgiveness is our only path to true freedom, and we can have that freedom through the power of our Lord who served as the example. He forgives us. Praise the Lord, HE FORGIVES US. What a beautiful 2016 goal you have. I pray it brings you closer to your daughter.

  20. Pat in Indy says:

    You are such a busy lady, but I hope all is well!

  21. Joyce T says:

    I hope all is well with the new website, and I’m very happy you have found that place of joy and purpose. I do miss hearing from you on this site, though.

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