AAAAhhhhhh, how I LOVE Christmas!  Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.  Whether I lived in the desert, on the beach, or in the mountains, I always dream up visions of snow and cool weather outside, hot cocoa, something baking, a warm fire, and sparkling tree with presents underneath inside. 

I have never been much of a shopper.  In fact, nowadays, about 90% of my shopping is done online (even groceries!), which makes Christmas shopping so much easier.  We also tend to reduce the holiday pressures by deciding on our gifts early in the season.  We actually have a budget set aside for gifts every month, which adds up to allow us to spend more freely when the time comes.  Because we think of gift giving as part of our budget, we tend to have it on the back of our minds all year.  This results in us getting gifts earlier in the season which significantly reduces the last-minute pressures many experience. 

When it comes to gifts, we have so much fun giving to others!  I am so thankful I have a husband who doesn’t wait until the last second to rush out to the store to find me something–anything–to put under the tree.  No.  He spends as much time as I do planning, plotting, sneaking cash out of the gifts envelope months in advance so I won’t notice it missing.  He also works with me to help with handmade gifts, or picking out just the right item when it comes to purchases for others.  This year, we had a great mix of both!  Because Christmas is about so much more than silly presents, we like to put forth a lot of effort and thought to bless others just as God has blessed us.

I also enjoy not limiting “Christmas” to just one brief morning.  Last week, we had a wonderful visit from my mother-in-law. 

Grandma and kids

While she was here, we went ahead and had Christmas with her and the kids, so they could see each other open some gifts.  I guess you could almost say this has become a tradition, since we have done it for 3 years in a row now.

A opening his gift from Grandma

...A terrific all-wood block train set!

JR got "a REAL nutcracker that REALLY cracks nuts!" ...It's a long story!

N got an all-wood block fire engine set. Of course, like most babies his age, he had a lot more fun with the wrapping paper!

hmmmm, I'm not sure who is enjoying the wooden toy sets more--children or Daddy?

I spent the afternoon today baking breads.  This, of course, meant lots of pedaling for the needed flour!  While I can pedal a whole lot more than I can do by hand, I was still very thankful to have a husband in such great biking shape!  He did a lot of the pedaling while I was doing a lot of mixing of ingredients.  The house had that delicious sweet baking smell all afternoon as I experimented with cinnamon-raisin bread, cranberry-orange-walnut bread, and banana-walnut bread.  Then tonight after dinner, we bundled everyone up and loaded into the van.  We drove to several different friends houses all over town delivering the loaves.  JR and M had a great time wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and handing them their “present.”

Oh, it is so hard to believe yet another year is almost gone.  Yet, I think I can honestly say each year gets better for us.  It seems like we have had major events in our lives each year for the last several.  God has moved us to new locations, brought us more children than we ever imagined, and blessed us with friends of all kinds!  While Thanksgiving may be the technical holiday for thankfullness, Christmas surely is a close match for us!  And now, just 3 more days, and I can once again see the joy of Christmas morning on my children’s faces, as Daddy reads us the Christmas story from Luke 2, we sing worship songs to Christ, and then we proceed to handing out the gifts. 

It was almost ironic that, as we were driving down the road this evening, M suddenly called out from the back of the van, “Excuse me, but what is John 3:17 again?” 

“For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

There is no better gift to celebrate on Christmas!