With school out for the girls and family in town, the past two weeks have felt like a much longer time between 2014 and 2015. It was endless Saturdays with lots of hosting and playing and some intense deadlines to finish presents and get things ready for January. It's kind of nice to get back into the routine. I had a couple hours to myself yesterday to sit down and start a list of things to do this month and this year now that the holidays are fading.
But before I launch into business as usual I wanted to wish you a happy new year! I hope your holiday celebrations in December were beautiful and warmed by love. I found that the things that meant the most to me this Christmas were Advent Sundays singing Christmas carols as a family, listening to Handel's Messiah and the Nutcracker all day long, attending Christmas plays and concerts with our girls, having them help me decorate gift tags and wrap presents, and gathering as a family to eat and play.
I'm finding that I enjoy the shopping and the buying and the gift lists less and less (unless it's a Sub for Santa activity). Less of that really is more. I loved finding inspiring ideas for incorporating the story of Christ throughout the month (such as these advent ornaments and this Christ Themed Advent) and had the girls help me paint our own wooden ornaments to use next year. Like many of you I'm sure, I tried to take stock during the hustle to determine which activities really add to the season and which detract. One of my goals for 2015 is to fine tune our Christmas celebration to make it reflect more the true story of Christmas. If there are gifts given I want them to be heartfelt and needed and given from the heart, ideally with a bit of sacrifice. This year I sewed little clothes to go with the Waldorf dolls I made for my girls last year, and they were the gifts I enjoyed giving the most because they were a labor of love and creativity. I wish every gift I gave felt that way. For most of us "needs" aren't very material, and material "wants" are pretty easily fulfilled, so they don't lend themselves to purchased gifts in very a fulfilling way.
The best gifts, especially at Christmas, aren't purchased. They are acts of unconditional love and kindness and selflessness. I was reminded of this when my husband shared something from a lesson he gave in our church the Sunday before Christmas. This encouragement from President Howard W. Hunter is such a beautiful reminder of how we can truly recognize the season:
"This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.
Christmas is a celebration, and there is no celebration that compares with the realization of its true meaning—with the sudden stirring of the heart that has extended itself unselfishly in the things that matter most." (“The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, December 2002).
In fact, "extending oneself unselfishly in the things that matter most" is a really great resolution for the year.
Best wishes in giving yourself to the things that matter most to you in 2015!
(This year's Christmas Card featured three of the people who matter most to me, in a photo from one of my favorite projects this past year.)