"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Christmas 2014 -- forever ago

We've been busily de-junking and organizing our home for a new year fresh start. It's liberating but leaves little time for anything else ... like finishing documenting a December I didn't want to forget.

Newel had a fantastic idea for us to do a service stay-cation over Christmas. We tried to work in a service a day from our very own "backyard" for the twelve days leading up to the big day.

It was a wonderful way to open the eyes of our children to seeing all that can be done right within our own community.

We had to pepper in some simpler opportunities with some bigger experiences to make way for all the festivities that come with the holiday (not to mention the constant coming and going of teens).

We made cookies for families we know.

This helper was over eager.

And we kept all the cookies she touched for ourselves.

We spent an evening purchasing full Christmas dinners to leave on porches for those we knew in need.

And of course had to pause to check out eggnog I never buy.

There were plenty of excited helpers for that little activity.

We also spent evenings gathering donations to a local shelter, creating care kits for missionaries we know, writing letters to OUR KIDS in foreign lands, and caroling to some of our neighbors who don't have many visitors.

My heart was swollen to bursting over how many organizations turned our efforts away simply because they had so much help already.

It gave me such hope. We hear a lot of bad in the world today but let me tell you, there really is a lot of good going on out there.

One highlight was getting to assist with the Special Olympics Christmas party where we made some new friends who we adore.

Our SECRET ELF EXCHANGE was a real hit. Everyone waited daily for opportunities to do a little something to bring a smile to a face.

Then the secret service gift exchange presents started showing up under the tree.

Let's get a closer look at that adorable writing on the box to a much loved sister:

The secret service reveal was fun. I had Celia and spent my nights sewing her a warm quilt so she'd have a piece of home to wrap up in if ever things seem lonely off at college.

I just love how excited they all are to give their carefully thought out gifts on behalf of the one they'd spent the month serving in secret.

I love that I still have kids willing to produce a nativity even though they are too big for the costumes.

We made our traditional visit to the local retirement home to visit the residents there before the opening of Christmas morning presents.

I have no pictures of that because we were so busy in conversation, but it simply makes our Christmas morning feel amazing. It was the perfect ending to our "service stay-cation".

Here's the aftermath of the gift unwrapping on our return home.

With the help of THIS BOOK given by a friend last year, we used the days leading up to have a nightly devotional that studied the characteristics of each participant from the nativity. We delved just a little deeper into their traits and how we can use them in our daily lives to come closer to the Savior.

With each character study, we added that member to our manger.

It was perhaps, my favorite addition to the entire season.

There's no gift like being wrapped all up in the true meaning of the season with those I love. It made things warmer, closer, and with just a little more sparkle.

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