Saturday, December 24, 2016

Jest 'fore Christmas.....

This has been an odd Christmas season for me, as it has been the first in nearly 30 years that I haven't worked in a retail environment. Enjoying the busy-ness and helping my customers find precisely the right books to give to people they loved became much of the way I celebrated the season. (Lest you think I'm blowing smoke, I am not: I really enjoyed visiting with my customers, hearing their plans for the holidays, sharing in their excitement as they made plans for travel or plans to welcome their family back home.) When you're on your feet, not to mention when you are on all day, no matter how much fun you're having you are still just worn out and depleted when you finally get home. As much as I wanted to go to lots of Christmas parties and events around town, I was just too wiped out to follow through.

But this year has just been so much fun!  My family and I lit the first candle of the Advent season at church. I rang with both handbell choirs at church for the Hanging of the Greens. My sister-in-law and I attended the Montgomery Civic Chorale's truly spectacular Christmas concert. Henry and I took our granddaughter to experience the Holiday Lights at the Montgomery Zoo (never mind that things didn't go quite as planned), and just a couple days later, we took her to see A Christmas Carol at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. And the season isn't over: we'll attend Candlelight Services tonight with our whole motley crew, followed by our annual visit to Waffle House for a cholesterol-be-damned meal to tide us over until Christmas morning. I cannot remember a time I felt so "filled" up by the Christmas spirit. 

A new component this year has been the fun I've had at work processing Donor-Advised gifts to so many very deserving nonprofits. I verify each nonprofit to make sure of its IRS status, and in that process learn so much about these organizations, many of which are unfamiliar to me.  I told a friend a few days ago that it's heartwarming to me that folks who have already received their tax benefit by establishing a fund with the Foundation make the effort to pass that money along in such a thoughtful way when there really is no requirement that they do so. I can tell you this for true: when you have your hands in this sort of giving every day, it inspires you to give more, too. We protect the privacy of all our Donors, so I can't tell you some of the most heartwarming holiday "miracles" that have happened because of their generosity, but suffice it to say that more than once because of them, prayers were answered.

It hasn't all been roses, of course. I had a bit of a dust-up with a large retail operation regarding fraudulent activity on my (now cancelled) account. Our beloved Old Master Cat, Big Louie, traveled across the Rainbow Bridge at nearly 20 years of age. And Henry, Thomas, and I are still trying to figure out what movie we'll see on Christmas Night (a new-ish tradition for the three of us), as the one we all wanted to see isn't playing anywhere in town.

But there have been far too many wonderful gifts of the season to focus on the things that might make me melancholic. I took Rosemary out yesterday for a bit, so she could get some of her Christmas shopping done, and her excitement at finding just the right things that SHE could give was a delight. Even sitting in holiday traffic wasn't horrible, for she and I had much of import to discuss. And best of all, a friend welcomed her first grandchild into the world at a time when her world needed a dose of newness.

The list of reasons to celebrate -- or at least to sit in contentment -- is so long. And I am so grateful.

I don't decorate our home anymore -- the last time was December 2011 -- but my heart is lit up with the light of my family's love, the generosity and kindnesses to which I have borne witness, and the assurance that we are held in the palm of the hand that grasped His mother's finger for the first time on That Night.

Merry Christmas, Y'all!