We went to our church's Christmas Eve service last night, of course, and I was greatly blessed by a powerful, non-traditional sermon from the youth pastor. It brought to mind the anointed message he delivered almost two years ago, in January 2012, when our church seemed on the verge of collapse following the shocking circumstances that had resulted in the untimely departures of everyone else on the pastoral staff - five pastors and the C.E. director - during the previous six months. And it renewed my gratitude to the Lord for carrying us through the tumult of that situation to a place of new hope and expectation.
Afterwards, the girls treated my husband and me to this year's rendition of their annual Christmas show, a production they put together all on their own beginning just after Thanksgiving. This year it consisted of Rachel's performance of "O Christmas Tree" on piano, two puppet show skits (an original, evangelistic script called A Christmas with Samuel and a variation on Dicken's A Christmas Carol) and - much to Jeff's delight - Christmas karaoke by a couple of the G.I. Joe dolls he'd given the girls from his own childhood collection.
We shouldn't be surprised anymore by these girls' creativity...but we still marvel.
As excited as the girls always are for Christmas morning - Abigail woke at 4:00 and then roused Rachel at six, who said she'd been awake between midnight and 2:00 - they have always been very self-controlled and respectful, never clamoring into our room too early. But at 7:00 on the dot - according to tradition again - they hurried downstairs and our Christmas Day began with cuddling on the bed as Jeff read the final chapter of our wonderful (highly-recommended) Advent book, Bartholomew's Passage.
And then, of course, it was time to open gifts. The girls really appreciated everything, but the highlight was definitely the real dollhouse each received. Of course, it'll take quite some time - and lots of dad-help - to actually build them, to say nothing of the decorating inside and out. But these exact houses had been on the girls' wish-lists for a few years, and we believe they are finally old enough to manage them.
And the remainder of the day was just a lot of "hanging out." The girls played with the Frozen dolls they received while Jeff built the trebuchet model we'd chosen for him and my new cell phone charged.
Tim Hawkin's DVDs the girls were also given, and then we alternately read, played, and rested through the afternoon and into the evening. Now we're watching Despicable Me 2 as I write, and I'm so glad the day has been as simple as it has.