The holidays.  The busiest time of year for most of us, and Jaron’s busiest season at work, possibly tied with Easter.  In the past we have mainly endured the season.  Little decorating at our own home and even less time together than in the regular day-to-day.  Christmas 2007 was the most painfully memorable.  Jaron led five services in four different styles in two towns in two days.  Yikes.

This year, we were intent on simplifying.  Jaron’s work for church services may have been busy like every other year, but we eliminated holiday travel.  It was painful to be away from family all gathered together to celebrate, to miss my niece and nephew wearing the same pajamas on Christmas morning that my mother made for us as little ones.  The truck my dad made for JP and the puzzle he made for Mary. But, in all honesty, it was worth it.

I come from a fairly jet-set family.  Half of my dad’s business is in Hilo, HI, my sister and I are now in the midwest, and my extended family is almost entirely in San Diego.  We’ve made a habit of flying to see each other several times per year at any cost.  Even credit cards.  But determined to “act our wage” this year, we settled in for our first Champaign Christmas.

So, Christmas Eve night, after the church services were finished and the presents wrapped, we set up a mattress next to the fireplace in the living room and camped out for the night with Banjo.  Next morning brought one of my favorite Christmas celebrations to date.  With the economic downturn there is much talk about rediscovering smaller, deeper joys.  That was exactly what our day was this year.  Jaron and I exchanged gifts, read by the fire, made Rick Bayless’ seafood soup , listened to Handel’s declaration of the birth of the Savior, and took Banjo for a snowy walk in the woods just east of here.  Our first Christmas as just an immediate family.  It was perfect.

Another unexpected gift this year as a result of our plans to stay home was that we were able to attend the wedding of our dear friends, Holly and Todd, on New Year’s Eve.

Now, I have to admit that we were cheating just a touch, because we were well-aware that we would be visiting San Diego mid-January, when flights are one third the cost of Christmas-time. We are so ready for a dose of sunshine.  It has been bitterly cold the last week, consistently below zero with wind chill.  We’ve been spending a lot of time like this, hands and feet tucked in, trying not to think about the massive heating bill headed our way just to keep it a chilly 62 inside.

This visit will be another new experience in our effort toward simplifying.  We are staying with my parents rather than couch-hopping with as many dear friends as possible.  We have no extra entertainment budget and plan to eat as many meals as possible at home, much like we do in Champaign.  I’m looking forward to a slower visit this trip.  Time to sit on the swing with my dad and enjoy the weather.

We will be squeezing in the fun opportunity to lead worship at my hometown church, Emmanuel Faith, so if you are there please find us and say hello.  Saturday night at 5:30 or Sunday morning at 11 in the main worship center.  We’d love to see you!