Finally! I'm going to try to start posting pictures of Durham churches, to follow my tradition of posting Harlem churches every Sunday when I lived in New York. I picked this one for today, partly because I already had a picture of it, and also because if you look carefully up at the very top, there is a tiny window and, though it's hard to see from my picture, the window has a nativity scene etched in the glass, with a manger and a star.
Yes, it's that time again! Christmas is almost here, and my mood has been very festive since Thanksgiving, when my sister-in-law gave me and C a handmade wreath bedecked in hollyberries, pine boughs, and spotted feathers. We hung the wreath on our front door, and then a week later it snowed, making the Christmas music on the radio all the more apt. At work, we had a big holiday open-house for our customers, friends, and family, and spent the entire week decorating a huge tree and making all sorts of last-minute decorating projects. Then, at church, we had our ward Christmas party, and C and I were in charge of coordinating the food. It was fun shopping for industrial-sized amounts of cider and hot cocoa, and manning the refreshment table to make sure no kids burnt their hands on the pot of hot water for the cocoa. I got to see children helping themselves to heaping portions of marshmallows as if it were a side dish. C voluntarily washed everyone's baking dishes after the entire table full of food was consumed, while ward-members performed talents on stage, decorated cookies in the back of the gym, and Santa himself made an appearance at the end. My mom told me that her ward party was going to center around "A Walk To Bethlehem" where successive rooms of the church would be decorated with the scenes of the story of Christ's birth, and kids would reverently go along and see all of them. Our party was more of a raucous hullabaloo, probably a result of all the sugary foods, but it was a lot of fun.
But outside the party, it was a rainy, dreary winter Saturday and, besides Christmas, my mind has been occupied with the tragedy of a wayward sibling. There's not much I can do about the situation--I've already given all the advice I have to give, and not even sure that it's welcome--so all I can do is pray, try to be a good example, and be available for any help or support that other family members might need. Sometimes I feel like doing something dramatic to try to fix the situation, but then again, I don't know that anything can really fix it except the person whose decisions are affecting the family peace. Then I wonder if I could have been a better sister, stayed in closer touch or given advice that would have prevented what has happened, but I don't know that, either. All I know is that from my own experience, keeping the Lord's commandments are the only way to find happiness, and I cannot keep them for another person. They must find that out on their own. But how hard it must be to be a parent and see your beautiful children falter and fumble in life and make horrible decisions and mistakes! I wonder if it seems like a waste, or if it is somehow possible to retain hope that your children will turn around, wake up, and become better? Certainly, it is possible, but it must be so hard. I know it's hard enough just being a sister!
Meanwhile, my own tiny family of me and my husband is doing wonderfully, and despite the wintry weather, we went and got a Christmas tree. Speaking of people changing, C has lived in this house for 16 years and never had a Christmas tree. I guess he didn't feel like making room for one, or going to the trouble for just himself. Yet I somehow convinced him that he could move a huge pile of his stuff into another room and thus clear a perfect space in our little family-room for a tree. He did it, and we brought home a lovely little Fraser Fir, which is now all bedecked in colored lights and flashy baubles. When he set it up in it's stand, the tree was still all tightly bound up, as it had been for travel, and C told me to wait until it relaxed and opened before decorating it, but I just couldn't wait. I found a radio station playing Christmas music, and set about rediscovering all my treasured ornaments--some handmade by my mother during her first year of marriage--while C brought down some of his own from the attic. When it was all done, he looked at it with wonder, like a kid for whom last Christmas was eons away and so everything about Christmas is new and amazing again. Not only is it his first tree in this house, but our first Christmas together. For that, I feel so blessed and happy. So, despite the weather and family drama, I'm going to enjoy this season! Sitting here, warm beneath blankets, beside my twinkly tree, my husband nearby, I feel perfectly content.