Our First Christmas

Our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. was not unlike our other Christmases spent together. We spent time with my family, drove home and spent time with his. There is something about the familiarity that is comforting, down to the decorations I see from year to year.

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After such a whirlwind of a year, the familiarity felt good. New traditions, namely Shane and I driving here and there for different meet ups, easily nestled into the old.

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Gathering around the table, over foods we have each year, my red sausage soup, my grandma’s plum pudding, Val’s potato casserole, shared with new stories and new laughs, all comforting.

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There were gifts under the tree, but being together bested any gift wrapped up in paper or tucked in a bag. Though it was fun to watch the kids open gifts, Marcus being in a very sincere phase and was ever so thankful for everything.

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James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

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The kids were soaking up the attention, and it is always fun to see so many generations interact. Even though we are all family, and it is to get expected, it is interesting to think of how little time is spent together by such a wide age range.

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Joanna was especially thrilled when her two little brothers went down for a nap midday and she got to spend that time icing cookies with me. In the evening she presented them to everyone on a plate offering them their choice of color. When her mom took one, she said, with her eyebrow raised, “But Mamma, there is a purple one?” So her mom changed her choice to purple.

This year, Shane and I got my dad a ukulele. It was something that had been on the back of my mind to get him for a while, and we finally did it. A new sound to echo in my parents home, now to mingle with the familiar.

Soon, our first Christmas would end, and we would head up to New England for our first New Years as a married couple. I’m so thankful for our beautiful Christmas and I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

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Thanks Best Friend

I told myself that I would finish three books by the end of December. When it comes to December goals, being the salt, giving, adding finishing three books didn’t seem like a stretch. The only issue is, I get distracted fairly easily while reading, because a point from the book will remind me of a song, another book, or a Bible verse and I will head off in that direction to look up those lyrics, line or verse.

It seemed important I set a goal on these particular books because I’ve been immersed in two for some time now. The first one “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller was a pre-wedding gift from my cousin and bridesmaid, Carlie. “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas is the second that I began soon after Scott passed, and am very close to finishing it. Finally, I am half way through “Be the Gift” by Ann Voskamp. While all of these books are handling a different topic, I am thoroughly enjoying the overlapping facts I am discovering.

Ann’s book has challenged me to be the gift through word or action, living a life daily given. Meanwhile, Robert’s book, more about prayer, really challenged in chapters six and seven to live on the border, to serve those who we might not normally serve. I combined those two ideas to how can I give to those on the border, how can I reach out and give to those I wouldn’t normally. This has been a challenge of sorts as I have shared how I can be shy and it is far easier to stay with in our comfort zones.

After reading a chapter about friendship in Timothy Keller’s book, I couldn’t help but begin to draw lines between this idea of giving from Ann’s book to giving in an intimate relationship such as a marriage. As the marriage book put it, a relationship where your partner should be your best friend, willing to be there for each other during your christian walk, help each other, and have the ability to be truthful with each other.

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I’ve come to really find out, you give a lot when you are in a marriage. Giving of yourself requires mercy, pity, and kindness, all carry a sense vulnerability. What if you show mercy, pity and are kind and you get no acknowledgment for those actions given? Giving and receiving no thanks can jade us towards the opportunity to give again. It can be an easy cycle to fall into of giving, getting hurt over the thankless response to our kindness, then with-holding a gift of kindness, and finally, in turn, becoming bitter and thankless ourselves. Something couples can easily fall back on is the go to statement of, “You don’t appreciate all I do.”; in other words, you don’t appreciate all the time and effort I give. I give up my time to make our lives better, your life better, and when is there a thank you given in return?

With these three books ideas really beginning to weave together, I thought instead of getting hung up on the thankless part, what about me giving thanks? For I am certain I do not say thank you for everything Shane does. When it comes down to it, I feel blessed that Shane often does come to the dinner table and says thank you for cooking, so what is something I can thank him for daily? Because I want to give in our marriage too, I want our marriage to benefit from my December goals of being the salt and giving.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

If I can gift that appreciation to him daily, well, studies show that can go a long way. Out of the many studies on gratitude, one  found that couples, after receiving gratitude, noticed that their partner was more responsive to their needs; overall, they were more satisfied with their relationship. Meanwhile another study reported that saying thank you strengthened a women’s marital commitment while it protected them against the negative effects of poor communication during a conflict. Could it be that just kicking things off by saying thanks can get the ball of communication rolling?

With Shane being so great at saying thank you every time I cook, maybe I can start there and say thank you for noticing and giving me feedback on what I do make. It may seem small, but at the end of the day, I love that I am married to my best friend and I do get to go along my christian walk with him and we get to help each other shine. Our marriage isn’t void of thank you’s, but when reading study after study of the positive benefits of being grateful has on a couple, it couldn’t hurt to add a pinch of thank you’s here and a dab of gratefulness there.

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Picture’s from a sort of engagement “shoot” we did while on a hike with my folks