The Christmas Story: Redemption

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The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “…Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb…a lamb for a house-hold. Your lamb shall be without blemish…and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it…For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 

God called his people out of Egypt, freeing them from the oppression of Pharaoh through a series of miraculous plagues. The seed of the serpent would not thwart God’s plans for Israel…the nation God called his firstborn son. In the last plague upon Egypt–the death of the firstborn sons–God made it clear to all that the wages of sin and rebellion is death… death that can be circumvented only through the blood of a spotless substitute. 

Through Moses, God led Israel safely through the waters of the Red Sea and into the wilderness. There, he gave his children the law and instructions for building the tabernacle, a tent where his presence would dwell among them. The law revealed God’s holy character. It showed Israel how to live in relationship with the God who had redeemed them in his love. Though they promised to obey, God’s children failed miserably. So, year after year, animal sacrifices were offered at the tabernacle for the forgiveness of sins. But the blood of animals was never enough to pay for human sin once and for all. A better sacrifice—a better substitute— was needed. 

God gave his children the land he had promised to Abraham and helped them drive out the seed of the serpent living in Canaan. He then gave Israel human kings–first Saul and then David…the son of Jesse…. the shepherd boy from Bethlehem….the man of God’s choosing. King David wanted to build God a house, a temple where his glory would dwell permanently with Israel. But the timing wasn’t yet right. Instead, God promised to build David a house or an eternal lineage of kings from his seed! God promised that a son of David would sit on the throne forever.

Lots of kings came after Saul and David. Most were wicked, a few were good, but not one was perfect. Many of Israel’s kings led them into apostasy through idol worship. So, God sent prophets to proclaim warnings of his impending judgment. Through the prophets, God repeatedly called his children to repent of their sin and come back to him, but they wouldn’t do it. They couldn’t do it because they were walking in darkness, blinded by their sinful hearts. 

Years passed, and judgment occurred just as the prophets had foretold: The kingdom was divided and conquered by foreign nations. The people were exiled from their land and carried into slavery. Like a tree felled by the ax of judgment, God’s chosen nation was cut down to a stump. But in the midst of this hopelessness, God gave his prophets messages of hope: The holy seed–that seed of the woman promised to Adam and Eve–remained in the stump of King David’s family tree! And one day, a shoot of new life was going to break through the stump and grow into a branch bearing fruit. 

A remnant would return to the promised land, and a great Light would dawn upon those living in darkness through the birth of the promised child–a Son! This child would be a divine King whose future reign on David’s throne would bring worldwide justice and peace. But he would also be a suffering servant, a substitutionary lamb whose shed blood would deal with the problem of sinful human hearts once and for all. 

The promises were foretold, the remnant returned, and then….SILENCE.

The Christmas Story: Fall

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Now the serpent said to the woman, “Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. 

Everything was wonderful until a serpent slithered into the garden and started telling lies. His message planted seeds of doubt in the minds of God’s children: God doesn’t really love you. He doesn’t really know best. Freedom comes by living according to your own rules, not God’s. In a foolish pursuit of autonomy, Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Then, she shared with her husband, and the darkness of sin entered the world. Sickness, pain, struggle, shame, spiritual death, and later…. physical death. Life would never be the same. When Adam and Eve heard the voice of their Holy Creator coming to pronounce just judgment, they hid.

 But no one can hide from God. He pronounced judgment on his children through curses. The man and woman would be exiled from the garden and God’s presence. Life would be hard, and death would come to all. But coupled with God’s pronouncement of judgment came a glorious promise of his mercy—a thrill of hope! God would not abandon his children or his world to the enemy. Though the seed of the serpent would bruise the seed of the woman, one day, a child of Eve would crush the evil snake’s head once and for all!

Through this child of promise, God was going to fill the earth with his glory, but things would get much worse before they would get better. Sinful hearts were passed down from generation to generation, and wickedness grew like a vicious weed taking over the world. Things got so bad that God wiped away all he had created through a worldwide flood and started over with a man named Noah. Judgment through water. Mercy through an ark. A new creation, a new start. But still….the problem of sinful hearts. 

Noah, his sons, and all their wives were given the same commission given in the beginning: Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth with God’s glory! But, once again, as people multiplied, sin multiplied, and the cycle continued. God’s matchless glory was veiled by selfish human pursuits for vainglory. The seed of the serpent appeared to be winning…but God’s mercy and grace are greater than people’s sin. 

God called a pagan named Abram, and gave him a new name and identity: Abraham, the father of nations! God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to bless him and give him a special land and descendants that outnumbered the stars. Through Abraham, God would establish a new family—a new nation through which he would bless people from every other nation on earth!

In time, the new family began to grow. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, his twelve sons, and their many children eventually made up the nation of Israel—God’s chosen people. But Israel wasn’t mediating the blessing of God to other peoples. In fact, they found themselves oppressed by the nation of Egypt, and oppressed in a greater way by their own sinful hearts. Would God keep his promises after all? Well…yes! God always keeps his promises. Redemption was coming!

 

Expectancy

Expectancy changes everything. One’s perspective, planning, and worldview are all shaped and often altered by the expectation of something or someone’s coming.  I’ve thought much about expectancy recently as we are anticipating the arrival of our third son around Christmas Day. Our expectation of his arrival has altered our Christmas travel plans, affected the arrangement of our house, and even changed the way we think about the future of our family. While Christmas Eve isn’t necessarily considered an ideal due date, it will be special to count down the days until our son’s birth as we simultaneously count down the days until Christmas. As we await the birth of our little boy, we will joyfully celebrate the first coming of our Savior King with hopeful expectancy for His future return.

I’ve been imagining how Mary must have felt as she carried Jesus in her womb and anticipated the day of His birth. She, along with all the people of Israel, had for many years been waiting expectantly for the coming of the Messiah–the Rescuer–the one who would bring salvation and free the Israelites from oppression. Their expectation gave them hope to press on in faithfulness to God, despite hardship and uncertainty. Their expectation enabled them to have joy in the midst of pain and sorrow.

Christmas is the season full of joyful expectancy and anticipation. Everything–from the decorating and shopping to the parties, performances, and baking–is leading up December 25, the big day when we celebrate the season in full with friends and family. The excitement of the holiday season  builds through the month of December and is made complete on Christmas Day. But for believers, the significance of this expectation and anticipation is so much richer than just the gifts, traditions, and even the family. Our expectation and joy in these things is just a pointer to a deeper joy and greater expectation in our hearts. The big day is greatly anticipated and greatly celebrated because it was on this day that God took on human flesh and came to live among us (John 1:14). It was on this day that a light dawned on a people living in a land of darkness (Isaiah 9:2). It was on this day that the many promises of God to His people began to receive fulfillment: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor 1:20). Through Adam’s original sin, brokenness and death reigned among humanity. But through the birth of Christ and one day through His death on the cross and resurrection, grace would reign among humanity (Romans 5). Jesus came into the world on that first Christmas Day to conquer more than the oppressive Roman Empire. He came into the world to conquer sin and death–much greater oppressors of humanity.

For believers in Jesus, Christmas is both a season of joyful celebration for what He has already done and a season of joyful expectation for what He will accomplish still. In a world still plagued by terror, violence, sorrow, injustice, and oppression, we celebrate Christmas with joyful expectancy. We rest in the truth that we serve a God who has always shown Himself faithful to keep His promises, and we hold on to the hope that Jesus will return again. This time, He’s coming to judge the world, make all things new and right, and reign forever. And our expectancy for this great return changes everything about the way we live today. 

“Come, thou long expected Jesus, 

born to set thy people free;

from our fears and sins release us,

let us find our rest in thee. 

Israel’s strength and consolation, 

hope of all the earth thou art; 

dear desire of every nation,

joy of every longing heart.”

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The light of the Gospel shines brightest at Christmas

If I had to choose one word for our 2014 year, it would be gospel. For us, this year has been about learning to live in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ—learning that no part of our lives is untouched by this good news. It is the gospel that must shape our marriage, our work, our parenting, our play, our time management, and our very identity. The gospel must be our ultimate hope and satisfaction. It is the gospel–not our work, our achievements, our income, our children—that defines us. The gospel is not just the spring board that launches us into salvation. It is the pool into which we dive and remain.

So what exactly is this gospel? Whether you’ve heard it many times or never before, understanding and dwelling on the gospel of Jesus is a daily necessity for each of us— often a greater necessity than we realize. In the Bible, the Greek word for gospel (translated euangelion) literally means good news. The gospel proclaimed throughout the Scriptures is simply the good news of what God has done through His Son Jesus Christ to reconcile humanity back to Himself. This good news is the whole reason we started celebrating Christmas in the first place. But the reality is, we cannot fully grasp and appreciate good news until we have a proper understanding of the bad news regarding our helplessly hopeless situation. The good news of the gospel is only necessary and gloriously good when shining brightly against the dark and dirty backdrop of our ultimate human problem: Sin.

We like to believe that human beings are born basically good and are later corrupted by the evil that already exists in our world, but the Bible tells a different story. The Bible tells us that, at the core, all human hearts are deceitful and sick with a wickedness that can’t be shaken in our own power (Jeremiah 17:9). When Adam and Eve, our first parents, failed to trust God and instead rebelled against His good rule in disobedience, sin and death entered the world: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all had sinned” (Romans 5:12). From that point on in human history, all men and women have been born with a sinful nature that leads us to break God’s law and defame His glory by committing sinful deeds (Romans 3:23). We are born into this world physically alive but spiritually dead—separated from God and controlled by our sin nature (Ephesians 2:1). Although our Creator God is a perfect, beautiful, loving, gracious, sovereign King; in our sinful state,we want nothing to do with him (Romans 3:10-12). We utterly reject His good rule in our lives in order to govern ourselves according to the corrupted desires of our own hearts (Ephesians 2:3). The result is a broken world filled with evil, sickness, sorrow, tragedy, pain, and, eventually, physical death for all (Romans 6:23). And the worst part is that we are powerless to fix our sin problem. No amount of good deeds can change the deep-rooted condition of our hearts or keep us from committing more sin. Our attempted righteousness is still filthy when held up to God’s perfect righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). Even our greatest virtue is faintly tainted by selfish ambition and pride—tainted by hearts that love self more than God.  Because our God is holy, pure and perfectly good, He cannot tolerate evil. It is in conflict with the very essence of His being. Left to ourselves, we are destined for God’s just wrath against sin and bound for an eternity separated from Him in Hell.

The picture is grim and seemingly hopeless, but it is against this dark backdrop that the good news of the gospel breaks in as a bright light of shining hope. The Light was foretold many years before He appeared on the scene to shine fully into a dark world. The prophets proclaimed that God would send a Rescuer who would illuminate and overcome darkness, bringing hope to a sin-oppressed people: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. . . For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. . .(Isa 9:2,6). The promise of this Light-to-come flickered in the hearts of God’s people, igniting a tiny flame of hope. And many years later, that promised Light entered the world fully. On the first Christmas, The Word {Jesus Christ} became flesh and dwelt among us. . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . . The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:14, 4, 9). God sent His own Son from Heaven to Earth to shine light into a dark world and also to shine light into our darkened hearts: For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Jesus came to earth to shine His light on our ultimate problem: sin-darkened hearts. And He came to illuminate the truth that He alone is the solution to our problem. Only Jesus can transform sinful hearts and make them clean and right before God. Only Jesus can bridge the separation between God and man.

Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live–a perfect sinless life. He met all of God’s requirements perfectly. Despite His perfection, He died a death that we deserved to die when he served as our substitute and bore God’s wrath against sin in His own body on the cross. He didn’t stay dead, however, but rose from the grave to overcome sin, darkness, and death once and for all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). One day, Jesus is coming back to judge evil once and for all and to make all things new and right in our world.

During this season when I enjoy the beauty of tiny white lights illuminating the dark boughs of our Christmas tree, I am reminded of the true Light that shone into a dark world on that first Christmas night. As I watch lights twinkling from bushes, trees, and porches against the blackness of a night sky, I am so thankful for Jesus who shone His light into my own darkened, powerless heart—forgiving and transforming me. Christmas intensifies my longing for those blinded by the darkness of sin to have the eyes of their hearts illuminated by the light of Christ. God’s Word promises that when we repent or turn away from sin and the desire to rule our own lives and trust only in the good news of what Jesus has done to give us clean hearts, we will be saved and made right before God (Mark 1:15). It is the gospel that is that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), and it is the gospel that is the power of God for daily living. God, through Jesus, has provided the remedy for my ultimate problem and made me His child, bound for eternity with Him. That changes everything in my life. Jesus, the true Light of the World, offers hope for today and for eternity if we will only trust in Him. May the light of the gospel shine brightly in your hearts and from your homes this Christmas. 

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Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

The 2013 Stevens-family-Christmas-card-photo-shoot needed to be recorded in the archives for posterity’s sake. Because future generations need to understand that they come from a bunch of crazies! And fun crazies to boot!

{Disclaimer: some of these photos have dark shadows and heads cut out. We used the self timer for this shoot because who do you ask to come over and take photos of your entire family in footie pajamas? At least we got a few good ones.}

So, Merry Christmas and tidings of great comfort and joy from our family to yours!

2013 Stevens family Christmas card
2013 Stevens family Christmas card

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Luke tells the Christmas Story

This post should actually be titled Luke tells the Christmas Story to Doc and J-J.

I loved my parents’ response to this video. They both loved it and commented to me separately . . .

Mom: Doc was a little jealous that J-J got so much attention in this video! 

Dad: J-J’s head was a little bit puffed up about all that attention!

Each vying to be the #1 grandparent! They crack me up.

So thankful Luke is learning the story of Christ’s coming. Praying it will one day mean the world to him.

Christmas in Pictures

We made a very quick trip to Alabama for Christmas this year, but I wanted to document with just a few pictures.

Santa loot…

SONY DSC Coming in to check out the loot. SONY DSCReady to cruise.
SONY DSCChuck the truck.

SONY DSC DSC05197Someone has changed a lot since last Christmas. Tears . . .
SONY DSCNew pajamas. Jenny looks like a model when she wakes up in the morning. It’s a tad sickening. 🙂

photo (2) Probably the best piece of meat I’ve had. EVER. Props to Big Norm. photo (3)

Always excited about new books. SONY DSC Sweet Christmas cousins. SONY DSCSadly, I neglected to get many pictures with family during our Christmas trip, but here’s a family Christmas card attempt taken around Thanksgiving. Oh, how I love these people!

DSC05062Hoping everyone had a happy Christmas!

December Fun

There’s this adorable little park that we drive by almost every day on our way to and from the house, and it’s lit up with all sorts of fantastic lights this time of year. Mr. Boy always notices the lights from the car and points and “talks” when we drive by. So one night, we thought we’d stop and let him see the lights up close.
IMG_3534The pictures aren’t so grand and really don’t capture the beauty {I have issues with night pictures}, but Mr. Boy wasn’t disappointed.

DSC05146He pitched a fit when he had to say goodbye to the giant Frosty and get back in the car.
DSC05153 DSC05161And since we’re just so full of Christmas cheer, we also stopped by the mall to see Santa. Mr. Boy wasn’t a fan, which makes me thankful that I made the decision to stand outside the gate and take my own pictures, rather than paying $35 for a package of “professionally made” photos of my child screaming his head off in Santa’s lap. Santa’s photographer elves just loved me.
DSC05168 The good news is, L LOVED the little cars in the middle of the mall that you can ride for a whole 75 cents. Have I mentioned that he is really into cars and trucks right now? I mean REALLY into them. The only words to describe it are unbridled OBSESSION. In the pictures below, he’s making his “truck sound” which reminds me of the drumroll that Ellen does right before Clarke lights up the house on Christmas Vacation. He can do this great tongue roll thing and draw it out forever and a day.
DSC05169 Then, after he touched the seat, floor, steering wheel, windshield and every other inch of the car, he stuck his thumb in his mouth. Great. Because I will not survive it if we all get the stomach virus again. DSC05170 See, like I said. Not a fan of Santa yet. But can you blame him? I mean, we just handed him off to this BIG, strange man in a funny outfit and a HUGE chair. Not gonna lie, if I was a year old, I might be a little freaked too. DSC05171I just wanted to take him and see his reaction. I have memories of going to see Santa every year at the mall in Mobile with my siblings. We would prepare our little lists and go sit on his lap and tell him everything we wanted. And we really believed, y’all. We loved it. Well, that is, until we got to early middle school and mom still made Jenny and me go see Santa because “Will still believes, and he should get to see Santa just as many years as you girls did.” At that point, it was more like torture…just like it was for our little guy. Bless it!
DSC05172Merry Christmas, Y’all!

The hope we sing. . .

If you’ve followed my ramblings for any length of time, you may remember that I love the Christmas season. I really do.

But let’s be real. It’s all too easy to let the season become stressful. It’s busy. It’s hectic. Parties to attend, cards to address, food to cook, traveling to see too many families in too little time, all those presents to buy and wrap, and in the end, too much money spent on all the things we feel are necessary parts of the holiday season.

I fall into it, this holiday stress. Christmas becomes overwhelming, and I find myself thinking, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. . .this isn’t how I WANT it to be. This really should be the most wonderful time of the year.

Why? Because Christmas is Hope. Christmas is the climax of a big story—God’s big story that has become our story. Christmas is the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God—the inauguration of the total restoration of all things that will one day be our reality. Christmas brings the answer to the horrific problems of sin and suffering that permeate the earth. Christmas is an essential part of the fulfillment of a promise given in Genesis 3:15: the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.

We don’t revel in this hope. We rarely even dwell on it in the mundane of the day-to-day. But it’s the hope we sing in our carols during the month of December. And it’s the hope we cling to, through the good and bad, in every other month of the year.

Our hearts mourn the sickness, suffering, injustice, evil, and loss of innocent life that are daily realities in our world:

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

But the bells of Christmas day ring out our message of HOPE:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “GOD IS NOT DEAD, NOR DOTH HE SLEEP; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”  

This hope of right one day prevailing began in Bethlehem and continued to the cross. . .

Son of Adam, Son of heaven, given as a ransom. Reconciling God and Man, Christ, our mighty Champion! What a Savior, what a Friend, what a glorious myst’ry! Once a babe in Bethlehem, now the Lord of hist’ry! 

And it will one day be consummated with Christ’s return! So, may we truly revel in His first coming this Christmas season. May it be our pleasure, our joy, and our hope. May it overcome the busyness and stress. May we also pray in earnest for his second coming: a time when our restoration will be complete,  our hope fulfilled, and all things made right.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

{Lyrics: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Joy Has Dawned, & O Come, O Come, Emmanuel}

Christmas Tidbits and Funnies

It’s true. There’s no place like home for the holidays. I’m sure that one day Adam and I will spend Christmas in our own home with our own children, but for now we wouldn’t miss spending it with our families in Alabama {our growing- up homes}.

This year we made the long drive down from Kentucky on Christmas Eve eve {as I like to say}, and the trip was as treacherous and exhausting as always. I was so “checked- out” by the time we stopped at Chic-fil-a around Birmingham that I actually used the men’s restroom. Yep, that’s right. I marched straight into the men’s room, totally ignoring that sign with the little stick man clearly posted on the door. I proceeded into the stall, completely missing the urinal hanging on the wall to my left. It only dawned on me that I was in the wrong place when I made my exit from the stall to find a man washing his hands at the sink. Can you say awkward? I quickly made my way out of the bathroom, head down, without even washing my hands. Adam laughed at me for a good ten minutes, I’d say.

On Christmas Eve, mom sent the five of us (Jenny, Will, Adam, Luke, and myself) out on our traditional Christmas Eve do-gooding run. For as long as I can remember, our family has baked tea-cakes a few days before Christmas to be delivered to the church staff and a few widows from the congregation. I would love to say that we always do this delivering joyfully in spirits of Christmas cheer, but we’re usually rushing to get the job done and get back home. This year was no different. By the time we arrived at Mrs. Eloise’s house {our last delivery stop} we were strategizing about how to get in and out as quickly as possible. There was much to do. Adam had to go back to his house to get the camera we’d forgotten and it was almost time for Luke to eat. But of course, Mrs. Eloise opened the door and invited us in to visit. We couldn’t say no. And when we got inside, and I saw that big empty house and that Christmas tree with just three small presents beneath, my heart ached a little. Mrs. Eloise has lost two husbands. Her children live far away. She was spending Christmas Eve alone. She told us that we made her day by stopping by. She hugged us so tightly. I left feeling convicted for my self-centeredness and so thankful to be surrounded by family on this most special of holidays. I’m so glad we stopped by.

Mom cooked her traditional Christmas Eve spread, and Dad preached his traditional “sermon” (HA).  He promised that this year it would be mostly scripture reading without much commentary. We pick on Dad for his long-windedness when it comes to teaching the Bible, but I’m thankful for this time each year to reflect on Christ’s coming before all the craziness of presents ensues. As promised, his sermon wasn’t too long.

A family friend who recently lost his wife joined us for our Christmas Eve dinner. As often happens with a doctor in the family, the conversation turned to medical issues that are inappropriate to talk about at the table. Somehow {don’t ask me how} we got on the subject of having babies. I made the mistake of saying that my doctor gave me specific instructions about what to do (how to push) when it was time for the baby to be born. Dad went on to say that he tells his OB patients to push like they are trying to have a bowel movement when trying to push out the baby. Yes. He said this at the Christmas Eve table with a guest present. Now, this is the type of conversation that our family would normally not bat an eye about. With a guest present, however, I think my mom wanted to crawl under the table and die.

Granddaddy decided to tell us the story of his life on Christmas Eve. He promised that it would be much shorter than Dad’s sermon. I’d say it was at least 30 minutes longer. Granddaddy was basically a math prodigy and has been an academic guru his entire life. His story included telling us that he didn’t know how to kiss until he met my grandmother, and after that, he learned rather quickly. Now, this is the kind of the thing that my typically straight-laced Granddaddy would NEVER say. He has become more free as the years go by, I suppose. Mom never lost eye contact with him as he was telling the story {for fear of what might happen if she made eye contact with any of the rest of us}, but when he came to the kissing/attraction part of the story, her eyes seemed to be screaming “NO MORE! SAY NO MORE!”

Luke enjoyed his first Christmas morning {I suppose}. Santa came and brought the Bumbo seat that L has been using for the past two weeks. Ha. Ok, so he has absolutely no clue what’s going on, and I just didn’t see the need to buy much this year. He did get a few more little toys. Plus, the gifts from grandparents are already out of control. We may need some limitations on toys next year, but mama is thankful for all of the cute clothes! 🙂

Going home for Christmas also means going to Mississippi to see grandparents. We spent time with my Dad’s family in Mt. Olive, MS. Mt. Olive is the definition of small-town America. I love that you can go for a 3 mile run and pretty much cover the entire town. My super-in-shape sister and I ran the two miles to Powell’s Drug Store and back, and I nearly died. Distance running used to be the only physical activity that I could do {a little} better than my ridiculously athletic sister. No more. I guess that’s what happens when you take a year-long break from running during pregnancy. Maybe I should start working on my New Year’s resolutions…

We enjoyed a day on the farm in Union, MS with Adam’s grandparents and entire family. It’s always fun to spend time with the nieces and nephews. Our oldest nephew got his first 22 rifle for Christmas. I shot the rifle and a 22 pistol and actually hit the target…several times. Shocker, I know. Another nephew, Garrett {5}, constantly keeps us laughing. A whole book of Garrettisms should be written. On the way home from Union he told us, in his most dramatic voice, that he’s terribly afraid when God creates the new earth, he’ll lose his angry birds forever.

Hope your Christmas was as full and blessed as ours. Happy New Year to all!