As far as food is concerned, this time of year is like none other. The other day I ate raspberry chipotle sauce over cream cheese and crackers for lunch. To up the nutritional content of that well-balanced meal, I ate the last of the Harry & David pears Matt’s dad and step-mom sent us. I had saved the gold-foil-wrapped pear for last, and with each bite juice ran down my chin like eating a popsicle when it’s 100 degrees outside. A couple nights ago at Bunco my dear friend Jess made the most amazing apple cake with cream cheese icing. The cake was still warm from the oven and the icing was equal parts tangy and sweet. Perfect. And then there’s peppermint everything. Matt and I have a thing for minty desserts. When we first moved to Memphis, we went to Sheridan’s every night for an entire week to get a Grasshopper, vanilla custard mixed with mint and crushed Oreos. Since the first Christmas after Lydi was born, we’ve been making peppermint bark together. Lyd loves to crush the candy canes and lick the bowl after the melted white chocolate has been poured out. Matt and Lottie just love to eat the finished product.
Such a rich season, lights twinkling everywhere, the scent of cinnamon lacing the air and cream cheese and butter in, well, almost everything. Gratefully, this year we’ve managed to say no to a lot of good things. No to Pinterest. No to that overachieving elf. No to a billion parties. There’s nothing wrong with those things. They just didn’t make our list this year. Because of saying no to all those things, our pace this season has been a lot slower than previous years. Which has been lovely and terrifying. Sometimes I think I do my best to stay blurringly busy so I don’t have to truly face what my heart is feeling. With the cold temps we’ve been having, we’ve spent lots of time snuggled inside, lots of dance parties to Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder Christmas songs, lots of late night Christmas movies with my hubby and lots of time saying thank you. Ann Voskamp’s reminder rings through my ears like a thousand jingle bells, “When we have an agenda for God, we can’t see the gifts of God.”
This Advent season has held some pain as all waiting does, but I’m grateful for Voskamp’s reminder. I don’t want to miss the gifts, abundant and lavish, that surround me. The smell of evergreen and Ivory soap as we flock our tree. Two little girls in fleecy footy pajamas going to look at Christmas lights. The curve of our oak Advent wreath and candlelight reflecting in their eyes as Matt reads our Advent story each night. Hot chocolate with marshmallows and watching The Polar Express as ice glitters our trees outside. Tacky Christmas sweaters and laughing with girlfriends. A trip to Target with our small group to shop for Christmas in a Red Bag and gushing over tiny baby clothes as one of our couples prepares to welcome their long-awaited son.
I may be waiting. My heart may be aching and longing, but I wait with hope. Because when I stop and look around me, I see the rich and lavish gifts of a God who loves me dearly. I see a million whispers of His faithfulness, a thousand reminders that He is Emmanuel, that He has come to us. I want to treasure these moments and Christmas memories, these decadent tastes and rambunctious dances, these mistletoe kisses and little candy-cane-sticky hands. These gifts, rich and lavish, that surround me.