Merry Christmas from the Marpepps!
This Christmas was particularly special because of so many firsts: Andy’s first noel (!), our first Christmas as a family of four, our first here in Charlotte, and our first at the church. It was also particularly special because we didn’t get very much of it – we’ve been working very hard here in the Marpepp household. Very hard indeed. In fact, we’ve been working very hard from the moment we’ve arrived here in North Carolina. When we’re not pouring energy into the day-to-day tasks of life with two young children, the church, and our jobs that are also our passions, we take those moments as a family and savor them. So that’s kind of been our Christmas too. Justin’s first Christmas season was all the more work for a new environment and Jess had her first state appellate argument on December 18th – she left the morning after the Christmas pageant to attend it. But we got these few moments, and they were precious, and we savored them.
Not all of them turned out the way we planned though. Santa was not the biggest hit this year. And this was the best of them. Hmm.
But that doesn’t mean the day didn’t have its wonderful moments. Choosing a Christmas tree was much better.
And while it took us a couple weeks to get it fully decorated, with as hard and late and much as we were working, we NEEDED the presence of that tree to remind us that it was actually Christmas. (somewhere?) And once we finally got it decorated, those soft twinkling lights were like air in our lungs. Oh yeah. This.
Normally, our Christmas starts as soon as we recover from Thanksgiving; we cover our house in tree trimmings and horribly breakable glass balls and anything with the phrase “Let it Snow” (haha Charlotte, it’s 51 degrees) and tins of spiced decadence and listen to old records of Christmas songs. And that month is chalked full of homemade joy. Expressions of how much we love and care for those around us. This month was trimmed down to about 5 days, and so the trimmings were kept to the basics, but we hit it where it counted. We watched White Christmas (while folding laundry and baking and cleaning the kitchen – God bless our kitchen tablet).
We managed our first ever homemade crackers for Caleb’s school teachers (actually quite easy and good!). A gingerbread house that was not quite so easy and covered our kitchen in blobs of gluey icing and choking hazards but also gave us an excuse to fill our house with Christmas spices as extras baked. Is it just us or can you not make a gingerbread house without baking cookies as well? Somehow 3 year olds don’t quite grasp that this is not for immediate consumption. Imagine that.
Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows and animal charades on Christmas Eve. Caleb made a great shark. Grandma’s snail was to die for. Granny took the cake with her starfish.
And of course, lots of church. Last year our sweet Caleb was a mouse. This year, he graduated to wise man (as a friend so aptly put it: wise guy?). He wore his knight costume. We’ll just leave that hanging with no comment other than to say there was a LOT of negotiating about this and the knight costume was about the best compromise. It was cute that he wanted to rescue baby Jesus from the manger a la princess in the castle, but perhaps not the most helpful approach. In the end, however, he did a great job, if a bit anachronistically.
Then there was the Christmas Eve service – which is always our favorite of the year.
There’s something so beautiful about children dressed for Christmas church.
And being the minister’s son means getting there early and helping out (heart? melted.).
Even the youngest checks daddy’s place to make sure he has everything he needs.
And despite only having about 5 days, we managed to deck our halls, fill our sleighs, and … rest our merry gentlemen?? Anyway, we got it done. And come Christmas morning, we were surrounded by the most important thing of all: family.
And waffles. And let’s be real: presents. Or rather, the joy we discovered in our children as they unwrapped theirs.
And as quick as that, it’s over, and we’re lying on the couches eating leftovers, too tired to even sit around the table but enjoying each other’s company all the same. To be honest (very honest), it’s not been that easy since we moved down here. We’ve worked harder down here than ever before. Something we frankly didn’t believe was possible. But the past four months has taught us something important: that each task we do and each hour we spend is in service to our family, and the time we spend in service – any kind of service – is one that is fulfilling what we have been put here on this planet to do. That paring down your life and expectations are worth it to serve. We were never promised an easy ride, but if the results of that effort are to make a better child, a better family, a better community, then they are worth it. And to us, that is what Christmas is about: the extra effort to show our love and desire to make this world a better place as Jesus did. So even without the month of baking and decorating and caroling, with having to pick just a few special projects and tasks, we still found ourselves filled with the holiday spirit and guided by that spirit as we did the work we had to do. And we sincerely hope you all have been as well. We wish you joy in your families and joy in good work and service. So merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.