Merry Christmas!  It is after 11:00 on Christmas night.  We have had a wonderful day.  I pray that you and yours have as well.  We spent most of the day in our pajamas, playing with our new Christmas toys, just the four of us.  It was lovely.

This year, we don’t have any of our extended family with us for Christmas.  Most of our family (except for my brother) live an airplane ride away and we often have someone with us over the holidays.  We love company and truly enjoy our family, so that makes us very happy.  However, this year due to a number of circumstances, it is just us.

As I think back over the past 36 or so hours of celebrating…the countdown to Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and Christmas day…I realize that we have indeed experienced family, in spite of the absence of our out-of-town loved ones.  Last night, the girls were part of the Christmas Eve drama at church.  As they put on their shepherd costumes (Shepherd 1 and Shepherd 3, thank you very much!) in preparation for the service, I had the opportunity to walk around the church and visit with people as they arrived.  As I walked through the sanctuary or greeted people in the lobby, it occured to me that we were truly at home.  There was no place on earth that I would rather have been last night than there in that building, with those people…my church family.  As I watched the girls gathered on stage with the other shepherds, I thought about how they had grown up with each of those kids.  Those children represented families with whom we had worshipped, sung, learned, cried, laughed and grown up for 10 plus years. In every sense of the word family, the kids with whom they shared the stage,the people with whom we sang Silent Night, the friends who we hugged and wished Merry Christmas before and after the service are truly our family.  God’s children, worshipping Him together, celebrating the birth of our Savior on Christmas Eve…it was a beautiful evening.

While we spent most of today here playing games, we were invited over to our dear friends home this evening for dinner.  They had several members of their extended family in town for the holidays, yet chose to include us in their celebration as well.  We used to live next-door to this family and have been very close friends for over 10 years.  Because God is so good, this family is also part of our church family.  In fact, they contributed a few shepherds to the mix last night as well!  While we are not related by blood, these precious ones are as close as family to us.  In the ways that family members share common history and values, we have experienced some of the best times of our lives side by side…our children met as babies and toddlers and are now turning into teenagers!  I am so grateful for their continuing presence in our lives.

So, while I miss my far-away family in Texas and North Carolina and Maryland, I am grateful that God has surrounded us with family here in Virginia.  I know that God is sovereign in all things and I know He has placed us in this place, at this time, with these people….with THIS family.  For those of you in my church family who read this, I am so honored and privileged to be part of your family.   Thank you for being part of mine and for sharing this journey with us.  Merry Christmas!