Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 24, 2010: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...


... let's start out with a story.  Thanks to Donna Yazbek for sending me this on facebook...

The "W" in Christmas

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peacefulexperience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by it's bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snow caps upon their heads. Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down -totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding
her "W". 
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: "CHRISTWAS LOVE" And, I believe, He still is.


Author Unknown

How AWESOME is that?  As much fun as the Santa myth is, the legend of the birth of Jesus is simply amazing.  Regardless of theological interpretation, regardless if you believe in the immaculate conception or of a virgin birth, regardless if you believe Jesus of Nazareth is/was the messiah, the story his birth simply sets the tone for a memoir of power through humility and service not seen often on this planet.  That man.  Oh, that man.  So clear in who he was.  So clear in who he was to be.  So clear in what he had to do.  Jesus set the bar, my friends.  Courage?  Top Jesus.  Faith?  Top Jesus.  Love?  Top Jesus.  Compassion?  Top Jesus.  Humility?  Top Jesus.  Servitude?  Top Jesus.  Leadership?  Top Jesus.  Born in a barn, travels the land as a homeless man, arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey, dies in a loin cloth amid thieves and murderers.  Befriends women, minorities, tax men, prostitutes, the poor.  Challenges the Sanhedrin, the temple, his own people, the very validity of the power of Rome, and dies for it all.

What are we REALLY celebrating tonight and tomorrow?  Not a mythical fat man's ability to travel the globe on flying reindeer in one night.  Like I said, it's cute, but frankly largely exploited.  What would Black Friday be without Jesus?  We're not celebrating Santa's Birthday, we're celebrating Jesus'.  In the movie, "Brazil,"  there is a great moment when in a crowded shopping mall, a small group of protesters walks by with a sign that reads, "CONSUMERS FOR CHRIST."  Man, that said it ALL.

We're not waiting with baited breath for Santa, we're waiting with baited breath to pause and thank God in Heaven for the lowly birth of a tiny baby, that in a short lifetime, radically changed the world for 2,000 years after.  Regardless of whether Jesus is or isn't 'the only son of God,' (which in all honesty just doesn't make any sense to me and smacks of traditional mythology)  his life was so extraordinary that we celebrate its beginning 2,000 years later.  You haven't heard me use Jesus' name hardly EVER before tonight, right?  It's not my style, but tonight, he deserves some recognition!  Hey, I don't even know historically whether Jesus was born on December 25, but this is the day we have chosen to mark the occasion, so be it.  And so it is...

I really wasn't planning on sharing any of this tonight, but apparently God was.  LOL.  I had no intention of writing any of the above while I was working on editing pics from today.  Funny how God works.  

Today can be broken into three parts:  1) morning snow fun 2) afternoon/prep & evening feast, and 3) Polar Express.

1)  Jake and Harrison's snow man seemed lonely, so Ali wanted to build a snow musketeer by his side.  Never mind that the snow musketeer is facing the opposite direction.  So, Ang and I (with help from Ali) set out to see if we could pull it off.  Behold our triumph in the 1st slide show!  Then, we went for a hike to a little fort nearby with the dogs.  The weather was cloudy and about 32 degrees, but DRY so it felt quite pleasant.  

2)  There was a lot of prep (just like in most houses) work for tonight's feast during the day.  Ang helped the kids make Christmas cookies as seen in slide show #2.  The table was set, and the assembly line of food was underway.  After the polar express, we all reunited and had a magical feast with fresh homemade raviolis and  meatballs and an awesome salad to cool it all off at the end.  We were all so stuffed from the meal that I don't know how much dessert was even attempted!

3)  The Polar Express was really cute.  Tracy's family and Ang, Nanny, Ali, and I all got seats together on the train.  Some hot chocolate, a red and green marshmellow treat, a Santa hat, a mug, and a reindeer bell personally hand delivered by Santa himself made for a fun ride, including the sing along we did all the way back from the north Pole.  Then, Ali got to meet Santa and spend a little more quality time with him just once more before he descends upon our house in just a short while from now.

Twas the night before Christmas
and all trough the house
not a creature was stirring,
just this grieving blogger.

It hits hard, and lately, it hits often.
The silence of Bella is deafening to me
I work hard at staying present and grateful
and yet that profound sadness emanates my being.

I am sad and grateful simultaneously. 
I can be, because it is, without me commanding it so
I do my best, because done is better than perfect
And all the while, my ROCK, my breath, Angelique,
keeps the anchor connected, and we pull each other up.

So tomorrow we watch and cheer and laugh 
as children's dreams either come true or not.
We love either way, and miss the heck outta Bella the whole time.
This is how we grieve.  This is how we live.

God night and Merry Christmas.


  1. Merry Christmas to all your family on Earth and in Heaven!


  2. Merry Christmas to you and the whole family! I love the "W" story, and stole it for my blog. :)
    Thank you for posting so regularly, you are in my thoughts daily.

  3. My body still weeps for Bella, my heart still aches for you and Angi... but on this Christmas morning I imagine Jesus' fierce yet gentle love surrounding us all...calming, comforting, and bestowing peace and hope once more. Have a blessed Christmas with your beloved family, Tim, Angi and Ali...much love to you all. Happy Christmas!!

  4. Isaiah 9:6
    "For unto us a Child is born,
    Unto us a Son is given;
    And the government will be upon His shoulder.
    And His name will be called
    Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

    Merry Christmas, Ringgolds! I love the above scripture because it uses the word "us". Christ came for US. He was born so that He could die. And, again, His death was for us - so that we could live - forever with Him. And for those of us who have recently lost loved ones, that brings an immense amount of comfort. At least it does for me.

    Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas day as you celebrate with family and friends. Praying that you feel the comfort that comes only from the Prince of Peace.

    Be blessed, sweet family!

    A friend in NC

  5. Feliz Navidad to your family!!
    Love all the pictures and with tears in my eyes I smile at sweet Bella.
    Praying for love and family.
    Mariana,still in Buenos Aires (so hot!!)

  6. Merry Christmas! I LOVED the story enjoy celebrating the true meaning of the season with your family. I am sure Bella is attending a most amazing birthday party in heaven today.
    God Bless
    North Dakota

  7. Felíz Navidad para tí Tim y toda tu familia!!

    Un abrazo grande desde Montevideo, Uruguay


    Still here...

  8. Merry Christmas to all! Terri

  9. Merry Christmas, Ringgolds!

    Cara, Sean and Ari in Tucson

  10. Here's to hoping you had (are having???? it is 23.45 here now) a great day.

    Saludos a los "españoles" :-)

    Love and hugs

    and love and hugs to our dear Bella in heaven

  11. Tim, Ang, Ali...Merry Christmas. I love the story. We did things a little different this year, due to finances. I bought for immediate familyand made cookies for other family members and friends. I didn't send out cards. Our son got us plane tickets to his home in Miami. Spending time w family is better than any gift. My dau stayed at home w our pets.
    I have thought of Bella often today. You were blessed to have her. I feel blessed to know her, if only thru you. Thank youCarla SpradliPortsmouth, Ohio

  12. Merry Christmas to all the Ringgold's here and in heaven!


  13. Merry Christmas Ringgolds!

    I got some fabulous socks today, ballet Mom thought I'd like them. She was right, I love them. I told her that it was so funny that she picked those out, because Bella always wore them. Her immediate reaction was, "oh no, I didn't mean to get you a sad present!" But it's not sad, it's happy. I feel honored to wear those socks.

  14. A Blessed Christmas to your entire family.

  15. Merry Christmas!!! I too miss the heck outta Bella...that will never is comforting and inspiring to know that you have each other and are each others wind behind your backs. May God's Peace be with you forever. You are always in my thoughts and prayers,

  16. I loved the Christmas story you posted and I'm so thankful that you were willing to talk about Jesus and the real reason for the season. Yes, the myth of Santa Claus is fun but, the birth of Jesus is miraculous and fantastic and everyone needs to be reminded about the real reason for Christmas! Thanks Tim.

    It sounds like you guys had a fabulous Christmas Eve. I'm so glad to hear that. I'm sorry that Bella wasn't able to physically be there with you all this year but I'm sure she is hanging out with you in spirit.

    Lots of Love,
    Amber, Craig, Malorie, and Liam
    The McLaughlin Family, CA

  17. Your family keeps everything in perspective for me. I began following your blog in September. My daughter became sick in November, and through the process, your situation and outlook reminded me how to channel my focus. I spent my nights at the hospital reading your blog so that I could be reminded of how to be strong and focus. Your family's strength, focus, and attention on what is important in life is inspiring. Thank you and Merry Christmas.