The very best place to be

The very best place to be

Christmas Day was four whole days ago, and it seems like it was a month ago because of all that has happened since,  but I can still conjure up all kinds of delicious memories (some literally delicious, others figuratively delicious)

*There was the deliciousness of SLEEPING IN, at least a little bit,  after a long and fully satisfying Christmas Eve.  Our late service lives up to its name by starting at 11:00 pm and ending around 12:30 am. . .  and by the time all of the well- wishing is done, along with a minimal amount of cleaning up and the trip back to the house,  it’s typically 2 a.m. before we’re climbing into bed.  I suppose those of you with children who still believe in Santa are still stumbling around at 2 am, assembling bicycles or doll houses or whatever.else you have to do during the night to assure one more magical visit from Santa – so Christmas Eve would be one of the times when there are advantages to rearing golden retrievers instead of children.  Anyway, I slept in until almost 9:15 . . .  by the way, that’s a.m.,  not p.m.

*There was the pleasant surprise of a quick trip to QUIK TRIP on my way to church.   One thing in which I adamantly believe is that I should not make my own breakfast.  Breakfast is the one meal that needs to be made by someone else,  even if it means buying a breakfast sandwich off the warming rack at a convenience store.  So I stopped into Quik Trip for a breakfast sandwich and my new soda preference –  caffeine-free diet pepsi with a squirt of vanilla. (My doctor wants to wean me from the twelve gallons of caffeine I typically consume every day.)  But what was most fun about this little pit stop is that there was a cheerful woman standing by the entrance, giving out cups of free egg nog.  And everyone in the place just seemed to have this aura of good cheer about them that made you want to smile.

*There was the joy of Christmas Day WORSHIP, which Pastor Jeff likes to call the Service of Strays.  When we started it more than a decade ago,  it was a tiny group who came- and it felt seemed more than anything like a ragtag group with nowhere else to go.  But over the years, more and more “strays” have straggled through the door and this year there were about fifty people in the pews.  This service has become a fun little undertaking for Jeff – who always takes care of all the pastoral stuff so the associate pastor can be with their family –  and for me, who always plays for the service so Randy can be with his family.  It’s as though it’s our own special little service project for the holidays, but we always walk away feeling like we’ve gained more than we’ve given.

*The last stop of the day was also the longest stop of the day – at Polly and Mark’s for a joyous celebration that featured the ideal mix of fun and relaxation, plus an amazing array of stuff to eat and drink.   I know I should say that the highlight was the bacon-wrapped filets we had for dinner,  but I have to say that what I loved the very most was my very first encounter with Christmas cookies that you make by cutting segments off of a log of dough-  basically a shortbread cookie but with some kind of colorful picture imbedded in the dough.  In my sadly deprived life, I had never eaten these kind of cookies before- and I LOVED them.   (Earlier this year I also ate my very first Pop Tart – blueberry-flavored – so this has been a year of exciting culinary discovery for me.)

But this was a day of splendid gifts far beyond good cookies. . .  exciting games (including Disney Bingo-  and also Junior Yahtzee, which for some reason Lorelai was calling “Lasagna” instead) –  blessed relaxation – and plenty of unanticipated fun courtesy of their dogs Lily and Rosie.   One of their dogs- I don’t recall which – always camps out right at Mark’s feet whenever he’s preparing food,  apparently under the mistaken impression that something delicious is going to fall from the counter and into her hungry mouth.  But there she sits,  in eager anticipation,  looking heavenward. . .    There’s something about that precious dog and her spirit of expectation that was one of the most moving images of the day.   Not that we’re meant to live out of our lives by sitting in the corner,  nor that we should simply wait for good things to fall into our laps – or mouths – but there is something to be said for living with that kind of hope.

pictured above:  Mark preparing our delicious dinner, and one of the dogs camped out right at his feet the whole time.