A Christmas To Remember.

Friends who feel like family...late night laughter...rewarding work...lots of white twinkle lights...and joy. That's exactly how I will remember this Christmas 2007.

Steven and I started a new tradition of giving each other one gift each morning for 3 days leading up to Christmas. My amazing husband got me a shiny red tea kettle, some delicious teas from Tempest Tea (including a luscious Chocolate Mint Rooibos-mmmm!), a subscription to Rachael Ray Everyday Magazine, and wildflower seeds to fulfill one of my dreams - a wildflower garden in our own backyard!

On Christmas Eve day, I cruised the surprisingly sparse freeways of Dallas to finish my Christmas shopping, and then it was time for the other 2 couples in our community group (Craig & Bonnie and Jason & Erin) to arrive for our Christmas Eve feast! They came toting gifts, their dogs, dog crates, and piles of pillows and blankets for our Christmas Eve sleepover! Greta led her doggie friends out the back door to their play yard, and the humans began constructing the feast. Pots and pans flew all over the place and every cutting board was in use as all 6 of us pitched in. When it was time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labor, we paused to be thankful for such an abundance of food, and friends to share it with. The joy and freedom we have in our marriages and friendships can only come through Christ, who walks through our struggles with us and brings us through them with peace, if only we will trust Him.

Our Christmas Eve menu:
Turkey slathered in herb butter and cooked in a brown-in bag
Orange-scented green beans
Prosciutto & Asparagus salad
Prosciutto & Melon salad
Green salad with pecans
Twice-baked potatoes
Corn Fluffs (a Bailey special-occasion staple)
Kahlua Rum Cake (Erin's specialty)
Chocolate Pie (Bonnie's specialty, made with Rapadura instead of sugar)
Talenti Gelato in Tahitian Vanilla Bean (made in Dallas, delicious!)
Chocolate Yummy Cookies (made with chocolate pudding instead of our traditional butterscotch)

After dinner, we opened our gifts to each other, and I put on my new apron from Erin, another Anthropologie gem! It goes well with my red tea kettle, don't you think?

Then, the boys piled wood into our firepit, grabbed their guitars and cigars and headed out to the back yard. Bonnie, Erin, and I fixed dessert and coffee. As I poured the cups, I paused and thanked God for giving us exactly what we have wanted for the last 3 years: community. Friends to hang out with, be silly with, just do nothing with. Friends who give us a chance to be to them what they are to us.

We joined the boys in the backyard, and for the next several hours, we sang every favorite 80s song from "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" to "More Than Words" at the top of our lungs. We've been kept up many a night from the dog barking and thumping bass noises in our Oak Cliff neighborhood and felt zero remorse for making a racket on Christmas Eve :).

Craig & Bonnie

Erin & Jason

The Baileys :)

After staying up until 3am (probably due to all the caffeine and sugar we consumed!), we slept like rocks and awoke at 9:30am for Christmas morning brunch. Erin and I made sugared bacon, omelets, and coffee while I reveled in the scents of my Christmas candles and the sounds of our Christmas music mix in the background. Making breakfast for a full house of people is one of my favorite things to do in the entire universe.

After breakfast, the guys prepared the back yard for our Christmas Day project: building a shed and laying our wildflower beds. Erin used to be the manager at a tree farm and didn't hesitate to start hauling dirt in the wheelbarrow while I finished laying the bricks and raking in the soil.

Here are the guys laying the shed foundation...

Partially assembled brick wall and wildflower bed...

Hot dang. Ain't nothin' like a man with a cigar and a power drill.

Greta already found her new "spot" next to the brick wall :)

Resting on the hammock after a long day of manual labor...

I have a quote framed on my desk that my dear friend Christina gave me when I moved away from Nashville. It says,

"I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frostwork, but the solidest thing we know." ~ emerson

When I left Nashville, I thought I would never find that kind of friendship again, and God has surprised me. Our friendships are real. We speak courageously. We haul dirt with each other. And we love our spouses better today because of this group of friends. So this may not have been the "traditional" Christmas, but it was the perfect one. I can't think of a better way to honor Christ's birth than by spending time with people who consistently and courageously point us back to Him.