As our family of 5 sat on the front row at our Christmas Eve candlelight service, an elder came by and lit Paul’s candle as the lights dimmed in the building. Paul then passed the flame on to Garrett, who passed it on to Elliot, who passed it on to me, and I passed it on to Abby. That moment meant something different for each of us. For Paul and me, contemplation was taking place. For the kids, their minds were filled with excitement and the anticipation of Christmas itself. They couldn’t help but run their fingers through the fascinating flame. Any past memories of getting burned by a fire were non-existent at this point. Before long the whole room was filled with the beauty of flickering flames. A moment that ended all too quickly. Because after the pastor gave the benediction, the flames were blown out, the lights came on, and all the people went home. Home to their own traditions and reflections of celebrating the Christ child.

The last 25 days have been a whirlwind of activity with shopping, baking, cooking, wrapping, planning, celebrating, parties, pageants and entertaining. And now it is over. It is my goal to “relax and remember.”

I asked friends and family what their favorite memory of Christmas was. My middle son said, “hanging out at home and relaxing.” This would be in his new red robe, which he has not taken off in 2 days.

My daughter said, “staying home,” as she sits at the dining table sewing clothing for her American Girl doll collection on her new sewing machine. She also loved chasing her little cousins Isaiah and Jacob around the house at the family dinner.

My dad said, “One of my favorite moments was feeling the love flow from heart to heart as our large family clasped hands and sang and prayed before the meal.”

My sister made our Grandma Friesen’s German rolls, Zwieback, and it’s our tradition to not keep track of how many you eat!

Paul and I can’t smile enough when we are around our new great-nephew Gavin as he slobbers and kisses our faces. And Gavin’s Mommy said that her favorite part was seeing the older kids interact with each other. That they hold nothing back and they have the freedom to just love one another, no matter what their differences in life may be.

My niece, Kayla, liked seeing her cousins at the family dinner and my sister, Linda, loved giving presents to the family and watching their facial expressions! I loved sitting around and singing carols together as my older sister, Di, played the piano.

We also enjoyed hearing Abby play, O Holy Night, for whoever walked through our front doors. And one of my friends even slept under the tree with her daughter and she let her open up a couple of presents at 2 in the morning!

Other memories were viewing the different houses and other families’ traditions, not just our own, as we participated in a progressive dinner with the Jantzi and Gambee families on the Eve of Christmas.

We also had our friends over last week for *lamb lasagna* (thanks for the lamb, Barb!) and our friend Minor brought games for the whole family to play. His response was that he “enjoyed the kids’ personalities, their sense of humor, their quirky little smiles and bright eyes – that all came out big time when we were playing the games.”

And when Uncle Steve and his family came for dinner one night, he taught Garrett a new12-part Blues” tune on the piano, which has livened up the Coughlin home this week!
Hoppi and her son Jacob prepared a beautiful Christmas dinner for us yesterday. I loved lying on her bed after dinner with a very full tummy, relaxing and talking about life.

A friend of mine said, “One of the biggest benefits of entertaining–reluctant or otherwise–is the guilt-free relaxation that we’re able to indulge in after it’s all over….”

I love that! This week after Christmas, before the New Year, is precious to me. And it involves the “gift of relaxation,” especially following a very active month. For some reason most of us feel like we have to “fit it all in,” before the holidays are over, like we are going to miss out if we don’t. Maybe there is truth to that because the hustle-bustle lifestyle, at least for our family, seems to be centered on being with other people during this season. Relationships! I wouldn’t change any of the memories that we created this year by being with loved ones.

But now it is time to RELAX …