Christmas 2012 marked our first time in six years celebrating December 25th in the United States of America. It was a very unique Christmas! Not like any before, yet still rich with special memories.
A friend kindly loaned us a small fiber optic Christmas tree for the occasion, and we first set it up in our living room in Delaware. Our children oohed and aahed over the sparkling lights and we were thankful for their simple joy, as it was our only holiday decoration in the midst of yet another season of packing.
A week before Christmas, we celebrated the first time around. Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop joined us in the evening for supper and an opening of gifts from both sets of grandparents and from Mommy and Daddy. Christmas stockings were saved for our trip to Florida and for opening on Christmas Day.
Mom-Mom was still recovering from pneumonia, but nothing was going to keep her from celebrating Christmas with her grandchildren this one time on our furlough year! We were so glad for the short and quiet, but joyful evening spent together.
Our Christmas tree joined us for our long drive from Delaware all the way to Florida, where it again glittered with holiday cheer during yet another family Christmas celebration. This time the weather was warmer and a swimming pool sparkled just outside the window as we shared laughter and gifts with the Garcia side of our family!
Eva, Isabel, Owen, Ian and Alec didn't seem to mind being the center of attention as the youngest members of our celebration. They loved their surprises from aunts and uncles and great-aunts and great-grandmas - everything from cool cash to pretty earrings for the girls to robotic insects for the boys!
Then it was the grown-ups turn and Aunt Nina surprised us with her homemaking skills with beautiful handmade scarves and hats. Uncle Mateo played a great Santa and Aunt Raquel made a perfect Mrs. Claus. Our gifts were simple but the love behind them was great.
What made this Christmas so special was the fact that it was the first time in approximately twelve years that my husband's family was all together for this particular holiday. The last time we gathered, Pedro and I and Mateo and Raquel were newlyweds. Raquel and I were still getting acquainted with this family we had married into! And Nina was just a little girl.
Now we are all grown, with another spouse (Nina's husband Kyle) and five children added. Each family unit has weathered many changes, joys and trials, but by the grace of God we are blessed and closer than ever before. It was a precious time to all be together again.
On Christmas morning, Dad Garcia read to us from the God's Word and he shared some thoughts. With tears he reminded us of something he has often said before, that he and Mom would rather "have our kids 1,000 miles away yet walking close to God, than nearby and far from God."
Our family is the one living over 1,000 miles away and we can only ask God to keep us faithful. We are so thankful for an amazing family that loves the Lord and seeks to serve Him. What better Christmas gift could we ask for, or give?