The Gifts We Keep

Every year, I have a Christmas anthem, a song that really touches me and becomes my theme for the Christmas season. This year was no different! Jack Johnson's In the Morning has a light-hearted tune, but a deep message. It is all about the magic of Christmas morning, but the lines that really get me are, "These are the gifts we keep... these moments are the only gifts we need." I tried to remember that message throughout the entire month of December, gathering those little glimpses of Christmas magic from Chloe and storing them in my heart.... those moments were my true Christmas gifts! Christmas morning was filled with magical moments for me to store in my heart and keep forever! What a blessed day :)

Chloe's excitement was a little delayed Christmas morning. She wanted to keep sleeping! But her smile slowly appeared when we told her that Santa had come in the night!

Look at her face. I just know if she could speak, she would have been saying, "Mom, look! Santa came! He really came!"

She almost burst with anticipation to play with 'her very own computer,' that she had asked for from Santa. She didn't even wait for it to be turned all the way on!

There it is again, a gift for Mom to keep -- that face! I love it!!! It reminds me of another line from the song "So much joy, I'm afraid to be swept away."....

Grammy and Papa got to see some of the Christmas morning magic as well. Chloe just couldn't get enough of ripping the paper off. I swear she didn't even care what was hiding beneath the paper, she just wanted to rip!!!

Oby and I both got spoiled this year -- too many gifts to even name, but I will say that Oby treated me well and so did our parents! The majority of Oby's gifts were camping-themed, but I think he was most excited about this camping chef. I have a feeling more tent camping is in our future, and that's fine with me!

The tradition has usually been to have breakfast at Grandma and Grandpa Bennett's house. We switched things up a little this year, but still enjoyed having breakfast at Nana's with Grandma and Grandpa Taylor. Homemade muffins, fresh fruit, good company... couldn't ask for more than that!...

As long as Chloe got to see Izzy and show off her iPad, she was happy :)

We still got to stop by and see Grandma and Grandpa Bennett. I think getting to see Chloe was the only thing they really wanted for Christmas anyway! Oh how they adore her!!!

I played piano for the choir at church Christmas day. I wasn't necessarily looking forward to having church on Christmas day, thinking it would cut into our traditions. How wrong I was! It was such a joyous day! My emotions were so close to the surface, being able to truly celebrate Christ on His day. My heart was so tender listening to children sing about the nativity, I was afraid I might just turn into a big puddle. I kept praying that I could keep my emotions in check and I did.

Then I rushed home to be with my sweethearts (they were both fighting a bug so we decided we didn't want to take our chances and kept them home from church). The first thing my mom said when I came in to get Chloe was, "I have bad news."

My beautiful Aunt Reita had passed away that morning.

Just a couple days before she had dropped a present off for my mom. It was a sign that said, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." Never before has someone lived that concept more than Aunt Reita. She had such a hard life, yet was literally bubbling over with contagious happiness!

Although this was such a hard thing to know, it put the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of my mind. The symbols of Christmas that were all around -- the evergreen tree pointing to heaven, the eternal round wreath, etc. -- were there to remind me that Christ's birth, life, and atonement were the true gifts of Christmas, so that the sting of death, the painful separation from those we love, is only temporary. How grateful I am for my Savior and the knowledge that He lives and because of that we will all live again.

After a few moments of grief, I couldn't help but think of the special reunions that were happening in heaven right then. Here is my Aunt Reita greeting my Aunt Luana at a Christmas party about 15 years ago. Aunt Luana and Uncle Revere had been on an LDS Mission for about 18 months and were supposed to be returning the next January. But they got to come home a month early and surprised us at the big family party. I was the first to see her, then got to take pictures of all the excited faces as she surprised us!!!

Aunt Luana passed away a few short years after that party. The image of my two blessed aunts reuniting in heaven was another of those gifts that made my Christmas extra special this year.

June 29, 1936 ~ December 25, 2011

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