Christmas 2008 
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Snow Day!

I love Christmas traditions.  Like, our clam chowder soup on Christmas eve, and the family cookie decorating contest and cutting the tree down from the backyard.  I think traditions benchmark our holiday season, and help us share favorite events.  One of our longest standing traditions is the Christmas Week Puzzle.  It started out small - maybe thirty pieces, and grew to last years 500 piece puzzle.  I thought that was sufficient when I was up until midnight trying to piece it together (you see, Santa has to put in the final piece).  However, my teenagers, who live in a "bigger is better" mentality decided that this year, it needed to be 2000 pieces.
I negotiated for the entire month of December to work on it, and they agreed, happily pouring out a waterfall of tiny pieces onto a piece of plywood that topped our coffee table (leaving barely inches of leg space).  It took an hour just to turn the pieces over.  I stared at the scattering of pieces (it's a coka-cola puzzle with a Christmas theme) and they blurred in my head.  No. Way. 
How on earth were we going to find time to do this gargantuan project?  With seven performances of the community play, a full plate of social events, basketball games, band concerts...we'd barely be home in an evening to work on it.  Not only that, but when we were home, we had Christmas letters to write and cookies to bake, and packages to wrap.  No time to sit, no time to puzzle....
The puzzle only seemed to epitomize our hurried, jumbled lives.  Yes, we chipped away at it, but by the time our extended family arrived from out of town, we'd only managed to complete half the frame. 
We were well on our way to puzzle failure.  But more than that, the Christmas season, even our traditions had taken over our lives.  It's my son's last Christmas season at home (well, as a college student he'd BETTER come home for Christmas) and I had high standards.  I wanted it to be the best, the most memorable.  The victory Christmas. 
Our relatives blew in and our house became a mess of shoes and coats and baby toys and discarded socks, and candy wrappers and orange peels (I live with teenagers.  They have a hard time finding the garbage can).  I cooked and cleaned and cooked and cleaned and...the puzzle was the last thing on my mind. 
We woke up to a winter storm warning, and miracle of miracles, school in the Great White North was called off.  Snow Day!  By noon, we could barely see past the front yard.  The wind shook the house, the relatives hunkered down for an extended stay and suddenly, well, with all our Christmas celebrating behind us, we had no where to go, no agenda items to check off, no cookies to bake, no packages to wrap.  And, it was simply warmer to stay in our pajamas.  So, there we were, a houseful of jammie dwellers, sipping hot cocoa, never-minding the stack of dishes, staying warm, listening to Christmas music...doing the puzzle.  
Eight puzzlers a-puzzling.  (Sorry, I couldn't help it!)
Yep, we finished.  During the day of puzzling, we - four teenagers, four adults and one very helpful toddler -- told stories and laughed, and ate too much chocolate, and thanked the Lord for a delicious blizzard that slowed us to a stop and allowed us to enjoy the celebration of family and faith, and make memory.
puzzlers puzzling

Luke 5 tells a short story about Jesus and Simon Peter.  Peter and the gang have been fishing all night, and caught nothing.  Jesus gets in the boat, and after he's preached for a bit, tells him to go deeper and let down their nets.  I love Peter's response...I can almost hear him humoring Jesus, "Uh, well, see we DID that.  All night.  But for YOU, Jesus, we'll do it." 
Of course, they get a catch beyond their wildest dreams, so much so, all the fishermen on the lake are blessed.  The key wasn't a hot fishing spot.  It was Peter's faith.  His willingness to take Jesus at His word.
Sometimes I feel like Peter.  Fishin' all night.  Catching nothing...and Jesus quietly says, let down your net.  Aka,  "stop striving so hard and trust me." 

Traditions are great.  But I'm thinking that Christmas could be accomplished without a gobbler, or a Christmas cookie, or even a puzzle. 

But maybe not, perhaps a Snow Day.
I pray this season that you have a Snow Day - some time in your pajamas, with a cup of hot cocoa, and family.  Try a puzzle!  (I recommend the 500 piece variety).  Thank you for the gift you've given me of being such faithful, encouraging readers.  I have some great stories for you in 2009 - one of them is, well, a Christmas story! I can't wait to share it with you!

Thank you for making this year so bright.  Merry Christmas!

In our Savior's love,
Susan May Warren