for me, this year, Christmas and the surrounding season had so many little loves:

1. a whole day of “we don’t have to do anything but enjoy each other” with my parents and Ryan. and we did just that. i didn’t even take off comfy clothes, except to go running (and, may i add, that i had one of the best long runs i’ve had since i hurt myself in september…thank you for giving me a present on you birthday, jesus. i was stoked.)

2. spending Christmas Eve at a beautiful candlelight service with my brother and some of my favorite friends, listening to one of them sing like an angel in a brand new church and feeling entirely overwhelmed (in the best way possible) with a sense of love, belonging, and the kind of glow that only comes when you realize just how entirely blessed you are in the beauty of a moment you wouldn’t change for the world. i couldn’t keep the tears back throughout most of the service and kept linking my arm through Ryan’s just to remind myself of how blessed i was to have him share that moment with me…and when Pastor Justin came up to us after the service and asked if i was crying, and said, “My goal when I preach is to make people cry…and when you walked in tonight, i was like, ‘yes! Shawna’s here. at least i’ll get one for sure.'” i’m glad i didn’t disappoint. i was in love with the world, that entire service.

3. the little old couple on the side of the road yesterday while i was running, waving their arms and actually cheering me on as we wished each other a jubilant “Merry Christmas!” – and i continued running, smiling and lifting up a silent prayer for their happy little faces – a snippet of a moment shared with perfect strangers that i’ll never, ever forget. how Christmas love does that to people, renders you unafraid to return to the simplicity of genuine joy in crossing another’s path and wanting them to have the slice of happiness you can offer their way…with just a smile and a wave.

4. friends to hold close and share things with…Christmas parties and late-night laughter, home-made hot cocoa and living rooms draped with sprawling bodies united by claymation Rudolph and cartoon Snowmen…and being so entirely comfortable that you fall asleep on your friend’s shoulder as soon as the movie starts. (thanks, Erika, for opening up your house again and again…and thanks, Molls. you’re one fabulous pillow.) 🙂

5. getting to play cook for my family and let my mom sit for once…and trying out a new dish that everyone loved, including my dad, who is sooooo change-resistant, i swear he could be a poster child for a campaign on the stubbornness of men. i’m discovering i love to cook. about time.

6. sitting around after dinner in the dark living room around the fireplace with my family, talking about our Christmases past and some favorite memories and laughing together over the things that make us US; things that nobody else can share, or steal, or feign understanding. they’re our private islands, our sacred snapshots of shared lives and a sense of love worth more than any other expression of togetherness i could image. i may be biased, but i truly believe i have the world’s best family. my little heart almost filled to bursting last night, sitting between my mom and Ry on the couch as we watched Wall-E (yes, all four of us sat on the same big cough together and cuddled, complete with Moka and Kayla on my lap), so very present in the luxury of such a rare moment and almost unable to blink back the tears. (then again, Wall-E really gets me as well, so i can chalk half of it up to that. that lil robot just makes me want to cry, i can’t take it!)

7. little joys entirely season-specific: Christmas music & reindeer food; gift exchanges & wayyyyy too many sugary treats; champagne toasts & Gingerbread coffee & surprise gifts; your phone blowing up with texts allll day long from friends, reminding you of how very thankful you are to have so many people in your life.

8. jesus is the reason for the season. ’nuff said.