We’ve done it. The Faulks have survived another Christmas.
When Wes and I were growing up, I think it must have been a lot simpler. There weren’t calendars full of holiday events, and neither of our dads were pastors, expected to be at everything during the season. His whole family was in San Antonio as my whole family was in Alvarado, so there wasn’t much traveling for Christmas because everyone was already right there. When we married, I think we naively assumed that Christmas would be the same as it’s always been for us. (Neither of us seemed to take into account that ministry likely wouldn’t put us in a place near any family, much less both of them, which would be geographically impossible since they live on separate ends of Texas. Even when we went to our first pastorate in Japan, I think we thought Christmas would be the same. Because we’re idiots, basically.)
All that said, Christmas isn’t what we grew up knowing, and we’re still trying to figure out how to parent our own children well and still honor our own parents as we do it. We’ve been too busy with all the expectations here at home for Christmas and ministry to think much about the actual holiday and how much travel was up ahead. So when Christmas Eve came and we left church, we had that moment of slight panic, thinking about the girls’ response to being in a car for ten hours on a day that most kids are celebrating at home and getting ready for presents galore. Their response, though, was to cheer euphorically because after all these years, Christmas to them is synonymous with getting in a car and driving for ten hours. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, but they were pretty jazzed about the whole thing. Emma even pulled up maps on her phone and kept us informed of our progress. “Only five more hours until we’re in Texas! And then we have to drive a lot more.” Encouraging. All that said, I was and am thankful that my sister and her family moved to New Braunfels (which is near San Antonio) a couple of years ago and that they’re willing to host all of us for Christmas, which makes for just one destination city for the Faulks to get to in Texas. I told my mother we would go to San Antonio then drive up to DFW to go to her house, but she loves me and had pity on me. Or rather, she loves Ana and Emma and has ridden in a car with them (“can we stop for snacks?!”) and knew that having Christmas in south Texas instead of all across Texas would be best for my sanity. She also told me to leave the girls with her afterwards, drive back to Louisiana with Wes, and enjoy some time writing in peace and quiet while the girls hung out with them for a few more days. Well, twist my arm!
Because the girls would be staying with my parents after Christmas, we knew we wouldn’t be able to finish up reading through the Bible together if we stayed on the schedule. I was totally bummed about this because it’s a big deal that they’ve stayed faithful to this and have followed it through to near completion, and I wanted to be there to seem them get there, so Wes suggested that we spend part of the time on the road finishing up what was left – 1, 2, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. He has an audio Bible which includes “dramatic” reading of the Scripture, complete with sound effects. You’ve not heard the book of Revelation until you’ve heard it with sound effects. Ana kept asking him to stop it so she could ask questions, sometimes regarding theology (“second resurrection?!”) but more often than not regarding some of those sound effects. (Like every time Jesus addressed one of the churches, the sound of a lamp being lit would come on. Except it sounded like a whole village being torched. Because He’s Jesus, and when He speaks, it’s a big deal.) We finished the last chapter of Revelation just as we were rolling into Lake Charles, and I think Emma summed it all up quite nicely when she said, “Well, that was something.” It was. The Faulkettes are going to be reading through the Bible again in 2018, but this time we’re getting off a schedule that takes us from the beginning to the end straight through and using a one year Bible instead. I told the girls this would make each daily reading part Old Testament, part New Testament, and part poetry, and they thought that might be easier than barreling straight through some of those law books like we did this year. We’re excited about getting started!
After that, Texas went by pretty quickly, and we arrived in San Antonio around 10:00, which the girls thought was just exactly the perfect time to start pleading to open Christmas gifts. I’ll give Wes’s parents credit because they stood their ground and told them it was too late while at the same time still offering them a treat by letting them have their stockings. Win, win! This got them more fired up (seriously, what’s bedtime when you’re on Christmas break?), and they outlasted their poor, old, tired mother. (And I slept like the dead, y’all, even on that guest bed mattress that’s seen better times. It’s a king sized bed, which is huge compared to our queen size bed, so Wes and I start out with all this room, but two seconds in, the inexplicable dip in the middle of the mattress has sucked us both in so that we’re all wrapped up together. “We’re like marbles in a labyrinth,” Wes told me as I was trying to crawl away from him with no success. Then, he had to explain what he meant by that – apparently it was some sort of game? I think I may have hallucinated that whole conversation. I was just that tired.)
Anyway, the next morning came later than I expected because the girls must have eventually worn themselves out and forgotten while they slept that it was Christmas morning and they had gifts to open. We’d already done our gifts to one another back home (because we always have to do them early since we travel during the holiday), but Ana and Emma were just as excited (maybe even more) about the gifts from the grandparents that were still left to open. (And why don’t we do Santa? Well, we did when the girls were smaller, but when doing so started leading to them putting Jesus and Santa on the same level because “Santa sees everything like Jesus does,” we told them the truth and were done with Santa.) Once we’d gotten them up, they jumped into opening gifts with plenty of gusto. Ana is into all these strange Japanese figurines that I don’t understand (“look, it’s a dancing milk carton!”), and Emma is enthralled with all things Calico Critters (“the baby is in the POUCH!”), so they were beside themselves with all the spoils at Nana’s house and spent most of the morning playing. We headed out about mid-day to go and visit Wes’s grandmother at her assisted living center, which is perhaps the warmest place in all of San Antonio. I’m not kidding when I say that, and if you know me, you know that it was nothing short of miraculous that I was finally warm. Can I live at Adante when I’m a senior adult?
We went out for lunch where all my thoughts on warmth and comfort and coziness moved to the cold we were experiencing outside and how I wondered if the pool at Nana and Coach’s house was cold. Hmm. I must have said something out loud about it or someone must have been thinking the same thing, because by the time lunch was over, Wes and Emma had declared that they were going to do a Polar Bear Plunge into the pool. Why? I don’t know. We got Emma dressed in clothes that wouldn’t bog her down but that would cover her up at the same time (what’s better – more warm clothes that get wet, or less clothes in the freezing weather?), telling her that she didn’t really have to do this. I think Wes was hoping that she’d back out at the last minute and save him a jump in the pool, but she went in before he could prepare himself, leaving him no choice but to join her so that no one could accuse him of being outdone by a ten year old girl. It was a nice ending to Christmas Day, and while Emma went on and on about how great it was, I noticed that she didn’t even suggest trying it again in my sister’s pool. Hmm.
Speaking of my sister’s pool, that’s where we headed the next morning. Not her pool but her house, where the rest of the family was already waiting and the kids were ready to open gifts. Again. You would think the excitement would wane after a while, but they were just as thrilled with the next go round as they had been with the first. The highlight of the whole event was the gift my parents got me. What was the gift? Towels for Ana and Emma’s bathroom. That’s right. Towels. You wouldn’t think that would be exciting, but just the week before I’d noticed that I could actually see through the towels. (What? Towels aren’t supposed to last eleven years?) My sister got cutting boards for her gift, which was equally exciting. My mother will spend time at our houses and notice things like this, and I’m sure she has a list somewhere that she adds to whenever she comes across something that we should have replaced ourselves. When I saw the gift bag, I told Wes, “Towels… or maybe she figured out that you and I only have one set of sheets for our bed.” To which he responded, “Do we need more than one?” And even as I’m typing this, I can hear my mother getting out her list and adding “sheets” to it. Merry Christmas 2018 to me! I kid about this, but I’m all about the practical gifts and know that I’m turning into my mother when it comes to this. In fact, I actually said to one of my girls this Christmas, as they were opening a gift from me, “Well, you won’t like that, but you need it.” Ha! In thirty years, they WILL like those kinds of gifts, just like I like those towels.
While Wes enjoyed the towels as well, he didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as he enjoyed the fact that my nephew got an xbox and needed someone to play hours of that NBA game (that’s it’s technical name, right?) with him. I think Wes spent more time playing that game in college than he did actually going to class and studying, so he was well prepared for the task. He was pleasantly surprised to see that Ana got into playing it as well, making this fatherhood thing finally worth his time, money, and effort all these years later. (“I think I should get the newest version of that game for Ana! She and I can play it together!” Having children finally paid off, I tell you.)
Wes and I headed home yesterday morning and got home many, many hours later, worn out and exhausted. But we’re HOME, here in Vidalia, and we’re so glad. And I have a whole blog post about that coming up, along with a whole long list of other blog posts. I’ve got book ideas buzzing around, big things happening in 2018, and a whole lot of news. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to blog more often once we get past the holiday season.
How about you? How was your Christmas?