Updated 2016--Christmas came early to the Gates house this year as Hannah and Kevin were here visiting for the week. We had our traditional Christmas Eve last night with food, games and presents. They head back to Colorado and Kelsey and her boyfriend head out today. Next week I look forward to a more relaxed pace and more baking. The post below was pretty popular last year so thought I would share it again, a reminder the holidays can be less than merry and bright for so many. Not trying to rain on your festivities, but remind us all to look beyond the glitter of Christmas presents and love our neighbor. 2015~~~I drove by her house almost two weeks ago. Not sure what I was looking for, I knew she wouldn't answer the door if I knocked. The pastel plastic chairs sitting on the front porch were empty shades were drawn on this gloomy, rainy Monday. I knew my heart ached for one more breakfast with her or one more, 'let's catch up over coffee.' It had been too long. My last visit with her was sitting by her hospital bed just holding her hand while her pastor(my husband) encouraged her to speak of her love for Jesus. And she did. But all I could do was look into her eyes, hold her hand tight, loving her for one last time. I knew our next visit would be in heaven, as she was moved into hospice and walked with Jesus into eternity one week before Christmas. A few days later, I had spent most of the day baking for the upcoming holiday. Thoughts of presents, cookies and celebrations mingled with sorrow of losing another dear friend. As I wondered what in the world God is up to in my life, the dam burst and my closest tissue was my flour filled apron. Tears on an apron of sorrow, joy over where my friend had gone, tears of regret and tears of anticipation for the coming of the Newborn King. I was a mess. It was at that moment I was reminded once again of why God came in human form as a babe in the manger. He made a way for my mess to be taken care of. The few days before Christmas were dark and depressing as I was focusing on what I had lost in 2015. Two very dear friends had gone home to heaven, one had moved away in retirement. But in that darkness, in my mess of tears, was the hope of who and what I would be celebrating. Because God so loved I have hope I have a Savior who is Christ the Lord and I could look forward to His coming despite the tears on my apron.