All the presents have been opened and the mint chocolate truffles devoured, yet the joy of this Christmas season still lingers in our house today. It was a great Christmas, with so many perfect moments that I just want to freeze in time. I think the holidays are a time that you are acutely aware of all your struggles and triumphs. Maybe it is just me, but I feel like all emotions are magnified this time of year. The losses become harder. The gains become greater. Family becomes more important or, for some, makes you crazier than ever. If you are intentional or perhaps just lucky, the things that really matter come into focus. For me this season, it was family and the need for celebration.

My sister moved to London for graduate school in September. We are used to her being away given her Italian boyfriend and love of travel, but her absence doesn’t ever really get any easier. She is home this Christmas and that is perhaps our biggest reason for celebration. We used to fight all the time over clothes, the bathroom, you name it and we have probably bickered about it at some point. Maybe it is that we are maturing (I did turn 26 this week- yikes!) or have enough of our own clothes or we are just so happy to see each other, but it feels like there is nothing really worth an argument anymore. Every moment is sacred. The time we have together is no longer limitless. Our hangouts have an endpoint and then we will have to wait another six months until we get to share the bathroom in the morning, go thrift store shopping, dance in the living room, and laugh so hard that we can barely breathe. I am so thankful for these moments.

We spent Christmas day at my grandma’s house in Audubon, Iowa. Just imagine your quintessential Midwest family gathering. Way too much food. So many people that we are practically on top of each other. A house that is so warm with all the activity and cooking and high thermostat that my grandma will not turn down. It is a day of eating and laughing and remembering and celebrating. This year was no exception. We are at the age where the kids are starting to have kids. It is a fun time. Despite that, we all seem to revert back to our childhood selves at grandma’s house. We get excited about the grab bag and try to steal better gifts from our younger siblings. We throw wrapping paper at each other. We still talk about where “the money” is hidden, a favorite game growing up. It is silly and fun and I hope that as we grow older it doesn’t change a bit.

Why do we spend so much of our year wanting what we don’t have? A more perfect family. A better body. Relationships that are less messy. More friends. More money. We all do it. What if we took that same energy and put it into the things and the people that we do have?

Blessed is how I feel this Christmas. Blessed to have such a supportive family and friends. Blessed to be on a path that I love and find fulfilling. Blessed to know God’s love. Blessed to be exactly where I am this season.

Otavalo

I finally made it to Otavalo and it’s famous indigenous market. I was overwhelmed by the countless vendors of art, food, clothing, and really anything that can be sold on a small table. The Saturday market takes over the town. We got lost a few times as the streets become unrecognizable and packed with people. I think my favorite part was all the vibrant colors and variety of goods. Despite considering a sweater, ring, necklace, scarf, and hat, I ended up with only one small painting (mostly because I don’t really have any more room in my suitcase). It was fun chatting with the artist and his wife about the artwork. Here are a few photos from my day at the market!

Things I take for granted in the United States…

  1. Being close to family and friends
  2. Water (including hot, e. coli free, and potable water)
  3. Good cheese
  4. Reliable phones and electricity
  5. Chocolate chip cookies (I can’t find chocolate chips here!)
  6. Fast internet
  7. Efficiency
  8. A living space with no bugs (or at least not big ones)
  9. Target
  10. Washing machines and dryers