Week 4: A Christmas Worth Celebrating AND Welcoming 2018

Happy New Year friend!

I trust that you made some special memories with loved ones this past week and that you will continue to do so as the New Year rushes in.

This week’s Midlife Monday (which was meant for Christmas Day last Monday) has me reflecting still on that one very beautiful word… celebration.

Because there truly is so much to celebrate.

Jesus. Family. Children. Health. Home. Work. Life. Love.

It is all the gift of God and worthy of ongoing celebration.

So on this very first day of 2018, I invite you to join me for in a few minutes of reflective celebration of all that took place these past few weeks and to celebrate all that will yet transpire in the coming year.

Celebrating with those we love is important because:

  • It builds memories
  • It deepens community
  • It strengthens the bond of love

So may I ask you?

On a scale of 1-10 – how’d you do on the Celebration Meter?

The Aftermath of… a CHRISTMAS worth Celebrating

Another Christmas has come and gone.

Did you celebrate it well, friend?

Did you make the most of your time with family and friends?

Did you exasperate every ounce of strength you had and extract every ounce of goodness?

Did you celebrate Jesus and what his coming into this earth means for you?

I think I did.

And I think this is true because I’m totally wiped out – exhausted – spent.

It’s that kind of exhaustion you after you’ve poured your heart and soul into some massive project. And then, when all is said and done, you step back, and allow that wave of satisfied goodness wash over you.

Yes, I’m exhausted – but in a wonderfully good kind of way. How about you?

Looking Back on Christmas 2017

This past week, all eight of our adult children, their spouses, and fifteen grands were all under one roof at the home where they grew up. Five of our kids are local – the other three and our oldest grands traveled from Portland, Dallas, St. Louis & Greenville, SC.

In a matter of hours – we went from empty-nest back to big family cra-zi-ness!

And between December 20th and December 30th, we created enough memories to last a life time. I’m sure you did as well.

1. Celebrate the Memories You Created

We laughed (a lot) sang, danced, ate, played games, opened gifts, played in the snow, celebrated birthdays, had bonfires, and made a lot of noise.

We also spent time with extended family and close friends Christmas Eve and during our very first post-Christmas Open House.

We made new memories and reminisced old ones. Too many to count, but this one, I have a feeling this one will go down in Stretar Christmas history.

Gift-giving is one of my love languages, celebration and gift-giving always goes hand in hand. I love finding unique ways to celebrate the uniqueness of each family member, especially my grandchildren.

Unless, that is, you make an epic fail in your gift giving. (Hand raised). You may leave certain little ones wondering if you have lost your mind.

Yep. It happened to yours truly. ( I have the video to prove it but it’s much too embarrassing to make public).

My 6 year-old grand-daughter, Rose, has taken an interest in all things cooking and baking. And I was so excited when I found this cute little iron skillet that appeared to have all the ingredients to make a small apple pie (minus the fresh apples).

So I was so excited to find this little pan to add to her basket of Christmas goodies.

When she opened it, I said, “Rose, do you like your little baking pan and apple pie kit? Isn’t it so cute?” But the look on her face told me that something was off.  When she answered,

“Mimi, it’s a candle!”

My heart sank.

But I insisted that it wasn’t and proceeded to open it up to show her that it really was an apple pie kit…

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but three long white wicks and red wax – I fear!

Right there on the label in fine print it reads as plain as day “scented candle” but my bifocal eyes missed it completely.

We had a great (but embarrassing) laugh together and of course I assured her that I would make it up to her. Because what kind of Grammie in her right mind would ever give her 6 year-old granddaughter a candle?!! Smh!!!

I’m still traumatized and humored by my gift-giving mishap and I’m sure that story will forever provide a good laugh between Rose and me for years to come.

What about you?

What unexpected memories did you and your family create?

***Please do share in the comments – especially if you can top mine.

2. Celebrate Your Community of Love – Your People




As of Saturday, everyone has returned home to their place in the world and I’m slowly packing up the remaining decorations and cleaning up the aftermath of our time together.

Christmas is a labor of love for everyone involved.

The cost, the time, the travel.

It’s a sacrifice in so many ways.

But a sacrifice of love.

We are family.

We have a history together.

Family, no matter how far or near, no matter how imperfect or messy, it is the gift of God.

This Christmas was special because it was another way to remember God’s grace that made it – made us – possible.

And it was a special treat to celebrate Jesus’ birth with these dear old high school friends who stopped by our open house on Jan 28th.

They are the ones responsible for setting my husband and I up on a blind date over 38 years ago. It was a celebration of God’s grace for our kids to see them again and visa versa.

It’s a memory I will treasure and celebrate in my heart for days and weeks to come.

3. Celebrating Strengthens the Bonds of Love

 I also realize that not all is Merry and Bright for many during the holiday season.

My family and me also shed some tears together this Christmas.

Our family is not exempt from the sting of personal trials and struggles and longings.

Missing each other does that to the soul.  Watching family members hurt and struggle hurts the human heart. Love is just that way.

There have been many miles and years that have separated us from certain loved ones – and there is a certain sadness and grief and loss that goes along with that.

It makes us grateful for the time we do have, while also realizing how much we’ve missed – how much they’ve missed.

Within my close circle of friends and extended family, there are those who are terminally ill; another who lost the love of her life on Christmas Eve; others with struggling marriages or separated relationally from family members because of military deployment, divorce, relational distance, not to mention all the various winter illnesses going around.

Life is hard and it hurts at times – but even in the hard places we can celebrate God’s love and grace.

Because it’s in the hard things that we learn to love like Jesus… to care like Jesus…to become like Jesus. We learn what it means to bear the burdens of another – to hurt with those who hurt – to cry with those who cry – to struggle with those who struggle.

We learn that even when life hurts – we still have much to be grateful for and it’s good for the heart to celebrate both the hard and the lovely. The good and the bad. The sorrow and the joy. This is the story of every one of us.

We learn to do life together.

This Jesus – whom we just celebrated – made it possible for us to live the kind of lives that are rooted in love, meaning, and hope.

 Celebrating the Unknowns of The New Year

Perhaps this past year has brought a great deal of stress and strain to you in one form or another.

Are you setting goals? Planning your next steps? Thinking about some big life-changing decisions? Fearing changes that lie ahead? Considering a new course of action or stepping into new territory?

And I wonder as I write to you today, what are the unknowns that lie ahead for you and for me this coming year? What is filling your mind as you think about the new year before you?

  • A new chapter in your life?
  • A new job or career change?

  • A new family member?

  • A new book deal?

  • A new ministry opportunity?

  • A new home?

  • A move?

The year ahead is a blank slate for us all.

Only God knows how the year will end.

So I had an idea.

What if we were to celebrate these unknowns NOW!?

I want to stand with you friend right here and right now – with glasses raised high in celebration – and say….

Here’s to YOU and all that God will do in YOU and through YOU this coming year!

It’s going to be amazing!

I’m sure there will be difficulties along the way, but God has made one big massive promise to you that you can take great confidence in.

It is this…

You can take that one to the bank friend. His word is certain. His word is reliable.

His word is as good as done.

Our God is faithful.

He will do what he said he will do.

This is wonderful celebration news for us friends!

So get on your Happy New Year Dancing Shoes and dance with joy.

You are on God’s mind.

There’s a work he is doing in you to make you more of the woman (or man) he created you to be.

One of my New Years’ goal is to lay fear and doubt aside and to step more boldly and confidently into the things God has for me.

I don’t know exactly what that will look like but I want to find out. I want to persistently pursue all the good things God has waiting for me.

And I invite you to do the same with me friend.

I want to look back with you this time next year and know that we will have even more to celebrate.

Won’t that be fun?!

Next week, I’ll be sharing a few things that I’ll be changing up on my blog this year. If you would, would you kindly take a few minutes to let me know how I can pray for you?

I see you midlife momma. I know you because I’m in the midlife struggle with you.

Let’s learn and grow together and see what awaits us in 2018.

I’ll look forward to seeing you next week as we officially kick off the new year of here at Above and Beyond Midlife. I have some exciting things planned for us and I don’t want you to miss it.

Until then – I pray that you will celebrate your one beautiful life, like there’s no tomorrow.

May your 2018 next chapter be filled with adventure, growth and wild new discoveries about yourself, about the God who created you for greatness, and the people he has called you to love and influence.

In summary, I pray that 2018 will be an above and beyond all you can ask or imagine kind of year.

Happy New Year!




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