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This time every year, for the last seven anyway, I begin drafting a short letter to accompany our annual greeting card.

So why is it that every year’s writing grows harder than easier?  I think the 2003 edition took an hour to write, while last year’s model required untold hours spanning seven days of time.

Last year at this time I was procrastinating like crazy.  Where to start, how to say what I wanted to say; I longed  for words  —  to those I love “enough to send the very best”  —  to be more perfect than I could ever write them.

Eventually, I sat myself down in front of the computer and looked at the blank screen hoping something would come.  And then I looked out my window to see  that the 50 foot Pecan tree next door was raining down its yellow leaves in mass.  It was this  “long loving glance at the real” that nudged me to deliver my first sentence.

So here I sit again, another year and another Christmas letter later, with nothing to say.  Maybe I should just enclose a white sheet of paper and sign it.  Or maybe I should hold a white sheet of paper in my lap and lift it to God and then let the words fall where they may.  Just like those yellow leaves.  Amen and Amen.

But no. Either of the above approaches sounds more like my son Kyle’s way of writing than mine.  That son of mine writes as natural as breathing while I write like in the throes of natural childbirth.  Having three of my four children ‘naturally’ makes me quite expert on the subject — I’m told I cussed like a sailor during my first labor; but all I can clearly recall was wanting to call the whole thing off.

Breathe.  Relax.  Don’t fight it.  Just let the words slip into the world.  Then celebrate like crazy and pass out the bubble-gum cigars.  And as I write this, I think of that little soon-to-be Mother Mary in labor two thousand years ago as she delivered her Word.  One Word was enough; and I wonder whether Mary’s labor of a single Word was with or without pain?

Perhaps I should approach the writing of my Christmas letter as I would any act of prayer, where I sit empty before God waiting to be filled.  Yet.  While I’m waiting, I did think of a way ‘in’ to the Christmas writing  spirit that may actually pry open the writer’s block.

With nary a wince, I’m going to re-write my last six opening paragraphs without edit or commentary; it will be a fresh look at my best words and wishes of Christmas letters past.

2003: It’s difficult to believe that this year is almost gone.  Perhaps the year has gone by fast for you as well… but whether fast or slow, we pray the year has brought you and yours many precious times with friends and family.  Here are a few of our precious happenings.

2004: Our year was good in so many ways.  I celebrate the goodness that is the very fabric of our daily lives — good health, good food and good times with those we love.  I hope you, too enjoyed a good year.

2005: Change, like God, is in the very air we breathe these days, as Don & I prepare for “empty Nest-ness” and a change of residence.  We have busily spent the last three months getting our home ready for sale, in anticipation of an eventual relocation to Oklahoma.  Perhaps, next year, you will find us living in my dream home — a renovated historic house on the edge of downtown Oklahoma City.

2006: Winter arrived firmly on our doorstep last week, bringing us another change in a year full of changes.  After twenty-plus years of living near the Texas coast, we are once again Oklahomans, enjoying life in a renovated historic house on the edge of downtown Oklahoma City.

2007: With the year almost gone, we must soon begin ‘dressing’ our home for Christmas and ourselves for our youngest daughter’s late December wedding.  While neither will be easy, both dress-ups will be good, as old traditions and the celebration of new beginnings will help us begin a life without Mom.

2008:  On days of falling leaves and temperatures, I’m drawn to the kitchen with treasured recipes in hand.  Gathered across forty years, some are neatly typed on index cards and others are handwritten by the good cook themselves; but most are in my hand or Don’s — from the barely legible, scrawled on handy slips of scrap paper from busy days of four children at home — to those carefully preserved on notebook paper in early school-girl cursive.  Regardless of style, they all conjure up comfort — in the form of good food and good memories — and they all mysteriously bind present to past and future.  To see a recipe is to see the friend of family member who shared it, even when distance and death separate us.  To share a recipe is to share ourselves with the future, especially as they make homes with our children.

Wince away.  I did.  There’s nothing like a healthy dose of humility to bring a gal to her Christmas lettering senses.

These is no magnum opus there.  But I have them, oh do I have them.  Mine bear the names of my children.  And I bet Mother Mary thought the same thing about her’s. And if so, she was write.