We were blessed this year that my parents came out from California to spend the holiday with us and with my sister's family. They arrived here safely and as I type, they are stopped for the night after the first half of their drive back home. Time with them is a precious commodity and while we've had a few opportunities to spend time with them in the past year -- which is more than some years -- their visits are never long enough.
Family visits always come to an end and make me long for the part of this life that is eternal, when we can all be together in heaven forever. Not that I'm in a rush to leave here any time soon! But just that goodbyes never get any easier, no matter how many times we practice them. I still cry as they depart and so does my mom (can you tell we're related?). Dad still tries to hurry her out the door because he knows he does the driving and has an early morning and wants some sleep, but also, because I don't know that he likes seeing us cry every time. He's a good dad and husband and just wants his daughter(s) and wife to be happy.
It's a pattern we've gotten used to, but not something to which we ever look forward.
Anyway, it was a privilege to have them here for whatever amount of time and to share a few really good meals and even better conversations with them. I'm thankful that my parents enjoy traveling and spend some of their vacation time each year coming to see us.
The food was great (thanks to C and everyone who prepared dishes) and I think we all had a really good time. I was exhausted by the end though. I fell asleep quickly, without my usual sleep aid (medication) and woke without an alarm at 4:40am.
I have a love-hate relationship with Black Friday each year. I really don't like crowds, but I do really like bargains and sales and jumping into the Christmas spirit (even some of the worldly parts of it). So there have been some years where I said, "Forget it!" and other years where C and I have faced that day head on and gotten some reasonable deals on things we were planning to get anyway.
Today, I woke early. C did not -- could not. He had worked for three days straight on preparing our Thanksgiving meal and so he was just kaput. So I decided to start without him.
In the process, the Lord really blessed me with no crowds. I was at WalMart at 5:30 and there were maybe ten people in the whole store besides the employees. I've never seen it that empty ever. But on Black Friday?! They still had great deals and I accomplished what I wanted to do there in about an hour. Upon exiting the store, I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise! What a gift.
I headed over to Target. Again, it was so quiet. I even went to one of the big Target's in our area. I figured it would be packed, but no. Then I went to Gordmans. Gordmans had some people -- it was the busiest place I shopped today. But it was no busier than any typical weekend day might be. There was no pushing and shoving and everyone seemed merry. I ran into two of the youth group members from our church -- both on staff in different parts of the store -- and one of them told me how they had not yet been busy there (even though by now it was about 9:00am). They geared up and got ready, but then the crowd arrived slowly and steadily and without malice.
C and I stayed in touch and I was having such a great day on my own that he decided to take the kids to work on their gift to me. Later, we met up for lunch and when all the shopping was done for the day, we met for milkshakes.
I went to Petco, Cost Plus World Market, Hobby Lobby and Michael's. I think that was most of the stores (at least the ones I bought something in) and never had a run in with a major crowd. Now, this is maybe not so great for the economy or the businesses (I'm hoping more people just shopped online), but it was wonderful for me! I was able to take my time and browse for options. I was able to price check and compare. There were plenty of employees on the clock, so customer service was at it's peak in each location. Christmas shopping has never been so enjoyable as it was today.
Well, maybe this one time before kids (BK) when C and I went to "the big city" nearby (Sacramento, which isn't really a big city) and we got a hotel for the weekend and got all our shopping done while on a mini-getaway. That was so much fun. So maybe that was the best time WITH my husband. Today, I was on my own and it was the best Christmas shopping on my own.
I felt like I got some really great bargains (and had some coupons on my phone for the things not on sale so much) and I completed at least 60% of the goal. In. One. Day.
If you know me well enough, I'm the one who usually barely starts Christmas shopping till two weeks before December 25th. But to be this far along only the day after Thanksgiving? It's like a personal record. I love the feeling of knowing that most of the rest of our gifts will be purchased online and delivered to me and those that are left to pick up at the stores are already planned out in my mind.
If there was ever a year when I needed this season to go more smoothly, it's this year. I spent all the time driving around this morning, listening to praise music and Christmas music (also usually praise music -- on KLOVE) and praying to Jesus for safety on the roads and for wisdom in decision-making at the stores. He was clearly present even on Black Friday. He is amazing.
I'm so thankful.
I hope your Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) were as rich and productive as mine were.
Oh! and in followup, we did get the house clean and clearly we were able to pull off everything for Thanksgiving. We did not get Christmas decorations up, but now it looks like we'll have more time to do enjoy doing that since a lot of the shopping is done. All good news for me. One step closer to accomplishing number five on the list.