Over the years, I have experienced the holiday season with splashed out pageantry and intimate gatherings, lots of festive food and meals of careful simplicity.
I have been full of energy while corralling five children and putting them through their paces in their church, at their grandparents' and at home. I have spent all but an hour or two in bed because of a chronic illness.
Through it all I have learned a few things. One realization that stands out is that while it is great to funnel energy and passion into making the holidays the best they can be, with great food, lots of events and hordes of people you care about, those times aren't always where the moments of beauty and satisfaction come.
Sometimes the joy and contentment pop up where you least expect them.
One year I left my little ones in the house watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the fifth time that month. It was Christmas Eve and I was outside stacking wood.I'd been hassled and rushed all day trying to get everything done.
I hadn't wanted to stack wood out in the gathering dark. I wanted to watch the movie for the fifth time inside where it was warm. But out I went and started hauling logs. Evening had just started to softly fall, and so had the snow.
After a few minutes I began to relax in the familiar routine, began to enjoy seeing a substantial log pile emerging by the house. I basked in the quiet stillness and drank in the serenity of the night sky in the country, thrilled to the sight and feel of light snowflakes as they drifted down.
Sometimes the moment hits behind the scenes in the kitchen amongst the piles of pots and pans. This can happen at home or at the kids' pageant or at a nursing home where you're volunteering.
Your pretty clothes got you respectably through the occasion and now they're covered with an apron or vulnerable to the soapy water and greasy dishes. But the show of the evening or afternoon is over, so it's time to relax about your good looks and get to work.