yes, sterling is at the top of my list of favorite things! i know, you’re so surprised… especially since this blog has turned into a tribute to him, his every accomplishment, his gift to us! but i also wanted to share with you some other favorites of mine, such as CHRISTmas. confession: i don’t love CHRISTmas the way jarod loves CHRISTmas, but i do love it. jarod beams with excitement from the moment the first gift is purchased to the day after – when the CHRISTmas music officially stops flowing over the airwaves. he loves everything about CHRISTmas – especially lights. i, on the other hand, have lost the wonder of the season, at least in terms of decorations and consumerism. instead, in the past 5 years i have learned to go without many of the fun traditions that seem so commonplace here. in short, that means i’ve had to adjust my thoughts and expectations concerning CHRISTmas. i think my favorite adjustment is simply slowing down. it was hard to find the slow lane here in america… but i enjoyed avoiding the frenzy of the season. in fact i never found my shopping groove – yep, a total surprise to me as well! i’m pretty sure i experienced reverse culture shock for the entire month of december as i couldn’t figure out what all the craziness was about. after all, everyone i know, including myself, has everything they could ever need and so much of what they want. i couldn’t help but think “where’s the joy in giving to people who already have too much?” maybe i sound like a scrooge… but it wasn’t about money, it was about losing the CHRISTmas spirit… and being in the CHRISTmas spirit has nothing to do with the colors red and green or swiping a credit card. in the busyness it’s too easy to lose the joy of who Jesus is & what he has done for us. oh yes, back to what i do love about CHRISTmas – the gift of a babe, who grew up to take away my sins and the sins of the world! how could i compete with a gift like that!?! on the east side i also fell in love with having lots of family time (even when it was just the 2 of us) during this time of year as the temperatures plummeted and the sun set at 4 pm! don’t misunderstand what i’m saying. this CHRISTmas was awesome… not because we actually saw blue skies or because the temperature was above freezing, but because we got to spend this special holiday with family and we were able to participate in many of the traditions we’ve missed while overseas. this particular CHRISTmas was especially memorable as i held sterling and contemplated what mary must have felt as she held her own son for the first time. now don’t get me wrong, the gifts, specifically what we call pay-attention-gifts, were also a blessing that made this holiday special. since we hold to a custom of 3 gifts per person (in our immediate family) i was able to fully enjoy each and every hand-picked, thoughtful gift that jarod gave me. and as you see from the picture above, one of those special gifts was a bottle of jasmine tea. it may not seem like a big deal to any other american but it was huge to me! you see jarod had bought this bottle of tea while we were in China to meet sterling. he carried it across the ocean so that i could enjoy one of my favorite drinks right here in the good ol’ us of a! and not only that, he was able to keep it a secret from me the entire time! so in case you still don’t get it let me tell you the value of this tea… now that i drank my CHRISTmas jasmine tea there is only 1 other bottle of it in all of the united states! how do i know, ’cause it’s in my house! and for those of you who think logically and want to argue that this particular brand must be available in h-town’s “asia town” i can definitively tell you that there is none. so, according to supply and demand (supply is non-existant & my demand is high) this remaining bottle of jasmine tea is more than anyone could afford! now that’s a gift worth classifying as one of my favorite things!