Battered by bad weather in the Dakotas, Christmas still came and passed as planned during the winter of 2016. But people changed travel plans as the weather forecast predicted gloom and doom on the prairie for the holiday weekend.

That happened at our house this year. Things that were planned inevitably were changed.

We had a big Christmas Eve, eve party scheduled at our house. Matt and Amber and the kids were coming from Huron, Korrie and Cheryl, Parker and Mason and the boys’ girlfriends were slated to join us for a big family Christmas celebration that night. With ten extra people coming for the night this year, we even bought the large shrimp ring to accommodate healthy appetites.

Matt, Amber, Layne and Londyn made it to Springs before the storm. We had time for the kids to go sledding on the observation hill in the city park. The tow rope provided free rides back to the top of the hill and sledding was fast. Gary and Gaea Blue’s family was already using the lift, our kids joined in and later Terry and Carol Scheel’s grandkids showed up. It was a fun-filled, impromptu sledding party that brought smiles to everyone there.

But the weather forecast was frightful and Korrie and our Grand Forks, ND family made the right decision and “stayed put.” We would rather have you safely tucked in at home than upside down along the Interstate we told them.

The next day I enjoyed a "standup meal" that included a ham sandwich with mayo, mustard and horseradish  (don’t go ugh, until you try it). I hadn't noticed, but a sizable glob of the condiments had blooped onto the front of my shirt. ”You've got stuff on your shirt," Penny deadpanned, blotting her own sandwich on my chest and taking a bite! You must truly love someone despite his shortcomings if you can do that.

On Christmas Eve, the four children of Don and Mary Wenzel and their wives, assembled at our house for our traditional get-together, enjoying food, memories and fellowship. We were blessed to include Mary Whitlock, Rob and Nichole Wenzel and their three kids into the mix.

A pouring rain splashed against the south windows of our home early Christmas morning. We encountered what must have been the world’s most slippery streets and sidewalks when we left the house. Ice—covered roads had a glistening sheen as nearly an inch of rain raced down the gutters.

We altered our own Christmas Day plans that were to include visiting Matt’s family in Huron and instead decided to accept the offer of a holiday meal at the Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

Volunteers from many churches in the community joined hands to procure, prepare and serve a delicious meal and clean up afterward. And appreciative folks who would have otherwise been home alone for Christmas enjoyed an excellent meal, fellowship and a heartwarming Christmas prayer by Pastor Don Grubb. Duke, Karen, Penny and I were quickly joined at our table by Marlys Shryock, Elaine Roetman, Leona Grieve and Mary Lou Cameron.

Mary Lou had gone to the dessert table and chosen her favorite, a big slice of lemon meringue pie. "I wish a person could try a half a slice of one pie and a half a slice of another type," she said upon returning to the table. That sounded like a great idea and I immediately took up the challenge. "Tell ya' what," I told her, "I’ll go Dutch with you and share half of my pie for half of yours." It still sounded like a good idea. "I like most pies," she confided to Penny during my absence, "... except cherry pie." Of course I didn't have any idea why everyone was laughing when I walked back to the table with my prize... a juicy slice of cherry pie.

But like I said at the beginning of this story, things don’t' always go as planned. We agreed to continue with the pie swap. I slid half of her least favorite pie onto my plate and delivered the rest to "Mama Cameron". Reluctantly,  I’m sure, she pushed off a generous half of her lemon pie and the deal was sealed. ”Ummmmm," I said with a wry smile, eating the lemon pie first. I didn't tell her until the end of the meal that lemon meringue pie is my least favorite! She ate the cherry pie and took the lemon pie home with her.

And what about the shrimp ring that didn't get used because of the storm? We shared that with friends Christmas Night as we endeavored to polish off some of the season’s leftovers.

Christmas is a time of reflection and a time of celebration with family…. whether near or far away.

Marjorie Holmes (1910-2002) an American columnist and best-selling Christian author said: "At Christmas, all roads lead home." With that in mind, I made a silent pledge to myself: even when things do not turn out as planned, I will still enjoy Christmas.

Next year we’re going to buy another large shrimp ring.

Happy New Year!