I love Christmas! I always have and always will. My parents always made our home beautiful and full of Christmas music. Our home would completely transform for Christmas. The warmth inside the home was not just a physical warmth, but a spiritual warmth of excitement, family and togetherness.

There are traditions to my Christmas now. Decorations cannot go up a single day before Thanksgiving. Christmas music is played nonstop from the day after Thanksgiving to the day after Christmas. The Christmas decorations go up as a family affair. We spend that day getting everything just right. We spend Christmas Eve at a candlelight service.

Growing up I remember the anticipation of our Christmas Eve traditions. We would all dress up, and have dinner at my grandparents home. My Papaw always cooked steak, and my Nanny always made crescent rolls just for me. My Nanny was not the best cook, but the rolls were always perfect. My mom would cook the side items, and make sure everyone’s favorites were on the table. Dinner was followed by the candlelight service at our church. I loved when the lights were dimmed and only our candles and praises to the Lord illuminated the sanctuary. I loved the responsibility of being trusted with that candle. Afterwards, we opened presents under the tree.

As I think back to those memories, I remember wanting to open the presents, and I remember my dad and grandfather would painfully delay the start of the presents. However, my heart glows now from the fondness of our entire family being together. I remember the joy, love and peace. I remember the excitement of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I remember loving this season from my youngest memories.

When I was 14 years old, my parents divorced. Our family went through an extremely difficult season. And yet, Christmas always brought us back to each other and the joy of the season. Thankfully, my parents would put their differences aside to ensure that our Christmas was disturbed as little as possible.

I cannot work as the executive director of Choices Clinic & Life Resource Center, and not appreciate the number of young, unmarried mothers I am surrounded by each Christmas. Most of them have stories about how their lives detoured in a way that they had no control over. Some of them have home lives that were never stable. Some of them have strong Christian homes, and they made a poor choice one night. But each and every one of them are carrying a precious child that will forever change the landscape of the world around them. They are choosing to bring a new life into the world, and we get a front row seat to their hard work. There is no other response, but to sit in awe of these courageous women.

Having spent my last two Christmases surrounded by pregnant mothers, I believe my love for Christmas has forever been changed. Their hearts of joy, excitement, fear and anxiousness minister to me every year.

May your Christmas be forever impacted by the love of a mother for her unborn child. May you and your family remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Ashley Graves is the executive director of Choices Clinic & Life Resource Center. She has been mentoring teens for over 15 years, and has a passion for guiding them towards healthy life choices. Ashley may be reached at Ashley@ChoicesInLife.org.