Last night, we joined some friends of ours for the Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Austin State Supported Living Center.

The SSLC serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are medically fragile or who have behavioral problems. State supported living centers provide 24-hour residential services, comprehensive behavioral treatment services and health care services, including physician services, nursing services and dental services. Other services include skills training; occupational, physical and speech therapies; vocational programs; and services to maintain connections between residents and their families and natural support systems.

Jack, Grayson and Grayson’s friend Roman all made gifts to donate to the residents of the SSLC before the event. Christine picked me up from work, and we arrived around 6:30 p.m.

When we got to the area where the event was being held, we were treated to some music from Sarah Hickman (who also happens to go to our church and is a wonderful artist).

The kids wrote letters to Santa with help from the residents and volunteers.

Jack told the volunteer “I’m a little nervous, so I can’t think of anything I want. How ’bout we just tell him Merry Christmas, and to drive safely, and I’ll draw him a picture?” and then proceeded to draw a reindeer for Santa.

Grayson on the other hand knew exactly what he wanted. He asked the lady helping him to write “Dear Santa, I would like a soft stuffed animal, and another pillow pet, and a toy baby Jesus.” I chuckled at that point… and Grayson then told me and his volunteer that baby Jesus was born on Christmas, and he wants a baby Jesus to play with this year. Too cute.

After letters to Santa, the kids all decorated their own ornament and got Christmas themed tattoos on their hands.

We were treated to 5 or 6 songs from the “Austin SSLC Choir” which was made up of residents. Two of them had guitars and a few had bells, and they all sang their hearts out. It was special to see them bringing so much joy to the 100 or 150 residents and community members that turned out for the event.

We found the donation area for the gifts, had some hot apple cider, and then found our group of friends and sat down for the rest of the music.

Then, they lit the tree. You should have seen Grayson’s face. When the tree was lit, his chin hit the floor. He was so much in awe… it was awesome.

So, be in awe, this Christmas season… of the immense love and joy that God has for each of us, and if you can, try to put a little bit of that love and joy into everything you do. That’s what I took away from last night…

So precious.