Christmas is a magical time of year. Snow, family, gift giving. The celebration of the birth of Jesus--whose miraculous conception and life fulfilled prophecies of old. This year, my Christmas blessings are extra special. I want to share with you the magic of my Christmas as it propels me into a new season! The last few weeks, my boyfriend, Pavel, was traveling for work in China. As we said goodbye at the airport, he explained that he had a note for me. Actually, a note for every day that he was gone, to remind me of his love and give me something to which I could look forward. This was so special! Sometimes he gave me a clue to go find the note--as they were hidden around Alfred and Hornell in significant places to our relationship. Some of the notes were delivered to me with a box of dark chocolate or bouquet of flowers. It was extremely romantic. I am so loved and blessed. One of the notes explained that I needed to keep Sunday the 15th (the day before he returned from China) open for a special event he had planned for me. He would explain more as it got closer. I suspected that he had organized some friends and family to surprise me for an afternoon of time together. Secretly, I knew the best surprise would be him returning early...but quieted the impossible hope. Sunday the 15th arrived. At the beginning of our Sunday service at Lighthouse I was handed a big white envelope with Pavel’s writing “Deliver to Maria Adam. Deliver on Dec. 15th, 2019.” I tried not to be distracted by it during worship...and the sermon. It made me excited and nervous. I love surprises! And I love to cherish them! Within the envelope was a letter, a clue, and a puzzle piece (a paper cut out made by Pavel). Within the letter, Pavel explained that he had planned a special event for me in the Finger Lakes. There would be a series of notes that would lead me there and puzzle pieces to collect along the way. One of my best friends, Tara Snyder, would accompany me also since he knew I would enjoy having someone join me for the adventure. She didn’t know the clues either...so we worked as a team to solve them! We had such a blast! It was fun and often challenging. I was so nervous I wouldn’t be able to solve one of the clues, and that in our stumped state we would miss the event in the Finger Lakes. I kept thinking, “Pavel is sleeping in China right now so we couldn’t even call him for a hot line.” Thankfully, we solved each clue--from the Terra Cotta, to Wegmans, and my parents home in Howard. The last clue was the GPS coordinance to a coffee shop in Penn Yan. I was excited! I explained to Tara that the Black Cat Bistro is a special coffee shop to Pavel and I as we shared our first date there. When we arrived the owner had our last clue and a board on which we could arrange the puzzle pieces. She led us to the glass table where Pavel and I had sat during our first date. I went to sit down and she prompted me to sit in a different seat. “Oh, but this is where I had sat during out first date.” I explained. “But this seat has a better view.” she countered. I smiled and didn’t object. I figured the puzzle pieces must relate to something I would see in the view. As I arranged the pieces I saw the word “Marry”...”that can’t be right.” I mumbled to myself. “It’s probably supposed to say ‘Maria’ ”. The more I aligned it the more I saw the words “Marry me?” I was slightly confused and put off...did Pavel want me to text him my answer? Suddenly, someone grabbed me from behind in an embrace. I KNEW it wasn’t the coffee shop owner! Pavel surprised me. He came home early from China to ask me to marry him. To tell me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, the hard times and the good times. I was blown away. Overwhelmed. And so happy! Of course, I said yes! I am so thankful for the gift that he is to me! We are stronger together and I am so excited for the seasons ahead. We celebrate this Christmas season with some extra spark and joy! I am praying and wishing you a Merry Christmas. A season of healing, joy, laughter, community, and love. Merry Christmas from Thriving Health...and Maria and Pavel!