BY LAURA QUEZADA News Review staff writer
Teri Raley, the matriarch of the Raley family, and her husband Douglas have a household filled with love and people with folks young and old who are either related by marriage, birth, adoption, or years of knowing each other. Year-round Monday nights are when they “do life” together by cooking, cleaning, decorating the house, and baking together at Christmas time.
“I wanted to have my big extended family here because I think it’s very important in a Christian household to understand even Joseph’s side of the story. After all, Jesus was from the line of King David, but that came through Joseph. Later on, we realized that Mary was also from King David’s line. But Joseph was stepdad. And I’m a stepmom.
“But Joseph still treated Jesus as his own and raised him as his own. And that is what God has called us to do. My kids all know that they are mine, including the adopted ones and family, and so we make sure that our kids know that they are fully loved unconditionally the way God intended them to be.
“We have our struggles, of course, of normal family stuff and growing pains of teenagers, but they know they’re fully loved. Then their friends come in. Serenity has been around since she was little.
“We get together. We do life together. We do dinner together, we do lots of things. They all get Christmas presents, just little things, because it’s better to give than to receive, and they all know that it’s better to give than to receive. And first and foremost is to see that we get to come together and know Jesus, and then know each other and do family together. “I think that’s the biggest family tradition that we have. Every time we get together, we pray together, and we know that we’re loved. And we enjoy each others’ company at that point.” Christmas with the Raley family begins right after Thanksgiving when they decorate. “We lean a lot more towards nativity scenes and churches as we set up our Christmas decorations. Everybody has a piece they get to put around the nativity scene they enjoy. We talk about what each of those pieces of the Nativity Scene means to Christ’s birth and the true meaning, not the commercialized story, but how old was Mary when she had Jesus, and how old was Joseph when he found out?” She explains, “Mary was somewhere between 13 and 15, based on Jewish history, which was the childbearing age. Joseph was probably close to 30. Because historically, for the first 15 years, men were in school and memorizing the first five books of the Bible. Then, from 15 to 30, they followed on under a rabbi or a teacher, and they learned their entire trade.”
The Raleys are flexible with their traditions as their children grow and accommodate an extra set of parents out of town. Their boys will spend this Christmas out of town with their other parents.
One of their fun traditions is a decorating of gingerbread man competition. In previous years, folks would pair up and race against a clock to come up with the best design, but this year, they were free-formed and had fun. “It was fun to see the interaction between all the kids this year instead of them poking at each other. They really came together as a big family.”
Teri tells us, “The really clear, true meaning of Christmas is the perfect lamb that came to this earth to be sacrificed so that we could have a relationship with God because He tore the veil because He could not imagine our world without one of us. We’ve all been created as a workmanship and as a masterpiece. And Jesus came for every single one of His workmanship and masterpieces. He can’t imagine life without one of us; He was born so that we could have that relationship because none of us would go to a king and want to have that relationship even though he is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Prince of Peace. But He came as such a small baby that was born in a really gross place. We get to have that relationship every single day and moment, and He knows every tear we cry and every hair we lose, and He still cares about every single one of His masterpieces. That is the true meaning of Christmas for the Raley household.”