Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

I tried to write a generic Christmas letter this year. It's been a really full year, but it proved hard to condense into a letter. There were some things I wanted to share with everyone and other things I only wanted to share with some people. There were things that would sound like bragging in a Christmas letter but were things some of you wanted to know! And there was so much I had already recorded here that it might have been repetitive.

So, I'm working on cards. If you haven't gotten one yet, you will soon. Or you'll get a New Year's card or a Valentine. And it will be hand-crafted and contain news that interests you - or if you're up on everything, it will be a vehicle for me to tell you how much you mean to me.

I am also doing all the stuff we all do at Christmas. Baking. Shopping. Wrapping. Getting the car serviced. Going to parties. Shipping. Laundry. And in the middle of all of this I have such peace. I've taken my own advice and simplified Christmas. I did the things that mattered to me. I stuck to my budget. I didn't decorate every nook and cranny - only as much as I felt like putting away. I got lots of sleep. I socialized some and acted like a hermit some. And now Christmas Eve has arrived. I will be at church much of today, then sharing a little Christmas Eve feasting with some new friends here before a good night's sleep in preparation for traveling east to see the girls.

I hope that you are joyful this day. I hope that you are warm (at 9am here the temperature has climbed to -9) and that you will see or speak with someone you love today or tomorrow. And I wish you the joy of the child. The hope for the future that would be impossible without God coming to us. We are loved; no matter our circumstances we are loved fiercely and faithfully and unfailingly. Joy to the World, indeed!!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yep, It's Cold Enough for Me!

It's a Minnesota conversational staple, "Cold enough for you?" And the answer is yes. Yes it is cold enough for me.

I awoke this morning to the words "bitterly cold" closely followed by "double-digit windchill", as in double-digits BELOW zero.

I just want to stay in bed with a cup of cocoa and a good book. But alas, duty calls. They don't close the schools for cold here, only impassable snow, so I will have to get out the door pretty soon.

If the sun shines I will be ok. Most days it does, even when it's miserably cold. And since I have south facing office windows I am in a little hothouse just perfect for this Texas transplant.

My mind has become a jumble of thoughts along the line of:

  • Hot cereal was invented for mornings like this.
  • Thank God for my garage.
  • I don't care how it looks, it's warm.
  • One more cup of coffee and I'll head out.
  • Maybe I should bake something.
I have to allow five minutes for "robing" before I go outdoors. None of this dashing to the mailbox with an unzipped jacket and bare head and hands. Nope, I stop the car by the mailbox, leave it running, and hop out while still fully swaddled because I know I won't get swaddled again once I remove all these layers.

The natives are tougher. And they have better gloves.

Scripture references to snow are rare but I take comfort in Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Psalm 147:
16 He spreads snow like a white fleece, he scatters frost like ashes, 17 He broadcasts hail like birdseed - who can survive his winter? 18 Then he gives the command and it all melts; he breathes on winter - suddenly it's spring!
In the meantime, with another psalmist I will cry out "How long, O Lord, how long?"

I am loving the winter, just not this arctic phase. This week is, indeed, cold enough for me!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Hello old friends! I spent Thanksgiving in Arkansas with my mom. A very thankful Thanksgiving this year.
  • Thankful for a short break from cold and work.
  • Thankful for time to spend with this remarkably wise woman.
  • Thankful for the birds that populate her bird feeders and bring such joy to watch.
  • Thankful for the wonderful tradition of Thanksgiving pies and all the other trimmings.
I was very aware that while Thanksgiving at Mom's was as natural as it could be, returning to Blooming Prairie was going to be a bit strange. It's not just that the weather is going from moderate to cold instead of warm, it has to do with what is waiting for me on the other end. Usually when I leave to go home after Thanksgiving it is to a whirlwind of activity that goes on all month long. While I have some December busy-ness, overall it is not the frenzy I am used to in December. And I am thankful for that, even as I miss some of my Texas December traditions.

That said, I did return to what will probably be the longest day of my entire month. Sunday was filled from early morning on: Sunday School, Program Practice, Worship, Education Board Meeting, Advent Festival,  and Wish Tree Shopping. All of which went well, and were fun to participate in. 

My three-year-old teacher was out with the flu so I got to help the littlest ones practice walking in and out of the sanctuary. While we were doing that, one of our newly confirmed 10th graders was practicing a violin piece he is playing for one of the Christmas services. My little threes were wide-eyed and very curious about this, and sat and listened quietly for an amazing number of minutes.

This is Amy and her miniature donkey 4-H project. She brought him to the Advent Festival and all the kids got their pictures taken with him. It was a very fun way to imagine the Christmas story with the children. Amy is in 7th grade and has a twin brother. They are farm kids and talked knowledgeably about delivering lambs and caring for them in confirmation recently. This is one of the things I am truly enjoying about being up here - seeing how different these kids lives are from the kids I worked with in Austin. Not better. Not worse. Just different. They have different kinds of experiences and sometimes different kinds of dreams. The kids here are probably a little more aware of what life is like for kids in Austin than the reverse. It is just as much fun to be with them as with the others. Guess that means I just love young people in general!

The final event of the day was going with two Senior girls to shop for kids we adopted from the Wish Tree. We spent a fun hour searching Target for just the right combination of gifts. We nailed our budget with $19 to spare, and then went for dinner. It was fun to hear about their friendship. They have lived across the street from each other for their whole lives. They are heading off to different colleges in the fall and can't even imagine life without one another. They are smart, kind, helpful, and sweet girls. They go to school, work, volunteer and teach first grade Sunday School. Amazing.

So, I am thankful. And one more special thing to be thankful for: this Friday I am going to hear the St.Olaf Christmas concert with Emily and Paul, and Paul's family. And I won't have to travel two days to get here. This will be the third time I've seen Emily since I got here. Living in MN has its perks!

Still missing the familiar, but gaining more familiarity here each day. Another blessing to be counted. Keep in touch!