Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas to Remember

There are many reasons I will remember this blessed Christmas of 2008. But a sampling follows, and I have only to say aside from these: how thankful I am for my family and dear friends, a warm house and bountiful food, and a God who gifts me with the coming of the close of the year that has changed my life more than perhaps any other.

Reasons to remember this Christmas:
10) My dad four-wheeling in my Ford Escape on our way to the Christmas Eve service, claiming that (and I quote): "This car can do anything!"

9) Reading myself to sleep while watching my breath puff out in warm puffs of air against the bitter cold caused by our power going out for 50+ hours (Until about 4 pm Christmas Eve). This resulted also in our family huddling by the fire every night to read and talk, and while it sounds more romantic than it was, the time was no less quite precious.

8) Taking our annual family shopping trip (usually downtown) to Washington Square mall and then Fred Meyer's where we bought one another the bulk of their presents and went to great lengths to keep them hidden from one another in the not-so-roomy Escape. This included some near-sprints to the car, half-truths, and excessive packaging.

7) Cutting down, carting home, erecting and lighting a Christmas tree without the aid of my capable Father for the first time, to decorate Susan's & my house with her and my sister.

6) Listening to Amy Grant's (2nd & best) Christmas Album on loop at least 20 times throughout the first two weeks of December during our Seattle evenings of card writing & decorating. Without getting sick of it at all. Amazing.

5) Receiving approximately 20 pairs of socks on Christmas morning from my mother, who apparently found great deals!

4) Spending Christmas morning brunch with some very gracious neighbors (and also some interesting ones), most of whom we met upon arrival. Delicious egg-bake & cinnamon twists!

3) Taking a walk to Starbucks on Christmas Eve and the 1.25 mile round-trip walk taking over 2 hours because of all the people we know stopping us to complain about the power outage. The last count we heard: 119 houses were out of power in our neighborhood and Portland General Electric received 359 calls from our power grid in the span of less than 48 hours. Apparently, Lake Oswegoans do NOT handle camping-like conditions very gracefully.

2) Its our last Christmas in my Lake Oswego childhood home, as my parents have sold the house and will move to Vancouver in the early Spring. The many memories we have in this house and neighborhood may never be forgotten, but I will dearly miss the place, the familiarity, the homeyness. It is hard to picture returning home anywhere else, much less spending a beloved holiday in a new home. But this Christmas is special in knowing that we will never again experience Christmas within the same space.

1) IT WAS A WHITE CHRISTMAS! For the first time in my memory, there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground on Christmas day. Lake Oswego got no less than 16-17 inches of snow (and a good half-inch of ice) leading up to Christmas. This caused horrific traffic conditions (chains were required on all Portland-metro roads & highways for over 2 days), a scare that Maryann and I might not make it home for Christmas, thousands of people stranded in the Northwest for the holiday due to flight cancellations, and a slew of other closures and problems (including many services which were canceled Christmas Eve). All this, and I still felt like a giddy school child who just got her wish a few years too late for a blanket of snow. (Quick note: the last time it snowed like this in Portland was 1968 - 14 years before I was even born.) Even though tomorrow it will start to disappear slowly, I will never forget this Christmas for this reason alone. Oh, and my dad barbecuing in the snow for our Christmas Dinner is also a unique experience! :)

God bless you all and a very, very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Turkey, Football, and its December!

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I am thankful for the time with family. My immediate family spent a wonderful (and FULL) holiday weekend entertaining other family members, eating LOTS of delicious food (personal favs: stuffing, rolls, and pie - carbs, anyone?), Christmas tree hunting (and we found the perfect one, by the way, as per usual), wine-tasting (because you can't Christmas tree hunt in Oregon without finding a Pinot Noir maker right next door), watching WONDERFUL old black and white Christmas movies like (The Bishop's Wife), and, of course, watching football.

This last one is very bittersweet for me. More than any other year of my life, I have wrapped my schedule around the Oregon State Beavers who have had a heck of a season. I've really gotten into cheering for these college players who have a ton of heart and a lot of cool stories amongst them. After their win over #1 USC, I was hooked, and attended 5 of the ensuing games, flying to California, grabbing tickets for UW/OSU off Craigslist, and making 3 separate treks to Corvallis from Seattle to see them play at Reser. When I couldn't fly to Arizona, I drug my sister and my friend Kate (visiting from Iowa) to Fox Sports Grill just to be able to watch them slug out a win.

My father shares my passion (ok, he was the one who instigated it in the first place - he actually WENT there) and together we would cheer and yell and party in honor of this team. When we realized they would go to the Rose Bowl (a very prestigious game) if they won out their last 3 games, we agreed to fly our whole family to Pasadena to watch them play in this once in a lifetime game (the last time they were there was 1964, so we're talking for real, once in a lifetime).

Well, this last weekend, they only had one more game to win - vs. University of Oregon. And I was there with my dad, more nervous than I ever was for a high school voice recital! And I had to watch as these young, exhausted, beat-up players I've been cheering for got routed by their arch rival. It was such a sad day, and it tainted my Thanksgiving just a bit. I now spend New Year's in Portland instead of sunny Pasadena, and endure the taunts from the Duck fans who will talk about the game for years to come.

Boo hoo for me, right? Most of you probably want to say "Jenny, ummm....there are real problems out in the world, and you're wasting emotional energy on a college football team?" I know, I know. Today is World Aids Day, and believe me, I was reminded. The thing is, I've been mulling over this. I was only one of thousands and thousands of people who felt a let-down stronger than I did. Why do we attach ourselves so strongly to something so, relatively, unimportant and impersonal? I think it stems partly from a desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to join a community who is for the same thing.

The thing is, it is only a shadow of what we truly long for. I had to remind myself that I am part of something much bigger than this football team. I am part of a Body that is headed by Someone who never disappoints, never fails, never loses. Granted, I may not always understand how He gets to the win, or why He makes some play calls, but I know the end result, and I know we will get there. A little perspective was therefore served up with my stuffing, and I hope I can keep it next year, when the OSU Beavers make another run for the Rose Bowl.