Merry Christmas

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So this is Christmas.

We spent the last three days driving anywhere between 25 and 85 m.p.h. as we maneuvered my 4 cylinder Toyota, fully loaded with presents and baggage, from sunny Arizona through drought-brown hills of California toward our destination—Vancouver, Washington for Christmas. As my furry kids (two kitties) curl up beneath my bare tree in Arizona with only my cat sitter (and lovely friend!) for company, I realize this is the first Christmas in years and years that I have not been “home” in Colorado to celebrate.

My eyes brim and my heart clinches a little.

I keep the shrinking “Grinch” heart at bay.

I think back on the events leading up to our road adventure on this marvelous holiday and feel so blessed. The lovely Thanksgiving with family and the visits from family and the friends we have celebrated with already. Gifts and good-tidings; celebrations and holiday parties, home-made treats and cups of cheer overflowing—Christmas is the best time of year!

Then there is the Post Office…I don’t EVER wait until days before Christmas to mail, (nor do I recommend this!) but I had a little book-give-away to deliver and had a VERY close call with a “Grinch” in the parking lot just days before our departure. He almost stole my joy.

But I know what Christmas is.

I was leaving my two hour post office escapade, (heart determined to be kind to all who were braving this holiday faux pas,) when a gentleman just beginning his adventure, nearly swiped my bumper. He laid on his horn to get parked in an open space 2.4 seconds sooner than if he would’ve waited for me to inch forward behind the two grey-haired drivers I followed out. All this so he could arrive those 2.4 seconds earlier in into the two hour line in the lobby that awaited him.

My “Grinch” heart shrunk a little as I thought of several choice Christmas carols I’d like to yell at him: “Oh Holy–”

But I know what Christmas is.

I breathed deep and forgave him, knowing the lengths of enjoyment that lay before him with a “honking attitude” like he harbored.

Torrents of rain the night before we left awakened us through the night. We looked forward to grabbing our hot Dunkin’ Donut’s coffee before hitting the road. Avoiding the 15 car drive-thru line, we hoofed it to the entrance. On our way out, we fell silent passing an unkempt man wearing shorts and a light coat, holding a small grocery bag and seeking shelter out of the rain. My heart clinched and I pushed my sunglasses higher on my nose.

I think I know what Christmas is.

We still departed on our journey, but feeling pretty heavy–discovering he had spent the rain-drenched night outside. We left him with some home baked zucchini bread and money.

We ran out of clean clothes along the way, slept on some seriously rock hard mattresses and ate one-too-many continental breakfasts, but we are so blessed with what we have.

We think we know what Christmas is.

Though I am not with my family or at my “home,” I prepare to spend this blessed holiday with my fiancés family. Months ago, I planned a surprise for him. Before our Christmas Eve stop, I arranged for a “starter tree” to greet us and a few sparkling ornaments with which to decorate it. The look of surprise and wonder on his face at the discovery was equal to any child’s on Christmas day! It was pure wonderful!

I am feeling Christmas again.

And, as we prepare to hit the road again; washing our underwear, unpacking and re-packing, wrapping packages late into Christmas Eve, I know Christmas is MORE than family, sparkling decorations, packages and surprises from a jolly, fat, red-suited man.

I think of other travelers, long ago, who were “displaced” from their homes on this magical night.

No grouchy, horn-blowing Grinch can take Christmas from me. Those long ago travelers brought a gift to me and to all who believe.

I know what Christmas is.

The Charlie Brown’s Christmas special is one of my all-time fave’s. Linus wraps up nicely exactly what Christmas is…
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

[moves toward the center of the stage]

Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.

[a spotlight shines on Linus]

Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]

Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

(from www.imdb.com Charlie Brown Christmas Quotes)

 

For the horn- blower, for the Grinch, for the Dunkin-Donut’s rain man, for all people on all the earth–

–Wishing you all a magical and Merry Christmas, where ever you are!

 

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LOST

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LOST

“Feeling my way through the darkness.

Guided by a beating heart…” –Avicii

 

I have a good (and unique!) friend who enjoys getting lost. Despite having GPS in her vehicle, she goes it on her own and considers getting lost an adventure! She savors finding undiscovered places she normally wouldn’t.

Me…not-so-much. I LOATHE getting lost. I have ZERO sense of direction. I plan ahead with maps and detailed turn-by-turn instructions because I get turned around and discombobulated very easily.

When I first moved to Phoenix, without my Rocky Mountains to direct me, I experienced this very thing.

Returning from a road trip to Lake Powell, I got lost for hours, in the dark, on the unfamiliar streets of Phoenix.  With no landmarks to direct me and no light to see by; I had no point of reference. I completely panicked.

I knew I was lost and hated every minute of it.

The tears began brimming. My breathing accelerated. My heart went wild. My brain locked up…

Hours later, when I eventually followed the right road signs, I pulled into my neighborhood as the gas gauge danced around “E.”   My blood pressure steadied, my tears dried up and, in the comfort of my apartment as I studied a map, I discovered my error. Compelled by fear and repeatedly making wrong choices, I actually drove in circles for those hours.

“We do the best by the light we have to see by.”—Julie Cameron

Something about the vast amount of trees, rain and places to lose yourself in northern Oregon reminds me a little of The Shack and Deliverance.

And, yes, one chilly, rainy, foggy day my fiancé and I decided to take a long run in northern Oregon. Since he was from those parts, (even though he hadn’t been back in years,) I trusted his proclamations that he knew where he was going.

The adventure began.

About an hour into the run, we got low on water. Amidst mossy back roads, gargantuan trees and a fog that hung down on us as a storm pressed in–

We got lost.

No, we didn’t hear banjos, but it got a bit precarious.

At one point we came into a clearing. We crossed the expanse and approached an ominous, brick building that looked like a modern day castle. We rounded the “castle” and, just as it began to rain harder, our hope ignited as we came upon the first person we had seen in miles.

She was crouched low, sitting on a curb by some large green dumpsters and her thin fingers held a burning cigarette with a long, dangling ash about to drop. As we approached her, in high hopes of asking where the heck we were, something stopped us.

She didn’t move.

As we got closer, her pale skin and statuesque figure seemed like an illusion. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the splashing of our running shoes, our gasps of breaths and she was completely oblivious to the rain that fell harder all around us. She was wearing a grey sweater that hung on her, leggings that clung to her bone-thin legs and flip flops. She also wore a men’s ball cap that hid her face and mostly covered the long brown locks of hair that escaped just below the plastic rim. Empty eyes stared straight ahead. She took a long drag on that cigarette.

Feeling quite out of place and with the panic of our predicament oozing out of our pores, how did she not sense us?

But she didn’t.

She looked right through us.

I choke up when I think of the look of pain in her. Something we couldn’t see had a hold on this woman.

She was lost.

Regardless of the increasing rain, our mounting thirst and our growing anxiety, neither of us said a word as we quieted our steps and passed by her. The rain gushed through the gutters and over her feet and, as I looked back at her one last time, she looked up.

We rounded the other side of the “castle” into another clearing and noticed the landscape here was dotted with small signs.

Approaching the first sign it read:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

We continued on; looking for direction in the next sign about 200 yards further. It read: “Step one: We admit that we are powerless over our addiction and our lives have become unmanageable.”

Both our jaws dropped. We looked at each other and then back at the “castle” then sprinted back to the opening in the fence that brought us here.  On our way out, we passed two more signs.

One read: “ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING”

And another that read:

“A power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.”

About two miles later, the rain lightened and we found ourselves on the campus of George Fox University. We also found refreshment and relief.

Breathing deep and trudging our legs a few more miles back to home base, we both were haunted by the invisible chains we saw weighing down this young lady’s soul.

“I once was lost, But now am found.

Was blind, But now I see.” –Amazing Grace

I often think of that young lady.

What happened to her? What were her struggles? Could we have said anything to her that could’ve encouraged her? Something we could’ve done that might’ve helped her find her way?

And yet, I know there was a time when I wasn’t “found.”– Well meaning words from friends and strangers alike fell on deaf ears.

 

“All this time I was finding myself…

And I didn’t know I was lost.” – Avicii

 

Yet, I admitted I was utterly powerless to change my “directional dysfunctionality;”

I sought a guide for my journey;

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.…” (Matthew 7:7)

And now I am found.–I know where I am, where I am going and Who I follow to get me through.

In Jesus, I found a guiding light of Hope to direct me through the darkness.

And though I will still get off the beaten path and won’t always make the right choices; because I know The Way, I will never be lost again.

So, wherever you find yourself along this journey, may you discover enough courage to seek, to find and to look up in the storms of life.

HOME

Arvada Trains

HOME
“Home is the nicest word there is.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dorothy tells us there’s no place like it.

Where do you call home?

You know how you hear something every single day of your life and you end up tuning it out? Even though it continues, you no longer hear it. Until, one day, you leave the place you call “home” and it’s truly gone.
Then you miss it.
But, sometimes it returns…

I am back in Scottsdale, after a fantastic Thanksgiving visit to Arvada, Colorado – my hometown for 25 years.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
― Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

TOP TEN THINGS I MISS ABOUT BEING HOME:

1) Miles upon miles of railroad tracks criss-crossing through town and the sounds of the trains speeding through at all times of the day and night

2) Family and old friends being only a Starbuck’s distance away
3) My mom’s overflowing generosity and her chicken and noodles
4) Beau Jo’s Mountain Pies and, ACTUAL MOUNTAINS, the glory of the front range
5) Snow softly falling on fallen leaves and the smell of fireplaces burning
6) Layering up and running to Two Ponds, the nation’s smallest urban wildlife refuge
7) Bronco’s fans, after a win
8) Seeing my nephews playing in sports they love and growing a foot taller
9) Old Towne Arvada
10) My dad, my grampy, my grammy and all those who’ve gone before me to a different home

BUT…

THINGS I DON’T MISS ABOUT HOME:

1) Snot actually freezing in my nose
2) Dirty, crusty, chemical coated cars
3) Power windows freezing shut in the drive-thru at Starbucks
4) 15 car pile-up caused after the first snow and the guy with his new 4WD truck
5) Bronco’s fans, after a loss
6) Old town Aurora
7) The five pounds I gain as I eat more of mom’s chicken and noodles and Beau Jo’s mountain pies
8) Watching the melanoma eat away at my dad, seeing the dementia turn my grampy into a different man and visiting grammy in the hospital after the most recent surgery
9) Miles upon miles of railroad tracks criss-crossing through town and the sounds of the trains speeding through at all times of the day and night


“Happiness is home… It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
― Dennis Lehane

Wherever you call “home,” may there always be more good things on the list of things you miss.

And may you always have a place of unconditional love and peace.