Tuesday, December 25, 2007

keeping the main thing the main thing at christmas

those of you who've visited in our various homes over the years know that we're not really a christmas tree family. it just isn't our kind of thing. from the beginning of m's and my marriage, we wanted our decorating to point to the true meaning of christmas -- to Jesus and to the people he loves and came to save. for that reason, our tradition is to put up nativity scenes throughout the house and prominently display the christmas photos of friends and families as they come in. m has a nice little collection of creches from around the world, all the more impressive because they've come with us through all of our many moves. the one above is from mexico; the one below is from poland.

to be honest, this has not been the most Christ-centered advent season for most of our family, perhaps especially me. the many unusual emergencies that have come up this month haven't made it any easier to focus on Jesus and to meditate on why he came. i was feeling pangs of regret about that yesterday, apologizing to God during my prayer time, and felt like God's response was, "it's never too late." i was greatly relieved at the reminder, and resolved that this would be my first day of christmas (kind of like the old twelve days of christmas tradition). later that day, i was helping m find some of her christmas decorations and finally discovered my liquid candles -- an aid to my devotional life that i've been missing since we left montreal. i had actually given up on finding them and recently told b that a new liquid candle would be a great christmas gift for me. instead, God gave them back to me at just the right time.

last night, we had our first real family advent gathering; it was a wonderful time to come together to seek God. after all of these years -- now 26 as a christian -- i'm surprised at how easily i can lose my focus, even at a time of year that is set aside to celebrate Jesus. and i am grateful to be part of a family that encourages and exhorts me back to the things that really matter.
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

when it rains...

such an appropriate title, given the reputation of (and recent floods in) our part of the world. of course, as i write this, it's a beautiful, sunny day -- the first one in some time. in this and countless other ways, i remain the unintentional master of irony.

when we have the long 'quiet' spaces on the blog, you can bet that our lives are quite the opposite, and the recent two-week gap is no exception. it's been a hectic and sometimes intense ride, and not for the usual reasons that peoples' lives are crazy at this time of the year. not much of christmas parties and shopping and decorating and writing cards for us -- no, we've been dealing with higher highs and lower lows than that.
  • on december 6, at the end of an upbeat visit at a possible worship site for our new church, i got a call from m who instructed me to get home right away so that i could take her to the emergency room. she was having heart attack-like symptoms which we believe were connected to overexerting herself while having severe anemia. we hurried to the hospital in rush hour traffic (which took about an hour, since the grouphealth hospital is in redmond, some distance away). thankfully, all of her tests turned up negative, and she was sent home with a diagnosis roughly equivalent to what we had surmised. the prescription: rest.
  • on the morning of december 8, m complained of abdominal and chest pain that had awakened her in the middle of the night, and so, after a brief consultation with a friend who is an emergency room nurse and then with the advice nurse, we went back to emergency. they were all guessing that she might need her gall bladder removed, but again, the tests came up negative, and she was sent home. that was the second trip to the hospital in 48 hours, and she ended up seeing the doctor four times in a week -- compared to one time in three years in montreal!
  • on december 11, b received the wonderful news that she had been admitted 'early decision' to columbia university in new york. as you can imagine, that was a real thrill. that evening, we went out to red robin to celebrate her accomplishment with huge burgers and shirley temples.
  • on december 12, the bloom came off the rose, as a much-smaller-than-expected financial aid package came from columbia. suddenly, it became unclear whether we'd be able to send her. even though they promise to meet 100% of a student's demonstrated financial need, their formula for calculating it requires us to pay many times the sample amount on their web site ($35,000+!). since that day, we've been meeting nightly to pray as a family that God will provide what is needed.
  • on december 18, m noticed that my left eye was very red. she wondered aloud if i was having another iritis attack (the last one was in january 2006, and the one before that was january 2004 -- see a pattern here?). the next morning, i awoke with the telltale blurred vision, and after another consultation with the advice nurse, was whisked off to the doctor. she confirmed the self-diagnosis of iritis, noting that we had caught it fairly early, and prescribed the usual medications. so as i type this, the vision in my left eye is cloudy and blurry, and m is carting me everywhere while i refrain (under protest) from driving.
there are multiple ways to understand what's going on here. spiritual warfare as we try to start a new ministry aimed at taking new territory. the predictable results of the many stresses of a major move. a spell of bad luck. but however you slice it, it's been pretty tough sledding, and we'd appreciate your prayers in the midst of these and other challenges we're facing.

of course, ordinary life goes on. on wednesday, n danced in a ballet open house and is currently preparing to play in a violin recital. b finished up her fall quarter at bellevue community college, with straight a's no less. our final church plant event of 2007 was well-attended and full of energy and momentum.

as we head (limping a bit) toward our first christmas in the pnw (and our first christmas ever without grandma p, who's joining m's sister and family in hawaii), there is still much to be grateful for: friends old and new, a house to live in (spacious compared to our apartment in montreal), many successes, and multiple offers of help in the midst of all of our difficulties. most of all, we are thankful for Jesus, who reminds us of the lengths to which God will go in his desire to identify with, reveal himself to, and rescue us.

although he existed in the form of God,
he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.

(philippians 2:5-7)

and in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. and an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. and the angel said to them, "do not be afraid; for behold, i bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a savior, who is christ the Lord. and this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." and suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." and it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, "let us go straight to bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
(luke 2:8-15)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

just how big of a geek are you?

not to sound defensive, but lots of people get a rubik's cube for christmas. and play with it until the stickers come off. and decide to re-model their cube with nearly indestructible lexan replacement tiles. and lubricate it with silicone-based spray in the hopes of becoming a speed cuber.

so what are you looking at?

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the rains came down and the floods came up

they call seattle 'the rainy city.' the truth is that it doesn't get an unusual amount of rain on average, though it is spread over 200 days a year, which might make it seem that way.

but yesterday was different. the rain fell, and it kept on falling. having been here just a little bit less than five months, we have already experienced the 2nd rainiest day in seattle history. falling trees caused power outages. flooding closed roads. schools were closed, and traffic is still a mess. you can see some incredible photos here.

and to think, i've been worried about the snow...