a few blocks from our house is guy who really seems to love life. He is a bit eccentric, collecting the odd car and refrig to decorate the lawn. He would not do well in a sub-division with a lot of covenants. In Airport Heights (our little piece of Anchorage), however, he thrives.
For the last few years, from what we understand, he has been making a giant snowman in his front yard. This creation has been dubbed “Snowzilla” and had made national and international news. People drive by all day and night to see this thing, and take pictures. Well, apparently this got a little old for some of the neighbors and a complaint was filed with the city. The city cited the guy, told him to take Snowzilla down or face some fines. So, he destroyed the snowman and that was that.
Within a couple of days, Snowzilla was re-born, bigger than ever. When questioned, the guy just responded that he had now idea how Snowzilla was re-built, but the “the elves must have worked all night long”.
I have long wished that I could live just this side of the law, it seems like so much fun. But alas, I was raised Lutheran, in Minnesota, so all hope for that is lost, I remain firmly rooted in guilt and worry.
There is just enough rebel in me, however, to cheer for this guy and his Snowzilla. Nearly each night, the dog and I walk by and I wave my hand in salute to the guy watching from the window of the house over which Snowzilla stands guard.
the last week here at the Lawrence house has been positively blissful. Things have been relaxed and, I tell you, that is exactly what we needed this year. After 6 months of tension: leaving the Midwest and my family, cancer, surgery, recovery, insurance hassles, settling into a new neighborhood, new school, new church. It has all felt frantic.
the first few weeks in Alaska, we were so busy with all the medical stuff and school. Then, as Dave began to feel better, we began to go again, catching up with friends long neglected in our moves. A beloved aunt and uncle came to visit, Dave’s folks were in town. A long awaited trek to Homer. A trip to Kenny Lake to reconnect with very special friends. Each week that Dave was home something was going on.
The weeks he was gone were filled with school and fencing and volunteering and Daisy Scouts. Our Dave-less weekends were often spent in the Valley playing with the Riopelles or the Becks.
So, when Christmas break rolled around, although I missed/miss my family terribly, I was ready for the slow down. And without extended family, it really was slow around here.
We have never had a week like this. Dave has been home since the day before Christmas, and has only been on the phone 2 times for work. I think he only checked his email once. The kids have been off of school, and since I don’t work… It has been wonderful.
Christmas eve was quiet, we went to church and enjoyed a lovely service complete with candles and volunteer choir. Singing “Silent Night” with each persons face illuminated by the glow of the candles… knowing my family had done the same in Minnesota.
At home that evening, we opened presents. Not too many, that really isn’t our thing. Neither Dave nor I grew up in households that went all out over Christmas presents and we have not made that a part of our family celebrations either. Broder got some Troll legos, Kjell got an mp3 player, Sunny some doll clothes. All the kids got pipecleaners and games and a puzzle to share.
The most exciting present by far was the book box. Dave and I had gone to a used book store in town and bought a bunch of books, some for each member of the family including our selves. There were mysteries, car repair manuals, fantasy, history, knitting, learn to read , books of all kinds. We had wrapped each book in newspaper(and didn’t label them as to whom they belonged) and put all the books in a large box. When it came time to open the box, the kids pulled out any book, unwrapped it, and tried to figure out who it belonged to. this was great fun and something I think we will do in years to come.
Christmas morning brought the usual stockings stuffers, toothpaste, band-aids, toothbrushes and a little bit of candy.
In the afternoon, our friend Tom came over for dinner. It was great to send some time with him and catch up on all that has gone on in his life over the last 6 years. It was an afternoon of good conversation, snuggled in our little house watching the snow pile up outside.
In the days since Christmas, we have played a lot of games, put together a puzzle, taken the dog for long walks, baked some bread and lefse, drank good coffee and little wine, and generally just hung out as a family. We didn’t even start the car for 3 days!
The holidays are so often a time of busy running and that is so much fun, and I missed that a little this year, there were times when I would get a little teary knowing that all my siblings and my parents were together, without us. But, I think this last week was just what we needed.
“in-between the years”. that is what the mysterious phrase means. It is used to describe the time between Christmas and Epiphany. This information is all courtesy of my German instructor.
I like that: “in-between the years”. how apt. That is exactly what this time of year has always felt like to me. The year is over, the year has not yet begun. Kind of a dream state. Some things: work and school, the mail, slow down during this period and others: gathering of family and friends ramp up to amazing speed.
Enjoy this zwischen den Jaren.
here are a couple of funny things to brighten your day.
I was talking to a friend today and she said:
“my grandpa turned 88 and for his birthday he got to smoke a cigarette and have a steam bath”.
I thought this was hilarious, and a good reminder that it is not the money spent on a gift that counts, but how much the recipient really wants it.
Last night the boys pulled an all-nighter. The goal was to stay up all night long playing video games, xbox etc. It is Christmas break, so I figured why not. I bestowed my blessing in the form of a caffeinated soda for each boy. Kjell has accomplished the all nighter once before and this time, Broder was determined, really determined. When I got up this morning at 5am, both boys were still awake. I expressed my surprise that Broder was still going strong and he said:
“I have been putting ice cubes down my back to stay awake”.
Oh, yeah, that’s Broder.
At each church I have been a part of over my life there has always been one thing, that for me, made that particular church special in a way all it’s own.
At St.Pauls, where I grew up, the thing that stands out above all else, is the tradition of the candles on Christmas eve. For many years we carried these beautiful colored glass votive holders with little tealights in them. To watch them shimmer and glow was something I looked forward to each and every year. the little candles inside the little bits of glass, sitting on the table at the front of the church, seemed to me a hundred little jewels sparkling. And to listen to and sing along to the beloved Christmas songs, and hear that familiar Christmas story, while watching those lights dance, I could always feel the presence of God right there. I really loved those candles and those gemstone votive holders, and I love them still.
At MatSu Covenant, our church home when we lived in Wasilla, there was the lively worship, led by John Koutsky and his banjo. There was no way someone could stay down or grumpy when a banjo is played. It was lively and fun and I could imagine God dancing along with the music, having fun alongside us. I came to depend on hearing that banjo on Sunday morning, and I have missed it since we moved. It was such a joy to hear him again after we moved back. And wonderful to worship again in that joyful and fun setting.
At Plymouth Covenant, where we attended some when we lived in Minnesota this last time (we were lucky enough to have 2 churches at one time). There was always a table full of bread, donated by a local bakery, for those in need. I loved the fact that, among all the affluence, someone remembered that there were those who had less than enough. I watched each time we visited that church, as families would head to that table, relief and joy on their faces. This table reminded me of 2 things, God’s provision, and my responsibility to help others.
At Arbor Covenant, in Madison, the church of my heart, each Sunday we ended the service with a benediction song. Not an unusual practice, but the manner in which it was done was truly special. The congregation was divided by an aisle down the center. At the end of each service, we would turn and face each other and sing, “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious, gracious, gracious to you. The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you, give you, give you peace.” This simple act, of turning and looking across the aisle and calling forth God’s blessing and peace never failed to move me. Most Sundays I would tear up and barely make it through without weeping. While I write this, tears run. I love this tradition so very much, I wish every church would adopt it. It is hard to ignore Christ in your neighbor when you are singing into their eyes.
And now, here at First Covenant in Anchorage, I have found something that makes my heart swell with joy and love for this church. It is the volunteer choir. This has happened a few times now, unscheduled and unprompted. Someone is giving the announcements, or fielding prayer requests and they will say. “After I am done here , I would like to invite anyone up to the front for Volunteer Choir, and we can all sing …(some well known hymn or song of praise, this week it was Joy to the World)” And that is exactly what happens, people go forward and sing. They haven’t practiced, there may or may not be the singing of parts, they aren’t lined up in neat rows, sometimes their outfits clash wildly with the person they are standing next to, and, for the sheer joy that only singing with others in worship can bring, they SING!! I don’t go forward and sing, maybe someday I will, but for now I am content to sit back and watch and listen and worship.
but isn’t it pretty? Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we were invited out to a friend’s cabin. It is just such a lovely place, I had to post a picture. The cabin is located on an island and is a perfect secluded hideaway. We are excited to invite ourselves back this summer.