Sunday, January 2, 2011

Where It Was Always Winter But Never Christmas

Maybe its just my emotional frame of mind, but the thought of an eternity of cold without a beautiful Christmas mid-center is a terrible one. I love C.S. Lewis, I love reading his books, searching online for quotes and bio tidbits-but I especially love his Screwtape Letters. He is so honest about humanity, about our failings (sins) as Christians-how often we become hypocrites ourselves while complaining about the hypocrisy of those around us. I know its a tradition to make resolutions for New Years, but I didn't this year. Instead, as Lou and I drove the 12 hours from New Jersey to western Kentucky on New Years Eve, we talked about 2010 and its blessings, the friends we made and brought into 2011 with us, its struggles and pleasures. All in all, we decided it was a better year than any before...that we have grown together closer as a couple through each experience we have, good or bad. We had a lot of exposure to each others' cranky sides as it related to our expectations of: The Army, Each Other, and People In General. However, with Lou's deployment fast approaching we have also become more intentional about appreciating and caring for each other.
The sermon we heard this morning was a perfect New Years' beginning-straight from James 4.
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  4 You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? 6 But he gives us more grace.
What do you know? Our problems come from us?? Unbelievable. :) But how true that is. I get frustrated with this world and others because they don't "measure up". Yet, I never measure up to God's standard of holiness....and his Son died for me wholly knowing this. He gave himself out of a love that is never ending, and yet unlike the never ending winters of the White Witch, warm. I pray that God gives me this love to share in the year 2011.
My thoughts are so full tonight. I'm pulled between thinking about all the memories of this year's Christmas with Lou's folks in New Jersey, planning for visits soon to come, menu prep, friends leaving, job searching and Lou's deployment. I can't write about the deployment online because of security issues, but I just want to ask for your prayers during this month. After Lou leaves the country and arrives in Afghanistan I will be able to detail his departure. I find it hard to think about him going sometimes. It doesn't seem that life will be normal without having him here, laughing over his jokes and pranks, hearing about life on the fort, planning the next house project, making the 12 trips to Lowes and talking about anything/everything. I have begun to realize how much I both depend upon and love my husband. I don't want to be separated from him, but I know that the Lord will help us through this in the same way he does all our endeavors in life. 12 months seems an eternity, but so did 2 months of Ranger School and that has been ended now for almost half a year. 
So.....Christmas? We went to New Jersey-down to the southern cape may area where Lou's parents live. We narrowly missed their "Historical Homes Christmas Tour"-by 2 days and it was a production this year! Their house, built in the 1700s, was 2nd on the tour and had over 300 visitors through it this year! Mom and Dad go all out for the tour, having a bagpiper, Civil War encampment, ball with dancing instruction, and historical interpreters throughout the house. We came on Monday which meant that we missed the cleaning/cleanup but got to enjoy the beautiful decorations and candelit rooms for the next couple of days! (We really didn't plan it that way,lol) 
Then, since the house was looking just lovely we got into construction mode immediately. Most people don't think of construction as "fun" but Lou is never as content as when he's working on improvements. He says that relaxing can be fun for the first couple of hours, but after that he starts feeling the itch to do something-on a grand scale! So, Lou and Jess completely dismantled the downstairs bathroom and began preparing it for tiling the floor. The house was "tour ready" no longer, alas! We had bathroom fixtures, cabinets, supplies and what not all over the beautiful braided rug Mom had made for the front room. This project lasted until close to our leaving Jersey, with Christmas Eve/Christmas making our time in it a little less focused! 

We went to Delaware to spend Christmas Eve with Uncle Ken and Aunt Ira and the Olson clan. (Mom Crist's brother) In the process, we stopped at the historical town of Newcastle, DE which was established in 1651! George Whitefield preached there, and the little town was in the running for "Williamsburg location", Mom told me. What a beautiful place, with several cobblestone streets and many tiny quaint shops. On to the family's house, we spent the afternoon together eating and eating and visiting...and then finished it with a Christmas Eve service at the Presbyterian church they attend.
L-R: Uncle Ken, Aunt Ira, Luke (talking) Mark, Priscilla, Matt, Christina
Lou's cousin Matt gave us the best surprise of the day! He is an electrician who had left to return to Iraq and his contract work on the Army bases on Monday. He was given a reprieve in Dubai when his plane landed, so he was home for Christmas instead of being gone for the year! He and Lou, along with Matt's brother Mark made up the "clan" or "three stooges" club when they were kids/teens so Lou was excited to be able to spend time with him. 

Christmas morning we spent at home, a nice quiet and restful time. Dad Crist bought me an electric blanket- after hearing about my freezing adventures on the way to Jersey. You see, we left at midnight to be able to get there by noon to see Matt off to Iraq and so we were having a hard time staying awake. Lou kept the air on sub-zero and I had thoughtlessly not packed anything to huddle under! So, how exciting it was to get a red and black plaid fleece that plugs into the cigarette lighter and provides hours of warmth! I used it the entire way home! :) My only sadness is that I can't use it while I'm driving....unless I take the chance of getting tangled in it while at the wheel....something that I with my clumsiness am sure to accomplish! 
Christmas night we went to Aunt Judy and Uncle Bob's house for the Crist side of the family get-together. Aunt Judy is Dad's sister. Dad's brother Dave and the family had flown in from Pensacola FL for a visit so the house was full! 
L-R: Melissa Crist (Uncle Dave's girl) Corrie Crist holding Esther Lore (Lou's cousin Bec's baby girl)
We all had a delicious meal and gift exchange there as well.....and by the time we left and made it home it was again a "11 pm" night. The next morning was Sunday and I think we all were a little relieved when it began snowing early morning and all services were canceled. The snow continued throughout the day and into the night and by the next morning we had 2, no really 2 feet of snow!

In some areas the drifts were blown so high I sank up to my waist in them.......and I may be short but I have really long :) Corrie was dying to go out and we finally prevailed upon Lou and Jess to come with us, but it was so dry and powdery you could not pack the snow down by stomping on it. You merely sank to the depth of it and then had to pull yourself back out again. 

At one point the boys gave us a head start into the woods and told us they would "track us". We managed to wear ourselves out by the time they caught up and I felt about 90 after trying to wade through it! I now understand why people caught in blizzards out west would lie down and "rest" and die in it, when its that deep it feels like you'll never have the energy to get out and back to safe ground.

The rest of our trip was punctuated by:
Gingerbread house decorating in which we ate more candy than is good for you!

Strombolis the size of a platter-the way to a man's heart
Air soft wars with all the boy cousins and friends

Monopoly game in which I slaughtered Lou and Jesse slaughtered me
Smithville Historic Village night tour
It also involved trips to Lowes and Aldis, Dad's birthday dinner, and a fun Goodwill clothing search with my cousin (by marriage) Bec that lasted 4 hours and left us both with bags full of clothing and tired feet!
Its good to be home again though. I love this little (big) house! Its sometimes a bit complex to be a homeowner but Louis works so hard so that I don't have to. I am struck every day by how much he has been preparing for his big trip. He has been so diligent to update/repair/replace so I will have less to worry about ! Before we left he bought new parts for my computer, re-cleaned and installed all updated software so that it will hopefully not have issues while he's gone. Yesterday he bought a new kitchen sink and faucet and spent most of the day putting it in so I would have a deep usable sink and have one less hassle, as the old one leaked and sputtered. He changed the oil in my car and his truck, and installed new wiper blades on the Bravada.  And these are just the things I can think of while I'm writing! Every day its something new. How blessed I am to have him!