Friday, December 30, 2011

Dreaming of a Warm Christmas

I love Christmas: carols, cheesy clay-mation movies, cookies (especially cookies). Everything about Christmas time just makes me feel merry and bright, for lack of a better expression. I especially love that Christmas is a family time. Being 2,500 miles away is great for adventure but not so great when it comes to keeping in touch with your family. Because I have some of the most fantastic friends ever, I was given a round trip ticket to be with my family for Christmas. I don’t know how I would have been able to go home without the generous gift.  Shout out to those awesome people—you know who you are :)

I was supposed to arrive in Ohio to meet my Mother and Sister on December 23. Before that, I’ve been loving spreading a little Christmas cheer around Deer Lodge. I decorated my apartment using 2 rolls of wrapping paper. I didn’t want to invest a lot in decorations I don’t even have room to store, so I figured this way I could just recycle my decorations when they were done. Plus I got the paper for about $1 a roll so it fit well into the VISTA budget. I made a tree on my wall with the help of John and Jill when they came visit. I also made wrapping paper wreaths and covered my table with wrapping paper instead of buying a themed table clothe (which worked out way better than I anticipated). I used a 99 cent box of candy canes to make candle holders.

Wrapping paper Christmas tree. Space saving, green, and quite adorable if I do say so myself. I would never have been able to make it even and level by myself...

I was peer pressured into decorating the first floor of the courthouse as well. Apparently, the top and middle floors usually go all out for Christmas and the bottom floor is the Scrooge floor. Not this year! I told you, I love Christmas.

            Then the time came for me to go home. I will admit here to the internet world something I am highly ashamed of… … … I missed my first flight. It was scheduled to depart from Helena at 6 am so my plan was to leave Deer Lodge at 3:30, get there at 4:30 and have plenty of time to get through security, etc. Around 11 pm the night before, I still had a bunch of stuff to do but I was absolutely exhausted and decided I would allow myself a little power nap. I set my alarm to ring at midnight so I would wake up with plenty of time but not be in danger of falling asleep on the drive over aafter being up all night. I was out like a light and when I woke up, dazed but refreshed I looked at the clock to see that it was already 3:30 and I hadn’t done anything I needed to wake up for, not least of which was packing.  So. I threw a bunch of stuff in a bag and did the bare necessity of my to-do list and flew out the door on my way to Helena. I called my mother in a panic as I was flying down the Montana interstate on my way to McDonald’s Pass (which is plenty scary when you’re not running late at 4 AM). Long story short, I made it to the airport 15 minutes before my plane was supposed to depart and the security line was 50 people deep. I could hear the intercom calling the last call for boarders. I asked to skip ahead in the line and was told that could cause someone else to miss their flight—point taken. I was pretty upset about it then. I felt irresponsible and even a little stupid for doing something so careless. As these things do it ended working out for the better. The nice man at the ticket counter rescheduled me for a flight the next day that would take less time. I went home, got some sleep and actually got everything done that was needed for me to be gone for 2 weeks. I even got to finish up some last minute presents. Just when I begin to feel like an adult is when something happens to remind me that I can grown up but never grow out of making mistakes. Lesson learned. For now.

Needless to say I made it in PLENTY of time for my next flight and got to Ohio safe and sound. It was great to be with the family and spend some time with loved ones I usually only get to see about once a year. Ohio also means shopping galore, which I have become unaccustomed to with the VISTA budget. After a few days in Ohio, Mom, Brenda and I piled into the car for the traditional 18-hour drive-a-thon back to Florida. We ate junk food, shared memories, talked about the last 6 months, sang songs we knew by heart and made up words to the ones we didn’t know then changed some to words we liked better. You know, the usual. I’m pretty sure the annual road trip is something the three of us all look forward to.

It was a wonderful Christmas and I still get to be with my family until January 5th. Looking forward to soaking in some of that Florida sun I always took for granted.  I can’t believe that God would bless me so richly to give me a family I love, friends willing to be there for me any way they are able and even strangers who will go out of their way to help. Thank you Lord for sending your son as a baby so that we might be saved.  We can never repay the debt we owe but hopefully we can st least learn an example of giving to each other just as you gave to us.

I treasure this time with family and realize this means my year is just about half way over. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next!

PS. Writing Christmas cards is hard y’all. I think I’ll have to put off starting that tradition for yet another year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A VISTA Thanksgiving

I was SO SO SO excited to have two awesome friends, John and Jill, come up to visit me for Thanksgiving. Not only that, but we were joined by two of my wonderful new friends, Allison and Sam. I decided that I wanted to host my first Thanksgiving this year. I have been doing a lot more cooking lately, thanks to my "From Scratch" experiments (learning how to make one new thing from scratch a week). My only goal was not to set anything on fire. Setting the bar pretty low means less chance of disappointment.

Well I'm pleased to say not only did I not set anything on fire, but by the grace of God everything came out how it was supposed to, and warm all at the same time. Beginners luck you could say. I was so incredibly grateful and have John and Jill, and Allison and Sam there. I realized I have plenty else to be thankful for as well. It's easy to think of the big things, but every once in a while when the overwhelming grace of all the small blessings add up it really makes a big impression!

My first blessing was thinking of all the new people I have gotten to know here. VISTAs are great and a lot of fun to be around. Everyone works very hard and is passionate about what they do, and yet somehow no one takes themselves too seriously. Then there are the people in Deer Lodge who have opened up and welcomed me in, as if I've always belonged here. People have given me their phone numbers to make sure I had someone to call "in case of homesickness." Others have left small gifts around the office for me if they thought it was something I might need. As a matter of fact, the majority of things I used to make and serve Thanksgiving dinner were all borrowed from people working at the court house. I asked to borrow a roaster and a knife from one woman. Instead, she lent me a roaster, a knife, 2 plates, a huge thing of foil (how did she know that would be so handy??), and a bread basket. Another woman heard that I was trying to make my first Thanksgiving and just volunteered to bring a bunch of serving plates and bowls, just in case. I ended up using everything they loaned me. Everything fit perfectly, and I had exactly enough. Thank you Lord for a delicious, blessed Thanksgiving.

I was given a book to read called "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. In it, she stresses the importance of being content with the gifts God has given you, as well as recognizing those gifts. She raises the point that sin is created out of ingratitude. We are searching for more and more, never fully realizing the miracle it is to just have life. Instead of constantly thinking "I will never be fulfilled if I don't..." it should be more like "I can't believe I already have so much in my life." That's especially important for me to remember now. It's easy, at least for me, to get distracted from the idea that I am merely a vessel. I become preoccupied with the good I am trying to do, or the things I need to accomplish. When instead I need to remember that just being alive is a gift. I need to do nothing with that gift besides use it as God intended. John said something while he was here, "Also, you come from a background of faith." At the time, I had been going on about how it wasn't that hard to adjust to life in Montana (besides the weather) because I enjoy the company of people of all ages. I can't even remember all the other pointless things I was saying. But when John added in that small sentence, without intention of correcting or preaching, I knew he was totally right. It could matter less about any other element that seems to have helped me along the way up here. What matters in a background of faith.

I still don't know where I am going after this. I'm looking in to a lot of different options and have many different ideas. But I'm not worried. After all, it's not about what I think needs to happen, it's about knowing that whatever happens is a gift. I long to find myself a shining diamond of God's love, set in a ring of faith, on display only for His glory on His hand.

I'm off to craft like a Christmas fiend. Less than 2 weeks until home (and warm)!!