Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Annual Huge Christmas Party

When we first moved to southern CA, after packing up everything we owned (in the pouring rain) and drove with two very young boys (both with the chicken pox, complete with fevers)...we arrived fresh faced and full of anticipation to what our new life here would be like.

Ok, totally not true.  We had 5 weeks notice of moving, we were leaving a life we loved and did I mention the two little boys with the chicken pox...on a road trip?

The dream of moving somewhere grand that we had dreamed about wasn't going quite how we had planned.  And then we pulled up to the little house we had bought (over the telephone, sight unseen...think life before the internet) and we sat outside with our itchy boys, stunned.

The dream was sinking even faster.

That first year here wasn't easy.  That guy that I like so much threw himself into a new career and in order to support us, worked a 2nd job.  I threw myself into raising boys and trying to not hate it here so much...and I was failing miserably because I really did hate it so much.

I wanted to go home.

The problem was...I didn't know where 'home' was anymore.  The life we had in the other places we had lived wasn't the same life we had before we moved.  This new life wasn't what I had thought either...the friendships were slow to come, the house never made the natural jump to becoming a true home and the dream of having another baby remained just a dream.

Life was...hard.  And a bit sad, too.

That first Christmas we threw a dinner for the university choir.  The previous director (who was much loved) used to host a dinner and so we felt we should, too.  I cooked and cooked and cooked...a roast with all the sides, a turkey with all the sides, a ham with all the sides.  Pies for dessert.  Pies!

The students came.  Many were appreciative.  Most commented on how things used to be.  I overheard one say it was boring.

It was...gulp, a nightmare.

Time moved on.  That guy that I like so much began to settle in and the hours became not quite as long and became just the normal crazy that church workers follow.  That baby that I longed for grew inside me.  Friendships began to develop, slowly, and we began to settle in.  The little house still felt like a house.

Never before had we not felt at 'home' somewhere for so long.

One night over dinner, friends presented us with an idea...this idea to travel Europe with our kids, to see things in a new light, to experience old and weathered and history.  To not just visit, but to become a part of the culture and the places most just read about in books.

We saved our pennies, that guy that I like so much taught an overload, we didn't spend any money on the house or on anything really.  And then during our 3rd year here, we packed up three little boys, each with their own carry on suitcases, a case of diapers to get us started and off we went into the wild blue yonder.

Those months traveling in places where no English was spoken, where we spent all our time without an ounce of technology,  changed us.  We spent long nights talking while our boys slept...drinking (really super incredible) chianti while playing cribbage (without a board...too heavy to carry) and dreaming of living the way the europeans lived.  To work hard but know when to quit.  To throw open our doors and spend hours around a big table in a little house, to make ourselves a 'garden'.

On that trip, we began to see how people in other places lived.  That it wasn't about the size of house you lived in or the newness of your car or of the amount of hours you threw into your work.  We met (and talked) to so many new people...we were a spectacle in that we were this young family with three young boys and so striking up conversations wasn't hard.

Our eyes began to open.

I started to realize that I was so entrenched in what our dream was supposed to look like that I failed to see what God was laying out, nice and neat, right in front of me.

It was all right there.  

Our 'home' was us.  Whatever walls were surrounding long as it was our little family and we were all together, well, that was home.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the building itself.
(best white elephant gift ever - along with a candy bar!)

Once back in the US of A, we began to settle in to our new normal.  The little house on our little street?  We began to make it ours...we started to make it resemble a house we had stayed in while traveling.  A little paint.  A little elbow grease.  A lot of nights with chianti and no television and cribbage.

There were still dreams...some that have happened and some that never would be.  More money in the bank didn't happen.  Incredible opportunities to travel did.  Friendships grew.  Another baby did not.  

Suddenly, we were home.

How is it that something so simple, so beautiful...was right in front of us and we didn't even see it?

Over the years that little Christmas party grew into a party that represents us.  There's an overflowing amount of Italian food and heaters in the garden and wall to wall people.  That guy that I like so much and I switch into party mode and we move rather seamlessly together, just like we do in our every day.  We've got a pretty good routine down at this point in our marriage.

But most of all, we work really hard so that we are guests at our own parties.  Sometimes it works smoothly, sometimes it's a bit more work...but more often than not it all falls into place.

But it's more than that for me.  It's a calling...a real, live, actual ministry.  I'm not directing a choir.  I'm not preaching or playing the piano.

I'm throwing open the doors to a little house with a big table and sharing what I do  And stories. 

There are always stories.


I still wonder at things.  Why did it take so long to settle in?  Why didn't Europe come sooner?  Why weren't there more babies?  Why aren't some of my family relationships stronger?

But those whys are more like thoughts now rather than questions because a sort of peace comes with believing what I believe.  That God has already written my story.  Some of those whys have been answered; some won't be while I walk on this earth.

So this party where we 'pack the house' is so much bigger than my house ever will be.  There is laughter and joy.  There is screaming and yelling and the noise level is in the deafening stage.  We throw open the windows and they sing...beautiful carols and all my neighbors pour out of their houses to listen.

It's beautiful.  

And so, another one is written in the books.  The food was plentiful and so was the spirit.  

This is our home.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful story and more importantly a testimony. I have been waiting to hear how your choir party went. But this is really special. I have been following your blog for a few years. You and your family are truly blessed. I sometimes wish I could be your neighbor. Thank you for your blog. Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your Houseful of Boys. -Marie VanWey. From Dallas/Fort Worth Texas.


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