Well, here it is- Christmas Eve day. One of the busiest days in a Pastor's life. And, once again, this pastor has the obligatory respiratory bug, making my preaching voice sound more like Kermit the Frog than the golden-throated orator I sometimes dream I am. But it is a beautiful day - sunny, crisp, and cool. This year, there's no snow to hamper church attendance like last year so we anticipate full services tonight at our 6:00 Family Friendly service and at our 8:00 traditional service. Only one service this weekend which is normally called Associate Pastor Sunday. This year, its my turn to preach to the hearty few who make it out to church 2 days after Christmas.
It's hard to believe that the past year has gone by so fast. I guess there actually were the same 365 days in the year but it sure doesn't seem like it. The year has been full of adventure, joy, some stress, a little disappointment but a whole lot of blessing. Judy and I feel so grateful as we look back over the year and realize all that the Lord has done for us and in us.
In lieu of a Christmas letter, I am posting this blog today to wish all our dear family and friends a joyous Christmas. And, since we are so bad about getting cards and letters out to friends and family, I hope this blog will help to keep you up to date on our lives. Maybe I can share just a few highlights of our year out of the many we experienced.
The year began with a New Year's Eve flight back to Seattle from Chicago where we had spent a wonderful week with Melissa, Jerry and Davis. It was fun to be in their home for Christmas and then, afterward, to spend a few days in Wisconsin at the Ostoff Lodge on Elkhart Lake. What a gorgeous, luxurious spot to relax, antique shop, watch football and play Super Yahtzee. We also got to enjoy a day downtown in the Chicago Loop seeing the lights, taking advantage of after-Christmas sales and eating deep-dish pizza - a Chicago hallmark.
Jerry still works at Motorola. Melissa works primarily from home for czmarketing, a custom e-zine publisher. Her job has enabled her to interview and write about some key Christian leaders and thinkers. Davis finished up 2nd grade with flying colors and has so many varied interests and talents I can hardly begin to list them here. He's a great kid and we have so much fun with him when we are together.
In February, over mid-winter break, Judy and I flew to Phoenix to spend several days with Kresta, Ryan, Sam and Joseph. We had a blast playing RockStar, going to the Wild Animal Park, visiting their church and going to see Sam play basketball. Sam played some awesome defense and is a great rebounder. He has become a great reader also has many unique interests. Joseph is the energizer-bunny and is in constant motion and good spirits. Kresta changed from working at Radiant Church's KidZone Pre-school to becoming the director of a pre-school in Peoria, just a few miles from their home. Ryan continues to work for Food for the Hungry which is a Christian Relief Agency headquartered in Phoenix. As director for their creative communication department he was able to travel to Peru this past year.
While visiting them, Judy and I realized that the housing market in that area was at its lowest value in years and so we got the wild idea to buy a house in Surprise as an investment and future retirement place. After a few months of looking, another trip down in March, lots of rejected offers, we finally found a great house at a great price. For Judy it is perfect because it is within a few blocks of a Kohl's department store. For me, it is very close to the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royal's Spring Training facility and just a few miles further from the Mariner's field.
Over the summer, our Chicago kids came for a two week visit. What a blast. Davis got to go to Vacation Bible School with us and then we spent a week out on Hood Canal on the boat. Davis got to pull his first crab pot, watch Boppa clean lots of crab, fish, and swim in the pool at Pleasant Harbor. He also got into some poison oak when he, his folks and Judy spent the afternoon hiking, swimming and rock climbing just up the road at property the Parks family owns.
After they left us, Judy and I spent another week on the boat. The stops on our itinerary were based on towns that sponsor waterfront park live concerts. We took in three great concerts; in Port Orchard we heard the Silver State Big Band; in Kingston we heard Locust Street Taxi and in Poulsbo we really enjoyed The Blues Connection. Strange as it may sound, we found a great little Mexican Restaurant in the heart of Poulsbo. Even though Poulsbo is noted as a Norwegian village, we discovered a place called A Taste of Southern New Mexico. The owners used to live in Las Cruces so it was fun to reminisce and even better to taste some authentic New Mexico cuisine.
Judy continues to teach 2nd grade at Southwood Elementary in the Magic Strings program (she also accompanies the group at their concerts). She is an Elder at the church and is in charge of our Christian Education Program and our KIDS choirs. She maintains a dedicated exercise regimen, leads a women's Bible Study and needless to say, is always very busy.
I have continued leading the Bible Study at the MINT, a local tavern. It has not only grown but has given us the opportunity to be a gentle witness to the staff and patrons. Its a little noisy in there but we've enjoyed the close fellowship, prayer support and discussions we've had.
One of my big things for the year was to carry out our church vision of being a church without walls by starting a Coffee House outreach ministry at Lindon Books in downtown Enumclaw. Each Friday night, we had live music - some Christian, some not - or a movie screening. Our hope was to provide a place away from church where people could talk, use wi-fi, listen to great music, and encounter Christ through contact with some of our folks. It was a noble effort but at the end of August we closed her down when the Bookstore moved to smaller quarters.
In October, I led a group of 8 people (from Calvary and from our local Rotary Club) back to Zambia. We followed up with a visit to the school we built in 2008 and then, this year, helped get a classroom started for a new community based-school named "The Healing Place." It was an awesome experience. Our local club had sponsored the project as part of its International Service and with that money we were able to have a bore-hole well dug (90 meters or 300 feet)to provide water for the community just north of Lusaka. We were truly blessed to have been able to work side by side with Winnie Takema, Pastor Johm Mbanga our driver George Banda, our liaison Chimwemwe Mhlanga and other wonderful folk from the Kabanana neighborhood. And of course the greatest joy was to be a part of the lives of those precious children who have so little but are so filled with spontaneous joy and love. More details of that trip were posted earlier on this blog if you wish to read about it.
Wow - there is so much more to talk about but I will stop for now and simply wish you the peace of God which came into the world in the person of the Christ child. May his love mercy and grace fill your hearts and lives and meet your every need in the coming year.
Now, in the words of the famous poem, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."