Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections from the Christensen Family in Littleton

This was written as a Christmas letter just before I started blogging. It was such an eventful year for us full of emotional highs and lows. We sang a song a week ago in church that has meant so much to me in the wake of the events of just on a year ago when our sister in law Karla went home to our only true home in heaven - Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redmann. Then on the web journal / blog of a good friend Phil McCallum, there it was again. It made me think of what I had written, and decided to use it as the subject matter of a blog, trying to be a little creative with music video as that had been a theme in the letter. Now if you were not as inept as I at the art of blogging and such, you could probably make the music video links pop up in a new window. But me - not so much, so you'll just have to hit the back button after the video to return to the blog. Enjoy...

What an interesting year this has been. It seems to have flown by such as the days do when you have so much going on you fall into bed exhausted at the end of them. So as in years past, here is a snapshot of our 2009. Some of you will have been very close to our goings on, and for others well, maybe we will get to see more of you next year. As our friends are scattered all over the world however, this is just the way of things.

An early highlight was a weekend in the mountains with three other families near the Sol Vista ski resort. It is after all not just what you do, but who you do it with that matters. The Ezman, Papay and Wilkin families have become an intimate part of our life and this was a fun weekend of skiing, kids being kids, cards, and just hanging out.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking

And racing around to come up behind you again

Somewhere about this time, we also threw an “Australia Day” party. We invited people to come as you would if you were in Australia (where January means sweltering midsummer heat) and a good number rose to the occasion venturing out in beachwear or Steve Irwin attire on a chilly winters evening. Peter did “prawns on the barbie”, we served vegemite on toast and fairy bread – and a good time was had by all.
Our family suffered a terrible loss early in the year with the sudden and unexpected passing of our sister in-law Karla. No matter what we believe and how strong our faith, we all struggle with an event like this. Perhaps the words of her oldest daughter Courtney say it best…

"There was a plan for my mom's life, and I believe that it's still in the works (it'll be a legacy). There's not been a single mistake in any of this. I am so blessed to see firsthand God's grace, comfort, peace, and most of all, organization. He is good, and his fruits endure, even in the midst of tragedy."

All of these lines across my face

Tell you the story of who I am

So many stories of where I've been

And how I got to where I am

But these stories don't mean anything

When you've got no one to tell them to

It's true...I was made for you

The Story - Brandi Carlile

This year the girls saw their first snow days – which meant they got to spend not 1, but 2 days just before spring break snuggled up at home, instead of at school. Joy thinks Peter knows something he is not telling as he was out of town (stranded as flights into Denver were mostly cancelled) not only for this sump of heavy spring snow, but also when it happened AGAIN in the fall! Oh well – shoveling is good exercise and the driveway thankfully is not too long (easy for Peter to say when he is stuck in Dallas!). The puppies love the fresh snow – but then they don’t do any shoveling either.
Well we have been back in Denver and in our own home for two years so we embarked on our first major home renovation project. We love to entertain – there is something special about bringing people together from all the diverse parts of our lives in informal gatherings and just seeing what happens. But our kitchen was frankly, not very well laid out – and as everybody knows – parties invariably congregate around the kitchen. The new kitchen is largely in thanks to a lot of help and great advice from Joy’s brother Jeff and our brother in-law Mike. It looks great and gives that part of the house a completely different feel. Peter still has some trim and finish work to do – and now that the weather has turned colder; and outdoor pursuits such as hockey, soccer and golf are pretty much done for a while; this will soon be underway. Joy LOVES her new kitchen!

But there never seems to be enough time

To do the things that you want to do

Once you find them

Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce

Sport is something Peter enjoys, something Jillian seems to inherited from him, and if it involves a social aspect – something Mallory can also enjoy. This year Jilly got back into field hockey bringing a new dimension to our lives. In May she played with an under 12 mixed team from Colorado in the “Cal Cup” a large tournament in LA. The kids did amazingly well, competing mostly against club teams who have been together for some time and were only just held out finishing runners up. She and two other girls from this team were invited to play with a high school team (girls 3-6 years older) in the Colorado State games where they also finished runners up (Peter played with an adult team in this tournament also – they did not fare so well!). After playing in some summer programs, Jilly was nominated for the US Field Hockey Association “Futures Program” which will be some top level coaching – and more weekends come the new year – oh well – she loves it. Mallory decided to give field hockey a go also (having played one season in Australia) and played on the JV team for Golden high school. She had a great time, making new friends as she always does, and even picked up a few skills along the way. Both girls are now playing in a winter indoor league.
My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If this song lyric fits anyone in our family, it would be Mallory. Mal informed us at the beginning of the year that she really wanted to go on a missions trip – didn’t know where – didn’t know what she would be doing – but she wanted to do it. She has a sensitive spirit and a genuine desire to care for others. This led to her spending almost 8 weeks this summer with a team that went to Haiti to assist in building an orphanage for Hope in the Light Ministry. Her team was organized and prepared through a youth short term mission organization, Teen Missions International. It should come as no surprise that going from our comfortable middle class life in an American suburb, to working (hard) in one of the poorest nations in the world was an eye opening and life changing experience. We were fortunate that we could tie into her initial training in Florida by going out with here a week in advance and enjoying a relaxing family holiday at Cocoa beach.

While Mal was in Haiti, some extremely affordable tickets were available for travel to Australia, and this turned into a 2nd unplanned family vacation in the short gap between Mal coming back from Haiti, Jilly’s summer of hockey, and the start of the school year. We had such a great time – Brisbane provided the best mid winter weather imaginable, the kids got to go to the Ekka (a huge “state fair”) and we spent a lot of time enjoying the company of family and friends. We were truly blessed to have been able to do this and that if fit into an otherwise crazy summer schedule.

Since the resumption of school, we have Joy working quite a lot as a substitute teacher, Peter and Joy operating a 24/7 taxi service (although Mallory will have her drivers license learners permit next week – can you believe that), the girls involvement in soccer, hockey, choir, piano and of course a jam packed social schedule and once in a while, Peter and Joy enjoying some adult company – either with each other or with some of the many good friends we have made or reconnected with in returning to Denver.

God has woven an incredible web for our lives with friends; reconnecting with ones from West Virginia, Farmington, and Australia. We enjoyed spending some time in Oklahoma to celebrate the wedding of Laurel and Chris – Laurel being the daughter of Phil and Leslie, pastors of an amazing church we were part of in Australia. We also were able to spend some time on this trip with Joy’s older brother Jerry who lives in Tulsa – and are very much looking forward to an unprecedented third family vacation in Cancun just before Christmas with most of Joy’s family to celebrate Jerry’s 50th.

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's "all as it should be"
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away You give and take away
My heart will choose to say Lord, blessed be Your name

I will bless Your name

Our blessings this year – even a year of great loss - have been many. As Mallory got to see firsthand in Haiti – we are amazingly blessed to live in the comfort we do. We have been blessed also by the birth of Reese, Mike and Jenny’s first child and our youngest nephew. And we look forward to the arrival of the next generation – our oldest niece Courtney and her husband Adam are expecting their first in the New Year.

We hope and pray this Christmas will be merry and blessed for you.

Peter, Joy, Mallory and Jillian