Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is so joyful and exciting yet low-key and relaxing. I joined the Moores here in Portland for Thanksgiving dinner at their home. It was lovely. All of their kids (my cousins) were there, as well as Thanne’s parents from Florida, two of our friends from Texas (Holly and Lindsey), and Madison’s boss and his wife.
We actually started the day by driving up to Vancouver, WA to run the Turkey Trot which benefits the Clark Country Food Bank. Madison and I kept pace with each other (aka I slowed my pace down for the poor guy) and ran the 5k in a swift 23:38, finishing in the top 50. I even the old guy run ahead of me at the very end in hopes of not destroying his macho image. The whole crew had a great time with this fun run and earned our second servings of turkey and pumpkin pie!
As mentioned in my previous post, the Moores have an inspiring tradition of calling someone whom you are Thankful that week and then sharing your story at the dinner table. I loved hearing who each person called, how that person impacted their life and what that simple yet thoughtful phone call meant to the recipient. We heard stories of friends who were there during difficult times, moms who were a support to high school athletes, neighbors who were caring, and more. I called my elementary school reading teacher, Mr. Patton, who was a part of my life from 2nd through 5th grade. I was able to thank him for making such a positive impact on my life and for helping me grow intellectually at such a young age. It was so wonderful to reconnect!
The best part about Thanksgiving is that it’s on a Thursday, which means even after the fun day is over you still have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to relax and enjoy being with family and friends. Friday evening Megan, her roommate Sarah and I went to the Portland Christmas tree lighting downtown. It was quite cold and rainy, but we still had a festive time singing Christmas carols in Pioneer Square despite the wet weather.
Saturday was full of watching football at the Moores. Well, all of the guys watched football (Oregon, Baylor, Florida) while I played with my friend Mike’s 6-month-old girl, Eleanor. Look at that cute little chunk!
Cooper is giving Eleanor a friendly greeting here, not biting her... I swear!
The weekend wrapped up with Christmas light hanging and wine tasting. We really did it all this weekend! And now we enter into the Advent season and the anticipation of Christmas…

"Be thankful for the smallest blessing, and you will receive greater. Value the least gifts no less than the greatest, and simple graces as special favors. If you remember the dignity of the giver, no gift will seem small, for nothing can be valueless that is given by the most high God."
- Thomas a' Kempis

"Thanksgiving in its deepest sense means to live life as a gift to be received with deep gratitude. True gratitude embraces all of life; the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and not-so-holy. We do this because we become aware of God's life, and God's presence in the middle of all that happens in our lives."
- Henri Nouwen

Monday, November 19, 2012


Tonight I was able to spend time with one of my favorite people in the world, Fr Ganz, my friend who is a Jesuit priest. We sat and talked about life and faith over drinks, he with his Manhattan and I with my ginger pear cocktail. When we were together at a dinner a couple weeks ago, he asked me if I was reading anything and what consumed my thoughts lately. Some of the many things I love about Fr Ganz are his intentionality and his deep insights. He's not much of a shoot-the-breeze kind of guy, he's more of a tell-me-where-you-honestly-stand kind of guy. I love that.

So I told Fr Ganz that I am currently reading C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed after reading excerpts of it in The Question of God (a book comparing the lives and believes of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud). I read the following passage and it could completely relate to Lewis - I couldn't have said it more perfectly...

Where is God? When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be - or so it feels - welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?... Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.' ...When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent gaze. As though he shook his head, like, "Peace, child, you don't understand."

After Fr. Ganz gained an insight as to where I honestly stand right now, he said we should get together to further discuss my current thoughts and questions. Thank goodness for people who are willing to invest in our young lives! I am thankful for people like this who see an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone and go for it!

So there we sat, a 58-yr-old Catholic priest and a 27-year-old overwhelmed girl, in the corner booth of a Portland bar discussing questions of life and faith. We sat for several hours, me vulnerably sharing my struggles, he offering his wise council. It's hard for me to sum up the words Fr Ganz spoke to me, as he tends to speak in elegant and picturesque ways. But here are a few thoughts that stick with me:

- If you were able to enter God's presence, see Him face to face, and he were to ask you "My child, what is it that I can do for you?", what would you say? Or would you be so filled with peace as he looked in your eyes and called you by name that all of your worries, requests and questions disappeared? Like Orual in Lewis' Til We Have Faces.

- Our culture and language only use the word "faith" as a noun. We don't have a verb for faith (the closest we have is "believe"). So when it comes to faith, we say that you either have it or you don't. But even in times when you feel like you're losing your faith or that your faith is smaller than it use to be, you can still be faithing (for lack of a better verb). One of my biggest frustrations is when I try to explain a doubt or struggle to someone and they simple say, "Just have faith." or "Just believe." Rather than, "It's ok, even good, to have those questions. Keep going and explore your faith." Like Reepicheep in Lewis' Prince Caspian.

- As you go through the deep and heavy areas of life, remember the good in the bigger picture of your life. Things you know to be true, but are sometimes overlooked. Fr Ganz started our conversation (and reminded me at the end) that despite current struggles, God has placed me in such a wonderful and unique place; with my job, my family, my community, my desires for life. He reminded me that it's important to always remember those aspects of life and what God has already provided when I'm figuring out the tough parts of my faith. Such a good reminder.

So I didn't leave tonight with a clear understanding of God and a confident, peaceful spirit. But I was able to openly talk to someone who cared enough to listen and could encourage me in my faith journey. Because it is a journey. Sometimes you just need someone further down the road to meet you where you are and then give you a little boost. To agree to continue down the road with you and say, "Let's read The Chronicles of Narnia together and look at those questions through a different lens. It's quite an exciting adventure!" So we're going to keep faithing!

I'm so thankful to have my wonderful family up here, the Moores, who invite me to their home for special holidays such as Thanksgiving and Easter. The Moores have a very special Thanksgiving tradition which I have come to be a part of. Each year during the week of Thanksgiving, each person should call someone who they haven’t talked to in a while who has influenced or impacted or contributed to their life. It might be a former coach, teacher, friend, family member, or whoever. The idea is to thank them for what they have meant in your life and, since you haven’t seen them in a while, to encourage them and honor them. At dinner on Thursday, we will go around and each person will tell who they contacted, why that person got a call (how they impact your life) and what their response was. We don't tell people often enough how thankful we are for them. This is a great excuse to do that!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Surprise Texas Visit

This weekend, I flew to Texas for a surprise visit for my sister's 30th birthday party.  Everybody had been talking it up and of course I hated missing out, so I browsed online and found a super cheap flight in and out of Dallas (shout out to Spirit Airlines!).  The flights might not have been the most desirable times but hey, it got me from Portland to Texas and back and that's all I needed.  NOBODY knew I was coming for the weekend except for Emily (I had to make sure I had a ride to Waco!) and I was so proud of us for keeping this secret.

I got into Dallas at 5:30am on Friday morning, took a taxi to Emily's house and crawled in a bed upstairs.  When my nieces woke up an hour later, Emily told them to look in the bed for a surprise... and there I was.  It was much more exciting than the piece of candy they were anticipating.  Emily and I were able to go to Hannah's school and sit in the courtyard with her at lunch.  I can't believe she's in kindergarten!  Then we picked Alice Anne up from preschool and took her to Chick-fil-a for some quality girl time. 

We headed to Waco to surprise my parents.  They were sitting on the front porch with Carter and Henry when we pulled into the driveway.  The girls jumped out of the car yelling about the surprise they brought with them.  My parents were shocked when I got out of the car and the boys gave me big hugs (well, Carter did but Henry just screamed).

We got the best reaction out of Sarah.  We walked into her party at a wine bar downtown, she said hi to Emily and then I peeked out from behind her and she was completely caught off guard.  Booya, Sarah!  Totally busted.

The party was so much fun.  I didn't know my sisters could still party like that now that they're in their 30s.  We broke it down on the dance floor and even stayed up past midnight!  Totally worth the redeye flight to be there for this party.

Saturday morning, my mom hosted a brunch because the McCalls were all in town.  They didn't know I was coming in either and it was so perfect to be able to hang out with them.  I even got to meet my cousin's two-week-old baby girl who greeted me with a waterfall of spitup.  Thanks, Adeline.

The rest of the weekend I was able to just hang out in Waco: have wine on the porch with my best friend Hannah, go for walks with my mom, visit Baylor campus, and just enjoy being home.  Making out-of-state surprise visits are simply the best.  Happy birthday, Sarah... and Mom!

the three sisters at Sarah's party

loved spending time with these little ones... they're getting so big!

Mom's bday dinner

Keeping a Secret
At times I was so excited, it was tough to keep it together!  Kind of like this...