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With a three year old in the house I have brought out all of the Christmas story books and our collection of manger scenes. Since I babysit Cassie, Ruben’s daughter, several days a week we have ample time to share the story of the birth of Jesus over and over. Cassie loves to tell it to herself as she moves the figures in and out of the crèche. Sometimes the animals are replaced by dinosaurs. She likes to give the end of her story a decidedly non-scriptural twist by having the angel (her favorite figure) fly the baby Jesus (her second favorite figure) through the dining room. This week the angel left Jesus on the roof of the manger and Mary had to climb up to bring him down, all the time calling, “Don’t fall, Jesus, don’t fall”. I feign reading the paper while surreptitiously watching the numerous ways she expands on an age old story. There is nothing concrete about it to Cassie. The coming of God is not written down in sacred texts immune to change or various interpretations. It is not owned by the person or people who own the book. For Cassie, each retelling approaches God’s presence in the world in a different way. No way is superior or inferior to another way. It is fluid around a central theme. God came to earth. I wonder if that is what it means to enter the kingdom as a little child. There is no conceptualization of Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Bible, Koran. No one ever gets hurt. No one ever hurts another. There is simply the presence of God being manifested in various ways. God does not change. However, the way different peoples and faiths explain God’s presence changes across time and culture. At three, Cassie does not understand that. But she has a profound understanding that the story can change and still mean the same. God is present. God is here. God is love.
Our family has been fully embraced by the presence and love of God this year. Rebecca is still in Paris. Her husband, Pedro, has received a continuation of his appointment to the International Bureau of Standards for two more years. Alexandra, 2, is babbling in English, Spanish and French. Jonathan is poor but content as a flight attendant for Continental. His travel benefits allow Rebecca to bring Alexandra home twice a year and us to visit them in Paris. Matthew began the year by breaking his knee and being incapacitated for a month. Fortunately he did it during Christmas break so he could stay home and convalesce. He is no longer flying cargo but is now a people pilot for Chautauqua Airlines. He is based in St Louis but commutes to Summit County every week on his days off. Ruben flips burgers, eggs and flapjacks at the Mountain Lyon Café. Robert, after a brief stint out of the Colorado Department of Corrections Mental Health Facility managed to get himself returned to safety and stability. Rachel achieved her Doctorate in Sociology while being a full time mom to her and Kellie’s 2 year old son, Derek. She is teaching part time at the University of Nebraska where Kellie is also doing research and teaching. Jamie continues to work his way through computer graphic arts school by cooking in a Denver restaurant. Jesse is off drugs, clean and working. Amber works at Camping World while continuing to visit her son Jimmie, age 1, in foster care due to the father’s abuse. Brandon and his family live in Silt where he does odd jobs temp work. He and Shannon, his partner of 9 years and mother of his children, are formalizing their vows on New Year’s Day.
Masha, our temporary daughter was only here for 15 months but left a lasting impression on our hearts. She transformed her heart and life as well and went home to her parents in Pennsylvania in June. It was bitter sweet for us We were proud of her and all the work she did to get back home but had convinced ourselves this was our forever daughter. The commotion of having a 14 year old in the house had its pros and cons as well. She continues to thrive and we stay in touch via Skype, a free program downloadable from the internet that allows for real time webcam conversation and viewing.
Helen Clark, center figure in top picture, is our cherished remaining matriarch and we feel blessed everyday that she is with us and watching the miracle of family continue to grow.
Paul has been promoted out of mixing paint to managing the buying and stocking of three paint stores. His duties as Church treasurer, servant on the church board of directors and executive committee, member and treasurer of the Dillon Valley East homeowner’s association board, and past president and behind the scenes manager of the local Thrivent Chapter ( a Lutheran financial and benevolent organization) leave him little breathing room. I work as little as I can to earn enough money to pursue aid efforts in Peru and Haiti. Paul and I helped build 5 homes in Peru this year. I returned to Peru to see how to help in the earthquake damage by working through Rotary for funding. I also visited Haiti twice this year and am excited about the opportunities for service there as well. Our big splurge vacation this year was a three week trip and cruise in the Mediterranean. The night before we left I dyed my hair auburn. When we got home and Cassie exclaimed that my hair was red I told her it had rusted in the ocean.
In our family each of our stories bears witness to the loving presence of God in our lives. God’s love for each of us is manifested differently in each of us. God is the same. It is we who are different. No one’s story is superior or inferior to any of the others. Everyone’s story is fluid as each of us grows, changes and develops, molded by time and culture. We are children in the kingdom of God, welcoming the birth of love in the darkest day of winter, eager to see how the Prince of Peace will manifest his presence in our lives………and in yours.
Peace, Paul and Deborah
Paul, Deborah and fellow worker Frank Bumpus, with one of the families in front of their new home