Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love's pure light

Dear friends and family,

Christmas greetings! With the coming of his son, God extends to each of us good tidings of great joy, bringing light and peace and wonder into this broken but hauntingly beautiful world. God in the flesh: it’s the miracle we celebrate this season in the birth of Jesus.

How do we begin to relate what's happened in our lives since last December? We could follow the lead of Time magazine and describe our year in pictures or go the Oprah route and write about those things we know to be true. We've mixed a little of both into this seasonal reflection of how God is at work in our thoughts and actions.

The best thing that can be said for 2009 is that it wasn't 2008. Our health issues are receding in the rearview mirror and we are sounder of body and spirit than we ever expected to be. We've been blessed with physical healing, for reasons we don't fully understand. It's as if, having finished winter term finals, we've been on an extended spring break. The cancer that struck me is in remission and hopefully will remain there, and Ellen's back is strong again after two surgeries and an extended rehab. The darkness and doubt that enveloped us last year have been replaced by a sense of purpose and hope.

I should exclude Nick and Allie from these generalities, as their lives as collegians and young adventurers are, thankfully, on a different trajectory. Perhaps because of the rough patch we went through last year, our family ties are stronger than ever. Our children are good companions from whom we learn as much as we teach. To our great delight, both return home regularly to reconnect and recharge. We shared memorable times together this year that included languid days at Waldo Lake, a sunrise atop Mary's Peak, antics at the Portland Marathon (photo above), and long conversations while gathered on the living room couch.

Both Nick and Allie worked last summer for a nonprofit urban garden and rediscovered family roots in Berkeley and Oakland before returning to college life at George Fox. Allie will graduate in May and then launch into the next phase of her life. She hopes to find work in a Spanish-speaking country for at least a few months, and then think about grad school. Nick’s activities at Fox include coordinating meals for a group of homeless folks in Salem, where he’s spent most Friday and Saturday nights this fall. Starting in January he’ll take a break from engineering classes to focus on philosophy, and then make a decision on his major sometime next year.

As Ellen and I have received physical healing, we've watched others close to us experience pain and suffering that we've been powerless to prevent. One friend died of cancer, others we love have gone through divorces. Alcoholism has regained a grip on one, and yet another is faced with imminent deportation. Just last week a friend watched helplessly as his home caught fire and burned to the ground. Several people we know have been unemployed for months. We have no satisfying response to this suffering, other than to stand by these friends to offer solace and, when we can, practical help. Many friends and family have taught us how that’s done. When you or I or anyone else can no longer stand alone, God is there for us to lean on. His comfort and strength are without limit.

In her role as director of our small nonprofit, Acorn Outreach, Ellen teaches and supervises volunteers who teach English and computers to native Spanish speakers. She also advocates for some of these immigrants who need assistance with legal, medical and housing issues. She is dedicated—heart and soul—to improving the lives of dozens of our Hispanic neighbors and friends. We’ve started a blog about our activities at Acorn, if you’re interested in knowing more. I’ll be teaching journalism at the university again next term, and will serve next year as both a deacon at church and board chair of the local pregnancy care clinic. I write, I garden, I photograph and, when I’m not injured, I run. I’m grateful for every day in which I can creatively engage with the world around me.

Life is a gift. During this season of darkness and stillness, we wait patiently and reflect on the many blessings God has showered upon us. May his hand of grace also be upon you this Christmastide.

Peter, Ellen, Allie and Nick

P.S. We’d love to hear from you. If you’re inclined, please leave a message below. We’re a family of blogging fools, so if you’d like to peruse our public thoughts, here are some links for your amusement: Allie's blog, Nick’s blog, and our “Sea Shanty” blog.


wags said...

Very nice reflections. We're awfully glad the health issues have calmed and are looking forward to many more Waldport vacations with you--maybe next year we can play the Glass Plate Game at nighttime. Keep an eye on the Scottish broom, please. Merry Christmas!
Steve, Michelle and Hannah

Anonymous said...

Some beautiful pictures there. Especially of Nick and Allie. I didn't know the Shanty had a blog too. It looks so great. I miss it. Enjoy the season.

Anonymous said...


A wonderful Christmas message. Extremely pleased with you and your family's 2009 accomplishments and look forward to more in the future.

Merry Christmas to all.

Ken Johnson

Josue said...

You and your family are a great blessing too many in our church and in our community. We are blessed to know you and do some work together. May the Lord bless you richly during the coming years.
We love you guys,

Briana said...

Happy Hols from Rumer and me. Love you guys so much, and miss you....briana

Doug said...

What I love about your top ten is that they are interconnected as all things are. And the love and mystery of #1 binds it all together.