Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Christmas Story

It's nearly a month after Christmas and I'm still occasionally humming a carol or two. It's kind of weird, at least in my book. After delving into the deepest reaches of my psyche (Editor's note: That took what, about a second or two?) I believe I know the answer to why I'm humming, "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" and etc. See, I pretty much missed out on Christmas this year. My family was here in Oregon and I was in Virginia working for the Daily Press. So yeah, I missed out on Christmas. But you know, I don't want to sound bitter. Or depressed. It was just kind of odd to wake up Christmas morn to the sound of silence. No pitter-patter of little feet, no sounds of little hands trying to sneak a peak in the wrapping paper, no kid asking if I'm awake yet. I thank the Lord I could work, thankful that I got to spend Christmas with good friends in Virginia, thankful for my family's health and so many other blessings He's given us. All in all, I've had a worse Christmas. Which turned out to be my best Christmas.

Christmas Eve the morning of 2000 broke cold and foggy in Corvallis. Maybe it was cold and misting. Pretty safe to say it was either of those two options. We were past the point of no return on a "remodeling" project on a house on Lewisburg Road that I'm positive took at least 2.3 years off of my life. Very likely more. We pretty much bought a beater of a house, stripped it down to a few studs and chimney (You should've seen the look on the county inspector's face when he came to see our "remodel" project after we poured the footings; let's just say he wasn't happy.), then essentially built a brand-spanking new house. But on Christmas Eve morning I awoke stoked about celebrating the birth of Christ and having a big dinner and exchanging gifts. Nosiree. I threw on some work clothes and went out to tear subflooring off the old house to get ready to replace rotted floor joists. At this point we were living in a barn on the property (That's another story. Look for it soon on a blog near you.) so there was a wee bit o' pressure to get cracking on a house that had, among other things, running water.

This particular spot I was working was right next to a large square section of newly poured foundation that doubled as a swimming pool. That's sarcasm. It wasn't really a swimming pool. Recent rains (Imagine that. Rain! In Corvallis!) had filled the approximately 100 square foot section of foundation with water. The water was oh, a foot or two deep, muddy and cold. I remember fishing a dead mouse or two out of it. Maybe they were voles. Whatever they were, they were way past treading water. Well, I bet you can see what was coming. As I was using a long pry bar to try ripping up the sub floor I lost my balance and very ungracefully took a flying leap into our new pool. "Kerplunk," I went. You know how when you get doused with cold water it takes your breath away? Man, I sucked in some filthy rainwater when I gasped after doing a belly flop. It wasn't pretty. I came up sputtering and cursing ... oh I was hot. Well, cold actually. Cold, wet and very unhappy. Here I was, living in a barn with seven kids and a pregnant wife (Go figure. Julie was pregnant.), my remodel project was months behind schedule, the money for the project was going fast, it was the day before Christmas and I couldn't afford to buy presents for one kid let alone seven ... I wasn't taking it well. I stormed into the barn and the killer part of all this was I was shivering cold and really didn't have a prospect of heating up. See, some wonderful friends of ours had parked their fifth-wheel trailer on the property but it had this itty bitty propane water heater that produced a minute or two of hot water for a shower. That didn't help my disposition.

Somehow Julie convinced me to go to church and I remember in the parking lot seeing my buddy Matt Fields and his family. Matt hollered out a greeting and I distinctly remember not even answering him. Just scowling. Julie was so embarrassed. I'm lucky we didn't have a wooden spoon in the van. She probably would have used it on me. For good reason. I'm sure I stayed sour through the whole service and even afterwards as we headed back to our van. We got to the van and I flung open the big sliding door ... and the seats were full of presents. The van had so many presents in it there was no room for the kids. Toys for every kid, clothes for all of them (right down to the correct sizes) ... it was unbelievable. The kids were freaking out, as you can imagine. I had to drive the van home, er to our barn, unload it and come back to pick up my family. To this day I don't know who pulled that stunt because no one at Calvary Chapel Corvallis would ever own up to it. They'd just smile and say, "Praise the Lord!" I'll never forget it, though. And I'll never forget how small I felt as well. What a butthead I had been that day. I asked the Lord to forgive me. I'm sure I apologized to my family. There's probably some big, profound lesson in here somewhere. All I know is God took what I had made bad and made it good. Just like Him, eh?

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