Thursday, December 23, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL (My Annual Christmas Letter)

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Dear friends,                                    

I hope this finds you in good health and in warm, confortable places with those you love. I pray a special blessing on each of you. 

Well, it’s been another year. It’s Christmastime again. But, for me this year is not just another Christmas, again. There are obvious reasons that I could give, I could try to sum up this year’s happenings, or I could try to give a little bit of insightful thanksgiving. But I choose to try to combine them all.

Last year I told of the journeys of the Bob Peterson household, and I left off at my Uncle Stan’s house in his basement. I left off waiting to go to try to fulfill yet another of God’s callings to my family. We left Dufur, traveled the Western United States, moved into Uncle Stan’s and felt the change in our lives from beginning of the year to the end. But that was last year.

Today I stand on a different continent. I now dwell in a country I had never even heard of, before 2007. We have felt God’s miraculous powers and His amazing Grace pouring over us all through this season. He has proved in so many ways His love and that this is indeed His will for us at this time. I feel ever so present, His plans are only just beginning. I know, He’s not finished with me yet. I’m here for a purpose, and this move was as much for my growth as my parent’s work. It’s changed me drastically.

I have learned so much in this year alone. If I was to flip back through my journal entries of this past year, a key phrase would be, “I’m not the same.” In the past, I never really felt changed. I knew I wasn’t the little “angel” (notice, that’s in parentheses. my brothers would disagree.) that plagued the halls of Dufur Christian Church. But I was still the pastor’s daughter. Today I stand as Janae Peterson, for the good or bad. I know not exactly who that is, yet. But I know, I have a lifetime to find out who I am supposed to be in Jesus. I can’t help but gape in wonder at how far He has taken me already, half way around the world! But, seriously, I no longer talk in Oregonian English all the time. My best friend even says, “Janae, I can’t understand you. Speak English, please.” And some of my favorite foods are chapattis and rolexes. Yup, I didn’t think you’d know what I was talking about. [Chapattis are like tortillas, only they’re like, cooked in oil. And rolexes are like Spanish eggs in a chapatti.] And never do I find myself calling us Americans “white people” anymore. We’re “mzungus,” and that’s how I know us. I’ve learned that staring is not impolite here. (Seriously, you have like two hundred eyes on you every minute you’re out in the town.) I’ve learned that you can live without power, and have to here quite often. And, I’ve learned that it’s “always two until it’s three.” That was told me by Aunt Keeky before I ever knew what she meant. Literally, if you say two o’clock, the person isn’t late until three.

In April, we had a very generous man call and ask how much we needed for the flight tickets to Uganda. He paid it all. So, on May 19th, we headed to the airport with our 18 pieces of luggage and barely made it to the plane in time to board. But, we made it. As we stepped off the plane, the air fell on us and we felt the new pressures of life changing, both on our shoulder and our hearts. From Kampala to Jinja, I just let thoughts run through my mind as I stared into the darkness of the new world I was to dwell in. We had the great blessing of getting to stay in a house already set up for a family about the same size as ours, and to this day, when we visit, it still feels a little bit like home. And, nearly two weeks after leaving America, we moved into our new “home.” Through the next couple of months, we had workers around the house, painting, paving, cleaning, etc. And we visited the Islands only enough to help some. As our lives change, so did our expectations for them.

As Thanksgiving and then December and now Christmas appeared on the calendar, the illness of home fell harder and heavier on each of us. With the passing of Summer and now Fall, we are all ready for snow. We all would love the coolness of winter, and, to put it bluntly, I’m having trouble feeling sympathy for those of you with air-conditioned/heated homes complaining of the snow. I’m sorry. Can’t feel it. If only I could actually want a fire to be lit in my home, or wish I had a coat, I might feel a bit better. But, *ahem*, I’m sitting here, in the dark, sweating in shorts and a tank-top. And I know my family is feeling quite the same dilemma. It just doesn’t feel much like Christmas without snow. We’re missing the usual things we get at Christmas, like Mrs. Hunt’s cinnamon rolls and fires and snowball fights. And, it doesn’t seem right without a real tree, these plastic ones are SO fake.

For me, it’s been the friendships that I have left and am trying to cultivate that have been the toughest. I have felt so far away from those I love. I read a wonderful little poem in school the other day:

“I cultivate white roses
in January as in July
For honest friend who freely
offers me his hand.”*
And for those who with me
don’t wish to stand
I cultivate white roses.

I know I am in a January with a winter so often too thick and cold for roses. But I thank God for those who have helped me cultivate them, even now. July is so far away, summer is distant.

*Jose Marti [originally in Spanish] (I added the last two lines to sum up the rest of the poem.)

But, as I sit here, I cannot say how thankful I am for so much love. We have had, on average, at least one package per month for 7 months! Oh, I can hardly express my explicit gratefulness for this fact. To my Grandma, Mrs. Stockoff, Berea Church, and so many others who have sacrificially sent boxes for us, I can’t express my thankfulness—here’s a big air-hug to ya’ll!!!!

Thank you, and merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good year.

Janae Peterson

MK in Uganda, East Africa

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