Monday, December 28, 2009

What's in a Journey?

Karen and I celebrated 10 years of marriage today. On my facebook status, I noted a few highlights of our journey--10 years, 6 kids, 4 states... Let me tell you about two other journey's.

On Friday, December 18th, I left work at the normal time of about 5:30. And I went directly home. But what usually takes about 25 minutes turned into over 4 hours. I didn't get home until close to 10pm. There was a snowstorm here on the east coast. And it wasn't your typical snow storm. It started at 4pm and came down about 2-3 inches per hour. By the time I got on the road, traffic was really bad.

But I had lived in Idaho. I've driven in Utah and through a whiteout in Wyoming (remember that, Dad?). I was well-prepared. And my car had good tires. I started to get concerned when I was traveling on I-64 and drivers were going 20 mph. The roads are flat and straight on I-64. Keep moving, people!

I took my exit...went about 10 miles...and the traffic came to a stand-still. And this was on a country there weren't many options.

It was bad. The snow was heavy and there were several inches on the ground. Cars were coming from the other direction so I figured the curvy hills were passable up ahead. After about 30 minutes and only moving a few inches, I rolled down my window. The sound of falling snow helped calm me. I was frustrated with whoever was ahead of me causing such a traffic jam. The guy in front of me got out of his truck several times trying to look ahead. The cars going the opposite direction were moving much slower now. One guy had his window rolled down and stopped to inform me that there was no way anyone was getting over those hills up ahead. So I turned around and kept my window rolled down. I was only moving about 10 mph. If someone else had their window rolled down I wanted to provide them the same information I was given.

I started to flash my lights. I've learned that's what people do in the country when the road is impassable up ahead. I don't know if anyone benefited from my warnings. I got back on I-64 and went a comfortable speed of 35 mph. I took the next exit. Although a more traveled road, this one was even worse than my first route. And I was further from home. It was a complete standstill. By this time it's about 7:30 and I had called Karen several times to let her know I was ok. But now I realized this was a very dangerous situation.

I was tempted to stop at the hotel and stay the night. Then Karen reminded me about a back road (I'm already in the country, folks! A backroad to the country road is not a great road even in good weather...). But that option was better than sitting. So I made yet another U-turn and headed for the back road.

It turned out to be a good idea because few people were driving on it. I was driving through about 8 inches by this point so I took my time on the winding road. I watched several trucks slide right off the road. I tried to stop for the first one, but my car began to slide so I kept going. One guy was standing on the side of the road next to his car. I slowed just enough to make sure someone was coming for him.

I had to make a sharp turn and slid off the road myself. Fortunately, the stop sign literally stopped me from going too far. With a quick prayer and a little experience, I was able to reverse and get back on the road.

By 9pm, I got within 3 miles of home. I passed through a four-way intersection I would have been at 3 hours previously had it not been for the original backup. But at this time, no one was coming from that direction. It was complete darkness down the road I was on only 3 hours earlier. It was a bit eerie to look down that road and see nothing but blackness. I wondered where all the cars were.

It was a standstill again. But I was close to home. At this point, it began to feel like "The Day After Tomorrow" or "Independence Day." People were abandoning their cars and walking. And those on foot were moving a lot faster than those in cars. It was surreal.

I had been in the car for 4 hours. At one point, I was on a curve with a slight incline. As I crawled along, my car began to slide sideways. There was nothing I could do. The snow had melted and refrozen so much that I had absolutely no traction. And this is where I left my car.

I walked the remaining 3 miles my work shoes...with nothing but a coat. A mother and her daughter had just run off the road ahead of me and they were grateful for the company. We walked together. There was a foot of snow on the ground. We meandered through the line of cars following tire tracks when we could. Men on four-wheelers were out trying to help those ahead get down a steep hill and then up the next one.

Looking back, I was grateful I slid off when I did. That was the safest thing. I dug my car out 3 days later.

Sorry for the long post--but I have to make the analogy. And I'll keep it short because I think everyone can come to their own conclusions. But my marriage to Karen and this ordeal trying to get home a couple weeks ago...all of our experiences in this life are only to help us get back to our Heavenly Home--to God. There is symbolism and discoveries and analogies all around us.

I had driven in bad wintry conditions before. I was well-prepared. I have dealt with trials and had experiences that have prepared me well for this life. But sometimes the path I take isn't the right one...for whatever reason. And the Lord encourages me to try a different path. And if others can benefit from what I have learned, it's my obligation to warn others. And there are many paths we can take in life. Sometimes their only purpose is to teach us patience; others might have a more profound impact. And then at some point during our lives, we need to choose to take the road less traveled. At some point in our lives, we take that journey...however long or learn faith. It's an individual journey. But we always have access to family and home. We might slip off the road. But what's important is learning and continuing to move forward. Then, when we get close to Home and we think it's almost over, another trial may occur. And we adapt and work harder and press forward. We might gain some friends along the way. We're given opportunities to serve and allow others to serve us. And in the end, if I have the right perspective, I learn that the trial was better than not having one at all. I learn that what I though was another trial...was actually protection; a blessing. The Lord blesses us through challenges.

It felt so good to walk through the door of my home that night.

Two days later I went for a drive to see how my car was and I recorded these two segments (I've only posted one because blogger and the second video are not getting along...):

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Pajamas

Tell the Christensen kids to strike a crazy pose and this is what you get. James got hidden in all the craziness. But he's in here...somewhere. I think... And Eliza can sleep through anything. Aunt Laurel got everyone matching pajamas (mostly matching--do you realize how difficult it is to find the exact same pattern for 8 different sizes???). We think she did pretty darn good. And the kids were happy. Here's Luke doin' a little dance. Uh-huh. Oh ya.
And James. He's a man of many emotions and expressions. Not sure what he's begging for...but it was a good shot.
Here are the five oldest all in a row. Luke is gettin' down again with some new dance moves. Peter is showing his most serious approval. James is wanting one front tooth for Christmas...could be two any day now. Anya loves to be surrounded by her boys. And Mark is...well, Mark. Good kids all around.
Now this picture is one that just makes you laugh. I can't look at it without letting out a little giggle. Luke is as happy as can be. He relishes every chance he gets to hold baby Eliza. And Eliza is freakin' out with those wide eyes. She knows she is in unstable hands and never knows what to expect when her "big" brother gets close. Love it.
And here we are. Christmas Eve with mostly matching pajamas. At the very least, they are all well-coordinated. Thanks Aunt Laurel for the pjs. They are extremely comfy. We'll put them to good use this winter.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

O Holy Night!

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining; it is the night of the dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born! O night, O holy night, O night divine!
Since moving to Virginia, we took our kids to the Washington, D.C. temple for the first time. To see it at night time and with the Christmas lights...we're hoping it made an impression on their young minds. It was cold...but well worth it.
One of the senior missionaries sitting outside the visitor center had a Santa Clause hat on...just like James. I should have taken a picture of the two of them together. The senior missionary was thrilled to see another "Santa Clause" that night. :)

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus rise we, let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord, then ever, ever praise we; His power and glory ever more proclaim, His power and glory ever more proclaim.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guess Who Came To Visit Last Night?

Today is St. Nicholas Day. And he came last night to get the kids wish list, see if they've been good or not, and let his reindeer have a little snack for their long journey. It's a tradition Karen discovered years ago. And we're considering making it a bigger deal in the future...shifting the Americanized tradition of gift-giving to St. Nicholas Day so we can be better about celebrating the spiritual purpose of Christmas. St. Nicholas gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded for oneself. It's the start of the Christmas season. The kids left their shoes at the door with a plate of cookies, carrots, and a cup of juice.
Anya is convinced she heard bells and saw lights last night.
Here they are enjoying what each other received from St. Nicholas.