Monday, December 24, 2012

Certain Things You Cannot Measure

I just stumbled upon this thoughtful article from an economist that reminds us why there are some things that are best left unmeasured.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Being Santa

Santa with his most excellent helpers
This past weekend, I was gifted with the chance to become someone magical.  For two hours on a drizzly evening, I became Santa Claus.

With the aid of a big fluffy pillow around my middle, a bright and cheery costume from our Academy Award winning neighbor (Art Direction in 2010!), and three lovely female assistants (who happen to be related to me), I was magically transformed into a new man;  Pere Noel, Father Christmas, Sinter Klaas, Old Saint Nicholas.  Kris Kringle.

Santa awaits.

Apparently well liked.
The reason, you ask?  This was not a holiday meeting of sedate geriatrics, nor a collection of pre-schoolers, or a fund raiser for the Red Cross or the local Kiwanas club. 

I had been asked to become one of Santa's helpers for 50 or so rowdy, running-around, laughing, wild, awkward, noisy, wonderful and amazing middle school students.  This was the Christmas event for Young Life Wyldlife in our neighborhood.

To add more fun to the mix, a large quantity of artificial snow had been prepared.  I was seated in the midst of this classically Southern California winter scene, where I cheerfully greeted all the kids as they were lead to the tennis court to be surprised by Santa.

There is nothing quite like being center of attention in the midst of a tennis court full of middle schoolers.  These kids found the ultimate joy in dumping artificial semi-wet plastic snow on the head, into the mouth of, and down the flowing beard of Saint Nick.  Did I mention that artificial snow has all the taste appeal of microscopically shredded plastic trash bags?  Add to this the wonderful attic musty smell of artificial Santa beard sticking in your teeth.  One other item - it turns out the application of artificial plastic snow to a concrete tennis court surface yields the most slimy and slippery surface in the known world.  Santa is very lucky that he did not end up in traction.  It was all pure joy!
The highlight of the evening was when all the kids surrounded Santa's chair, depriving him of precious oxygen, in order to receive gifts and candy.  To say that this scene resembled pandemonium would be an understatement. 

However, in the midst of this raucous bunch was a lone 6th grade boy who managed to work his way to the front of the large crowd, in spite of his smaller stature.  Let's call him Jeff.  He had a gift for me I never expected.  Jeff was determined to be in the front row to greet Santa, as evidenced by his skill at elbowing his peers out of the way in order to get front and center with the Big Man (me).  Upon arrival about 18 inches in front of my face - he leaned in and announced, shouting with great passion, "I BELIEVE IN YOU!  NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS, I BELIEVE IN YOU, SANTA!!"

That is what Christmastide is all about.  It's what Young Life is all about.  Believing.  Believing in kids, no matter how loud and confused and awkward they may seem.  Young Life leaders try to listen to these kids, love them, and believe in them.  And in doing so, it our hope that these kids, the messy, noisy ones on that tennis court, will come to believe in a God who created them, and believes in their futures.  Each and every one.

Merry Christmas to all.  And to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Norris Family Christmas Update for 2012

Celebrating Heather's graduation with family and friends - June 2012

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness. ”

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Cheers and Merry Christmas from the Norris Family!  It’s time again to mark another year, and remember the sad and the joyful, the gains and the losses along the way.  But with God’s hope on our side, the landscape looks completely different, as it did that Christmas day long ago to an awakened and reborn Ebenezer Scrooge. 

A Senior and a Freshman 

Kelly is now a Senior at DePaul University in Chicago.  Kelly is looking forward to her last 6 months of college, having just returned from yet another adventure, this time to Honduras.  While there, she spent a week volunteering at the Nuevo Paraiso orphanage and school.  For Christmas, we are considering the purchase of a t-shirt for her that will read “I Don’t Know Yet”, which should serve to defuse the questions she constantly receives about her post-college future from all the grown-ups she knows.  Her sense of adventure, her love for friends, kids of all sizes and ages, and her ability to bring people together is a wonder to behold.  Before her departure for Honduras, she hosted 20 people in her Lincoln Park apartment for an early “Friendsgiving”, featuring her Dad’s super-secret and famous caramelized onion gravy.  She will be teaching somewhere on Planet Earth after graduation.  Stay tuned for what will certainly be exciting developments! 

Heather wants you all to know that she is a proud Husky Freshman at the University of Washington.  Bow Down!    She is involved everywhere; will be starting Young Life leader training soon, and will be living next quarter in the Vision 16 women’s Christian community house, very close to campus.  She has already made what will likely be life-long close friendships, found a home at University Presbyterian church, finds her classes interesting and challenging, got to rush the field twice during game-end upsets during Husky football season (vicarious joy for Dad!), and is actually enjoying the near-daily rain of the Emerald City.  Her direction is a psychology major, with a possible minor emphasis in education or speech and hearing sciences.  A special shout-out goes to our dear Seattle friends, who have opened their homes and loved our girl like she is one of their own.

On Giving and Loving Others

Nancy’s year has again been one focused on giving her time and her heart to others.  This year brought trips Chicago, Austin, Spokane, Colorado Springs, and a special Toronto visit for Grammie Ruth’s 80th birthday.  This fall we took a wonderful road trip to Seattle in late September to drop Heather off at UW, and we planned an extra week coming home slowly, with stops in Victoria BC, drives along the gorgeous Oregon coast, and amazing dinners in Napa and Carmel.  Nancy has seen increased responsibilities (and joy, she adds!) as the President of the Board of Club21 – a learning and resource center in Pasadena for families with children who have Down syndrome.  This has been a great blessing for us all, as our involvement has taught us deep lessons about the upside down nature of God’s care for those with special needs.  We are so much richer for our involvement!

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch 

As for me, the slightly dazed looking fellow deep in the middle years of middle age, there are times when I can hardly take it all in without a moment of blurry vision caused by tears.  I am so thankful and amazed at it all.  I can sit in my house on a cool November night and text one daughter in Honduras and the other in Seattle at the same time (from a phone that fits in my pocket!).  Two beautiful and amazing girls at great colleges.  The blessing of 24 years of marriage to a lovely wife who tolerates my oddities.  We are adjusting to this empty nest; the nest may be empty, but our hearts are very full indeed!  I am still employed, and the boss is a wonderful, yet modest guy.  Oh, he is also mildly handsome, given his age and hair challenges. 

In Closing – A Reflection

Each day, a gift.  Every one.  We were reminded of this quite recently, as we joined hundreds for a memorial service for a good friend, husband, and father of three, taken from us all by cancer far too early in life at just 51 years.  A profoundly good man; an example of what love, friendship, and faithfulness to family really looks like.  Men like Don are a rarity these days.  Those of us who remain down here for a while longer have a deep responsibility to continue a meaningful legacy of love, laughter, and encouragement to those around us.  Beyond our little accomplishments or the successes of our kids, these are the things that really matter.  As Christmas approaches, the days and years seem to blur together, just like in the times of Mr. Scrooge; with all the “people hurrying to and fro”.  But there is an important Christmas question for us in the midst of the hurrying.  Will we take the time to slow down, stop, and really listen to and love those in need around us?  Will we become like the transformed Mr. Scrooge?  Can we create lives that embrace others, like the mighty Founder of Christmas himself?   We have another year in front of us.  “God Bless us, every one!”

Christmas Love to all from Steve, Nancy, Kelly and Heather!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Star Carol - John Rutter

Its Advent.  This is one of my favorite John Rutter carols.  Recorded at Royal Albert Hall, by the BBC.  Nothing like a room full of Brits, singing with their whole hearts!

See his star shining bright
In the sky this Christmas Night!
Follow me joyfully;
Hurry to Bethlehem and see the son of Mary!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

He Put Me Here for a Reason

Do you ever wonder if your job, or your friendships, or maybe your whole life make a difference?  Do you feel small, unimportant, and insignificant?

And then do you sometimes think its all for naught?  Maybe you are like me, and you have been fooled into thinking that the only lives or careers that really matter are the ones that lead vast corporations, or produce medical miracles, or inspire thousands.  Being big and important and well recognized.  That is what really matters. 

It might be you have bought into the same pack of lies I have.  This short film proves to me, in a simple and elegant way, that so much of that sort of thinking is just not right. 

Might be that Rudy has it all exactly right.

As for me, when I grow up, I want to have the kind of quiet pride and dignity of work that Rudy Gonzalez has. 

Do you know what I mean?

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