Thursday, December 21, 2017

Norris Family Christmas Letter - 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, we bring you the warmest Christmas Cheer from the Norris family.  Now, the family highlights of 2017:

Always to the one to steal attention from others, Nancy grabbed the family headlines at the close of 2016 (just after last year’s Christmas letter had already been posted), by being thrown from a horse and breaking her arm.  I’ll never forget the call from her friend in the riding ring to my cell phone; “Steve, we are having quite the rodeo up here today!”  Thankful for serious pain medication in the ER, she sustained at rather neat and clean complete break of her right humerus, requiring surgery involving a shiny new plate and 12 screws!  Nancy then celebrated her accomplishment by joining the rest of the family two weeks later, by flying off to Banff, Alberta, Canada to enjoy winter snow, a brisk hayride, a gondola ride to the majestic top of the Rockies, and other family jocularity.  Now perhaps more of you will sympathize with the energy involved in being married to this wonderful, amazing, and always-in-motion woman.  After her quick healing, the year brought other new opportunities and challenges, from leadership roles at church, assisting in the organizing of the annual Prayer Breakfast in town, to a seat on the Board of Elizabeth House, a home for single new mothers in Pasadena.  And yes, she is back in the saddle again.

Kelly is now a seasoned third year teacher with LAUSD at Gerald Lawson Academy, and is well on her way to a Master’s Degree in Special Education.  I love the image of Kelly arriving in the school parking lot each morning as the sun rises, one of the first teachers to arrive to prepare her classroom and lesson plans; this is one dedicated and organized teacher.  Having a more organized and stable classroom with a team of great teaching aides has been a wonderful gift to Kelly.  This past year has provided a good amount of off-work fun – a series of providential events has resulted in many of her old church friends now all living close to each other here in LA – this is her “tribe”.  Also, she enjoyed a trip to visit our dear family friend Jill in Austin, and a recent trip to Toronto to see her grandparents and Canadian family.  Never lacking for adventure, Thanksgiving this year found Kelly and friends in Cuba, where she fell in love with the people, food, and culture.

Heather is learning life “backwards” in Seattle, where she has spent much of the past year awake all night - serving as a nurse’s assistant at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  All four of us had the opportunity to tour there this past fall; this is a world class teaching and research hospital.  What a privilege she has to work in this place and gain great experience as she plans on pursuing her Master’s Degree as a nurse practitioner in the coming years.  We were struck at the thoughtful way in which Seattle Children’s has been planned and designed - all with the patients, kids, in mind.  What a gift!  Heather loves living in the Pacific Northwest, and plans to spend lots of her free time skiing this winter.  She also is so thankful for her tribe in Seattle, and for the success of Husky football this year. (No comment from the Bruin here, except to comment that UCLA basketball now leads the nation in steals)

And in the accompanying photo you will find this fellow on the right with this ridiculous grin on his face.  Why is he grinning so oddly, almost as if in pain?  Could it have been that it felt like -45 degrees on the day the ladies decided it would be a good idea to go, oh, you know, dogsledding?!  Yes it’s true, one of my wife’s preferred rehab measures for a near compound fracture is to go dog sledding!  Or perhaps there is another reason my smile looks somewhat strained.  It might be that my smile is that sort of mildly ugly face you get before you weep.  Maybe it’s because on most days I still can’t believe that all this is true – that I met and married Nancy, a loving and genuine girl from the Frozen North, and that we would be blessed with beautiful, intelligent, fun-filled daughters. We are deeply grateful that Kelly and Heather are open to new adventures of growth and service. I think that explains the smile.  It’s a reaction to undeserved blessing and in turn, Thanksgiving.

In the end, isn’t that the point we are here?  To pay attention to what is going on in our lives. And in the midst of what life hands us; which is often frustration, or pain, or struggle, to weed out the good, the real friendships, the events and people that matter – and to give thanks to the One who has put us here in the first place?  And after we give thanks, to imagine ways in which we can make a difference.  Maybe to teach a child, maybe to love a mother who is completely scared as she faces an unwanted pregnancy, or to be at the bedside of a child facing illness.  Or maybe it’s to do what you do, each day – you friends – whatever that may be.  To be honest at work, to reach out to difficult people, to engage in the painful places, to work for reconciliation, bringing healing and new life.  To live out those ideals taught to us so many years ago, by the One who mysteriously became a baby in a barn in the middle of nowhere; and yet has become the central figure in history.

In keeping with this, I would direct you to the accompanying poem, “In Memoriam CVI” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.  Penned in Britain 1850, I cannot think of a more appropriate poem for the times we live in than this.  I encourage you to read it through, you will be quite surprised at its timeless message for today.  And then, maybe even go boldly, to stand up, glasses raised in toast, and read this loudly at the Christmas dinner table! 

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to every one! (thanks to Heather for designing our card!)

In Memoriam
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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