Visiting Nebraska reconnects me to the community that has influenced who I have become and makes my heart smile. After arriving in Lincoln at 2 am, Mom and I were up early for church service at St. Paul’s. As soon as you walk in to the church you feel the open and welcoming community of members that make St. Paul’s the special place that it is. And who doesn’t love a church that can blend “Joy to the World” with “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” as the closing song? I’m also impressed that, even though I only make it back to church at St. Paul’s perhaps once very two years, the church members and staff still kindly remember me and all offer warm hugs and handshakes. I can’t express how special this church makes you feel.
After the service, I was honored to be able to have breakfast with two of my favorite friends from St. Paul, Charlie and Nancy. They were the first couple to welcome me when I started attending St. Paul during college, and are a beautiful picture of loving kindness and adventure. I hope someday to follow in their footsteps of so generously opening their arms to those around them, to being thoroughly immersed in the community, and to traveling widely and adventurously. (Their last trip was to Iceland!)
Dan arrived in Lincoln at 3 am on Tuesday morning, and that evening we were off to meet up with friends who have come together through intersecting Venn diagrams of life’s stories. My good friend from college, Emily, organized the dinner in the Haymarket. We all connect in various ways:
- Emily, my good friend from college/CALC 106 buddy/sorority sister/lifelong friend is now dating an absolutely lovely man, Jeff.
- Jeff is good friends and formerly lived with Matt, my good friend from high school forward.
- Matt, Justin, and I ran around together during college, and Justin now lives in the Bay Area, which allows us to get together when our schedules permit. Oh, and Justin and I went to preschool together.
- And Justin and Emily knew each other from Youth Leadership Lincoln, back in high school.
I love when so many truly interesting and impressive people come together into new connected circles.
Dan and I also took a quick down and back trip to Kansas City to visit our cousins, Jill and Jerry and to meet their new baby, who decided to greet her parents two months early. She’s grown so much since she was born in November that we even got to cuddle with her.
From Kansas City we drove straight up to Omaha to pick up my brother and his fiancee from the Omaha airport. We were especially excited to welcome Laura for her first Christmas with this side of the family and her first trip to Nebraska. Seven hours in the car that day? Totally worth it. My husband, Dan, deserves major recognition for this one and his total support and encouragement to pack it in to see family, despite the many hours in the car. The drive went by so quickly because this guy is the best company.
We woke up to an unexpected snow falling on Christmas Eve morning. Dan and I headed out on the slick streets, with soft snow falling, to have breakfast at Cultiva Coffee with our friend, Tyler.
Followed by time with my “sister,” Liz and her sweet, sweet family.
On Christmas Eve night, our family came over for our traditional Christmas Eve meal, Christmas carols, and gift exchange.
And on Christmas Day we honored our family traditions at the Waverly farm with roast for lunch, play time in the barn where we met the new baby goats born on Christmas Eve night, attempted to catch some kitties in honor of my cousin, Karen, played basketball in the hayloft, Uncle Howard was nearly captured by alfalfa bears, and we walked the snow covered fields. As a child, it was an unspoken game to see how long you could stay out in the cold before coming back to the house to warm up and eat Christmas cookies. This may be the first year that I’ve ever come so close to winning the title of staying outside the longest. But those of you who know I don’t enjoy the cold will be unsurprised that Dan beat me by a few minutes — staying our just a bit longer to snap some pictures of the farm.
On Christmas evening, our Kansas cousins arrived with their year and a half year old. Having children around on Christmas changes the dynamics and makes it so much fun. After opening “socks” (brown paper grocery bags with Santa gifts…that you sometimes wish Santa hadn’t brought…), the cousins stayed up to play “Heads Up” and laugh well into the evening.
The next day was relaxed, enjoying the post-Christmas relaxation time. Dan and I visited my grandma, our little 18 month old cousin played in the snow (for about 6 minutes), the older cousins did about 10 MadLibs originally purchased ~25 years ago, and we ended the night watching the Huskers somewhat surprisingly win their bowl game. This is the first Husker game I’ve been able to watch this year, although I cheer from California. And there’s something that adds to the excitement to watch it in Nebraska with Nebraska fans, although the game was, ironically, played about 20 minutes from where Dan and I live.
And then it was time to go home. We packed up, drove the luxurious 20 minutes to the Lincoln airport and arrived far before the gate even opened. We’d forgotten that the gate only opens one hour before scheduled departure. That’s how sweet and efficient the Lincoln airport is. We ended up traveling home on the same flight as Justin (who we’d seen on Tuesday at dinner where we reminisced about how tasty Valentino’s breadsticks and Runza crinkle cut fries are). Christmas always speeds by far too quickly, and we are thankful for the time we had to celebrate this season of joy together.