Plan #1. Head to Montana (via plane, train, rental, bus, hitchhike, however). I really wanted to spend time with Darla & Erin while they were still at the Potter's ranch... and since their families were flying out, I figured it'd be a little like being at home on the west coast.
Alas, my checkbook rolled its eyes at me for even thinking this would be possible.
Plan #2. Go to my roommate Katie's hometown for Thanksgiving. This sounded like a lot of fun, and she lives on the southwest coast of Oregon, so it would be a great change of scenery. I even met her parents while they were up here, and they were so wicked nice that I knew it would be an enjoyable way to spend my Thanksgiving. This time, it was my workload that just sighed, shook its head, and pointed at the piles of things that would never get done if I was away for 5 days.
Plan #3. Stay in the city. Here. Portland. Well, why not? I mean, it is my first year in this place, and I won't be around for the Christmas holiday, so wouldn't it be great just to see how life was lived here? I waited a few days, but since there were no rolled eyes or shaking heads this time, I figured this was meant to be.
So here's what I did:
... Wednesday night I went to a hockey game with about 10 friends of mine. There was a contest where we could make paper airplanes and try to fly them (unsuccessfully) into this box on the ice to win $10,000. Mine hit the glass on its way down (which I found rather impressive actually). We had a great time, the Winterhawks won 4-2, and I got a free lift ticket with my admission, so now we are all planning a future day on the slopes!
... Thursday Kim and Pete came over for a Thanksgiving meal. I was crazy excited to cook (it IS my favorite meal of the year). We spent about 4 hours preparing everything. I found a killer new mac& cheese recipe, rubbed the turkey with seasonings and fresh basil, whipped up about a vat of the creamiest mashed potatoes, blanched some teryiaki green beans, glazed some carrots, warmed up some wheat rolls, and tried a new apple pie recipe. Everything was delicious, my home was warmed by the smell of the baking food, and we crashed afterwards for a movie night.
A very busy, but very pleasing, day to give thanks.
... Friday Kim really wanted to go shopping during all the sales, but we both decided to sleep in, and try the stores later. I was fortunate enough to get a morning wake up call (at 5 am) by Sarah, my youngest sister out with my family on the traditional mall quest. (; Well, at least I felt like I was a part of it with them... After trying to get back to sleep for another hour or two, I got up and ran downtown for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Yes, we have one here, and No, we are not New York City). It was AWESOME! I had never been to any holiday parade in the city, and I just loved every bit of it. The crowds were so friendly and filled with life, and the people in the parade were passing out everything from dog noses, to stickers to candy. It was so festive. I felt like I was part of the fabric of Portland.
Later on, we did a bit of shopping, then I went home to munch on leftovers and talk to some long distant friends. After squeezing in a 15 minute nap, I bundled up again, headed back down into the city to watch the tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square.
Now, Pioneer Square is one of only 4 downtown squares in America--- so it is nicknamed 'Portland's Living Room'. And rightly so. Everyone was there, and again, such a vibe of commonality and friendship. The Portland orchestra played old Christmas hymns, and our city's choir led the crowds in songs that outlined the birth of Christ. It was so surreal. There I was, standing in the middle of strangers, in a brand new city, singing lyrics like He rules the world with truth and grace... or Fall on your knees, oh hear, the angels' voices, O night divine! O night-- when Christ was born... I looked at the sky and marveled at how my God brings forth praise from those who don't even acknowledge Him. In all that time outside, I believe we sang only 2 'secular' Christmas songs. It was pretty nuts.
Right before the tree was lit, there was a live news cast which occurred right where I was standing (so yes, I was on the 6 o'clock local news channel. Jealous, I know). Then, we sang, the tree was lit up, and everyone was cheering... and blinking. (you see, Cricket Wireless had handed out all these buttons that flashed green, so everyone was basically twinkling around the 75 foot tree).
It was only after I got home, and was watching television, that I saw this news flash pop up on my screen. The FBI just arrested a teenage Somalian in a thwarted terrorist attack on Pioneer Square at the tree lighting tonight. WHAT??!! Yup, it was true. Some kid had been planning for months to blow up a van of explosives while we were all gathered around celebrating the advent of Christmas. The thing of it was, he tried lighting the explosives, and they just wouldn't work. You know why?
It was because I was to be reminded again to fall on my knees. While we were merely singing words, Jesus was again bringing peace on earth. To my life. To my city.
Crowds of us were enjoying life and celebration and we didn't even recognize the reason for it. There should have been chaos, and death, and sorrow-- those were the Enemy's plans-- but instead, we blindly made it home wrapped up in the grace we take for granted every day.
Is it a bit obvious to say that this was truly a weekend to give thanks?