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The Christmas Letter 2020

It’s Monday, December 21, 2020. Snow fell in the night and is still coming down in big, floating flakes. The four inches on the ground are already full of the tracks of cars and critters. Francis and her little ones started for home this late morning. I followed her out to the end of Joshua Road in my little Honda Civic to see if my car could get through. She met the first plow as she turned onto the highway, while I turned around and headed back in on the snowy mile toward home.

Leaving the car on the other side of the bridge I walked home through the snow, my skirt dragging heavy with snow. I am hoping to be able to get out to work on Wednesday; so having the car on the other side, will be better. Elv will not be home to plow until Thursday morning. Joshua Road may get plowed by others, but our lane will not.

The snowfall and wind outside are creating a perfectly, picturesque, and Christmas-y setting for our Christmas. Brad will come up Thursday evening. I wish I could say that the whole family will gather in on Christmas day, but with Minnesota’s current mandate to not gather in homes, that lovely wish is not likely to be fulfilled. At any rate, there are gifts to wrap, goodies to bake, and a ham to purchase on Wednesday.

Looking back at 2020. The best word to describe this year is “unprecedented”. I would like to say that this is possibly the most untrue word, as well, if that is any comfort. Pandemics have happened before, even worse pandemics than the one we’re in. Masks with the ensuing drama about them is not new. People troubles are not new. Confusion and sin are not new. Anger, dread, cares, fears, and hatred are not new.

I’d like to use all that negative reality to create a contrast to the truth and light of Jesus coming to earth to save people from their sin. Christmas shines bright this year. Peace on earth and goodwill is intensely appreciated this year especially. We need the Hope of Christmastime.

My word for the year was “shelter”. Reading the journal of January and February shows why this word was important to us. We needed shelter from storm through Jesus, even before Covid-19 hit, at GBC. Reading my journal makes me cringe again. Truly, truly God was our shelter. Many times, in the journal, I wrote about these things and our only quiet and rest being God. I want to burn the journal, but I am not going to do that. It really happened and we have learned, so maybe it will help someone in the future.

In March, Lance’s and we traded houses. They had been living in the small apartment next to the Stone House since September 2019. Kristine was ready to be done with tiny house living. It made sense to us to trade with them because we were in the process of moving by fall to the cabin and much of our household furniture could be moved at any point to there. So, our physical shelter shrank, and we tried to feel cozy.

During the months of June and July we were up at the cabin any chance we had to work on making it ready for us to live there. We put in a new hügelkultur garden mostly because we had the tree trash and dead spruce trees to get rid of and because gardens seem to be a good idea these days. That garden outdid itself in beauty and crops, a complete success. And of course, it provided a lovely welcome each time we came into our clearing all summer. Elv commented lately that he wonders how we did all the things that we accomplished this past summer at the cabin besides the regular work he put in at home in the Hayward area. He was able to work through quarantine since he is a logger working in a cab, alone.

We made it through most of the summer, living in the tiny apartment. Elv had tilled the Stone House garden even bigger. Growing food for an unknown future of a pandemic became part of everyone’s thinking. So, Charlotte, Kristine, and I planted it full. When my small space got to me, I had the garden and a small patio in front to escape to. Besides Kristine walked with me almost every day for my two-miles-a-day goal.

August came and with it a decision to go ahead with our final step to move north to our cabin. Getting all of our stuff minimized to fit one location has been good. Making the adjustment to living far from church hasn’t been nearly as hard as it could have been, but I think it is because Covid-19 has changed so many ways in which we do church.

The best part of living at the cabin at the beginning was having rooms to live in on two different floors and spaces of living separate from kitchen and bedrooms. We don’t need big rooms; we learned that we need to have separate spaces for separate operations of homemaking and living.

The minute we moved to the cabin; we began to have busy weekends of company. Family and friends looked us up to visit or to help us work on the cabin. We enjoyed hiking and exploring in the woods with them. I have a picture in my mind of the grandchildren hiking out ahead, each with their freshly chosen hiking stick, walking single file past the hornet’s nest where Grandpa Elv had gotten stung in the face the day before while mowing the trail. The visits from our family and church family were hugely encouraging because it helped to make our cabin and woods feel like home more quickly. Lewi’s came one weekend and we hiked up the mountain, Russel setting the pace, which was perfect for us while we visited the whole time.  My sister Evie stopped overnight with her son Rus, on their way to her new job out west. Ron and Martha Zacharias came one Sunday afternoon, staying till Monday midmorning, blessing us with old friend’s encouragements. Looking back on the year, I would say that this busy time of company and settling in was amazing grace for us. We are grateful for the memories of good times.

Our good neighbors, the Lattins, look out for us for getting used to the new community and in many practical ways. And for neighboring. So we depend on each other.

Elv and I took our turn with Covid in November. We brought it back with us from Nebraska where I had the privilege of helping Jenny for a week. We never tested but we had to quarantine, sick or not, because we had been exposed. I lost my sense of smell, missing out on the pleasure of a newly opened bag of coffee beans for my proof. We did get a few mild symptoms and it was not hard to rest, day after day, here at the cabin.

We’ve needed shelter from storm in more ways than just our houses this year. We will be glad to close this year in a few days with Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. God is still on His throne. We wait for His return, anticipating more intelligently than ever before.  Even so, Lord Jesus, come.          

With our best blessings to all, The Graber’s

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