Some of you have received this by mail.
For those of you who didn’t —
This is our annual Christmas Photo Card and letter.
Shady Acres** Christmas, 2009
♫ Joy to the World, The LORD is Come! ♫
Dear family and friends,
I am sitting here on my recliner, and the activity in my family room swirls around me in happy circles. My sisters are here, working on pages for our extended family calendar. There have been many memory making minutes today as we have looked at pictures, talked to extended family to procure what we need, and tried to shuffle the many pictures into some resemblance of order. It is astonishing to realize the size that a family can become as the years pass. The Mark Yoder clan currently numbers 75 (and hopes to add five more in 2010!).
Our own little family increased by one this year. And it is pretty much the story that will define the 2009 chapter in our family history book. We’ve waited and prayed and waited and prayed for a grandchild (pretty much ever since there was the prospect!). But as the years passed, and we saw the heartbreak of our daughter and her husband, there were times when we wondered what God was up to, and if the prayers of my precious Daddy, now in Heaven, would ever be answered concerning a child for them.
God has his own timing, and this was the year for that prayer to be answered in a fullness and joy that we never dreamed possible. In February, Jesse and Chris were notified that a birth mother had chosen them and that they were to be the parents of a baby, sex unknown, to be born later that month. The story would take a book to fill, but time after time, Jesse and Chris (and their families, as well) had to return to the place of just trusting God to work out what seemed like an impossible situation. Our joy was complete when Charis Nicole was born, healthy, strong and happy on April 24, 2009. Yes, the due date was that far off, but she finally arrived! Ever since they brought her home from the hospital at less than 48 hours old, she has been lighting up our lives. She is one of the happiest babies we have ever known, and she has a smile that will melt the gruffest heart. Well worth waiting for on every count, she meanders in and out of our lives with joyful abandonment. She started crawling at six and a half months and at eight months continues to surprise and worry us with what she can accomplish when she sets her mind to it.
Christina is a stay at home mama, and Jesse still works at Burris Foods as administrator of their particular computer programming. Having a baby has changed them in such good ways. There is a softness that is beautiful, indeed, and we thank God for answered prayer. Both Jesse and Chris are active in various roles at Laws Mennonite Church, and we are so glad for their contributions there.
Deborah is as busy as ever. She is working “per diem” at the local hospital’s ICU, and teaches Sunday School. The children there dearly love “Beeba” and it has been a blessing to her. Currently, she is planning a trip with Wycliffe to Chad, Africa to help with their Kid Zone program. If plans carry, she will be leaving in late January. She will be working with the “small toddler” group, and is very excited about going. On a similar note, she had promised Rachel back when Rachel entered High School that she would take her on a trip to Europe the summer after Rachel graduated from High School. This was the year for that, and Deborah did an incredible job planning, reserving, and giving leadership to the trip of a lifetime for her little sister. They took along a cousin, Holly Yoder, and they had a splendid time, visiting over twenty countries. Deborah has also been the one holding down the fort here at home in the last three weeks since my knee replacement. It has been wonderful to have my own personal RN!
Raph and Gina live about five miles away from us, and we get to see a lot of them. It has been an eventful year for them, with both of them having job changes. This resulted in some scary times when it seemed like the future was uncertain, but God provided for their needs, and both have jobs at this point. They are more than busy with outside activities: Gina helps to coach the volleyball team at our local Christian school, Raph plays on the worship team and is also involved with playing softball on the church team. Together they work as assistant youth sponsors at Cannon Mennonite Church. Gina works for a Bridal consultant and Raph is a carpenter with Warfel Construction. We think they have done a splendid job of facing the many unexpected challenges of this year.
Lem and Jessica live in an apartment in King of Prussia, PA, where Lem is finishing his Master’s Degree at Bryn Mawr. (He graduated in May from Cedarville University with is BS in Social Work.) Jessica has a good job at the Veterans’ Administration in Philadelphia. They are involved in a local church there that is active in meeting the needs of the community (something they are both passionate about) and have plans to put their membership there. Lem is exploring counseling jobs for when he graduates in the spring, and then Jess hopes to go back to school for her Masters. We actually get to see them quite a bit, and it is a wonderful weekend when they come “home” to see Jessica’s parents and us. Lem and Jessica have also shown courage and maturity in facing the many decisions facing them this year, and they are excited about getting graduate school behind them and getting on with life.
Rachel has had the most eventful year of any of us, I suppose. She got her bedroom remodeled, graduated from High School, went to Europe for nine weeks, (lived to tell the tale) and then went off to college. We feel like we have hardly seen enough of her since that June day when she, Deborah and Holly took off for Europe, but it has been exciting to hear the adventures. I’ve done my share of enjoying beauty, being scared to death, reveling in the joy, and weeping in the heartache. Adjusting to college has not been an easy thing for her, but she has made some steadfast friends, and she finished the semester with grades that will transfer (her biggest concern) and is even now, on her way home for Christmas break. She plans to return to Rosedale Bible College after the New Year and is considering her “life plan” for the fall of 2010.
As mentioned earlier, I had my left knee replaced three weeks ago. I started having problems early in the year, they did an arthroscopy that wasn’t helpful at all, and finally replaced it on Nov. 30th. Things have gone far better than I expected, but that doesn’t mean it has been easy. I am now three weeks post op, and am able to walk without cane or walker, but I do still have pretty serious pain at times. Rehab is going well, and that pleases me quite muchly. I actually have the second knee scheduled for replacement on March 11, but am just a little uncertain as to what I am going to do. My right knee is structurally in far worse condition than the left, but it isn’t as painful as the left. Go figure. I don’t know why, but once again, I’m surely grateful that it isn’t!
Daniel’s year has been an extremely challenging one on almost every hand. First, his wife has hardly been herself the entire year, and then he dealt with various things of the offspringin’s, (job losses, finding apartments, worrying about the world travelers) and (most of all) his parents’ declining health and the living situation that was no longer safe for either of them. He and his siblings worked very hard at finding solutions that would be satisfactory to Ralph and Sue (as well as their children). Many, many prayers, lots of trips to Ohio, and never ending phone calls resulted in there finally being an opening in a nursing home in Columbus where they could both go. The family got together for a week in November and got the house all cleaned out and ready for finalizing the sale. Sue’s niece, Jamie Beachy bought the house and that greatly simplified things. Daniel continues to juggle his many jobs – poultry farmer, state plumbing inspector, deacon at Laws Mennonite church, husband, daddy, and (since April 24) GRANDPA. It’s quite obvious that he enjoys this newest role immensely. In September we added a sun room to the side of our house, and his Christmas Village is set up there and is one of the best ever. He has been a great encouragement to me through this year that has seemed never ending.
We’ve been so blessed this year, (our grandbaby being such an incredible blessing) but it has been one of heartache and trial, too. My initial knee injury was in January, so we’ve been dealing with that all year. In March, my Daddy’s oldest sister, Ruth Bontrager, passed away after being in poor health for a long time. My Daddy’s twin brother, Luke Yoder, succumbed to Lou Gehrig’s disease in April. In May, my brother, Nelson, fell from the roof of a two story house and broke his neck and his back in several places. In July, Dawn Yoder, (wife of my cousin, Jon Yoder) was struck by lightning and died of her injuries. There have been so many places for us to see God’s hand in our lives as the happenings of this year have been so evident of the fragility of life as we know it.
We give praise that Nelson is recovering so well. He is actually back at work and has no significant handicaps from his ordeal. And I have a new knee to replace the injured one and that makes me happy. As for the other losses, there is no “fix” for this –except for a faith that will not let go, and the promise of Heaven, where we shall, through the Gift God gave us that long ago night in Bethlehem, be with our loved ones again, never to part. What a glorious reunion that will be!!!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Daniel, Mary Ann & Family