You might still be getting this . . .

Christmas, 2011

Shady Acres * 7484 Shawnee Road * Milford, DE * 19963


Warmest Wishes to our Loved Ones who are scattered all over this big old world:
     Our family Christmas is over, and the house is sounding rather empty. The washing machine is chugging away, and the house is returning to some resemblance of order, thanks to the welcome and efficient ministrations of Middle and Youngest Daughters. Certain Man has been busily addressing envelopes. I’ve been pondering this letter and the contents thereof —
     It has been an eventful year at Shady Acres. In the terms of “good” and “bad” it would be easy for me to term this year as one of the “bad” ones, to be sure. But something about this season always makes me long to put meaning to the events of the year, and once again, there have been blessings “exceedingly abundant” that have been showered down upon us, and it is a good time to focus on the good things. Thankfully, we feel that one of those good blessings is our family.
     Daniel is still working for the state of Delaware as a plumbing inspector. He has significant pain in his one knee, but continues to resist replacement. He rarely spends an entire night in bed because of the pain, and hopefully, one of these days he will decide that “enough is enough!“ and get on with it. Daniel is a man of so many talents and dreams, and he constantly has something interesting going on. Clocks, woodworking, gardening, landscaping, Christmas Village, etc., make for a busy man. He still serves on the Leadership Team at our church, but eagerly anticipates the time when he can turn those responsibilities over to a younger man. He would enjoy continuing on as Deacon but time will tell what is best. It is safe to say that being Grandpa to a little girlie is his most favorite job of all.
     Christina and Jesse are immensely enjoying parenting that little girlie. What a gift this child has been to all of us, but especially her Daddy and Mommy. Charis will be three in April, and it is difficult to imagine our lives without her. She has quite a vocabulary, and often amuses us with her comments, singing and antics. Christina doesn’t work outside the home, but babysits for Weston and Stephanie Yutzy’s little girl, Kate, two days a week. Jesse still works for Burris Foods as a Unix administrator. He and Christina have been worshipping at Cannon Mennonite Church for the past several months, and though this has been a difficult thing for us, we are committed to blessing our adult children in their spiritual journeys.
     Deborah was offered a full time position with Delaware Hospice in April and decided to leave the Intensive Care Unit at BayHealth. She is a GOOD Hospice nurse, and is well suited for this job. She has traveled again this year; to Thailand to visit Rachel and also took a trip with her Aunt Lena, this time to the Baltic Sea area with a cruise! The two of them had a wonderful time, and Deborah looks forward to traveling some more with her Auntie. When Deborah isn’t working or traveling, she has been renovating the rooms upstairs that she calls her “apartment” with impressive results. The middle room that has always been a bit difficult to know how to manage, has become a homey and attractive library, with a door that goes out to a sweet little balcony that overlooks our driveway and nestles under the shadows of the stately Magnolia tree. Deborah has her Daddy’s eye for design and the two of them amaze me! She is planning to start on what had been the boys’ bedroom (currently HER bedroom) right after Christmas. That will be quite an undertaking, to say the least.

      Raph and Gina are still living in Millersburg, OH. Raph works at Troyer Furniture in Sugar Creek, in both sales and delivery. Gina works for Dutch Quality Stone in Mt. Eaton as a receptionist. They were home to DE for Thanksgiving and again last weekend for Early Yutzy Christmas, so we saw them twice in a little over three weeks, which was nice! Raph, outgoing and friendly as ever, has made Regina’s home community his own, and we are glad. The two of them are involved in their church youth ministry, and Raph serves on the worship team, playing drums for both morning services. Their little apartment has grown increasingly unsatisfactory for them and they are in the market for a house of their own. Raph’s Dad had his name in our family gift exchange and through a series of small miracles, was able to give him one of his most asked for items – a ukulele. He immediately set out to master that little instrument. I’m impressed at how much he’s learned already.

      Lem and Jess are at the King of Prussia, PA, address, where they’ve been for almost three years. Jessica works for the Veterans Administration in Philly, and Lem works as an outpatient therapist as well as a school therapist for a mental Health organization. He is working at building a private practice and hoping to start on his doctorate. Jessica is almost done with her masters, with plans to graduate in May. We get to see them fairly regularly, for which we are grateful. Both of them are involved in their church, and enjoy meaningful relationships with other young couples. In early November, the people who make up their house fellowship came to Shady Acres for lunch and an afternoon of games and country air. In the evening, they roasted hotdogs and drank great quantities of hot beverages and made s’mores and went on a hay ride and nearly froze themselves, but WE had a great time, and they profess to have enjoyed themselves, too. We hope to make it a yearly adventure.

      Rachel. It’s hard to know where to start, and I’m sure I won’t know where to stop. She began the year in Thailand under the REACH program of Rosedale Mennonite Missions. The experiences there were exhilarating and heartbreaking. We watched and prayed and this Mama often shed tears – but Rachel did just fine. The months seemed to drag on and on, but FINALLY! August rolled around, and she and her teamies came home to the U.S.A. Ten days later, after her debriefing. Daniel and I went to Ohio to fetch her home. I just couldn’t get enough of looking at her face! What incredible joy to have her home again. All the kids came home and we spent some sweet time together – but it was again, all too short. Five days later, she headed out for Cedarville University in Ohio to begin her sophomore year of college. She is doing well in their social work program, and is more certain all the time of her calling in life. She is home now for Christmas break, and is following a number of social workers this week at the Delaware’s Department of Disabilities as part of her in-service requirements, and that is as interesting for me as it is for her. It makes my heart swell when she comes home with stories of meeting people that I’ve worked with for the last 25+ years. I look at this Youngest Daughter who has never known our home without the presence of the handicapped and disadvantaged and realize how this has equipped her for what God has called her to do. I am even more humbled by the realization that this enabling is because she has chosen to respond with love to those who are less fortunate.

      Speaking of the Department of Disabilities, we still have two ladies living with us. Cecilia has been here for almost 12 years, and Nettie for about five and a half. Both of them are integral parts of our household, and are a blessing to us as a family. Cecilia is pretty much a permanent fixture to the alcove beside the kitchen where she can hear what is going on in the household. When someone doesn’t stir for a given amount of time, we are likely to hear a loud “Har-rumph!!!” which means that Cecilia just needs to be reassured that someone is around. Nettie has had a less than satisfactory year with her paranoia, and some days it seems as if we are dealing with some dementia along with her mental illness, but God has been good to her and us, and some medication changes as well as just lending a listening ear has seemed to help. She turns 65 this year, and thankfully, that makes her eligible for a few more integral services.

      My Sweet Mama has had a tough, rough year. She has not been well with one thing or another a good bit of the time. We have been careful to stay in touch with her doctors, and have tried numerous remedies and medications, and she has been slowly improving. I look at her familiar face some days and feel a sense of alarm at her color and even the pain that I see written there. She is such a good Mama, and we keep hoping that she will get better and have some good days yet. Arthritis in her ankles and feet make it hard for her get around a great deal of the time, but she’s a trooper, and she keeps plugging along. And she will always miss her soul companion and the love of her life. Six years. It does seem like a long time.

      And that covers pretty much everyone but me, I guess. Honestly, I hardly know what to say about this year. I am so grateful that my “new” knees continue to function even when I subject them to seemingly unreasonable demands. Also, it has been a rewarding year with the Thursday Morning Bible Study Gals. I thoroughly enjoy these young mothers and their children. My hands and heart have often been very occupied with three kids that seemed to just drop into our lives from nowhere. Mya, L.J. and Muffie lived in the house just down the road from us, and started coming to Sunday School early in the year. Though they have moved twice in the last six months, they still often come for supper on Thursday evenings and stay to play. Beautiful, beautiful children that, though I love them intensely and with intent, I often find myself wondering if anything we do will really make a difference for eternity and Jesus’ sake. I don’t intend to quit trying, but I do continue to pray constantly for wisdom – and courage—and PATIENCE (and I need it right now!). Daniel and Deborah are both naturals with children, and I rely heavily on their support and help when the going gets tough with our “three musketeers.”

      In October, it felt like the losses would overwhelm me. We lost a beloved uncle, Vernon Zehr, after a brave and lengthy battle with Hepatitis. The day after his funeral, my Daddy’s twin brother’s oldest son, Merlin Yoder, was involved in a farming accident, and died of his injuries. Merlin’s death shadowed many of my days with questions and sadness that I just couldn’t shake. In the middle of that struggle, a suspicious area showed up on a mammogram, causing me some anxiety. (It needs to be watched but is deemed okay for now). It was in this time when I was trying to make sense of all of these things (and lots more!) that God reminded me that it is important for us to live with faith and purpose especially when things don’t make sense to us. This simple message has given me, not only HOPE, but direction and courage. These honest emotions are not ones to bury and pretend they don’t exist, but we don’t have to deal with our sadness alone, and even when things don’t make sense, we can still TRUST this Heavenly Father who promised to never leave us, never forsake us.

      There are many stories from this past year that have directly affected my life that are not mine to tell. Our family has faced and continues to face challenges that are difficult and carry much potential for both good and ill. I hope that our Christmas letters will never paint a picture of perfection or of easy living. This is life, and if there is a place called “Easy Street” we certainly haven’t found it. That being said, we are children of The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We’ve been given so much and we ought to live in joyful thanksgiving. Any sacrifice we make, any sadness we may endure, any losses we encounter, all pale in comparison to what God did for us through His Son, Jesus.   May you and yours know and love Him, too.

Blessings to your family. May this season be one of Hope!
Daniel, Mary Ann and Family


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5 responses to “You might still be getting this . . .

  1. Merry Christmas! I ran short this year but our annual pictures may have to be New Year cards. 😉

  2. You are such a good writer and I enjoyed reading  your rendition of the past year of your family’s life. We were blessed with being able to adopt our little sonny boy, whom we’ve had over 5 yrs. in foster care, on Dec. 6th. We are so glad to be on this side of things, finally. Have a Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!!

  3. …..And wishing you and your wonderful family a wonderful New Year…….

  4. Thanks for the Christmas letter! It was interesting to see what is going on in your life and the lives of your family.

  5. Enjoyed your letter and the picture!!!!  Blessings to you and yours!!

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