*Remembering a Quarter of a Century * Christmas * 2012 *
Shady Acres * 7484 Shawnee Road * Milford, DE * 19963
Dear Family and Friends:
The Farmhouse at Shady Acres is looking a lot like Christmas these days. The Manger scenes are in their nooks and corners and shelves and Daniel’s Christmas Village is one of the best he has ever put together. There have been some Christmas gatherings and lots of activity to keep the old folks at this house moving (sometimes “exhausted” would be more like it!) but nothing can dampen the excitement as this family prepares for a more normal Christmas than we have had for a number of years. Lord willing, the children will all be home for Christmas on Christmas Eve for the first time in a very long time. This makes the Mama at this house very glad!
It was 25 years ago that we wrote our first Christmas letter. Christmas, 1987, I sat down and wrote it in long hand, got my friend and next door neighbor, Esther (Sclipon) Clark, to type it out on her sophisticated typewriter that would make the margins all the same, and we sent it out with a Christmas card to our friends and family. The year after Rachel was born we sent our first picture, and since then, we’ve only missed one year of sending a picture of our tribe. It seems significant that on this 25th anniversary of the letter, the picture is of just Daniel and I, on a happy excursion to Boldt Castle, one of the places we first toured on our honeymoon almost forty years ago. It’s hard for me to not include everyone, but we just don’t have a current one available.
*I looked back tonight to that first letter, and Christina was eleven, had just been baptized, took high honors in the Fine Arts Contest at school, and we were looking forward with some trepidation to the “years ahead.” We’ve been so incredibly blessed to watch her grow into beautiful womanhood, become a wife and a mommy, and we’ve been privileged to enjoy a relationship with her and Jesse and our precious grandchild, Charis, that is rewarding and pleasant and mutually respectful. We are so grateful to God for this little family that brightens many a day with the precocious comments of three-year-old Charis, as well as lightens many burdens by the willing assistance of Jesse and Christina when extra hands are needed around the grounds and house at the old home place. Jesse still works for Burris Logistics in Information Technology, and Christina is a homemaker, babysitting two days a week for the same little Kate-girl that she has had for almost two years.
*Deborah had just turned eight in 1987, and the words “sensitivity” and “perfectionist” and “energy” were used to describe her. We also talked about the fact that she almost always had some sort of project going and that she talked a lot. Fancy that! That is still our girl! She has her fingers in so many things, always has some sort of project going, and still likes to talk. The biggest project for this year was remodeling her room and library, with amazing results. She traveled to the Holy Lands with a tour group in late March and had a wonderful time. She has been employed by Delaware Hospice for over two years and continues to be very busy with this organization. She loves her friends and their children dearly, and almost always has some sort of plans in her head for blessing the young moms as well as their children. She is currently taking horseback riding lessons with the hope of someday riding trail somewhere on a hiking expedition. She teaches the Young Women’s class at church and studies and plans and ponders ways to make the lessons practical and interesting for these gals.
*Raphael was five. He loved the farm where his daddy worked, was most comfortable in jeans and boots and loved music. He had a sensitive spirit and was concerned about relationships. He was quick to apologize and had a loving, gentle heart. My heart caught at the description of Raph as a five year old that is so apt these 25 years later. He and Regina have had an eventful year, and there are many things that are worthy of praise. They bought their first house this year in Sugarcreek, Ohio, and seem to be thoroughly settled. Gina, with the help of her mom, planted a garden, and that was exciting to see. She raised some astounding greenbeans. The summer was hot and dry, and discouraging, but hopefully next year will provide even better results for her labors. She recently became a full time homemaker while Raph continues his job at Troyer Furniture. They are active in the youth ministry at their church, Grace Mennonite, and Raph still plays drums for the worship team. We are eagerly anticipating having them home for about a week over Christmas. We never get to see them enough.
*Lem was 20 months old when I wrote that first letter. He enjoyed books, animals (!) and loved to play with the older children, but was especially fond of his brother. I wrote something about an “easy-going temperament” that was decidedly off base, but other than that and the animal business, things are pretty much the same for our Lemuel. His love of learning has him studying for his PhD in Social Work at Bryn Mawr. He continues to work part time as a counselor in a Mental Health facility in Philadelphia, but looks forward to having better situation in the near future. Jessica graduated with her Masters in May and has done very exceedingly well at her job with the Veterans Administration. They are still living in the same apartment they rented over three years ago in King of Prussia, PA. Their jobs, educational pursuits, friends and church keep them very occupied, and we don’t see enough of them, either. They will also spend some time with us over Christmas. Another reason for joy!
*Rachel was not even mentioned in that long ago letter. We didn’t know there would be a “Rachel” (though we hoped for at least one more child!). She finished out her sophomore year at Cedarville University in Ohio, and then came home for the summer, working two jobs and taking college courses at the same time. She worked at her old job as a gardener for Joe Warnell on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then, on Tuesday and Thursday, she babysat for Carson, Nevin and Kate. The summer went like a fast moving train, as we prepared for yet another departure. She is, even now, on her way home from Uganda, AFRICA, by way of Paris. She did a semester abroad for her junior year internship, and served with Compassion, International as a social worker, while racking up a whole lot of cultural exposure and study. Daniel and I go to La Guardia to pick her up on Dec. 15th, and it will be good to have her safely home again. But what is “safe” if it isn’t to do what we feel God has called us to do? For Rachel, that is going when and where she is called. For me, it means to be quietly trustful at home when I am so tempted to worry about – well everything, actually. Malaria, revolution, parasites, food poisoning, Ebola virus outbreak, violence and even about what impact the atrocities of that region would have upon the heart of our youngest offspring. I had plenty of lessons, and we are never too old for lessons in the school of trust.
*Never too old. Well, there are some things that make me feel pretty old. (Like writing a Christmas letter for 25 years when you didn’t even start until you had been married over 14 years.) Daniel and I both will celebrate our 60th birthday next year if we live and the LORD tarries. Twenty-five years ago, Daniel was still working full time on Jerrel Heatwole’s dairy farm, but thinking seriously of starting his own plumbing business. We certainly had no idea of where that endeavor would lead us, but the journey has been exciting. Daniel continues with his job at the state as a plumbing inspector, and the chicken houses, farm and garden tasks and church/deacon responsibilities take up a good bit of his time as well. He is scheduled for a knee replacement in May. It certainly is time! He has endured enough pain and inconvenience. We hope for a cancellation that will get him in earlier but this will happen in God’s timing. Last year, I said that his favorite “job” was being a grandpa, and that’s still true. Just this week, Charis “helped” her Grandpa set up chicken house on a cold, dark evening, and loved every minute because she was with her beloved Grandpa.
*And that leaves me. 25 years ago, we were caring for two handicapped ladies. We still are. Cecilia has been here 13 years, Nettie for six. And my 1986 paragraph? “The gift of health and strength and optimism is not a thing to take for granted. I’m daily grateful for the way HE not only enables, but causes me to enjoy the constant rounds of washing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and nurturing. I’m never quite all done, but have a real sense of purpose and intent that keeps it all from being mundane.” I’m not doing much sewing these days, but the rest is still pretty much the same. Twenty-five years later, this life that I share with the people I love best is anything but mundane, and for that, I give Grateful Praise.
Make it a memorable Christmas!
As always, Daniel and Mary Ann Yutzy