Christmas, 2014 * Shady Acres Farm * 7484 Shawnee Road * Milford * DE * 19963
Merriest Christmas Greetings to YOU and your family,
“For unto you is born this day. . . a SAVIOR, which is CHRIST, the LORD. Glory to GOD in the highest, and on earth PEACE, GOODWILL to men.”
Isn’t it wonderful how our days are so filled with the things of living in ways that we cannot miss the hand of our incredible God? What a year it has been for the family at Shady Acres as well as people we love! The things that have always been important continue to be what matters – faith, family and friends, but in the accessories (to all three) it has been “pedal down, throttle open, bumpy road” all year long. Some of those bumps have been difficult to maneuver, but some have been gloriously, giddily exciting adventures.
We said good-bye to family members this year. In April, Ariel Joy, 16-month old daughter of nephew Jeremy and his wife, Cheryl, succumbed to Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a genetic disorder). Ariel Joy Yoder. Girlie with the smile that lit up a room and eyes that never stopped communicating. She has left a space behind that will always be “Ariel-shaped” but her true legacy is that of Grace, bigger than unanswered prayer, bigger than disappointment and loss, bigger than a little grave in a country cemetery here in Delaware. Our God is GOOD.
Throughout the year, we watched with uneasy concern the ongoing battle that our sister in law, Frieda, was fighting with breast cancer that had metastasized. Though there were many happy days, and even weeks that it looked like Frieda was going to be well, in the early autumn, things deteriorated rapidly and at the end of October, she went quietly into the presence of the Lord Jesus that she loved so much. Frieda Ann Yoder. Beloved wife, dedicated mom and loving Mimi. The grief is still too fresh for me. I rejoice in her victory, and I believe in God’s incredible timing, but it feels like she was so valuable to her family and to God’s Kingdom, that I don’t even pretend to understand.
The latest difficult bump in the road has affected the church family that meets at the white church building known as Laws Mennonite Church. In the early morning hours of December 2, two young men vandalized and burned three churches in rural Kent County, Delaware. One of those churches was ours. The response of the church family was disbelief, shock, and sorrow. The ensuing days have proven the resiliency, resourcefulness and optimistic mindset of this congregation. We’ve been blessed with unity, a sense of family and the will to survive as a flock with The Shepherd. We’ve also been blessed with an outpouring of prayers, love, offers for help, even monetary gifts from the community and the larger church family. It has certainly been a case where something that was meant for evil has been (and will be) used for our good. We believe that God wants to work redemption through this hard, sad and malicious event in our lives, and the attitudes of our brothers and sisters have been encouraging.
* I said that some of the bumps in the road were exciting adventures. Yes!!! There are a few of them, as well. Perhaps the biggest news of the year in our lives as a family has been the addition of three Yutzy grandsons. In September, Raph & Regina adopted Simon, (age 4) Liam, (age 3) and Frankie (age 2). The boys have been a part of our family since February of 2013 and finalizing the legalities was celebration time, indeed. The boys have all had birthdays since then so they are 5, 4, and 3. They have certainly changed life for Raph and Gina and for the rest of us, as well. Raph is working for The Little Cottage Company in sales part time and was also hired by Grace Mennonite Church as Director of High School Ministries (also a part time position). Gina spends most of her time being a mommy, but works one day a week at 61 Surplus, a non-profit industry that gives all of its proceeds to help orphans. The answers to prayer that are embodied in Raph and Regina’s family are exciting and energizing. This is a “God Story” that has so many chapters already. With deep gratitude, we acknowledge that God has been using many, many people to “write” this story, and it is wondrous in our eyes. It is also far from finished.
* Adding the three grandsons has given our only granddaughter, Charis, three new cousins. She has three little boy cousins on the Bontrager side of the family as well. When asked by someone if she had any siblings, she said with great discouragement, “No . . .” She thought a little bit and then said, “Just a whole bunch of boy cousins.” Well, yes, I guess that would about size things up. Boy cousins or not, we would hate to be without the influence of this girlie. She continues to make our lives so interesting, has an undying loyalty and affection for her Grandpa, is overjoyed with sleepovers at ‘Grammy’s house,” and is growing much too fast. Christina & Jesse stay busy with their lives. Jesse celebrated 20 years of employment at Burris Foods (he’s not old enough, is he?) where he serves as a Systems Engineer. Christina is a stay at home mom and babysits two days a week for Kate. Charis is in Kindergarten this year, so the family schedule has changed somewhat in these last few months. Christina recently started a coffee bar for our church on Sunday mornings which has been very well received. She enjoys people so much, and Jesse is supportive of her efforts.
* Deborah continues to work for Delaware Hospice evenings, nights, and weekends. She has spent a good part of this year planning for the trip of a lifetime with her Aunt Lena – a cruise to Antarctica! They set out for this grand adventure in early November and returned almost three weeks later. She had a wonderful time! The pictures are phenomenal, the stories mesmerizing, and her memories rich and impressive. From doing a polar bear plunge into water that was actually below freezing, to sleeping on the ice without a tent, to waddling with penguins, she did everything that she possibly could– partly just to say that she did it! She came home to reality, went right back to work and in the last few weeks, has been an integral liaison between our congregation and the cleanup crew that is working at the church. She has kept the church family informed with pictures and reports and encouraged good feelings on the part of the work crew by conversation, encouragement and even buying them lunch on one of the last days they were planning to be there.
* Lem & Jess are still in Alexandria, VA. Jessica continues to work in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Washington, D.C., with many opportunities to use her brain and her skills in the challenges of her position. She was delighted with an opportunity to travel to Italy for a few days with some girlfriends in late October. It was a great time of exploring, rejuvenation and renewal. You can imagine that Lem was really glad to have her home again. Lem transferred from the doctoral program at Bryn Mawr to the one at the The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He continues to work as a behavioral therapist at Alvord, Baker and Associates, a counseling firm with offices in Silver Spring and Rockville, MD. They still live in the apartment they first rented when they moved to the area, and it has been sufficient for them. They brought some people to Shady Acres for an early Thanksgiving dinner, and we enjoyed learning to know some of their friends. They are involved in a small church that is just finding its way from a very recent beginning. It is exciting to see the way things are working out.
* Rachel graduated from Cedarville University in Ohio with her degree in Social Work in May, and by the end of June, she was in Philadelphia, PA, beginning the same year long Master’s program that Lem graduated from in 2010. She found housing with one of Lem’s classmates and began an internship at Joseph J. Peters Institute as a clinical therapist with sexually abused and traumatized children. Her life has had one of the most bumpy rides of any of us emotionally as she has dealt with the injustices that has been dealt to so many of the people of our society that are marginalized – the children and women of poverty that are so often the victims of humanity that has gone so wrong. She has also dealt with loneliness in the big city with few close friends and grief, being affected by the family deaths, and also illness in the lives of people she loves. Rachel still is unsure of where this next year will lead her, as she weighs job opportunities over the college debt that she has accumulated. Those of you who know Rachel will understand that the “not knowing” is very difficult for this girlie who likes to plan and likes to know what is happening next. Whatever it is that God is doing in her life at this juncture is going to be valuable and will equip her for whatever it is that He is calling her to do. As her parents, we are confident in God’s timing and Rachel’s ability to discern what is best, and for that – we pray!
* And Daniel and I are doing much of the same things we’ve always done. Daniel has stepped down from his role as the head of the leadership team and is taking a six month sabbatical from all church duties except being the Deacon. He certainly is less stressed in this capacity and it is good. He has almost 14 years with the state of Delaware, and continues to plan to be there for a few more years. He raises chickens and keeps this farm in shape. We both can tell that we aren’t as young as we once were. Nettie and Cecilia are still a part of our household, but both of them are showing signs of aging. My Sweet Mama has had a very turbulent year health wise, and we continue to seek the best way to care for her while giving her the independence she wants. What a courageous and resourceful woman she is!
So now you know at least some of what is happening at Shady Acres! We are so blessed!
Blessings to you and yours for the coming New Year.
~ Daniel and Mary Ann Yutzy