Shady Acres Farm *7484 Shawnee Road* Milford, DE*19963
Dear Family and Friends,
The year is fast winding down, and it is time to get this letter out once again. What can we say about a year like 2015? It’s hard to condense it down into a single Christmas letter, to catch the events, the various things that have influenced us and changed us, the losses, the gains, and the flavor of this season of our lives. Whew! But here goes.
Last year ended, and our new year began with our church family coming together in a reassuring way, showing unity and courage and foresight as we put together a plan for rebuilding our church house after the arson of December, 2014. As a congregation, we worked through issues of forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as feelings of loss and violation. We haven’t been perfect in this year of rebuilding, but God has been faithful to us, proving over and over again that “He meant it for our good!” This has made the most difficult days and the hardest times, hopeful. On December 6th, four days after the first anniversary of the fire, we held our first service in our beautiful new sanctuary. We plan for a public open house after the first of the year, but these first weeks, our church family is savoring this gift that has been given to us through what has proven to be a severe mercy. Our small church family has been through a lot of changes in the past year. We had three weddings, a birth, two funerals, and installed two young men (Caleb Bontrager and Tyler Schrock) on the Leadership Team. All while using a facility shared with us by Grace Community Church in Greenwood. We are so grateful for their generosity and willingness to allow us such free access, but it is really nice to be back into our own space again.
Funerals. As many of you know, there was one that affected our family directly. My Sweet Mama, whose health had been in severe decline for the last year and a half, fell in May, broke her femur, had surgery, developed pneumonia, had a heart attack, and just didn’t seem to improve much over the 12 days she spent in the hospital. On June 2nd, we brought her home to a big sunny room at Country Rest Home where we could spend time with her and have help with her many physical needs. There were good days and bad days, as there always are in times like this, but on June 16th, she went home to Heaven while we stood around her bed, held her hands and reminded her of what a wonderful Mama she had been to us. This entire letter could be about how that has impacted us – my siblings and their families, our family and me personally, but it’s been another odyssey of both splendor and sorrow. It’s been one that has made me quiet and more introspective than is comfortable. I keep reminding myself that I won’t always be this sad, and it won’t always feel this empty. But I do know that I will always miss her, even while I’m hopeful for the future.
And then, there are some wonderful things to report on the family front. Our youngest daughter, Rachel, graduated from Bryn Mawr College with her Master’s degree in Social Work in May. A series of events made it possible for her to be home through her Grandma’s illness and death, giving her time to be with Grandma, and to lend a hand to the home front when I needed to be gone. The rest of the summer she was home, checking out jobs, mowing lawn for her Daddy, babysitting some, applying for jobs, visiting friends, going to weddings, being interviewed for jobs, making two trips to the west coast this fall, and (finally!) taking a job. Earlier this month, she accepted a position with Catholic Charities in Washington, DC, as a social worker/ clinical case manager. She is working in their homelessness and housing department with children and families. She is living with three other girls in a row home, and seems to be settling into both the job and the living situation with alacrity.
Lem and Jess are in the same apartment in Alexandria, VA, but are actively pursuing home ownership for the near future. Lem just finished course work for his PhD in Social Work at Catholic University and is carrying a full load as a psychotherapist at Alvord, Baker and Associates, while he works on preparing for comprehensive exams in February and March. Jessica changed jobs this year, and is now working as a Research Analyst for the US Government Accountability Office. She is enjoying this job immensely; from the people with whom she works, to the impact that the GAO has on improving life for average Americans. They continue to be involved at The Table, the church where they have found good friends and common ground. The last few months have been very intense for them with Lem’s schedule, but one of the things that we’ve admired about these two is that they can endure hardship when they have a plan and a dream, and they have proved it to us again this last semester. Having them in the same area as Rachel has been a great comfort to these “elderly parents.”
Raph and Gina, with their three boys, Simon, Liam, and Frankie, have had an eventful year. They are finishing this year with really good news on the job front for Raph. As of January 1st, Raph will be a full-time employee of Grace Mennonite Church (a realization of a life dream). His official title is Director of Students. He will be overseeing the junior high, high school, and young adults of the congregation with a focus on high school and young adults. Gina, a wonderful mom, is also a supportive wife and best friend to Raph. It’s been wonderful to watch how God has knit this family together in ways that seemed only remotely possible when the boys first came, nearly three years ago. They are doing well, and even though there have been significant bumps in the road this year for this family on several fronts, there is hope and joy and so much love and laughter. One of our favorite things to do is to spend a weekend in Holmes County with the “Ohio Yutzys” and soak up the comfort and activity of life in their home.
Deborah’s year has been different than any other since 2007 in that she hasn’t been out of the country this year. She enjoyed a trek to Mississippi and Louisiana with her friend, Liz Washburn Strite. They visited Deborah’s friends, Joel and Althea Bontrager and their family in MS, and a friend of Liz’s in New Orleans. Visiting New Orleans fulfilled one of Deborah’s bucket list dreams (as did holding a real live tarantula while there). She worked long hours for Delaware Hospice (now in her sixth year there) and has been very involved in the renovation of our church house. She is taking a break from teaching the young women’s class at church this year, but remains involved in the lives and families of her friends. In April, she discovered that there were some serious complications with her liver, and was advised to engage in focused diet and exercise. She complied, even while more testing was being done, and the results have been favorable, health wise, and also flattering to her physique. However, when the tests were all in, it was discovered that she is dealing with a genetic disorder called Alpha-1, which is best managed by doing exactly what she is doing: Watching her weight, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking. (H-m-m-m-m-m. The last two aren’t as big a challenge as the first two for a lot of us!) The good news is that the last lab results show that everything is back within normal limits and we are all relieved. She still has her living quarters on the left side of the upstairs landing in the old farmhouse at Shady Acres, and having her here has been a decided plus for both her daddy and me.
Christina and Jesse, along with Charis, are still on Bontrager Road, about 1½ miles away. Charis is in first grade this year at Mispillion Elementary here in Milford, and does well. She is learning to read and writes the most wonderful notes to the people she loves. (Dere Gemme you arE the Best Gremall ever. Love Charis.) (And if you can’t read that, there’s something wrong with you!) Christina, still a homemaker, is involved with school projects, transporting Charis to and from school, and is the motivating force behind several projects within our family as well as helping out at church. Jesse, still our beloved son in law, is a valuable asset to Daniel and me on so many fronts. He lends a helping hand when Daniel needs a strong arm for any of a number of projects. He is my go-to tech when I need something in the world of computers and printers and the problems that come up there. He is a systems engineer at Burris Logistics and his intelligence, aptitude for solving difficult problems, and loyalty have paid off in recognition and advancement. He is a good provider for his family and is a creative and involved Daddy to Charis.
Daniel and I are still involved in life in ways that keep us interested and motivated and engaged. Daniel continues in his job as Plumbing Inspector for the State of Delaware, raising chickens, gardening, taking care of our farm, and serving on the leadership team at our church as deacon. I am still caring for handicapped adults and leading a Thursday morning Bible study that has been meeting at our house for probably 20 years. I’ve taught “The Littles” at our church part time over this last year, and that is probably one of my favorite things to do. Children are so honest, interesting and beautiful. I’ve not been writing or blogging as much since Mama’s death, but discovered recently that the therapeutic value for me personally is worth the time and emotional investment that it takes. I’ve been blessed with a husband and family who are supportive, and I’m looking forward to being a bit more consistent with postings at https://maryannyutzy.wordpress.com/. (So if you want to catch up on what is happening in our lives before next year’s Christmas letter, you can check up on us over there).
We are enjoying the Christmas season here in our house on Shawnee Road. We’ve already had some of our yearly gatherings, and Daniel has his huge Christmas Village set up. (Come and see it! It will be up until late January.) The Nativity scenes are scattered through the house, too, and the family comes for early Christmas this weekend (the 19th). We are always delighted for a reason to have our family together under one roof.
But the Christmas Village, the nativities, and even the offspringin’s and their families gathering in are only reminders that this special season points the way to Easter, the Cross and the Empty Tomb. The Baby came to bring us hope. In this year, when it has seemed that everything has been so different from what I may have chosen, the one thing that has kept me steady has been the hope of the resurrection, the promises that Jesus made to us that He will never leave us, never forsake us. For this and for all the blessings that this year has held, my heart gives humble, grateful praise.
Have a wonderful Christmas season and a blessed New Year!
Daniel and Mary Ann Yutzy