Dear Friends and Family,
A Merry Christmas to all of you! This season is a great time to remember all the people who have been a part of our lives in years past, and we enjoy hearing from you. (Well, we’d like to hear from all of you, but we are very grateful for the ones who have taken time to remember us.) The pictures are great, and the wall is filling up with Christmas cards. We leave the pictures up for a number of months after we have taken down the cards, and it is one of the things that people will stop and look at and ask about. One of the questions that we often get asked is, “How in the world do you know —?” Let me tell you, it really is a small, small world!
I’ve wracked my brain for weeks over this Christmas letter. There seems to be a lot in our world today about which to be discouraged. There are differences of opinions on many popular subjects, there are wars and disasters and oppression and haters and people who just give up. I remember President Kennedy making the observation in a speech that he gave around the time of the Bay of Pigs incident that has impacted me ever since. (Yes, I’m old enough to have been living during his term of office!) But what he said was, “We are living in perilous times . . .” If ever there was a statement that defines where we are now, it’s that one. (And I do think about it often.)
However, there has been a most persistent reminder coming over and over again to my heart in these days of uncertainty and that is that we are to be people of HOPE. We are to remind the world of God’s goodness, His justice and His mercy. We are to live and love the people that God has put into our lives with an eye on the Eternal, and hands that are occupied and invested in the present.
And so, with that in mind, I come to this Christmas Letter with a sense of the need to recount God’s Faithfulness in Daniel’s and my lives as well as in the life of our adult offspringin’s and our grandchildren. There has been much for which to be grateful.
Daniel and I are both 63! Daniel had toyed with the idea of retiring this year, but has opted to remain with the State of Delaware for now. (If nothing changes, he plans to retire at 65.) In addition to his “day job,” he is still raising chickens, raising a few beef cattle, doing some woodworking in his shop, gardening, and serving as deacon at our church. Here at home, he tore down an old shop and made a place for his sister, Lena’s motor home to park. (Lena was officially here from early August until after Thanksgiving, and that was a happy time for us. She is now in Florida for the winter, and will be heading west in the spring.) He is continually making improvements to his farm, looking for ways to make things better. He loves the land, and he has a great sense of design. I’ve often said that he has the eye of an artist, and he puts it to great use in the yard and buildings of the farm we call Shady Acres. He loves helping our adult children with work projects, and enjoys the grandchildren and other little ones who are in and out of our home. His Christmas village is up again this year, and it is pretty stellar! Come on by and see it!
Jesse and Christina still live close by. They have had a full and interesting year. Jesse is still at Burris Foods. There have been many stressful days there, and his job is anything but easy. He’s been blessed with health and has proven over and over again that he will do what needs to be done, even at great sacrifice to himself and what he may want to do. He is a kind and involved husband and father. He is still my “go to” guy when I need help with something involving computers, and he helped to get my new computer up and going, as well as getting our Christmas addresses onto labels for me. Christina is a stay at home mom to Charis, volunteers for many things at Charis’ school, and still manages the coffee bar on Sunday mornings at church. She is a loyal and loving wife, mother, daughter and friend. She has a heart for the marginalized, and she cares deeply about people. Unfortunately, this tender heart has not been extended to the puppy, Maisy, that became a part of the family on Charis’ seventh birthday. While a delightful friend for Charis, Christina has had the brunt of putting up with the antics of a young puppy (. . .digging up the flowers, tearing the neighbors sheets to shreds, dragging trash into the front yard, whining to come in, whining to go out, and the smell!) and though she has adapted and been gracious (for the most part) it has been a sore trial to her patience. Charis dearly loves this Rottweiler-Dachshund mix (I know!) and has spent many happy hours with her pet. She also enjoys school, is reading very well for being only a second grader, and is a great companion for her Grammy on Thursday nights. She is involved in piano lessons, and will sometimes spend time at her other grandmother, Achi’s, book store. She loves to follow Daniel around the farm, digging in the dirt, looking for kittens in the hay, harvesting cucumbers from her own cucumber vine in Grandpa’s garden and having sleepovers whenever she can talk the adults in her life into agreeing.
Deborah made up for last year by being out of the country two times this year. She went to Prince Edward Island with her friend, Kanina Miller, on a trip that she describes as a “Bucket List” trip. She had a wonderful time, was gone about eight days, and made some great memories. In September, she went to Great Britain and the Island of Guernsey with another friend, Liz Washburn Strite, and even though she has been to England several times before, this was a trip that she enjoyed immensely- partly because of the company, but also because she saw places that she had previously missed. She proudly says that they “did Land’s End to John O’ Groats” which is the equivalent of “sea to shining sea” here in America. On the home front, she swam with friends and their children, made cookies and cupcakes for the Bible study that meets at our house on Thursday mornings, as well as taking an endless supply of baked goods to other friends. She’s teaching Sunday school again this year, and enjoys her class of the younger women very much. She just celebrated her six-year anniversary as a hospice nurse for Delaware Hospice, and even though I may be biased since I’m her mother, I’m often grateful for the natural talents she has been given that make her an excellent nurse in this capacity. She is efficient, compassionate . . . and often TIRED! She is planning a big trip next year with her Aunt Lena – either an African Safari or to New Zealand, but those details still need to be worked out. She is still occupying “her apartment” on the left side of the landing upstairs. We are glad to have her living at home, but she’s been thinking seriously about more permanent housing.
Raph and Regina have had a very eventful year. They were approved for another foster child and in May had placement of a wee girlie that we came to know as “Baby K.” Raph and Gina and the boys had her for around 11 weeks, loving her and believing that God was going to do what was best for her. She went home to a family that loves her, and Raph and Gina have been privileged to have ongoing contact with her. Shortly after she left, they were contacted about a house that they had wanted to buy five years ago. Did they still want it? Absolutely! The next weeks were such that made us all catch our breaths in amazement. Baby K went home around the first of August, and by the end of October, Raph and Gina had sold their house, bought the new one, moved, had a birthday bash for the three boys, Raph was ordained to the ministry at Grace Mennonite Church where he has been employed full time since the first of the year, and they got a call for another newborn baby girl. Whew! I still find it all hard to believe! Mia Faith has been with them for almost two months now, and she is equally as loved as Baby K. Her future is uncertain at this point, but God has given grace to this family to walk with trust and courage and an open hand. As their family, we certainly have been offering some fervent prayers for this little one, but it’s not our decision and God will give grace for whatever He asks of Raph and Gina and the boys. The boys! Simon, Liam, and Frankie are growing, doing so well, and are three distinct personalities. It’s hard to imagine our lives without them, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to be Grandpa and Grammy to these three live wires!
Lem and Jessica are now living in Washington DC. This past summer, they purchased one floor of a condominium in the city. They have worked hard to give it the feel of “home” and to make it a reflection of who they are. It has seemed “right” for them to put down these kinds of roots, and we’ve enjoyed visiting with them in their new home. Most recently, Daniel helped Lem install a set of shelves in the living area, and the result has been esthetically pleasing as well as serviceable. In late March, Lem and Jessica took a trip to Europe that they had planned for long time. By the time Lem had finished his course work for his Ph.D. and taken his examinations, while both had carried full time work loads, it was time for the two of them to have some time away. They made some wonderful memories, took some marvelous pictures and came home still friends! They are employed by the same enterprises as they were last year; Lem at Alvord, Baker and Associates as a psychotherapist and Jessica at the US Government Accountability Office as a Research Analyst. They have been associated with the Table Church since they moved to the Washington area in 2013, and have made good friends there. We were honored to have some of their friends join us for an early Thanksgiving dinner in early November, and it is always so nice to meet and develop relationships with the people who are friends with our adult children.
Rachel spent the year at her job in Washington, DC at Catholic Charities. It was an important milestone when she crossed the one year mark in early December. This is a job that causes young social workers to rather quickly burn out and they tend to move on. Though Rachel does get really weary of the dynamics of poverty, government and human nature, I’m happy to report that not only has she stuck to it, but has been a very profitable servant to this organization. We are so glad that she has been faithful when it would have been much easier to quit. She took a road trip this summer with her friend, Lynae Byler that satisfied her thirst for adventure to some extent, and she has developed some close friends through the Table Church that help to fill in the spaces in her life. The more she establishes her independence, the less we see of her, but it’s gratifying to know that she has friends and is trying to be at home even when and where it may not be exactly easy. She does talk of looking for another job, and that’s a distinct possibility. The thing is, she loves the city, so it’s not just any old job that will be able to woo her from the attractions of city life as she has known it over the last two years- first in Philadelphia, and now in Washington, DC.
I’m still a care provider, and Nettie and Cecilia are still here with us. My interests don’t seem to change a whole lot from one year to the next. There is still a Thursday morning Bible study at our house with young women who impact my life and challenge me constantly by their commitment to serve Jesus, raise children that are Godly, and to be women who impact their world. I haven’t written as much this year because of the everyday things that take my attention, but it is something that I still enjoy and keep trying to find time to do. The year has been full of many things, and I certainly have had many reasons to rejoice. The Christmas season has taken on a different tenor in the years since Daddy died (and now Mama) but it is still a time of wonder and joy as I think about Heaven and all that was given to us when Jesus came to earth as a baby. We have been given so much, and this season is a good time for us to remember and to give back to those around us.
May we never forget the Best Gift of all, JESUS!
Merry Christmas to all of you. May your days be filled with Joy!
With Love from all of us,