Christmas*2022*Shady Acres*7484 Shawnee Road*Milford, DE*19963
Dear Family and Friends,
The Christmas Story is repeated often in these days leading up to Christmas (at least in our circles!) and it never loses its wonder to me. However, there is a verse in The Holy Bible that calls me to look deeper at not only the Christmas story, but at the events that this last year has brought into our lives as a family. It’s found in Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” This Mary has had much to ponder and even treasure over the past 12 months.
It is hard to know where to start with our yearly Christmas letter. The past year has been a wild ride for our family on so many fronts, and I feel like it is easier to focus on the lows instead of the highs. But to not remember how moments were touched by Grace and Glory would not give an accurate picture of a year like none other.
There have been many happy times. Daniel and I have traveled more this year than ANY time in our marriage. We’ve been to Canton, Ohio and Washington, DC, (numerous times for various reasons) Plain City and Rosedale, Ohio for a family reunion. In May we flew to San Diego, CA to join family and friends in scattering the ashes of Daniel’s sister Lena. Afterwards we took a trip up to see the famous redwoods and sequoias. There were family bucket list items crossed off and it was a wonderful trip. But the biggest trip of all was to Guatemala to see our “Almost a Daughter” Lupé, and her family. What an exciting time! Daniel and I traveled with the best traveling companions ever, Youngest Daughter Rachel and her husband Rob. This Grammy came home with a host of sweet memories and increased appreciation for our brave, far away girlie and her ability to embrace a culture and country and make it her home. It was so sweet to meet (for the first time) the three children who call us Grandpa and Grammy (Nicole 13, Joshua 10 and Sofi 6) as well as spend time with her good husband, Ervin. It also increased our awareness of how many things we take for granted in our country, and how privileged we are. For starters, I’m most appreciative of our highways, our traffic laws, our policemen, our personal vehicles, as well as public transportation. But there was a whole lot more, and I came home to the farmhouse at Shady Acres with a deep, deep gratitude for many things that I have taken for granted all my life!
Many of you know about some of the challenges that our family has faced this year: Middle Daughter Deborah’s breast cancer, Daughter in law Jessica’s ongoing fight against a chronic stomach disorder, and our four-year-old granddaughter, Ellie’s bout with a Synovial Sarcoma in her leg. These have certainly been front and center for us, and rightly so. This is our family, and their hard times are ours as well. There have been other points of sadness in our lives. Daniel and I both lost good friends in the last four months. My friend, Deborah Lynch passed away at the end of August, and Daniel’s “brother-friend” Gary Burlingame died the day after Thanksgiving. This season of Grief is not unique to us. It feels like there are daily reports of the deep, deep grief of others whose losses are staggering and crushing. And grief, though one of the most common human experiences, can often feel the loneliest. The gift that has been given us so freely over these last months is still the best gift of all, and that is prayer. Thank you for remembering us and our family. (We are praying for many of you as well). As far as our family is concerned, at present there is so much good news to report on the health issue side of things. Deborah, after the many complications, is back at work full time with Delaware Hospice, and continues to heal. There has been much progress in the treatment of Jessica’s chronic stomach disorder, and she is experiencing better health in the last while than she has for nearly two years. Ellie finished her last round of radiation the day after Thanksgiving, and the prognosis is very good. For each of these improvements, we are humbly grateful. I think the percentage of our family that has had Covid over the last year is pretty impressive (15 out of 17 and some of those twice) but we’ve weathered that pretty well. For the most part symptoms were mild and recovery uneventful.
Christina and Jesse and Charis are still in their house just down the road. The three of them and Deborah traveled with us to San Diego in May, and Jesse and Deborah did the planning for the trip up the coast. Jesse and Christina’s family picture on our Christmas card was actually taken Sequoia National Park. Jesse still works at Burris (at this rate, he will have 50 years in by the time he’s old enough to retire!) and he provides well for his family. Christina is a homemaker whose many giftings bless her neighbors, friends, and family over and over again. Charis is now a teenager and loves basketball, playing piano, and is in her school play again this year. She has a good voice and we are looking forward to hearing her sing a solo at our Christmas morning church service.
Deborah has spent the year mostly concerned with health issues. It hasn’t been an easy year by any definition, but the support she has received, the cards, notes, gifts and visits have all meant so much to her. Even with her many restrictions, she managed to enjoy the gardens and yard and woods around her Ambleside Cottage, and there were many helping hands that pulled weeds, watered, and even planted for her. She enjoys the birds that feed outside her windows, and even the squirrels have learned that there is usually a food source for them on her porch rail. She is back to work at Delaware Hospice but is working as an admissions nurse with a more regular schedule. Her cat, Julius (or Juju) has been a most constant companion over these last six months, and the company he provides is comforting. The best news is that Deborah is considered “cancer free” at this point!
Raph and Regina’s year has also been unusually challenging. Ellie’s diagnosis came at a time when there were many other constraints upon their emotional energies and time—constraints that don’t disappear (often intensify) just because there is a family health crisis. While the many concerns and needs have tried them with fire, the gold has been/is being purified, and their faith has held them steady. Ellie, a spunky and determined little girlie, turned five the day they removed her port that was used for sedation during radiation. Her personality has served her well during her treatment. Simon (13) Liam (12) and Frankie (11) our three handsome and athletic grandsons, spent a week with us this summer. We took a trip to Sight and Sound, swam in the neighbor’s pool, took in a local outdoor theater production of “Puss in Boots,” went to Chuckie Cheeses, ate out a couple of times, and put miles on the golf cart. The week ended with our whole family home for a short weekend – which was the weekend that we learned that the “cyst” that had been removed from Ellie’s leg the week before was actually a rare childhood cancer, setting their family (and all of us) on a journey that, while difficult, has truly been marked by Grace and Glory.
Lem and Jessica and Stella have also weathered storms this year. I alluded to the fact that Jessica is doing better, and we are so grateful. She is currently taking a short leave of absence from her job and hopes to return after the new year. Stella goes to a preschool a short distance from their house and loves it. One of my favorite “Stella stories” came out of the daily walk to school. I spent part of a week with Stella while her parents went to Scandinavia, and I walked her to school each day and picked her up after school to walk her home again. One day as we were walking, she suddenly asked, “Grammy, why do you sometimes wobble when you walk?” “Well, Stella,” I said, “sometimes my back is hurting and sometimes my feet are hurting and—.” “Yeah,” she said reflectively, “and you’re really old, too!” (Yes, well, there is that!) Lem’s job keeps him busy and the work load for family counselors is no party in ordinary times, and we are all aware that these are not ordinary times. At least he has plenty of work, and he seems to be able to lay things down at the end of the day and pick up at home where he’s needed as a daddy and a husband.
Rachel and Rob are still in Washington, DC. Early this year they realized that the neighborhood they were living in was not a good fit for them, and they were able to find a more secure apartment in a better section of town. It is closer to Lem and Jessica, and even though it’s small, it fits them so well. They’ve traveled some this year, and Rob has been in graduate school and Rachel has worked two jobs. We never see enough of them, and their time with us over Christmas will again be rather short. Rob started a new job at Le Diplomate, a fancy French restaurant in DC and he needs to work Christmas Eve. Rachel plans to come over earlier in the week, and Rob will come as soon as he can and we will be grateful for what we can get! We are looking forward to having all 17 of our family home over Christmas, (overlapping for a mere 24 hours). Rachel has been drawing up spreadsheets to keep us all organized and in line. I’m finding these days when I don’t have so much to be personally responsible for everything a lot more relaxing and fun! This is one aspect of getting older that I’m not about to complain about. These offspringin’s of ours are learnin’ and it’s good for all of us!
Daniel and I are both going to be 70 our next birthdays! (Can you believe it???) Daniel continues to work “part time” at First State inspections here in Milford. He enjoys the people, the plumbers and the diversion. He is still raising chickens and serves as deacon at our church. He has some ongoing pain issues from his fractured vertebra and is also treated for macular degeneration with shots in his right eye about every six weeks. That journey seems to alternate between encouraging and discouraging. They decided to start him on a new medication about 7 weeks ago, and the results have not been as good as we had been led to believe they would. His doctor says that it sometimes takes two to three injections before any improvement, so we remain hopeful. Daniel’s courage is something that astonishes and challenges me. It’s not easy to go and get a shot in your eye every six weeks, but he rarely complains. I’m so proud of him.
I have had a year of busy hands and a full heart. Some days the sadness dogs me like a dark cloud, and the tears just don’t want to stop. But even though I have been (honestly and rightfully) sad, I have not been afraid, and I have not been frantic. Many of you have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. “I have experienced God’s inestimable Grace in ways that I cannot begin to really describe. It has felt like I’ve literally been wrapped in grace, carried by the prayers of the people that love me and our family.” I have never felt like things were all going to turn out the way that I want them to, and even now, there are heavy concerns and many unknowns that I have no idea how they will (or even can) resolve. Some things look too broken to fix. But we are not alone, and sometimes I think that that is the real miracle. We are not alone! Jesus walks with us, and He promised to never leave us or forsake us. I have never believed that more fully than I do now, and it gives me courage, strength and peace.
“Peace on Earth, Good Will to men,” the Angel said. Ponder that in your heart and have a blessed Christmas.
Daniel and Mary Ann