Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Christmas Letter




“No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it’s not the same river and
he’s not the same man.”
--Heraclitus

Change! What else could this Christmas letter be about, but change? You must have followed the election so you know everybody was all for change. Actually, it gave me a chuckle every time Obama or McCain claimed to be for change. I thought, “That’s like being for breathing
. . . it’s coming whether your want it or not.” It’s philosophy 101 really and it’s captured in the above quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. His central doctrine stated that change is central to the universe or panta rhei “everything is in a state of flux.” In other words, change is the only constant. Thus, Nixon brought change, as did Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. It’s good to know our new president is for it because it’s coming! As I look back over this past year in our personal lives as much as nationally, I realize it has indeed been a year of much change.

Our church, TerraNova, finally moved into our new space! This new meeting place for our church is very cool and has been a blessing in so many ways. It has also brought challenges, but it sure has been exciting. Considering that we met in our previous space, a local middle school, for 12 years, I cannot think of a more physical representation of change in our lives. Well, except maybe for our eldest son.

Max is the embodiment of change, developing quite the sense of humor, shooting up in height, outgrowing clothes like mad, and all of a sudden wearing a larger shoe than dad. He is the tallest seventh grader we know. This year Max gave his testimony in front of many people. I’ve personally noticed that he’s said many things lately that show a growing spiritual awareness. He has really gotten into swimming and working out and his body is showing it. Max loves watching movies, all kinds of movies and he has a magnetic personality and a widening circle of friends. He plays the drums and joined the junior high band.

Speaking of drums and bands, Max is now frequently playing along with Wes. The quality of both boys musicianship is another great change this year. They have both taken their instruments very seriously. Wes is, of course, a guitar player and he loves music. Wes has the desire to be a rock star and he’s formed a band. Although the band includes his brother on drums, Wes is clearly the leader and has used his outgoing personality to recruit others friends to join this future endeavor. Reflecting the theme of this letter, the name of Wes’s band has changed more than California’s gas prices this year. It’s gone from “Boys of America” to “Bitter Sunshine” to “Major Lawrence” to “The Bookhouse Boys” to “Four Elements” to “No Vision” and I believe they are called “True Vision” as of this writing. Wes was able to take a solo trip this year to visit his best friend and band manager, Cameron, out in Minnesota, certainly the highlight of his year. Wes is also a swimmer and he shows a tireless energy for the sport as he does for life in general.

Changes in development are obviously not exclusive to our boys. Zoey is now in first grade. As Zoey’s kindergarten teacher once put it, the reading fairy has visited Zoey. She’s reading and writing like crazy and she loves numbers the best. Zoey is quite the social butterfly too. Although she didn’t do it year round like her brothers, Zoey did join the swim team during the summertime. The summer meets provided a time for our family to hang out together on Saturdays and Zoey swam her little heart out. Kasey has a new preschool teacher and is beginning to speak a lot clearer and a just a lot more in general. She likes to break out into spontaneous song, usually with a little ditty she calls, “I love everybody in my family.” Both of our girls are loving and affectionate and I count their unlimited hugs, kisses, drawings, and affirmations as among the greatest treasures of my life.

Chrisy and I have seen our share of change too. Reflecting the economy, several supplemental sources of income seemed to dry up for us. Chrisy is technically still employed at Western Medical Center, but because of budget cuts and low census, she was not getting called in for any shifts for a majority of the year. Together we decided to have our first truly non-materialistic Christmas, cutting back on gifts, mailings, and pressure (this would account for the lateness of this letter as well as, in most cases, the absence of a postage stamp)! There was a lot of change for me at work. After eight years of teaching 3rd grade at the same school site, I was displaced temporarily moved into a non-classroom position that was split between two school sites. I’m now back full time at my original school and I’ve been moved into a 4th grade classroom. I have a wonderful new principal too and the morale is really up at work. It’s actually a fun place to be.

Chrisy’s mom had some health scares this year and has since come to live with us full time. Needless to say adding a seventh person to the mix is a big change, but Sherry has been a blessing to us. This Christmas she bought all of us a Disney cruise! All six of us went with Sherry as well as Chrisy’s brother and his wife on a seven-day cruise of the Western Caribbean. It was fantastic! Back in April during my Spring Break Sherry and a bunch of generous church friends watched the kids and got them off to school while Chrisy and I spent an entire week by ourselves in Sedona, Arizona, a place that’s become a little taste of Heaven for us. I will never forget the day we hiked up Mt. Wilson, an all day hike to the highest point in Sedona. It seems that God really used that trip to help Chrisy and I see how blessed we are. Another trip we didn’t write about last year happened right after we sent out our 2007 Christmas letter. Chrisy and I flew back to Minnesota for an extended winter visit with our friends, the Cloyds. Then, this past March I was able to fly back to Minnesota again by myself. My good friend Tony and I went to a Springsteen concert in St. Paul together. That was another highlight of my year.

Some other highlights that come to mind were: a bed & breakfast weekend in Julian in January with the Taylors and the Cloyds; serving in junior high with Michelle & the Flaggs; Praying with fellow leaders on Good Friday; baptisms at the beach; Max & Wes at their music recitals; seeing John Heffron’s stand-up; going to the Getty Center with a good buddy; Wes running a track relay; Chrisy’s Vegas trip for her friend’s graduation; Max’s 6th grade promotion; Chrisy’s high school reunion; Brad Paisley concert with my mom; Chrisy winning front row Tom Petty tickets and a great new camera; David Crowder at the fair; Max and I at a Matthew Sweet concert; Wes and I seeing Travis at the Troubadour; my sister, Lori, winning Coldplay tickets and taking me; a grueling 5-mile trail run one evening in July; Chrisy’s scrapbooking in Big Bear with a bunch of friends; having our friends stay with us for a week in October; running a 10K in the pouring rain on Thanksgiving Day; and, simply being in community, loving and being loved.

More true to the Heraclitus quote at the opening of this letter, Chrisy and I have made some good changes with our health. I have been extremely proud of Chrisy. This year she joined a boot camp that meets very early in the morning three days a week. She has been dedicated to it and hasn’t quit all year; she has been reaching personal fitness goals. For me it is running that has made me feel like a new man. On my 39th birthday I made a vow to myself that the 365 days between that day and my 40th birthday would be the healthiest—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically—of my life. Since the first of April I’ve ran 700 miles.

It’s hard to quantify spiritual change, but I feel it has really taken place this year. If I had to sum that up I’d have to just say that God is a lot more interested in our character than our comfort. He tends to bring positive change to our character through difficult circumstances. Chrisy and I have had a lot of realizations in 2008. The foremost of them is that the propensity for us humans to sin is frankly much greater than we previously realized; therefore, our need for a savior and abundant grace is also far more crucial than we ever realized. Thus, despite our own occasional and petty problems, this year has seen us pull closer together as a couple and we’ve sought to guard our marriage at all costs.

Internally, I truly don’t feel like I am the same man I was 12 months ago. This year I feel the book “Love Focused” by Bob Hughes helped drive home the most important lesson: God is Enough! Consider this quote: “This critical difference between simply knowing God loves me and believing God’s love and grace are enough can make the difference between obeying God and disobeying him, between growing and not growing as a Christian, between a frustrating and satisfying life.” It is impossible to express just what a difference truly believing God is sufficient can do for one’s mental state. Thus, as I say goodbye to 2008 I find myself in the least “needy” state in my entire life.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the only thing that doesn’t change is our Abba in Heaven. He remains the one constant in all of this. May you find Him this Christmas season.

Shalom,


Shenandoah
for all of us: Chrisy, Max, Wes, Zoey, & Kasey
December 2008

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Cathy Ulrich said...

Great Christmas letter Doah! I enjoyed both your profound insights and stellar writing!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Sharon G said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. God works strong not only in you, but your family. We are lucky to have you in our lives!!!

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