|Justin, Karyn, Jeff, Kate, Anna, Tyler|
Merry Christmas 2014!
Every year at Christmas we have a theme at our church that we use for the various celebrations during the month of December, and this year’s is "Hometown Holiday." We’ve lived in Newberg for seven years now, and in some ways it feels so short and in other ways soooo long! But I felt on my heart this year to focus on our hometown...to really love, pray for, and appreciate Newberg. There’s something to be said about "going home for Christmas." We long for it and the thought of it is so appealing. But often once we get there, we experience the complexities of family dynamics and even dysfunction. We revert back to birth order personality traits and face old irritations and idiosyncracies of our relatives. Yet still, we yearn to go home. Well, I am home, and I wanted to really appreciate being here, despite the irritations and idiosyncracies of small-town living. Mary and Joseph were the first ever to go home for Christmas, although they didn’t know it at the time! Bethlehem was Joseph’s hometown, and he and Mary traveled there and actually stayed there awhile...long enough to settle in with various family members and give birth to Jesus. And there it is—the reason we have this inexplicable sense of longing for a hometown holiday. Jesus is there. We literally have the great privilege of bringing Jesus into the midst of our holiday...into the midst of our family dynamics...into the midst of who we are and where we came from! That’s my prayer for my family, as my children come home this year after being scattered abroad for months, and that’s my prayer for you. Let us bring Jesus into our home and into our families, no matter what dynamics we may face. He is there for you, and He is there for those you love!
As a mother, I’m especially excited about my hometown holiday because, as I mentioned, my kids are coming home! Anna returned from five months in India in February and then took off again in May for seven months in Edmonton. Justin was hot on her heels, leaving for Calgary just a month and a half later. Anna worked for her grandpa helping with data entry of the church books and also served as an intern on Christcity’s children’s ministry team, which she loved. She returns home ready to run our own children’s ministry and go back to Portland Bible College in January. Justin is working full-time at First Assembly, a large church in Calgary, in the audio/visual department doing graphic design and exciting projects. He is there for at least another six months but is coming home on Boxing Day/the day after Christmas, so we will celebrate our holiday a joyful day late! Tyler is working full-time and attending Portland Community College taking business classes and is the only one left at home. Because of his busy schedule, we don’t see a lot of him. I try to have coffee with him in the morning and Jeff tries to stay up late when he comes home so we can connect. The only time I really feel like a mom anymore is when Tyler asks for his white shirt to be washed or if I can make some coffee for him before he runs out the door or if I’ll bake/make him something yummy. And I am soooo happy to do it! That’s what happens when there’s only one chick in the nest! Kate is in her sophomore year at Portland Bible College and working part-time. She comes home on Sundays and Wednesday nights and every once in awhile gets a Saturday off and hangs out with me for the weekend!
Jeff and I have had a busy year full of exciting ministry and lots of change. In February we traveled to Cuba to minister with Phil and Judy Jaquith and had a fabulous time. Though the people there have their entire lives rationed, their spirits are free! The church in Cuba is alive and vibrant, and it was a blessing to see the wonderful work the people of God have done there, despite the limitations Communism has placed upon them. The country is beautiful and the people are precious! We ministered in March and April at other churches in neighboring cities and then in May we said goodbye to the very last of our Canadian PBC students who have shared their weekends with us for the past seven years. What a big gap to fill! We will so miss that season of our life and ministry, but we always anticipate the new thing God is going to do! After a fun time hanging out and touring beautiful Oregon with our PBC students’ families, who are also our good friends, we had the last family photo with all of us intact. We finished pictures, ate our last lunch together, and then Anna and I jumped in the car and took off for Canada to move her in with Grandpa after Grandma was placed in long-term care. Jeff’s mom had suffered three separate hip breaks, two of which required surgery. She now has advanced Alzheimer’s, so rehab after surgery was extremely limited if not impossible. I spent a week there to visit her in the hospital and give my sister-in-law a bit of a break, as she bears the bulk of Mum’s medical care. It was a beautiful time together...days that I will always cherish. What I came away with after my time with my mother-in-law is this: "My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my life" (Ps. 73:26). Despite her inability to carry on meaningful conversation or remember things or care for herself, her spirit is alive! She speaks of the Lord, shows concern for others, loves to sing hymns and worship songs, and prays with fervor. What a legacy! I returned home and then just a month later we were all back in Edmonton again for our niece’s wedding. It goes without saying that it is so wonderful to be a clan again! We spent time with both family and friends and ministered at two different churches and had three restful days at the lake with Jeff’s sisters and an assortment of nieces and nephews.
August was the month of great change. After 14 years, I quit my medical transcription job and began working at the church. When Jeff first asked me to do this, my response was, "I like you being my husband, and I’m fine with you being my pastor, but I’m just not sure how I’ll like you being my boss!" But working at the church has been a good experience. It is so great to focus my time and energy on the church...to get to projects that have been on my list for a long time, to spend more time with the ladies, to organize some areas of ministry that needed refreshing and to start some new ministries. It’s also incredibly awesome to be free to go on mission trips (hopefully Haiti this March) and conferences and ministry trips without having to use vacation time to do so and then to spend my vacation time transcribing in coffee shops with free WiFi while everyone else is playing!
So it’s been a year of change for our family on so many levels, but of course on thing remains...Christ, our center and our rock. In talking about "little Bethlehem," Joseph’s hometown, Micah 5:2-5 says (my paraphrase), "Out of you, Little Bethlehem, shall come forth a Ruler at the time that she who is in labor gives birth. And the remnant of the brethren shall return home. And He shall feed his flock and they shall abide, for He shall be great and this One shall be peace."
Peace to you this Christmas! Whether you go to your hometown or your family members come home to you, remember that He is with you. If you bring Christ into Christmas, He will bring His peace into your home!