Saturday, December 24, 2016

Annual Christmas Letter 2016

Merry Christmas 2016!

It seems as though the cool thing to do with your Christmas cards this year is the “minimal” letter... such as a chalkboard highlighting the year in five quick bullets, with the family gathered for a hipster portrait wearing flannel shirts and standing in a field of grass with a gray sky for mood. Our five bullets would surely put any reader to death of either boredom or sorrow:

 Tyler moved to Canada
  Jeff’s mom passed away
   The kids have scattered, so we went on vacation alone
    Karyn went back to Bible college
     The kids have scattered, so Christmas will be delayed this year

But here is our hipster family photo in our cool flannels

Believe it or not, we did not plan to wear flannel!

See how we are smiling?  That’s because it was a good year and our kids are happily pursuing God’s will for their lives.  So forget the bullet list...this is how the year really went.
Tyler did move to Canada in teach guitar in a music academy run by the same church Justin is working for as technical director in Calgary.  The boys live together and have a great group of friends there. We are happy they have a good church and each other.
Jeff’s mom did pass away this spring. It was one of those trips where you throw some clothes in a suitcase, jump in the car and drive, drive, drive—praying that you’ll arrive in time to say goodbye.  Jeff’s brother was flying in from the east coast at the same time.  The entire clan was together at Mum’s bedside. Tyler brought his guitar along, and we all sang worship songs together and prayed her into heaven.  She died four hours after we arrived. We had a precious time as a family celebrating the life of a woman who had served God so faithfully and prayed for her children so diligently.  What a joy to see the godly heritage displayed in the lives of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

Mum's funeral...such a beautiful sunset on a beautiful life

All 14 Wells cousins in birth order

All of six of us in the car...don't remember the last time this happened!

We actually ended up traveling to Canada four times in two months! We already had two ministry trips booked long before, but then we added in a wedding and a funeral, so it made a very busy spring with driving and flying there and back four times over! I must say, I was pretty done with the flat, brown landscape and chilly weather of the prairies in April, but it was wonderful to spend time with the boys and see where and how they lived and also to gather with all the Wellses for not just a sad occasion but a happy one too!

Kyle and Bethany's Wedding

Jeff and the boys in Calgary

The summer heat turned on when we returned to Oregon as the temperatures rose into the 100s and the visitors began arriving in one group after another, as it has been ever since we first moved here nine years ago.  One group that visited was not from Canada...they were from Peru! Anna has been dating a young man she met at Bible college who is from Peru, and this summer Diego’s family stayed with us for ten days.  We had a lot of fun showing them the beauty of Oregon, eating our “traditional” foods (Burgers! We eat more of them than you think, as we discovered), and learning a lot more Spanish! Anna also had the cool experience of traveling to Peru to meet “la familia” with Diego a few months prior to that.
Jeff and I did squeeze in a 5-day vacation between all the guests and summer church events, like VBS and summer camp.  We completed the “Seven Wonders of Oregon,” (which are the Oregon Coast, The Columbia River Gorge, Crater Lake, The Wallowa Mountains, Smith Rock, Mt. Hood and The Painted Hills, in case you were looking for an awesome road trip next summer!).  The coast and the gorge we’ve visited countless times, and Mt. Hood and Crater Lake we’ve experienced as well, but the other three were new experiences for us, and they are all worth seeing. Added to the adventure was staying in a near ghost town in an old historic hotel with wooden walls, ceiling and floors, an iron bed, and a communal bathroom down the hall, as well as two nights in a tipi (or tepee, both are correct) where the squirrels ran up and down the tipi skins, the birds could fly inside, there was no electricity or cell phone service, and there was nothing to do after sunset...except curl up by the campfire in adirondack chairs with Pendleton wool blankets and count the stars...millions of them without any light pollution from any city or even town...and wake up to the sun rising over the canyon right outside the open flap of the tipi door.  It’s called “glamping” (glamour camping), and it was a lot of fun (right, Jeff?). We hiked every day to the top of mountains and rocks, swam in the cleanest, bluest water, drove through gorgeous scenery, and ate great food at “farm to fork” restaurants (I’ll go for unique accommodations, but I won’t compromise good food!). It was a short-but-sweet trip to recharge before hitting the schedule hard again.

Ready to hike!

Smith Rock

Sheep Rock in Painted Hills

Jeff found a Canadian friend!

The Wallowas

Joseph Canyon (view from our tipi)

The fall church schedule was very busy.  We’ve had a great year of growth in the congregation, but not in our staff or team. In fact, we lost team members when first Tyler left and then Anna for new jobs at other churches, Tyler, as I mentioned, as a music instructor, and Anna as the children’s pastor of the new downtown campus of City Bible Church in Portland. I’ve picked up the children’s ministry and at the same time started a couple courses online at Portland Bible College, finally deciding to finish my senior year and get my degree after 30 years! Jeff and I were married after our junior year, and he got to continue school and graduate while I worked full-time to support us. I’m not was our choice for that season in our lives, and I’m perfectly content with that. But now that our family days are over, I thought I’d finish what I’d started.  Is it okay to say that taking a Bible school course as an adult with 30 years of ministry experience is kind of dull?  I have to admit that more than once I thought to myself, “Really?” when doing an assignment or listening to a lecture obviously geared towards 18- to 20-year-olds. But maybe a lesson in humility is what I’m really learning, because the teacher’s assistant who was grading me was our own 26-year-old pastoral assistant here at our church!  I think he liked it when I asked him questions or called him “Teacher.” It was also fun to be a student with Kate and do homework together, as she is in her junior year at George Fox University (But she would be quick to remind me that she is a full-time student at a “real” school, and I’m just “taking a couple courses” which means my daughter is smarter than me...another lesson in humility!).
Then, just like that, the fall semester ended and it’s the holidays!  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with almost everyone from my extended family clan and all our kids except for Justin celebrating at my house.  And then we had beautiful snow two weeks in a row to remind us that Christmas is coming! Jeff’s dad is here with us until January, and although our kids won’t be with us for the actual holiday because they have their own church Christmas services they are involved in, Boxing Day will be our gathering time, and I am so excited to have everyone back around the table again.


Trying out our new selfie stick!

Ready for Christmas!

Our prayer for you is that your table will also be full this Christmas....with family, friends, and even strangers who need a place to sit and be fed and blessed.  And at the head of your table may Christ preside, His presence filling your home and your hearts with the greatest gift and most powerful love ever given.
Jeff and Karyn

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