Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas!

2014 has been a hard year. We almost didn’t write a Christmas letter, fearing it would only be discouraging for us and for those who would read it. But the Holy Spirit gently reminded us that suffering is an opportunity to share His comfort, to tell of His faithfulness and His gift of joy amongst sorrow. And in that telling, we’re reminded of exactly what we’re thankful for, why we persevere, and why we have hope. And the coming of Christ is surely the Hope of all hopes.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing!

The year began with the joyful news of expecting our fourth child, due to arrive in October. In May we took a 10 year anniversary trip to Cozumel to celebrate our marriage. Ashley’s mom Carol came to stay with the three kiddos on her own! (Evan (6), Hazel (3) and Arden (1)). Shortly after returning from our trip, at 18 weeks along, we lost our son Jamie. We had a memorial service for him at our home, with many friends and Jon’s parents, Steve and Connie, attending.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
No thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings known
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found!

We traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska in July to celebrate Ashley’s Dad’s 80th birthday with extended family and many of Dad’s old time friends. It was wonderful to have everyone in one place – highlights being the rap of the “Carlsons” (Carl’s-sons) with each sibling contributing a verse, and a skit put on by the cousins featuring Carl-mishaps, all with good humor :)

This fall Ashley decided to finish her PhD in Social Psychology. Much progress has been made in a few months – she was readmitted to the program, and only has a few credits left to take if everything goes smoothly with the Graduate College. Getting back into the psychology frame of mind was a bit brain-stretching, but rewarding. Her dissertation will involve developing an instrument to assess aggressive driving motivations, which will put her stats knowledge to good use!

Ashley also continues to homeschool Evan, our first grader. He’s reading well above grade level and loves doing hands on math and science projects, and drawing lots of dragons. Hazel loves to dress up and do pretending games with her brother, and Arden is our singer – she always has a tune on her lips spouting lyrics no under 2 year old should be able to pronounce – “Oppressed so hard they could not stand” and “Shepherds why this jubilee, why your joyous strains prolong?” She must have absorbed her verbal ability from her precocious sister ;)

In October, Jon left Allied after working there for 10 (!) years in claims to become an insurance agent. He joined Fortress Wealth Management working for our good friend Tim Hibbing. What a blessing to work for someone we respect and admire so much! And Jon is no longer commuting to Des Moines, so our schedule is much more flexible, making it feasible for Ashley to finish her degree. Jon is currently a Staff Sergeant in the Nebraska National Guard. He continues to enjoy playing his horn and making music with his fellow soldiers (one of whom is his brother Andrew) and now has 12 years in with the 43rd Army Band.

In October we also had to say goodbye to our dearest furry pal, Coda. She had a tumor in her heart and lungs, but we’re thankful she didn’t have to suffer very long. The house is much emptier without her; she was a source of comfort and love all the 8 years we knew her. A sweeter, gentler dog we couldn’t have asked for.

So yes, it’s been a hard year, but God has been with us through our grieving and has provided for us in a myriad of ways. Meals for Ashley and kids while Jon was away at guard. Flowers and notes, prayers sent and said, hugs given - all tangible reminders of God’s love and care for us. A new job for Jon. A new direction for Ashley. Recovering health for Ashley’s Dad after major heart surgery. Healthy kids.

Coming into the Christmas season having experienced profound grief has amplified the message of the gift of the Son. Never before have we so longed for the end of sin and suffering. And never before have we so rejoiced in the gift of salvation.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love!

With Love,

Jon, Ashley, Evan, Hazel & Arden

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