Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our Christmas Letter - a.k.a. - The History of Our Lives

Last year I posted Marcia's Christmas letter here and will do the same again.  Among ou friends, her annual update is anticipated because of its humor and down-home charm.  It is long, so grab a cup of hot chocolate, or egg nogg and read on.....


Dear Family & Friends,
We trust your year has gone well.  Ours has had its share of ups and downs but we are very 
thankful for many blessings from the Lord, even in the not-so-good times.  For us, 2008 began with Kristen and her family here from December 18-January 10.  The Sunday before they left for home, we were all together one final time at our former church in Grand Rapids.  Chris had 
the privilege of dedicating Raegan, Pixie, and Cole; then after the church service a photographer friend of ours took photos of all six grands and family photos.  It was a madhouse trying to get everyone seated and looking at the camera.  Uncle Brett discovered a way to entertain the kids, though, after a ½ hour of unsuccessful attempts to control the squirms: he looks very funny when he does the Chicken Dance!  And seven week old Baby Cole just slept through all the pandemonium.  When we took Kristen & Brett and the kids to the Lansing Airport to see them off, we had lunch in the airport cafĂ© before they boarded.  As we ate, Brett was trying to make conversation, and innocently said, “So Rhys, what was your favorite part about visiting the States this Christmas?”  Without hesitation, Rhys replied, “Playing with Granny!”  Kristen and I quickly swung away from Rhys so he couldn’t see us crying.  We knew that we would not see them again for an entire year so this ‘good-bye’ was a tough one.  (Chris and I are heading to NZ January 12-February 23, 2009; 4 weeks vacation for Chris, with a 2 week trip to Bougainville.  I will be staying in NZ the entire
 time.  At Thanksgiving, Lily saw what I have already packed and said, “I want to go to New 
Zealing, too.”  I’m afraid she would be terribly homesick, though.)
Chris writes:  Once we had our plans for New Zealand in the works, I contacted my friend, Jeff Fussner who is Global Partners (Wesleyan Church) area director for the South Pacific.  I asked if he might have a side trip that we could make together.  He invited me to teach homiletics (the art and science of preaching) in Bougainville.  Where?  Bougainville.  It is a small island in the Solomon chain off the east end of Papua New Guinea.  Jeff & I will be traveling there at the end of January.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of teaching in a very different culture.  If you
 want to know more and follow my adventures in B-ville (as well as other entries/videos of our grandchildren, my head being shaved, etc.), see below...
- In April, we took a to Jamaica to work with ‘My Father’s House’, a home for children at risk.  (Several friends said, “A missions trip in Jamaica?  Oh right!”  Believe me, we saw a side to Jamaica that you don’t see at Sandals Resort.)  I served as the team leader, which meant
 herding the 16 volunteers and dealing with problems.  All in all, it was a great trip, doing lots of repairs around the compound.  We also served a rural community by carrying water up the 
mountain to fill reservoirs (barrels).  My favorite story from that trip involves a 4 year old boy named Felix, who loves Spiderman.  I had gotten my computer out to update my blog when Felix came over to help.   He saw a picture of Rhys wearing a Halloween Spiderman costume. 
 Felix said, “That’s me.  (Pause) That’s
 me...when I was white.”
- It’s no surprise that I spent a considerable amount of time on my bike (I will log over 7,000
 miles by the end of the year).  What is impressive is Marcia’s 50 mile day on DALMAC.  I have ridden this 5-Day tour several times but this year Marcia rode the majority of the first day with me on the tandem - beginning in DeWitt and finishing north of Alma.  We had a great time together, but Marcia was glad she
 wasn’t going on for the remainder of the week.

- Faith is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade.  She had a big year in that her tonsils were removed in the spring before she could begin orthodontic work.  The doctor measured her tonsils by placing them on a ruler, then taking a photo.  Great memento - not!   (When Lily saw it, she called them ‘bloody meatballs’ and told us she is going to have her bloody meatballs taken out when she’s 7 ½ like Faithie. ☺)  Faith also is in dance class again after being away for 3 years while they lived in Florida.  Her dance recital was in June and we were so proud of her.  She looked graceful and beautiful.  She is beautiful from within, too.  She loves babies and was a great help taking care of Raegan last Christmas and always in taking care of Cole when we’re together.  Faith can get Cole to laugh even when he’s tired.  It’s no surprise that she named one of her dolls Raegan and another Cole.  And on most days, Pixie 
enjoys being ‘mothered’ by Faith, too.
- Lily turned 4 at the end of October.  She is a little clothes freak and loves to play dress up or create her own style, sometimes layering 2 or 3 outfits at the same time.  Lil loved having her Auntie K here.   She had a shirt and pants that were similar in style to one that Kristen wore so she called it her “Auntie K outfit” and wore it nearly daily until she outgrew it!   As I was helping Lily get dressed one day last summer, she said, “I’ll choose an outfit for Pixie, too, so she can look fab-LEE-us like me.”  Lily also loved ‘Baby Raegan’ and when her maternal grandmother bought ballet shoes for all 3 girls, Lil insisted that Baby Raegan needed ballet shoes, too, so Gram bought the shoes and Granny mailed them to NZ. (Both Lily and Pixie started ballet class in September so next June’s recital should be triple the fun!)  When Lily sets her mind on something there isn’t much chance of changing her mind.   When they visited at Thanksgiving, 
Lily asked, “Granny, can I help you cook?  You’ll cook more faster if I help you.”
- Rhys celebrated his 3rd birthday in March.  He is quite articulate, often sounding older than his years.   I was talking to Kristen one day, telling her about hitting a deer on our way to church.  Kristen was commenting and when Rhys overheard what had happened, he got on the phone and asked, “Did Papa hit a deer?   I don’t believe it!”  He acted like he had heard the most shocking news.  The Jones family moved in November from a 2 bedroom to a 4 bedroom home.  Rhys is a ‘homebody’ so he was persistent in saying, “I’m NOT going!”  I tried my hand at encouraging h
im to move by asking, “Where will granny sleep when we come to visit?”  “With me in my bed,” Rhys answered.  “But where will papa sleep?” I asked.  His solution:  “With mama in her bed.”  Thankfully Rhys did move so Granny won’t have to sleep in a twin bed with Rhys and Brett & Kristen won’t have to share a bed with Papa.  Kristen and Brett are expecting Baby #3 in May.  They went for an ultrasound last week but don’t plan to find out the gender of the newest Jones.  However,  Rhys is quite sure – he told us: “She’s a boy”.
- Pixie, who turned 3 years at the end of September, lives up to her name – she’s an adorable,
 affectionate little pixie.   She has very expressive eyes that dance when she’s happy and that look like thunderclouds when she’s unhappy.  One day 
I told the girls on the phone that I wanted them to help me decorate our 
Christmas tree when they came down after Thanksgiving.  Then I heard this scream in the background.  It was Pixie; she was delighted!  And I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed decorating a tree more than I did this year.  The girls ooh-ed and aah-ed over every ornament, running them over to show their mom before placing them on the tree.  Some branches have 3 or 4 ornaments hanging in the same spot.  I didn’t move a thing.  To me the tree looks beautiful just the way it is!   During that same visit, we were playing with the toy doctor kit downstairs.  Pixie had just been treated 10 days earlier for a double ear infection so when it was her turn to be the doctor, she took the otoscope, very gently pushed Lily’s hair back, and said, “Let’s take a peek in your ear.”  I asked, 
“What do you see, doctor?”  Dr. Pixie:  “Uh, plus.”  Me:  “Do you me
an pus?”  Dr. Pixie: “No, plus.”  There you have it: Lily has ear plus!
 Raegan, who was 1 year old in July, is a tiny dynamo.  For her hefty start at birth, she is a
 petite little girl, absolutely beautiful with long dark hair,  blue eyes, and a ready smile.  Don’t let that innocent look fool you, though: she is extremely active, always on the move.  Raegan loves music; one day Kristen found her playing in her toy 
kitchen, trying to sing their ‘thank You, Lord’ grace song as she ‘prepared’ a meal.  One of her first words was ‘amen’ and Brett says it’s not because she is overly spiritual but rather because she enjoys food so much.  We try to visit on-line as often as possible so Raegan now thinks we live in the computer.  When she hears the Skype ring, she walks over to the computer and says “Papa”.  We’re anxious to actually get to cuddle her in about 3 short weeks!
- Cole celebrated his first birthday in November.  He lives the closest to us out of all the other grands and we love having him nearby.  He came to stay with us for a week in September while Kent & Jill went to Wisconsin where Kent took a one week class at U of W for his job; it was fun to have a baby in the house.  Unlike Raegan, Cole is a big boy.  (His mommy is so tiny, but she’s young and has lots of energy for toting him around!)  Life has taken on a new turn since Cole took his first steps about 2 ½ weeks before his birthday and he has successfully climbed a flight of steps.  No more leaving the door or gate open at their house!   Cole’s talents include: making ‘motor’ sounds when he’s playing with cars or trucks, making a ‘popping’ sound until his mouth dries out (there’s a video of that on Chris’ blog, October 25 entry), and saying ‘whoa’ or ‘wow’ when something amazes him.  Very funny little guy!
Chris:  Cancer has reared its ugly head this year in ways we didn’t anticipate - but before all that happened, I shaved my (not so ugly, by the comments I received) head in the cause of children’s cancer.  My friend, Doug, lost a son to childhood cancer two years ago.  The St. Baldrick’s foundation raises funds for childhood cancer research.  I raised $880.00 - less than my goal of $1,000 - but close enough.  To see pictures and a video of the ‘shaving’ process - go to my blog:
Marcia: I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in September, had a total thyroidectomy in October, and completed treatment on December 9.  (The treatment was easy: one radiated iodine pill to kill residual thyroid cells, which required 4 days of isolation at home - I called it ‘house arrest’ - due to my being radioactive.)  With this type of cancer, no chemo is necessary and the cure rate is 96%.  But cancer is cancer and we found ourselves totally depending on God’s grace, peace, and strength.  There is a line from a song recorded by The Martins that I found especially comforting, “But the will of God won’t lead you where the grace of God can’t keep you.  You will never be out of His care.”  And around the time of my diagnosis, two of our dear friends were diagnosed, one with melanoma in his lung, and the other with esophageal cancer.  We also found out that my dad’s prostate cancer has spread to his ribs, spine, and hips.  The day before my surgery we (my siblings) went to the doctor with my folks to get the report of Dad’s bone scan.  When I awoke that morning, the song, "We stand and lift up our hands for the joy of the Lord is our strength.  We bow down and worship Him now; how great, how awesome is He!  And together we sing, 'Holy is the Lord God Almighty.  The earth is filled with His glory...'" was 'playing' in my head.  Then the words of Jesus from John 16:33 came to me:  "In this world you WILL have trouble.  But TAKE HEART.  I have OVERCOME the world."  Let me tell you the Spirit of God washed over me in a powerful way and He filled me with His grace to face what looked like could potentially be the worst two days of my life.  I climbed out of my bed, ready to face what was lying ahead.  So we are walking a path right now where we wish we weren’t traveling, but we are not alone.  There is One who walks with us, even carrying us when we don’t feel as if we can keep going.  How I praise Him for comfort and release from fear.
We realize that many of you have faced struggles, too, this past year.  If there is a specific way we can pray for you, please e-mail us at  We hold you close in our hearts, dear family and friends.

Marcia and Chris

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bougainville Update

I spoke with Jeff Fussner, area director for the Pacific Area for Global Partners on skype - (what a great tool!)  We will probably be spending a couple days in Paupua New Guinea on our way to meet with the Keilholtz and then on to Bouganville from there - so I will get a little extra experience out of this trip.  

I will be teaching in the morning for three hours each day Monday through Friday and then we will be visiting churches on the weekends.  This means I will probably be preaching in a couple places (more experience!).  I will also have to wear a tie on Sundays - I think I know where I put them - Fortunately, no suit is required.  It is supposed to be really hot!

I may also get some snorkeling in - more ocean time in!  I got to get into the east side of the Pacific in November when the staff from Faith went out to SanDiego for an outreach conference.  I surfed!  Well, I was up for 5 to 10 feet, but it was witnessed by Scott Ferguson, so it is official.  I had much better luck just riding the board in on my belly.  

I'm getting into water sports, apparently, because I also just bought a kayak.  I wasn't brave enough to try it before the river froze over because I'm pretty sure I WILL tip it over a time or two before I get the hang of it.  I got hooked in October when our friends, Will and Johanna Bennetts brought their three person canoe out and we floated the Looking Glass River from downtown DeWitt to near our home.  What a great day - I want to do more of that.  I so enjoyed the tranquility - and, unlike my bicycle - no gravel trucks passing two feet away.  

We leave for New Zealand on January 12, so I will keep posted here and on Facebook what is happening.