A different kind of Christmas

Perhaps it is a sentiment of many Dayspring and Hallmark greeting cards to define Christmas as “the most wonderful day of the year.”  For a believer in Jesus Christ, the day is one of the most meaningful:  celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.  But perhaps the most significant holiday is actually celebrated on Easter Sunday as we recall the sacrifice that Christ made in dying on a cross for our sins such that we may have everlasting life.  No sentiments are implied or required:  the truth is that He came to save, the truth is that He is Lord of all!

Isaiah 9:6-7New King James Version (NKJV)

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

I can almost hear the victorious singing of Handel’s Messiah in the background as I read these words.  Such is the confidence that we have, the joy we know as believers in Jesus Christ!

Many days when my life is a “nothing burger,” these words are just about all that I have for comfort.  My Christmas and Easter in 2015 were not filled with either the people or activities of a typical Christian holiday.  There were no church services dressed in better finery, homemade treats enjoyed in the basement afterwards with the dearest of friends, or family dinners filled with laughter and much feasting.  The décor around here was the same as it is every day.  I could go on with all that was cut due to the ravages of severe illness but I won’t.  Perhaps you get the idea Gentle Reader?

I spent each of these holidays staring into nothingness for much of it yet also with nothing to distract me from seeking the face of my Lord.  My prayerful meditation was uninterrupted and peaceful.  Warm, loving glances came from my beloved Steve whose presence is one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for in my life.  Even our furry friend Elle is always a special delight with the gentlest of brown eyes, the softest of fur coats.  I did get somewhat of a break during the middle of the day on Christmas in which we connected with family via Skype and the phone, MacGyvered a tasty meal of sorts, and opened some sweet gifts for our eighth Christmas together as husband-and-wife.  Yeah God for special moments like these!

In two days we will continue and conclude as many of these traditions as we can in a gathering with my husbands adult children and their spouses.  They graciously will attend to the mold/fragrance-avoidance practices needed for me to host them in our home.  Since it may be my only time to see them when they are in town from their respective States and countries, I do pray that I may be able to participate in every moment available.  They are wonderful young adults and I do love them so!  I have simplified our menu and Steve has begun the preparations.  We have spent extra time finding special gifts that would be meaningful; one of them may even serve temporarily as a different kind of “Christmas tree!”  We’ll see.  I still have to pull that one together!  Eeeek!

So if you too have changed things up a bit for this Christmas season, know that you are not alone.  I understand completely.  It’s o.k.!  This holiday along with Easter in the Spring have nothing to do with Santa and the white bunny carrying chocolate eggs.  These special days have everything to do with a decision we each make in our hearts about Who we will serve as Lord over our lives.  Where have you placed your trust dear friends?  With a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will have a celebration that will never be limited to a date on the calendar.

Charlie Brown Christmas
Nothing beats a Charlie Brown Christmas message:

And with that decision made to follow Christ, every day will be a different kind of adventure that transcends the moment into all of eternity.  Yeah, I’m on board for that one.  Will you be along too?  JJ

Christmas Letter 2014

Our theme for 2014 has to be, “moving from darkness into the light.”  While the year was filled with many of our usual travels and activities, the frustration of worsening illness for me had tested everything I believed about love, faith in the Lord, and hope.  Persistence paid off, standing firm in my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ despite incredible suffering, and we are now encouraged beyond measure.  I AM GOING TO GET WELL!!!  And how about my beloved Steve?  Well he is wonderful, as always.  Here’s our 2014 briefing:

Competitive kayaking within the United States Canoe Association and related delegate activities filled the warmer months of my beloved’s calendar and provided opportunities to travel within our home state of Indiana as well as the South.  We took an annual trip for the January USCA meeting and got to see family and friends along the way; Steve travelled and camped alone for the National competition in August, bringing home a respectable finish in his surf ski and outrigger canoe despite an extra swim or two during the surf ski race!  Steve also became one of the primary firearms safety instructors this past year for classes held at our church (yes church!).  His work has been rewarding with lots of interesting projects and the promise of continued work well into next year, gratefully.  And during the lunch hour if it’s snowy, he’s leading the Exelis cross country ski pack of adventurist engineers around the grounds.  If the pavement is dry no matter the temp, he’s trading the lead in challenging cycling workouts at top speeds uphill or down . . .  On land and sea:  Go Steeeeeeve!

Quick Update on Steve’s Kids:  Christina is thriving in her work assignments in Thailand despite enduring a train wreck, adventures with her motorbike and truck (as in shifting left-handed whilst driving on the left side of the road!), and learning two new languages:  one for daily communication and another for translation work.  She is amazing!  Patrick and Kate welcomed baby Warren James Horney into the world in September and we are looking forward to meeting him this Christmas.  Two year old big brother Jackson Rees is simply adorable:  talking up a storm and even driving his own motorized vehicle around their home in North Carolina.  Yes, the car bug is definitely in the Horney genes!  (See this video for details!)  Rebekah continues her Masters studies in international education and recently got engaged to Pancho/Daniel/Francisco Anaya Diaz (don’t ya love the Spanish culture?).  She is exceedingly excited for their Chicago wedding in May of 2015; we are happy for both of them and look forward to getting to know Pancho too.  Daniel and Elizabeth are finally living in the same locale since getting married in June of this year!  Daniel successfully completed his tenure in the Marines (North Carolina) and Elizabeth graduated from West Point (New York).  They are together now in Fort Rutger, Alabama as she begins helicopter training in the Army while Daniel begins college for Physical Therapy Assistant in January.  As you can see, our hearts are full with all the goodness shared here . . . now just come and see us a bit more ya hear?  J

While much of my year focused on doctoring, testing, new treatments, and complications therein, in September my astute chiropractor from a small town practice encouraged me to get tested for mercury toxicity.  The results came back as very high.  Whoa.  We were stunned.  Additional testing has confirmed these results and helped my family doctor chart a course of treatment that should relieve most of the symptoms that have been so challenging each day of these past 3 years.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!  And just when the isolation of staying home much of the time to mitigate symptoms was taking its toll, two lovely ladies and I have joined together in a weekly Skype Bible Prayer Group.  We laugh as much as we pray, oh yeah!  I am also grateful to have continued some gardening activities in our own landscape and in the Everlasting Garden at the Allen County Cooperative Extension Office.  Keeping dirt under my fingernails from March to October is the best therapy of all sometimes!

So as we prepare to celebrate with loved ones the birth of our Lord and Savior, we are humbled and grateful for so many blessings this past year.  Even the serious stroke that my brother had in April has renewed our personal relationship as well as his walk with the Lord.  Every part of our story is ending this year with a brightness that simply was not there last year.   How fitting this is and symbolic of the Light of the World Who entered our midst two millennia ago to redeem us, to bring us into fellowship with Him for all time.

We hope you are encouraged by our Christmas Letter 2014.  We hope that you too will celebrate all the possibilities of the most important relationship in which we are invited to partake.  The love of Jesus Christ can transcend all things and bring everlasting joy to each one of us.  Oh yes!

Merry Christmas with love, Steve and Julie

Steve and Julie at Drive Austin, Texas
Steve and Julie at Drive Austin, Texas